Saturday, October 25, 2008

Visiting Houghton College

Late October in upstate New York has got to be an artist's perfect getaway. If you never dabbled in water colors for lack of the right scenery, or ever dreamed of picturesque outdoor photography, consider camping out at Houghton College in the fall. It is a 125 year old Christian Liberal Arts College founded as a Seminary in the Wesleyan Methodist tradition.

Post card photographers must have a field day there. No photo shopping needed. Nature remains as it has always been, still unaltered by a single McDonalds, KFC, or even a Starbucks. Once over the shock of that reality, life can nicely settle down to what really matters. At Houghton, it is all about being in the ideal surroundings for lots of intense study, practice and worship. In such a place, how could you not?

The campus is pristine, and the students appear to be thriving in their distraction-free zone. The new music building is first rate, modern, classy and bright, and seems built to encourage all who enter. One is struck by the friendliness of each student as well as the school's dedication to excellence. Quality abounds.

Three trumpet students played for a brass meeting in the auditorium. First up was a lyrical study from one of the new etude books by Phil Smith. It was played with beautiful tone and expression. Wider contrasts of volume and operatic expression was the goal. Goal reached!

Next was the Lied by Bozza. Emphasis was on focus of tone quality and intonation. It's always nice when those two happen.

Finally we heard parts of the Concertino by Jolivet where there were high marks for confidence! Mr. Jolivet was our instructor that night as all that was needed he had already printed in the music. Who doesn't need to pay more attention to dynamics, tongue-finger coordination on fast notes, and centered intonation? We always get better when we observe major details. With each player, more efficient air flow made them sound better. It takes much patience, but practicing under tempo is worth the effort. Slow motion reveals our flaws. Nicely done!

Dr. Paul DeBoer, professor of brass instruments, must be doing many things right at Houghton. His students are obviously being well trained as the learning curve is fast and adjustments were made quickly. Fine people and fine musicians are being graduated from Houghton College. You get the correct impression that everything about the school matches its surroundings perfectly.

1 comment:

Tristan said...

As a recent graduate of Houghton (trumpet performance 2008), I find your comments to be on target and encouraging. As a smaller school, sometimes I feel it is overlooked in many areas, but I feel its music program is first rate and produces many great musicians. I wish I could have been at the master class, but distance prevents it. Thank you for taking the time to visit a little school in Allegany County, hearing a great player's words of wisdom is always encouraging.