Wednesday, December 18, 2013

One Word Lessons

Are you motivated after lessons, but don't know where to start? With so many assignments it is tough to get your mind around them all, let alone your embouchure. Usually however, there is a key concept that needs work, such as sound, expression, or accuracy for instance. Try this:  Boil your lesson down to one word that will best characterize your focus for the day.

Your word of the day could be any word that prompts you to be especially alert to what you want to focus on.  For example, here are a few that have produced nice results:  APPLAUSE, ROMANTIC, PRECISE, AGILE, RAVISHING, PINPOINT, SIZZLE, SWEETNESS, DELIBERATE, SUBTLE, DOMINATING, HEROIC.

What words work wonders for you?  Words are as powerful as music.  Use them to motivate your practice and performance.      

    Tuesday, December 17, 2013

    Posted Reminders

    Posted one-sentence lesson notes for us dummies:
    • I refuse to stink!
    • It's not how much you practice, but how. 
    • Don't waste any notes today!
    • Don't sound like a student! 
    • Listen to imitate.
    • Hear it before you play it.
    • Got air?
    • Feel the rhythm first.
    • Don't just practice, compete!
    • Determine not to get tired.
    • Posture matters.
    • Play extremely loud.
    • Be the softest player ever.
    • Practice great leaps and bounds.
    • Tone on the short notes matters.
    • Put singers to shame.
    • Save it, but give it all! 
    • Make your day!

    Wednesday, December 11, 2013

    Brilliance in Brevity

    Long teaching rants with too much information is not nearly as impressive as one powerful moment of inspiration. The teacher's mission is to discern the best way to communicate quickly and effectively with each student.  Just say it, or play it, and then get out of the way and see what happens.  The longer it takes to explain, the less successful. The goal is to make a lasting impact in the least amount of time. Needed: brevity and brilliance.

    Think of the most impressive teaching you received. A vivid impression was made which you remember to this today.  That's the goal, a precise, well-planned strategy of instruction and inspiration. 

    Here are a few memorable moments from my teachers which made a lasting impression on me:
    • "Don't play like a student!"
    •  "You could be a little more laid back."
    • "Your notes must speak just like that!" (at the snap of the fingers).
    • "In the orchestra you have to be able to play so (expletive) loud."
    • The Zarathustra octave calls were so shocking I could almost see the notes flying straight into the audience. 
    • With only a gesture, the conductor communicated exactly what he wanted without ever speaking a word.  (The best conductors spoke very little English.)
    • Without saying a thing, he picked up my horn and fixed my cracking F natural by blasting that note into its place.  He then returned my horn, satisfied that the problem had been permanently solved. It worked like a charm!
    • "Rhythm is relentless!" as he repeatedly pounded his hand onto the desk.
    • I thought my Pictures Promenade was really good.  Then came that memorable comment from the committee: "Very good. Now play it in tune." 

    Great teaching can happen quickly, as can great learning. Keep a journal of what inspired you.  You'll need it for yourself and for your students.  Brevity and brilliance work wonders. 

    Thursday, November 28, 2013

    Standing Around to Stay in Shape

    What do music stands have to do with staying in shape?  Five stands in your studio will help bring some order to your practice sessions.  Let's call it progressive practicing. Your goal is to arrive at the end of the day in shape to live for another day. Now all you need is a timer.  Warm up carefully and proceed.

    Stand #1 is your etude stand.  No other rep allowed. Pull up your chair, set your timer, and go.  Goal: technique-building, sight-reading, accuracy, and endurance.  Don't get carried away.  You have four more stands to go!  Take a break.

    Stand #2 is your solo stand.  It holds only rep for future recitals.  Don't perform each piece every day, just plug away methodically. Prepare the hardest passages slowly so that you avoid panic on the week of the recital performance. Pause.

    Stand #3 is your excerpt stand.  This is NOT your most important stand.  For great playing, you need all stands in operation. Thorough excerpt prep over time equips you for that audition that comes up suddenly. Cover a lot of excerpts regularly, rather than burning out on one or two. Coffee.

    Stand #4 is your pic stand.  Small trumpet rep only. Work wisely and don't neglect this one. Learn to be comfortable up there.  This shouldn't be your last stand. There must be life after high notes. Take a walk.

    Stand #5 is your flugelhorn stand.  This should be "Sunday practice", chill time playing, ballads, favorite melodic material, hymns, or anything but etudes and excerpts.  Your flugel practice segment should be totally stress-free, expressive, and enjoyment-oriented. This stand offers you therapy from the mental and physical bruising of the week.

    Sunday, November 17, 2013

    Entrance Awareness Month

    Entrance Awareness Month
    If you haven't heard, this is Entrance Awareness Month! There's nothing like impressing audiences, jurors, professors, and committee types with amazing clear starts of each note and each phrase.  Great beginnings matter for great performances.

    Tired of always trying to redeem yourself after a faulty start?  Why not determine to be impressive from the get go?  Capture attention immediately. Think clarity of note fronts, pinpoint attacks, a dart, a surgeon's knife, a snake's tongue, or whatever picture helps you to get a grip on your entrance.

    Fearless confidence is the required mindset.  Armando Ghitalla used to say that "the first trumpet must come bustin' in!"  William Vacchiano simply gestured, "the notes must speak just like that!" as he snapped his fingers.  In short, "you must be there, on time, with a great sound." Doug Lindsay observed that the "tongue should release the note rather than attacking it." Bernard Adelstein, that wonderful great-note machine, never missed and never appeared to worry.  When the baton came down, his first note was always right there. Mel Broiles possessed a command of every note as if he were holding each one tightly in his grasp.  There was almost a vicious aggressiveness about his approach.  Loved it!  Myron Bloom proudly stated, "I'm not afraid to make a mistake!"  Practice that kind of confidence with every entrance!

    Arnold Jacobs had the classic answer for all who hesitate.   He was more concerned about what the phrase said than the mechanics of how it started.  The focus should be more about the singing quality of the phrase than it is about the first note.  It should be less about the start, and more about the start of something great.  Think wind and song, not tongue and sputter. Entering with a message gives freedom to the messenger.

    Saturday, November 09, 2013

    Three Amigos

    There they are, the three amigos of your right hand. Look at them! They are able to refine or hamstring your technique with just one stroke. They can break you or make you a lot of money. In their grasp they hold the keys to your success. Yet how often we fail to train those unruly digits of destruction.

    We've heard endless sermons on air flow, embouchure efficiency, breathing concepts, sound quality, and of course proper equipment.  So how about paying some serious attention to those three undisciplined fingers which are before our eyes every day?  

    Here are the problems with our fingers.  They tend to be sluggish and uncoordinated, making people think we are total klutzes.  Often they fly way too high over the valve caps, or don't even press the valves all the way down.  What's worse, under pressure their desperate grip causes the valves to stick.  Don't you hate that?  By the end of the day we are foiled by our own fickle fingers just when we needed them the most!

    Are you tired of being flummoxed and discouraged by your horrible precision?  Acquaint your fingers with your tongue and urge them to be the best of friends. Imagine a connecting nerve between the four of them.  Insist on perfect sync on all scales, major, minor, chromatic, whole tone, whatever.  Just as the piano key is struck, so must be the sounding of the note. When the baton comes down, the air, the tongue, and the finger tips join in perfect accord. It's simple. Just be there. 

    Note:  Don't penalize your embouchure for the laziness of your fingers! Save your chops by working the fingers and tongue apart from playing. 

    Monday, October 28, 2013

    Don't listen!

    Question:  When the late great Luciano Pavarotti sang, was he constantly listening to himself, evaluating, and making adjustments based on how he felt at the moment?  Or, was he totally consumed with the dramatic impact of the music?

    What is your strategy for the day of the big performance?  Are you already anticipating playing it safe and second-guessing yourself?  Don't plan to fail.  Prepare to perform.

    Assuming all of your detail work has been thorough, you are now in a very enviable place!  A great percentage of your playing was detailed and analytical.  Now you have earned the right to totally perform.  Don't drag the practice room onto the stage, and don't be listening to yourself.  Just play! 


    Wednesday, October 16, 2013

    Just Singin'

    Singing is great preparation for playing!  For some reason creative instincts are much less hampered when the trumpet is nowhere in sight.  Drama is more likely to happen that way. Try it.

    As I was preparing for an important audition years ago, a good friend challenged me to sing each excerpt, and give it everything I had.  The game was to pretend that the committee was going to award the job to the singer who best represented everything the composer intended. I scoffed and insisted that no gimmicks were needed.  My playing was good enough as it was.  He persisted however, and I was surprised to see and hear the results of our little drama class.

    After some awkward moments of my pitiful croaking, we noticed that expression drastically improved.  Phrasing and subtleties were noticeably better. Rhythm was steadier, and the music was less cautious and much more interesting.  He snapped, "Don't just crank it out, play it!"  Now it was game on!

    More of his butt-whipping: "Project the music to the back of the hall.  Wake the committee up. Instantly capture the drama of every excerpt."  Concerning auditions, it was the great Arnold Jacobs who summed it up, "At the audition, you must simply play better than everybody else."

    Summary: Obey everything on the page.  Sing it perfectly, and then begin to copy that with the trumpet.  Either we will follow the trumpet, or it will be made to follow us!  

    Sunday, September 29, 2013

    The Attention-Grabber

    Go ahead. Turn the tone dial all the way up!  People want to hear you.  Give them precision, but also give them a 10 on the tone scale!

    By the way, a great sound is a nice flub-eraser at auditions.  If the audition committee likes the way you play, they are likely to excuse a clip or two.  A great tone just might cancel some inaccuracies if they had to choose one over the other.  So you might as well keep a good sharp focus on your tone in daily practice. Prepare to be noticed and remembered for your sound.  

    A great sound is not enough however.  It must be accompanied by great musicianship and style. These compliment each other.  A great sound with no direction or purpose is boring.  Our goal is to project the appropriate style with a distinctive and captivating sound. Opera singers plunge into their roles with an abundance of drama. Why not be that opera singer every time you play?  Command the attention of a large audience. Sound quality and extraordinary musicianship matter.

    Note:  Great tone does not just equal high decibels. A great sound should happen in all dynamics. The bullets for today are TONE and MESSAGE.

    Wednesday, September 25, 2013

    Powerfully Persuasive!

    Confidence in pianissimo! That's a winning ticket, and a rare one indeed!  Mel Broiles as well as Roger Voisin, two players known for their amazing power and style, both maintained that the secret to great playing is control in the softest of dynamics.  That seems like an oxymoron, doesn't it?  We think that loud is great, and soft is not.  Actually, anyone can blast, but few are comfortable in an expressive pianissimo passage.

    Maneuverability in pp is the goal.  It is vital for the music and the health of the embouchure. Our lips get tired, or "tard" as some of our Cincinnati colleagues used to complain.  What's a brass player to do after an orchestral pummeling?  The macho in us says, "tough it out, man!  Meet fahr with fahr, (fire)!" The truth is that wise, soft, practice of basics for sensitivity is the best way to recover and to prepare for the next blastathon. Regular low decibel practice will help guarantee confidence and security in performance. 

    Explore the soft range. Learn to control both screaming loud and super soft.  Just because the part indicates quiet dynamics doesn't mean you play with no tone or style. PP does not mean pitifully puny!  It stands for Powerfully Persuasive! 

    Note:  As the finalists for his job were awaiting the verdict from the BSO trumpet audition committee, the great Roger Voisin himself strode confidently into the locker room. "Hi, boys, he said.  Just wanted to see who was going to get my locker key."  He then opened his locker, pulled out a muted C trumpet and played for us a very tasty, spiffy-clean Bozza-like soft and agile fanfare.  He grinned, hung up his horn and left.   He could have won his own job back! Soft was VERY COOL and the lesson was very persuasively imparted!

    Wednesday, September 18, 2013

    Where's the Hulk?

    Alright, alright! It is agreed that this brute must be conquered and well tempered.  However, in our quest to obtain elegant and refined playing, we are too easily convinced to sacrifice that visceral presence that commands the attention of every listener within a five mile radius. The training mission may be accomplished, still a thirsty committee yells, "unleash the hulk!"

    How about restoring the proper mixture of sensitivity with bombastic belligerence! We originally started playing with the exuberance of a monster, only to be severely chastened: "Don't you ever again break those restraining chains!  Know your proper place, stay there, and don't come out again!"

    Audition committees certainly look for command and control, but if all the finalists are equally accurate, then what?  Maybe they're hoping for a hulk to emerge.  At that point, a well-tamed monster will win every time. 

    How much of the hulk is in your daily playing?  30%, 20, 10, any at all?  Have your aggressiveness and your overall impact evaluated.  Finesse is demanded, but so is power, confidence, and a nice amount of THE INCREDIBLE HULK.  Be that guy!

    Sunday, September 15, 2013

    Giving Lip Service

    This post is for all of us simple trumpeters who might be in need of a facial adjustment or two. Silliness is sometimes the best way to make a point. Speaking of clear points, which of these guys is more likely to deliver a crystal clear, sharp-edged tone, Mr. Flabby-Leaky Lips, or Mr. Snazzy-Steely Lips? Wonder how they sound?

    Often our greatest need is not for the newest horn, a pricey mouthpiece, or an amazingly huge air stream.  The big time deficiency could well be the not-so-wonderful mouth of Mr. Touloose-Lips himself!  The good news: getting a spanking new spiffy embouchure costs us nothing.

    The key word for today is embouchure. A great setup is the first step towards a great sound. Both lips must be disciplined to work for us, not against us. Each part of the embouchure must participate. We shouldn't have to try to play well in spite of lazy lips.  Let's declare this month EMBOUCHURE EFFICIENCY MONTH.

    Free-flowing air must travel over firmly anchored lips. An unfocused embouchure disperses the airstream robbing us of clarity, projection, and endurance.  We should also include lack of accuracy and range. 

    An ultra relaxed look might seem very cool, but music is not about appearances.  Simply focus and blow.  Hit the audience with your streaming air, not the side of your neighbor's face! 

    The best advice I remember on clarity: "Pucker, point the tongue and blow."  Another profound comment: "Direct your air straight down the pipe."  Another: "Release the air, don't attack the note." Also: Buzz it, then play it. And: "Great playing begins with a great embouchure."

    Whatever is happening right behind your mouthpiece matters! 

    Thursday, September 12, 2013

    A One-Track Mind

    What does Grand Central Station have in common with your practice room?  Hopefully nothing.  Often however we experience the same stress and anxiety of a busy terminal.  Instead of a calm walk to the beach, you find yourself frantically looking at a multitude of destinations.  "Which train do I take, and WHERE am I going again?" Like the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, you've got no time because "you're late, you're late, for a very important date."  Sadly, it sounds like your destination is unknown.

    How about approaching practice with a one-track mind?  Pick something you need to work on.  Don't flit about like a bee from one flower to another.  Do one thing well at a time!

    Here are a few trains to consider taking.  Remember, you can only board one train at a time. 

    • RHYTHM - Your most productive work will probably be without the horn.  Sing it. 
    • SOUND QUALITY - Play very slowly for great sound on all notes. Listen. 
    • DYNAMIC CONTRAST - Don't assume it's happening.  Exaggerate.
    • DRAMATIC MESSAGES - Avoid the boring. Be devoted to the story. Act it.
    • STARTS OF PHRASES (first notes/entrances) - Enter the music well. Start clearly. 
    • THE MOST DIFFICULT PASSAGE - Spend extra time on the nasty stuff. Master it. 
    • HOLD THE HIGHEST NOTES OF A PASSAGE FOR SECURITY - The top notes must be the best.  Enjoy them. 
    • ENDS OF PHRASES - Enter silence gracefully.  Last notes matter.

    Relax, define the issue of the session, and walk through it carefully and slowly. Think beach, not terminal.

    Monday, September 09, 2013

    Your Best Tutor

    What player wouldn't welcome some quick help with sound quality, focus, and intonation?  Since we all have limited practice time, what's a good fast remedy for these vital issues?  Well, consider your friendly tutor, that much ignored little corrector, your mouthpiece!

    We shouldn't expect the trumpet to correct our unrecognizable pitches, our unfocused tone, or our floozy attacks. However, after some consistent accurate buzzing on the mouthpiece, you can enjoy instant improvement. 

    (Some argue that buzzing is different than real playing.  I agree, but I've always noticed marked improvement after enjoying a good buzz.)

    It seems that when it's unclear on the mouthpiece, it's also unclear on the horn.  But when it's perfect on the mouthpiece, it's a whole lot better when you add the horn.  It's like a ball player swinging two or three bats before stepping to the plate.  Don't trust me, or yourself. Trust your mouthpiece.

    Assignment:  buzz any phrase slowly and accurately with as little fuzz as possible.  Don't modulate, and don't approximate.  Just nail each note, spot on with ease and no hand pressure.  Watch what happens after even a single session of conscientious buzzing!  Now, simply add the trumpet, play like you buzzed, and, voila, an amazingly improved sound and focus!  Repeat often during your day. Very cool! Your own personal tutor!

    Thursday, September 05, 2013

    Bullets to Go

    Trying to keep lesson assignments short and simple.  A daunting list of expectations is discouraging for student and teacher alike.  A few bullets to go is the goal.  The lesson should end with a doable agenda clearly in mind.  Here are some items covered today:

    • SING IT - Before playing, sing your music with all the inspiration you can muster.  Most of us sing way better than we play.  This ought not to be.  Don't let the trumpet be a music inhibitor.  Try to sing everything the music indicates, but with no horn yet.  Don't even think about it.  Just sing well, play it later.

    • BUZZ IT - Your goal is to buzz the mouthpiece with accurate intonation and pure tone.  Remember: it must be in tune and clear.  We demand too much of the trumpet when so much can be accomplished on the mouthpiece alone! Buzz it.

    • SLUR IT -  A slurred line always has better tone than an articulated line.  Suggestion: slur the whole line first while listening for your best tone on all notes.  Check with your clarinet player friends.  They always do great at this.  Slur it first, tongue it later.
    • TONE IT -  Try for a "Pictures" tone on all notes, especially the short ones.  Do you recall any stuffy or fuzzy notes in Pictures at an Exhibition? It's quality control on everything. Tone it.

    • CLICK IT - You must be a metronomic freak.  Your rhythm must be awesome.  Amaze all listeners with your unusual ability to be STEADY.  Rhythmic character wins jobs.  Click it or ticket.

    Thursday, August 22, 2013

    The Day the Music Dies

    Do these little guys look familiar?  One is very upset because his trumpet playing is just never good enough no matter how much he practices. Poor guy. The other fellow unabashedly displays his who cares attitude.  Poor guy.

    The first is usually an emotional wreck and a perfectionist grump, while the other just shrugs and yawns apathetically.  We have obsession and ambivalence, total opposites yet both preparing for a career in music!  Which one 's going to make it?  Maybe neither!  Attitudes matter.  Unfortunately their attitudes usually have the same result: their music has died.  Why?

    One works like crazy and is never content, while the other is content not to work. Somewhere there exists that wonderful balance between these bitter extremes. An all-consuming passion for learning music must be balanced by an it's-not-the-end-of-the-world mindset, but it must never descend into lethargy.  Have a passion, but have a life!  Where do you fit in?

    Sadly this poster has little to offer for the ailments of the frenetic and the discouraged.  You'll have to prescribe your own remedies.  Just saying that we should beware of both of these little guys. You will observe that no method book has a section on obsessing or laziness. 

    So, work wisely.  Feed the music beast.  Stay inspired, my friends, but be reasonable.   Don't be crazy, and don't be lazy.  


    Wednesday, July 17, 2013

    When Losers Win

    "I am sorry but no one advanced from your round.  Thank you for coming."  To make it worse, this announcement is delivered with absolutely no emotion or sympathy.  Equally painful is that deafening silence that follows one of your less than perfect excerpts. Oh, and there is that infamous verdict: "Thank you. Next." Life is not good.

    We can learn a lot about ourselves when under the pressures of competing and performing. It's decision time. Will it be depression or motivation?  A loss doesn't define you. It serves instead as your most effective instructor.  Don't give up. Losing is part of progressing. Consider this ordeal your best lesson, not a judgment. This is not the end, but the beginning of a wiser and much improved trumpet player. You lost that battle, but the war is still yours for the taking. 

    Appreciate that you have just been given a more focused practice agenda! We don't have hundreds of notes to waste each day.  Every note counts, exactly the audition scenario!  Work on eliminating that which will eliminate you.  Strap onto your bell an anti-dismissal filter which allows only excellence to escape.  Don't ever remove it!  Next time, try as they might, the committee won't be able to find anything wrong with your playing.  Even better, they'll find lots to like.

    Monday, July 08, 2013

    Audition Priority

    What would you say is the most important thing you can do to win an audition? What is likely going to be the deal-breaker for the committee?  Multiple choice:
    Is it great TONE, demonstrating great RHYTHM, showing all the DYNAMICS, playing with amazing STYLE, and/or exuding enormous CONFIDENCE?  Doesn't that about cover it all?

    We might be able to rack up high marks on sound, dynamics, expression, rhythm, and style.  But without a high degree of accuracy, the whole product is unsellable.  Without accuracy, you are hoping the committee will be willing to take a huge risk.  Few are willing to gamble on a hit-or-miss player. 

    Simply, you must never miss.  You play with all of the above goodies, but you must be all nails.  Hit the target center with every note.  With that skill and mindset in your arsenal, you can't miss!

    Friday, July 05, 2013


    Which one of these faces is you?  The smirk, the grimace, the deadpan expression, the angry, goofy, playful, proud, the furtive?  Shades of expression seem endless.  Never mind your temperament or personality type. You have your many masks to hide behind.  It's OK. Play the part. In any performance you will have to strap on any one of these masks and enjoy it, so get used to it.

    Have someone observe your playing.  What do they hear, and what do they see?  Is your playing bland, colorless, and always the same with no variety? Don't bore your observers and listeners!  Boring doesn't sell. 

    Oh, and just when you might be getting comfortable with your new persona, you must be able to turn on a dime and swap masks.  There's nothing like acting!  Performing is convincing. Go ahead and play the part. 

    Friday, June 21, 2013

    Eyes Closed

    Here's a non brilliant idea for your practicing during these summer dog days. You might find it useful. Close your eyes and just play. No books needed, just a good supply of musical imagination and your passion for playing. Get out of the practice studio, at least in your mind, and play what's on your heart.  How long has it been?

    A constant connect with the printed page can result in a too-well-thought-out performance, not that that is a bad thing.  For a change however, try the blindfold approach. Listen rather than watch.  Feel rather than follow.  Create rather than be totally captive to the black and white page.

    Go somewhere with your trumpet.  Don't be confined to four walls and a boring study book.  Think movie soundtrack, nightclub trumpet solos, studio recording.  Imagine your picture on the cover of your own solo album!  Whatever you would expect to hear, do it.  Why wait for money and fame.  Go for it now as you practice.  Do it often. Your message will be noticed. Close your eyes and play.

    Tuesday, May 28, 2013

    Avoiding Trauma

    The orchestra has tuned.  The maestro bows, and the baton slowly descends. The music says pianissimo.  It's time for drama, not trauma.  Yes, drama can happen in very soft passages too. Have you prepared for moments like this? If not, you'll know pretty quick.

    The first side effect of poor soft prep is a lack of response and air flow.  It quickly gets worse however.  Next, your assumed artistry is out the window. Flummoxed by this unexpected trauma, the body frantically tries to function in an unfriendly zone. Your worst nightmare is happening. Does this sound familiar? Anticipate these potentially uncomfortable situations. It's hard to be musical when fear rules. Wise prep trumps fear.

    Take the opening of the second symphony of Schumann.  You do not want to hear "softer, trumpets!", nor do you want to see the conductor's wincing expression or the palm of his left hand.  (I've never heard of a conductor wanting more sound on the opening.) So to avoid this showdown you will need to have a large reserve of soft, smooth, slow air, delivered with perfect intonation. 

    Just as an on deck batter surveys every move of the pitcher, we must plan for unexpected curve balls from the maestro.  The conductor, like the pitcher, can be an ace.  Be prepared!

    Note: Marching band season is approaching as well as all of those loud outdoor concert events.  Be sure to balance all of that fortissimo playing with careful pianissimo practice.  Mel Broiles, one of the strongest and loudest trumpet players, told his overeager students that the best players in the business are the ones who can be relied upon to play very softly.  

    Thursday, May 23, 2013

    Playing with a Full Blow

    A full bow is our full blow.  Often a good picture is our best instructor.  The violinist's fully extended bow arm reminds us that a full breath followed by a full blow matters.

    Why is the violin bow as long as it is? And why do our lungs have the capacity they do? Both bow and lungs were intelligently designed for, among others things, the ability to produce a great sound.

    What would the best Stradivarius violin sound like if played with only a three inch long bow?  Similarly, would you want to listen to a brass player who only played with tiny sips of air?  The sound of that little ToysRus fiddle bow resembles the tone quality of a brass player playing on a soda straw.

    Of course, there are many times when small bow and small air is called for.  Often though, when the maximum tone is required, we default to the small blow/small bow tendency, and the sound suffers big time.

    Violinist Gil Shaham in a master class at CCM was frequently encouraging more bow for better results.  If he had to hear a bunch of trumpeters, likely his advice would be the same: more air flow for better results.

    The violin bow draws out the violinist's great singing tone.  Our air is on the same mission. Don't short change your sound by using sips instead of controlled gulps.  Learn to be comfortable with a full blow.  Your sound depends upon it.

    Friday, April 26, 2013

    Mamma said they'll be days like this!

    Which is worse, physical pain or mental anguish?  Many would say the latter? Smooth sailing is occasionally met with sudden and unexpected bouts of discouragement and depression.  Why? We don't always know. How quickly though we can go from the best of times to the worst of times! Thankfully, turnarounds happen.

    Unfortunately discouragement is part of life and the growing process. Don't be surprised when you discover that you didn't leave home without it.  It can be used to your advantage however. Think of it this way. How would we ever learn to overcome adversity if we never had to deal with it? Although the road to improvement has its potholes and roadblocks, they must be viewed as necessary keys for our improvement.

    Take the audition/jury/board/testing scenario for instance.  It can be an absolutely dreadful ordeal, agree?  Funny. Auditions may or may not produce a winner, but they always produce a whole bunch of "losers".  Who doesn't hate when that happens? Although it is often brutal, it can be the best experience for us as a person and as a player.  Who never lost at anything?

    We are built to fight, not surrender.  A set back is not a defeat.  Losing is not failing.  I just heard it said concerning an audition loss, "it wasn't a waste of time unless you didn't try your best."  Someone will always play better than you, and you will always play better than someone else. Comparison is not the issue.  Consistently trying to do your best is all you can do.  

    A little humbling, whether deserved or not, can be just what is needed to jump start improvement and greater maturity. It's so trite, but true: "don't get bitter, get better."  Auditioning takes practice.  The next one will be easier. 

    OK. Calling all of us "losers"!  Let's sit down, take stock, evaluate, pray, be grateful, we're not done yet, we haven't lost at anything!  We just experienced an emotional lesson on how to deal with emotions.  Hey, if you want to look at it this way, with each loss comes opportunity for growth.  

    Improvement is not without discomfort, and pain is part of progress. No one is exempt from days like this, Mamma said!


    Wednesday, April 24, 2013

    What's on your mind?

    Thoughts matter.  As the brain dictates, the body responds. What are you feeding your brain?  If we are constantly downloading the negative and fearful, things will not end well.  Begin instead to build a successful performance mindset.  If we can begin to control our thoughts, we have taken the first step towards mastery. 

    Don't you like words that support what you want to do, words that describe what you are training to do and to be? Make this summer a time of taking mental and verbal inventory.  You still have to practice of course, but why limp around in heavy shackles making improvement next to impossible?  Inject the positive and reject the negative. "As a man thinks in his heart, so is he."

    Here are some of our old unfavorites which we want to obliterate from our thoughts, conversation, and playing:
    • Fearful
    • Inhibited
    • Cautious
    • Apologetic
    • Tiptoeing
    • Hesitant
    • Insecure
    • Visibly unprepared
    • Nervous 
    • Uncontrolled 
    • Boring 
    • Weak
    How about these instead?
    • Confident
    • Expressive
    • Bold
    • Risk-taking
    • Leading
    • Soloistic
    • Sensitive
    • Flexible
    • Musical 
    • Controlled 
    • Powerful
    • Dramatic   
    Note:  For all who have ever observed and/or heard Bud Herseth playing or speaking, this second list well describes him.  He had no time for fear or negative thoughts. He seemed never to have even given them a first thought.  He was way too busy making great music on his trumpet. 

    Sunday, April 14, 2013

    Bud Herseth Remembered

    When asked how he would like posterity to remember him, Bud Herseth replied, “as a fairly decent guy who gave it his best every time he had the chance.”

    For those connected in any way with Mr. Herseth either personally or through his many recordings, master classes, or concert performances, it can certainly be said that his request was granted.  Never was he known to deliver anything but his best effort.  It was difficult not to come away impressed, improved, and inspired by both his amazing playing and perhaps his secret weapon, that carefree and musical approach that was so Bud!  

    In one of my lessons with Mr. Herseth we worked on the Credo of Bach's b Minor Mass. I was struggling on the piccolo trumpet with the high parts, and needed his input.  I don't know exactly what he told me, but after a few moments of walking energetically around the room, singing and gesturing dramatically, he said, now try it again, Phil.  Whatever he did worked.  I proceeded to get up a head of steam and sailed all the way up to the top of the line, feeling like I could hold onto that high G forever!  For once I was not blasting and pressing, but floating and singing. I couldn't resist laughing in amazement.  He smiled and nodded.

    If only that kind of communication could be bottled and reopened whenever needed!  I then told him I didn't know exactly how much he charged for a lesson, but it was worth ten times that amount.  He declined any payment of course. 

    Making someone confident, encouraged and happy with himself was a big part of who he was.  He was definitely way more than a decent guy who gave his best every time. Time spent with him, or just listening to him, was simply unforgettable.  How wonderfully he could bring out the best in you! That was Bud!

    Saturday, March 30, 2013

    The Great Music Inhibitor

    So many fine musicians share one huge problem, they play the trumpet. Oh to be able to perform all that the brain and the heart intends without that pesky instrumental impediment! 

    Every time we sing without the instrument the result is good, usually very good.  Add the trumpet however, and we suddenly develop issues.  The good news is that we are able to sing what the printed page demands pretty well.  The bad news is that we hold in our hands the great music inhibitor, the trumpet.  Sadly, few are conquerors, and many have been maimed and slain by the 3-valved brainless monster.  So who is able to deal successfully with our beloved and hated foe? 

    Our simple mission is to overcome the inhibitor.  We overcome by wisely utilizing our enormous inventory of artistry and passion.  We need a steadfast resolve to make the instrument obey the music master within us.  Practice is a daily struggle for dominance as the music does battle with the instrument.  When we dwarf the musical input, the horn wins every time. When we strengthen the musical intent, the instrument will become our servant.  

    A successful battle requires an intelligent strategy and a persistent, careful attack on the enemy.  The enemy's victory depends on a bewildered and frustrated opponent.  Having a weak musical message and sloppy battle skills results in certain defeat for the musician. Again, we must prepare for a daily battle which is quite winnable but requires great musical vision, determination, and wisdom.  

    Who's enlisted for the fight? 

    Tuesday, March 26, 2013

    Injection Therapy

    Hey, Doc, it's happened again, another nasty case of the goo, trumpet doldrums big time.  I need help now!  Seriously, this is the worst yet. What have you got for me?  

    Well, I have found that the most effective therapy for uninspired days of practice room boredom is quite easy to take and very effective.  I'm recommending massive doses of this medication with no limits on refills! Oh, there are side effects, but I don't think you'll find them to be a problem.  In fact, I think you'll find them euphorically addictive.  Simply inject generous portions into each ear several times a day, and I doubt you'll be needing a followup appointment.

    Label instructions:  Apply liberal amounts of your FAVORITE BRASS RECORDINGS. Inject into both ears.  Repeat at least 3 times daily.

    WARNING:  Failure to take this medication consistently may cause boredom, drowsiness, depression, and in some cases suicide.  Musical Alzheimer's has been shown to be the result of listening only to oneself for long periods of time.  

    High quality brass playing is infectious.  Don't leave home without it.


    Thursday, March 21, 2013

    Unrealistic Expectations

    Why do we get so easily discouraged in the practice room?  Not long after those first notes are sounded we find a reason to think, "This just isn't working today. Nothing feels right." Likely we are having the wrong expectations! Maybe we need to rename our practice room "THE WRESTLING ROOM".

    Most of us have three unrealistic expectations when it comes to practice sessions.  First, we expect that everything will be fun and painless from the first note to the last.  Hence we become depressed when we encounter any resistance.  Furthermore, we expect instant improvement.  We have little patience for long term technique-building.  Rather, we want it all now.

    Finally, we fail to realize that high quality music making is a long term growth process, and making the instrument behave is a daily task. We see the goal, but we are not committed to follow the path. Wrestling is not blindly lunging or frantically flailing with intermittent bursts of bluster. We must enter the practice room anticipating and planning for a tough match, winnable yes, but not without a lot of wrestling.

    (Hebrews 12:11 is a nice parallel. The writer was probably was not addressing trumpet players, but the principle is the same. "For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.")

    Expect to work hard and smart for mastery.

    Monday, March 11, 2013

    You're too Smart to be Dumb!

    Vacchiano used to say, "nowadays, trumpet players know too much to make a mistake."  We have been trained with all the information required for perfect execution.  Well then, I guess by now all concert halls should be mistake-free zones.  Unfortunately missed notes are still going to happen, but his point was that we have no excuse for them. 

    Most mistakes are mental failures. We expect our mighty chops to make up for the insanity of our frantic stabs in the dark.  Our mind is simply not on the same page as the music.  If only we would allow the brain to process the notes fast enough, we would be able to turn out perfection. Don't you hate making those stupid mistakes?  The problem is that the mistakes aren't stupid, it's the player! 

    That's great news! Maybe there is hope! It might not be so much a chop issue as it is a thinking, or preparation issue.  How about SLOW practice, slow enough that mistakes don't ever happen.  Let's starve the mistakes.  Give your brain a fighting chance.  Even the dumbest of us can get through Petroushka if the tempo is slow enough, right? 

    Let's stop the madness. Put your professors out of business.  Stop them from their professing. You've heard their practice rants long enough.  You can extract those pesky mistakes from your playing if you really want to, or you can continue to step on the daisies, forever wondering why you are plagued with those stupid wrong notes.  You can begin to play smart, or you can continue to play dumb.   

    Wednesday, March 06, 2013

    Making a Splash

    In auditions winners are usually noticed quickly, like from their first notes!  So why tiptoe into the music?  Why not jump right in and make a grand musical splash from the get go?  Go for it. Just lift the bell, aim, and fire!

    Some excerpts like the octave call in Zarathustra are like a cannonball splash, while others demand a smooth unobtrusive beginning.  In all cases however, there must be a precise entry point.  Let's practice that.  Make all entrances notable, whether for shock and awe, or for sly subtlety. A great sound always impresses.

    (Suggestion for practice: Play the 3-second game, and save your chops.  Just practice getting off the starting block.  Start your excerpt, and then quickly stop it.  You are Quick-Draw, the master excerpt starter.  Remember, you are out to perfect just the first 3 seconds of every excerpt, an enviable and rewarding skill!  This will help train all instincts to be on instant command!)

    Take the Ravel Piano Concerto.  You're allowed one brief muted sizzle before bursting right onto the scene in full attack mode, firing nonstop for the next 15 seconds.  Your notes are spikes.  Think "pokey, pointy, perky, snappy, bitey, cocky".  Your playing must be bold, crisp, and unafraid.  It's not a lullaby.  Think percussion.  Aim and shoot.  Oh, one thing: no misfires allowed, only bulls eyes. So set your embouchure for all the notes, and hit all of them in one blow with no letting up.

    Next up: the opening to Schumann Symphony No. 2.  This calls for an entirely different approach.  Picture yourself swimming slowly beside a gliding swan.  No splashing, splattering or sputtering is permitted. You will scare the swan. Think "graceful, elegant, quiet, and smooth."  Now breathe accordingly.  Big bucks are awaiting those who master this one.

    Whatever the demands, the first notes are vital for your security and for securing the job.  Auditions are always too short, so make the most of those few minutes.  Make a great impression immediately.

    Sunday, February 24, 2013

    Bob Sullivan Master Class at CCM

    CSO Principal Trumpet Robert Sullivan led an excellent master class last week at CCM.  It was all quality with not a wasted minute, an especially informative and inspiring event that will not be forgotten. Great stuff was shared that appeared to stick.

    Grad students Nathan Sheppard and Dan Arute played some of their Air Force Band Audition repertoire receiving excellent pointers. Bob also coached and joined the CCM Philharmonia trumpet section on portions of the Mahler 3rd Symphony with Adrienne Doctor, Dan Arute, Rico Flores, and Tim Dailey.  The concert will be performed on March 2.  (Can't wait to be there.)

    The theme of the morning was How to Practice.  Bob discussed and demonstrated the James Stamp approach as well as sharing a number of stories highlighting major points.  He spoke of the importance of having a secure technical foundation, stressing efficiency, and the need for inspired playing.  He spoke fondly of one of his mentors, the great Armando Ghitalla, former Principal Trumpet with the Boston Symphony.

    The following are some notes submitted from a number of trumpet students in attendance:  

    • "The greater the discipline of practice, the greater the freedom of performance." - Armando Ghitalla
    • Build your foundation everyday. Start your day with conditioning and technical exercises. Once you've covered everything you need for the day you will be freer to focus on making music. The image was suggested of a beautiful beach house with little foundation having been totally ravaged by a hurricane. Foundations matter. Point made will not be forgotten.
    • You have to be eager to go back to square one every day. Build a foundation that can weather the storms that will hit your playing.

    • I liked how he talked about having a foundation to come back to. Eventually, something will happen, emotionally or physically.  When you come back to the trumpet, what will you come back to, a washed away house, or a strong foundation still in place? We must have fundamentals to come back to when we lose our way. I thought that was a great point!
    • Lastly, he mentioned fundamentals and building a strong foundation. It easy to overlook that when things get busy and there's a ton of rep to work through.  These sentences don't quite capture how much impact his class had on me and all of us!
    •  "It is impossible to reach perfection, but it is our responsibility to try. " - Armando Ghitalla
    • Don't waste your notes.
    • Double forte is two players playing forte. Triple forte is three players playing forte.  Quality of sound is still essential in fortissimo. Out-of-control blasting is to be avoided.  It also wastes precious energy and doesn't always project.
    • He talked about practicing fast articulations with longer notes and a very clear articulation to help the musical line come out.
    • His relaxed approach was so shocking, in a good way. He was very at ease which was apparent with his clear powerful yet beautiful sound.
    • Practice using slurs or removing them to know how the air flows through the whole passage.
    • Sustaining is more effective than over-blowing.  A sustained note projects better than one with only a huge attack. 
    • Write out the part. We learn more from re-writing.
    • He insisted on having something to say every time you pick up your horn. Being able to make people stop and listen is more important than playing technically perfect.
    • Play the music like there's no time signature while still playing completely in time. The direction of the line is most important.
    • Play the music, not the trumpet. Say something when you play. He recommended Aaron Copland's book, "What to Listen for in Music".
    • Play with character.  This was my favorite!  I tend to just read music and try to play what its written, which is right.  Add the performer's character to it. I guess that is interpretation. Tell something to the audience, and convince them! 
    • The master class was fascinating for me and I'm pretty sure for my colleagues as well. There are many thoughts I had, but several things that I liked and impacted me were - not having to play too loud, just sustain more, and more support from the section. 
    • Mr. Sullivan helped us understand the Stamp method.  I really liked his discussion about how to properly approach the Stamp concepts/book. Thinking up when down, and down when up, helps to avoid embouchure stress, intonation problems, and fatigue.
    • The lost Stampism: play to the stem. Conceptualize the note as being where the stem of the note head is, usually an octave displacement. Do that for high and low notes. In the middle, play to the note heads. 
    • Don't relax on the low notes.
    • Blow down on the high notes (as from above), and blow up on low notes (as from below)
    A trumpet player's greatest need is often the ability to organize practice time efficiently, having a plan, a goal, and a mindset to work.  Wise and inspired daily work seemed to be theme of the day.  Our thanks to Mr. Sullivan for a terrific class! 

    This Unexpected Bummer!

    There you are, all set to go, and now this!!  Oh, those unexpected and unplanned for bumps in the road that effectively stifle anything productive!  Your "this" can take many forms, be it sudden physical ailments, personnel squabbles, conductor's demands, problematic seating, unfavorable acoustics, unfavorable repertoire, a stuck valve, major fatigue, even a square wheel.  You can fill in the blank, but be sure that some sort of "this" is going to happen somewhere, somehow, sometime.

    Success is when you have learned to deal with life's "this's". Good luck with that! Once the little fellow trying to ride his bike gets over his initial anguish, he will think clearly to find a solution.

    "Dad? Someone? Help!"

    "Son, you know that a smooth sea never made a skilled sailor."

    "Swell! Thanks, Dad.  I'd like to see you ride this thing!"

    P.S. James 1:2-4

    Friday, February 22, 2013

    Avoiding the Crash

    Wow, what a dream house! There it is in its impressive location, high, mighty, and seemingly impervious to the ravages of nature.  But what happened?

    CSO Principal Trumpet Robert Sullivan described well for us in his master class at CCM the tragic picture of glorious beach houses suddenly overcome by hurricane Hugo some years ago.  Although constructed high on stilts, they were quickly destroyed by an inevitable onslaught of wicked weather.  Further inland, it was those basic ancient concrete fortresses that easily withstood the nasty elements.  That vivid image serves to remind us of our dependence on a sturdy foundationDaily attending to the state of the structure is our responsibility.

    So what is the structure of a multimillion dollar dream house?  Its structure is NOT the lush landscaping, nor the plush expensive decor.  The enviable external facade has its glory for sure, but the lasting structure of any building is unseen and plain, but very strong

    A trumpet player may have awesome skills and incredible musicianship.  He/she likely has an array of abilities on call for the thrilling of audiences.  But the real value of the player is the strength and endurance of those basic foundational skills that enable great playing.  Those boring bolts, nuts, beams, screws, planks, and nails are all securely fastened to and part of a sturdy immoveable foundation that is rooted way down deep.

    The proper use of wind, articulation, and flexibility are just some of those foundational issues that must be restrengthened every day.  They are not necessarily fun to deal with, but when attended to regularly, they free the player to focus solely on music making.  Well worth it, wouldn't you agree?

    It is easy to see only on those outward attention grabbers - loud, high, fast, and faster.  Rather it is paying attention to those unglamorous basic foundational elements that marks the great players who overcome obstacles and who are still playing well after the storm.


    Sunday, February 10, 2013

    Bad Chop Fix

    "What happened?  I could play last night, but now nothing works!  I've been playing up a storm all week, but now this! What's the remedy for this dreaded dead chops disease? HELP!"

    Feels like a horrible dream, doesn't it?  Except that when it happens it is all too real, and slapping yourself just makes it worse. Who hasn't awakened at some point with this scary predicament?

    Many have their own therapy for such times. Remedies for an over-worked embouchure include taking a few days off, applying ice, massage, acupuncture, sandpaper, blubbering, etc., etc.  Some have even bullied their way through it by beating their chops into submission, not always a good result however, and not recommended.

    One of the most effective ways out of this predicament is also an almost instant cure!  It is buzzing the mouthpiece very softly with a clear tone and perfect intonation.  However, you must insist on the following:  You want instant response.  You want it pianissimo.  You want dead-on accurate intonation.  And you also need frequent rests. 

    Remember to use very light pressure on the lips as you buzz your soft perfectly-in-tune melodies.  Keep it simple and keep it soft.  No bravura concertos, just pure clean sounds in tune!  Rest and repeat.  Have a good night's sleep.  You won't need to call me in the morning. 

    Friday, February 08, 2013

    Sound Rules

    What good is a very flashy line of music if the sound of most of the notes stinks?  If sound matters, why not try for the same sound quality as the solo in the opening of Pictures at an Exhibition?  Short notes should not get short-changed.  Sound rules.

    #1. Play the first note of your passage with your best centered sound and sustain it for a full breath.

    #2. Play the same note while fingering the notes of your passage on the lead pipe.

    #3. Play that note once again but articulate the passage as one long note with many tongues.

    #4. Now slur the passage maintaining your great tone.

    #5. Next, play the passage with the correct pitches but with all long notes.

    #6. Add some length to the short notes but keep the tone full.

    #7. Gradually approach the correct tempo and articulations of your flashy passage with no loss of your full sound on every note.

    Flashy is fine, but sound rules.

    A Great Lesson

    What constitutes a great lesson?  Is it one that leaves you really impressed with your teacher, or one that gets you totally pumped, or is jam packed with detailed information? Impressions, emotions, and information are each important, but can be quickly forgotten. A good lesson is one that immediately improves your playing and that stays with you. Quite simply, if your playing improves on the spot, you just had a great lesson! 

    What makes a great student? One that does not require constant jump starts and repetitions of instructions.  He or she is quick to appropriate information and eager to utilize good musical instincts. The turn around time for hearing and doing is amazingly rapid.  Future lessons do not require constant rebuilding.  The lesson studio functions more like a locker room assessment at half time, and less like a hospital clinic.

    Think not of spending 4 to 6 years to improve.  Think that school only lasts for a semester.  What can you get done NOW?  It depends on being a great student who is ready to have great lessons. 

    Monday, January 28, 2013

    What they want to hear

    Three things ought to be your focus as you prepare for a performance.  Your audience wants to hear a message, a line, and a pulse.

    Be sure of what you want to say.  If your message is only notes, you better not miss any.  But if you can tell a story, that's what they'll hear.  A beautifully phrased line sustains interest, but static notes get stale fast.  A consistent pulse gives stability, but tempos that are all over the place are annoying and rob you of the interest you want to capture. 

    So, keep your goals simple:  Say something, go somewhere, and keep it steady.

    Say something.  Some sort of programmatic theme should be your focus as your music unfolds.   Bring the listeners along with you.  Exaggerate for drama.  Give yourself completely to the message of each moment.  Play confidently without being cautious.  Look for all the magic moments you can find.  Ensure that the audience receives your message clearly. That's why you're there.

    Go somewhere.  Find the high points in the music, and build your performance to make each one special.  Look for the loudest moment, the highest moment, the softest and lowest moment.  Bring out the sumptuous, the bazaar, the elegant, the brutal, and the sweet.  You'll need these highlighted features to mark your performance as legendary.  Go very soft, go very loud, go very dramatic, but always go very something. Ordinary and mundane are not what you want remembered about your work.

    Keep it steady.  The mark of immaturity is rushing and unsteady tempos.  Deliver a rhythmically rock solid performance, and everyone will assume you are a seasoned pro. Good rhythm doesn't require great chops.  Just be steady! There's a place for rubato and waxing rhapsodic, but usually not.  Be a metronome and you'll stand out.

    Your journey will be fun when you have something to say, somewhere to go, and steadiness in your pursuit.

    Wednesday, January 23, 2013

    Avoiding the Whatever Restaurant

    Imagine a fine restaurant that had no menus.  There would simply be no balanced or nutritious suggestions ever offered. You just pull up a seat and start ordering any food that comes to mind.  Who needs menus anyway?

    Welcome to the Whatever Restaurant. Nibble a little here, chug a little there, and then proceed to bite off way more than is chewable for a couple of hours at a setting.  Sounds like a nasty gorge fest and a recipe for some unanticipated ailments.

    The thought is disturbing and absurd of course.  Yet is that not how we often approach our daily practice sessions?  You just pull up a seat and start in on huge helpings of chop-busting gorge fest goodies.  You try a little of this and then a bit of that.  But quickly your session turns into a whole lot of unwise blasting as you shower the air with a multitude of unusable notes.  Soon the chops cry "UNCLE!" and any cringing listeners gasp "NAUSEATING!"

    Suggestion:  Don't ever eat at the Whatever Restaurant!  Plan your practice agenda for the day in advance so that your mind rules your session rather than your appetite at the moment.  Do what is needed, not what is fun. Rest between courses. Sow where there are deficiencies, so you will enjoy the reaping later.  Plan your daily menu as well as your weekly menu.  Don't cram a whole bunch of asparagus down in one session.  You get the benefits when it is taken over time.  Don't shun it either.  Include the unpleasantries along with the pleasantries so that you don't gag when they appear on your plate. 

    Oh yes, there can be ice cream! But it tastes best when it has been earned and is guilt-free.  PLAN AHEAD!

    Thursday, January 10, 2013


    The word for today is fluster-proof!  It is that skill or temperament that marks you as incapable of being flustered.  Look at you!  No one dares mess with you.  Others are flummoxed, flustered and distracted, but not you.  They quickly sense that you are not to be put into a state of nervous or agitated confusion. Congratulations! You have graduated cum laude with that coveted degree of being unflappable! 

    When you are fluster-proof, you are consistently good, dependably outstanding, automatically awesome.  Sounding great is just what happens when you play.  Your whole level of playing is simply better than everyone else.  You woodshed in hard labor just like every other student, but with the difference that you work intelligently just like a pro.  You're a business pro, and there's always brains behind your blow.

    So what does this thick-skinned degree mean?  It means that you will not be paranoid or hyper sensitive to others' feelings about your work.  Nerves are not an issue for you because you know exactly what you are to do.  It matters not if it's slow or fast, loud or soft, who is there, or who is not, where you are, or where you're not.  You play music on the trumpet, period. Have trumpet, will perform.

    NOTE: You will need this degree for recitals, auditions, performances, interviews, and more importantly for yourself.  You will listen to yourself way more than anyone else will for the rest of your life.  So you must be consistently able to convince yourself that you know what you're doing from the first note of the day to the last encore on the recital.  Don't criticize yourself right off the stage.  Be pleased, and your listeners will be too.   Mr. Fluster has no place in our business!