"How many of you are seriously planning to be playing after graduating?" Getting right down to business, Doug Lindsay, acting principal trumpet with the CSO, shared generously with a group of jazz and classical brass students for nearly 2 hours. The agenda was mechanics and fundamentals, the invaluable nuts and bolts of successful playing. Many practical helps and concepts were discussed and demonstrated. Several students played for him and received his excellent critique and friendly encouragement. Each one improved amazingly after only a few comments and a couple of "do it like this" demonstrations. A well played note is worth a thousand words!
Playing a brass instrument is not rocket science, but 5 essentials, he points out, are vital to master: chops, air, tongue, reading skills (brain), and heart. Obviously a fine teacher as well as a polished performer, Doug explained his approach to what he says is the best way to earn a living imaginable, other than golf.
Some of his helpful shop talk hints: Use firm corners. Aim the air squarely at the hole in the mouthpiece with both lips sharing the work load somewhat equally. Air should be gently released to start a note, rather than "attacking" it, so as to avoid the all too familiar "thud" or sputter. Avoid being glued to the printed page, but look ahead. Even look away from the stand and into the audience. Consider the forest rather than inspecting every leaf. Learn to enjoy what you do. Nurture and bring to work the attitude of loving your work, loving the music. Like others who have presented classes in recent months, Doug stressed the importance of art of listening. Listening to all kinds of music with discerning ears.
Concerning articulation, more often than not, the tongue is over used and interferes with tone. Clean precise articulation is needed and was wonderfully demonstrated. The main topic of the day turned out to be air, and how to use it right. Playing the "air trumpet" was a great teaching and self teaching tool - blowing and articulating without the trumpet.
He had some excellent intuitive suggestions for a jazz improv solo: the use of silence, more variety of dynamics and busyness, color, and ways for maintaining the audience's interest.
I was pleasantly reminded of the ease and relaxed approach that is a mark of great brass players. After holding a high F, he was immediately able to pull the horn down and quickly resume talking as if playing was no big deal. For Mr. Lindsay it isn't. As always, Doug sounds great and makes it look easy.