Sunday, March 11, 2007

What should the audience be thinking?

Several students had just played some solos for Mark Ridenaur during his master class. Pretty nicely done! Always hard to play cold, but well done, guys. I was eager to hear with his ears. Where would he start? What was plan A for critique? I liked his answer. He didn't go straight for technique, phrasing, intonation, breathing, etc. (although he gave the necessary attention later to proper mechanics). His comment: "What do you want the audience to be thinking about?" In other words, devote more of your attention to your message, and don't worry about your delivery. Certainly the basics cannot be slighted, but I like his putting the horse in front of the cart.

This is encouraging. The first step is to have a firm concept of the piece as a whole, including each movement and each phrase. The trumpet is not even necessary while this step is being solidified. The first practice sessions are in the listening room. Getting the concepts firmly ingrained is the assignment. Careful listening, singing and imagination must follow. At this point you will know exactly what you want to say, and a vital portion of your preparation will have already been accomplished!

Then the trumpet work begins, shaping each section with the listener in mind. Jacobs always said "Tell a story! You are an actor on the stage." Often that visualization jump-started us students who seemed forever stuck in the Clark and Schlossberg books! (absolutely no offense intended for either).

The details may indeed fall into place at some point, but they may not translate the message to the audience nearly as powerfully as a shot fired over the footlights with some drama! As Jacobs would describe, "You have put on your grease-paint. Now get out there and pour your heart out!"

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