Wednesday, April 25, 2007

So Much Music, So Little Time!

There was a final comment made by guest artist Charlie Vernon the other day at CCM that almost got by us as the hour was up and some headed to classes. He might have started the session with the observation, but chose rather to let his brilliant playing speak for itself.

He had just finished playing for a large majority of the 60 minutes he was allotted. The hour was all about trombone at its best. Everything you could ask of a trombone was demonstrated, and more. All of the bars were hoisted higher, and we heard new limits for decibel extremes. As mentioned yesterday, his mechanics were in excellent repair along with beauty of sound.

Oh, the parting comment. He implored us to enjoy the vast repertoire of great music written for us even as brass players. That was it! Here was a piece so difficult that who knows if it will ever be played again by anyone else. The point taken was that in this piece he had found incredible beauty and opportunities for record-breaking playing. The vision of great playing trumped all obstacles. I say "even" brass players because we often fail to imagine the possibilities of music-making within our reach. It isn't reserved for opera singers and violinists. Arnold Jacobs, one of the best tuba players ever, made his instrument perform. Or rather he performed through his instrument. He was the instrument. He just happened to be playing a tuba. The music is in the musician and not limited by the instrument.

Brass music can be much more than tonic and dominant fanfares, occasional loud blats, and marches with cracked stingers at the end. I wonder if we go through our music life with an inferiority complex? Why do they always stick the brass in the back of the orchestra? Maybe we should think, practice and play like we were concert masters all sitting on the front lines!

I like his challenge first demonstrated and then encouraged, to explore the wealth of tremendous music at our disposal, and to enjoy playing like never before. Great brass players must be great musicians, and great musicians must love their work!

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