Friday, January 29, 2010

Joe Burgstaller at CCM

Joe Burgstaller
visited CCM last week, taking time away from his busy performing and teaching schedule to lead a two-hour master class. Joe is well known for his terrific work in the Canadian Brass and as a soloist and clinician. He is currently on the faculty at the Peabody Institute teaching trumpet and chamber music. His newest release is a must-hear, Mozart's Blue Dreams & Other Crossover Fantasies.

Mr. Burgstaller heard the Gregson Concerto (DMA student, David Wuchter) and Koetting Intrada (Senior, Paul Futer), and followed with a quintet coaching. Both solos were played impressively. Joe shared many neat ideas and perspectives on performance and music-making. His time with us was very motivational and thought provoking. Here are some of the highlights shared by those who played and attended.
  • Favorite concepts from his master class: honesty, and being willing to face uncomfortable performance situations. Since it's impossible to lie on stage and there's nothing we can do to change that, we may as well learn to soak it in and enjoy it.
  • I really enjoyed what Mr. Burgstaller had to say about performing - about making yourself more open and vulnerable to the audience. The whole idea of leaving your center of energy there for the audience, instead of hiding behind a stand. I found his entire master class very interesting!
  • I liked the time-line Joe Burgstaller gave in his master class. He slowly side-stepped across the stage, emphasizing total focus on playing well in the present. Worry about the next step when you get there, not before.
  • I liked his encouragement to stop being absolute slaves to the printed page.
  • He was able to encourage a freer sound and approach to playing.
  • A successful performance involves more than just the notes. Communicating is only 30% verbal (or notes) and 70% energy (stage presence, posture, body language, countenance, etc). The show starts as you walk on stage even before a note is played. You can't lie on stage. Your bow, posture, and facial expressions matter. What you are comes across. No walls are allowed.
  • Embrace the audience. Don't ignore them, but play to them. They can be a scary mass of people, so don't make them nervous.
  • Don't think about your notes. Think about the story behind your music. You MUST emotionally connect to this story.
  • Have energy right from the first note. Your first phrase is the most important and will get you going.
  • Overdo EVERYTHING on stage. Appear confident to be confident. Remember your five P's - Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.
  • Don't hide yourself from the audience. Get away from/lower the stand.
  • Practice constructive self-criticism. Remove negative words from your vocabulary.
  • Practice technique: find ways to make difficult passages more difficult (slower, faster, softer, higher, etc.)
A few cool one-liners:
  • Musicians are special.
  • Dynamics are colors, not decibels.
  • Before the audience can be sold, you must be.
  • Learn to grab all the music you can from the printed page.
  • Good intonation is more than pitch-adjusting. It involves tone-matching.
  • Put air on the first note.
  • If you're not creating line, you're creating boredom.
  • Say of your playing, when appropriate, "That was really good!!"

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