Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Bob Sullivan at CCM

Welcome to CCM Tuesday Morning! CSO principal trumpeter Bob Sullivan was the visiting masterclass man. He immediately awakened all with Reiche's brilliant Abblasen Fanfare. That 30 second flashy warm up ought to be the wake-up and get-going call on every trumpet player's alarm clock! Next, it was getting down to the business of sharing many excellent ideas on communicating and balanced preparation.

For the first hour Bob worked with three grad student competition winners. Joel Baroody played beautifully the second movement of the Pilss Sonata. Some of Bob's suggestions: stand in the well of the piano, put the horn down, and sing both to your accompanist and to the audience exactly how you want it to go. Develop your ideas. Interpret and communicate. In performance, the message must dominate, not the concern for mechanics. We must always be slaves to the music, not to the technique. Consider the bell an extension of the voice, that inner trumpet sound. That all improved the second go around.

Jeff Lewandowski then did a nice job on Enesco's Legend. His suggestions: stay in the present time. Keep concentrating. Communicating something musical will overshadow the odd clam. Maintain interest. Supporting longer phrases is the challenge, especially when there are rests in the middle of the phrase. Performers tend to focus on details while the composer envisions the whole composition. Know the piano part thoroughly, and then begin work on the solo part. Bob suggested Copland's book, What to Listen for in Music.

Next Chris Pike took on the whole Charlier 12th etude. Bob brought a refreshing approach to these studies - much more soloistic, free, and musical, and less like the approach to Clarke technical work. Chris's playing quickly took on color, shimmer, and a lot more interest. Finishing the whole thing at all costs is much less productive than strength-building a little at a time. The practice room is for gradually pushing our limits. We must be able to play exact details but also with great expression. I like the picture he mentioned of being able to play "outside the box" as well as inside.

For the second hour, Bob opened with a flawless and captivating performance of Koetting's Intrada. I enjoyed the lesson demonstrated on being able to play cold at such a high level. All notes are on call at any time. His theme was on how to practice. We needed a full day or two to hear all that he had to share. Basically, daily playing must be organized and balanced, he said.

The break down is conditioning, technique, and music. Conditioning: anchored corners, buzzing, bending, long tones, peddles, air movement, lips always vibrating. Short sessions are better than long. Our goal is building confidence by first building solid foundations. All elements should be covered daily. The Stamp method was explained, (staying up when down, and down when up, etc.), and not just playing it, but how and why.

Technique work includes tonguing, single, multiple, and tone work. The Music portion, as all of his practice, is free of "routine". Concepts are incorporated and ingrained. Singing and skeleton work is done. For example, the huge leaps in Honegger's Intrada are first reduced to nearby notes and then expanded without loss of focus. Musical line rules. Technical work always supports that goal. These are only a few of many things shared.

Our thanks to Mr. Sullivan for two great sessions! Hopefully there will be more to come.

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