Saturday, December 22, 2012

"Thank you. Next."

"Uh, thank you.  Next." We all know the pain of hearing those words.  For every promising day on the horn, there are seemingly countless days when we have seriously considered "why am I even doing this?" Especially discouraging is that dreaded response from the committee after a horribly played audition.  We interpret that "thank you" to be a pronouncement of "FAILURE!!" Angrily and sadly we pack up our gig bags, and trudge back home. 

Putting emotions aside, the reality is that this unpleasant weaning process does more than just produce finalists for the committee to further traumatize.  It serves to redirect or readjust the paths of those whose fulfillment is to be best found elsewhere.  It also serves to define and refine competitors for future ordeals. 

Retrace the steps of the greats.  If they all quit after their first rude dismissal, who would be left on stage?  Yesterday's lasts are often tomorrow's firsts.  Losses always precede victories.  Nobody waltzes straight to success.  Failures happen.

Consider also the adrenaline and emotions expended as a good basic training program for the toughness required for future performances.  If you can't survive one defeat, you won't do well on stage for a whole career of shows. Pressures can destroy us, redirect us, or strengthen us.  Emotions are real, but they change quickly and shouldn't be our only guide for direction.  

Ultimately failures don't define us.  You are more than a trumpet, or an excerpt, or a well or poorly played solo.  A failing performance pronouncement can be your best prodding for tomorrow.  Expect it and go on. We should learn to process "Thank you. Next" for our good. 

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Not Enough Ears

The problem with your practice is that there are simply not enough ears in the room.  Only two is not working out so well for you, is it. That's because they're yours. You need a few famous listeners hanging around your practice room every day.  Will they like what you're doing?  Decide whom would you like to serenade, and play for them accordingly.  Don't be wasting your notes.  Someone is listening.   

Arnold Jacobs did his warming up just down the hall from Maestro Fritz Reiner and numerous other famous visiting conductors.  Why?  Because he wanted the reminder that all of his notes mattered.  Someone important was within earshot.  Don't blow it!  As Mel Broiles used to say, you need always to be performing in the practice room, or else you might not be able to turn it on at show time. Play to impress, or don't bother.

You want the audition to be just another day at the office, don't you?  Great playing is what you do, not what you hope to do someday.  You absolutely don't have to wait four years to get some document that declares you a Bachelor, or a Doctor, or a Performer, or an Artist.  Your only creds are the notes you consistently crank out of that horn.  Are you listening?  

Playing Like a Pig

Is playing like a pig ever acceptable?  Certainly you've been challenged to approach the music as aggressively as a hungry dog with a bone, but have you ever considered unleashing all restraints and going absolutely hog wild after the music?  The results might surprise you.

There lies within each of us a killer instinct that has probably been rendered dormant or extinct, especially after a year or two of conservatory restraining, I mean training.  Too often unchecked enthusiasm has been forbidden rather than nurtured.  Instead of honing a vibrant individualistic style, trumpet players tend to share a generic musically correct monotone with almost every other trumpet player in existence.  How about a nice course in pig-feeding!  Let's begin a project of nurturing that inner pig within you! 

Audition committees prefer aggressive, confident playing to cautious, tentative tiptoeing.  A high degree of technique must be attained without losing the ability to summon instantly that dog-eat-dog, king-of-the-mountain, winner-takes-all competitive mindset.  What makes our prize-winning pig so special is its amazing skill and control, in spite of its obnoxious piggy behavior.  We must train the pig without killing it. 

Envision a thoroughbred race horse with the eating habits of swine in the slop!  You must have the brute force of a Neanderthal, yet with the skill of an Olympic athlete.  You are the elegant and the visceral in one body.  Your front license plate says "CHEETAHS", but your rear plate says "PIGSRUS"!!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Somber, Sacred, and Joyous

Somber, Sacred, and Joyous Christmas Brass Music from the Cincinnati Pops 1989.

Promoting not ourselves here, but the One who has given us all so much.  "O come, let us adore Him, Christ, the Lord."


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Heralding Brass

A Merry Christmas Season to everyone from the Cincinnati Pops Brass, recorded in 1989.