First, let me thank all of my fellow TPIn'ers for your kind support of my review effort. Actually, I'm more than happy to be writing this; the brass institute is an escape from my summer job, and writing a summary makes me feel much more purposeful.
Much of today's workshop was valuable to do a second time, but not to hear about a second time through (i.e. Yoga breathing exercises), so I will limit this e-mail to the new, exciting, and groundbreaking topics we covered today. I would therefore like to talk about three events: Allan Dean's masterclass, the Orchestra career seminar, and mock auditions.
Before I go on to those three, I should first answer a few questions I have been asked about the workshop. I actually found out about the Rafael Mendez Brass Institute only a few weeks back, from my teacher, Summit Brass member and therefore Mendez Institute teacher Allan Dean. The program brings together dedicated brass players, mainly graduate students, with a fair number of undergrads (like me), a handful of high school students, and a number of middle aged trumpet enthusiasts. The playing level is quite high - the Tubist in my brass choir, for example, just won a tuba chair with the Portland symphony orchestra. The program runs a little more a week, from Sunday to the following Saturday, and costs ~$300. This is my first year with the program, and I have only experienced two days, but I can already say that it has been the best trumpet experience of my life from a learning standpoint. (And, no, I haven't been paid to write this. I wish. But check out the summit brass web site (www.summitrecords.com) for more info on the Summit Brass and the Mendez Brass Institute.)
Anyhow, let me begin by talking about Allan Dean's masterclass. Sadly, I didn't take notes on this, since I am lucky enough to hear Prof. Dean every week. However, I will share as much as I can remember offhand. The masterclass actually began with Dean's autobiography; however, as he is incredibly modest, his summary was fairly understated. Only when he made passing comments like "when I was in the recording studio with Soloff and Faddis..." or "I always liked playing with Broiles because..." was the caliber of his experience apparent. He ended the summary saying: "Just get as good as you can and see where it takes you." Switching over to the musical end of things, he discussed maintaining intensity in quiet passages, and staying away from a "brittle" sound in the upper register. He also discussed using smooth, soft tonguing between notes, along the lines of trombonists slide movement tonguing or string bow changes. Discussing the topic of practice, he quoted Broiles, who, when asked how he improved his playing, answered: "Improve? I'm just trying to not get worse!" He continued on to discuss the difference between maintenance and improvement practice, and said that as students, we should all still be in the improvement mode. Finally, he discussed equipment, answering someone's question about whether he used different equipment in jazz and legit (or tu-ku-tu, as Dean calls it) playing. He answered that he does change both horn and mouthpiece, using a Bach 3C with Bach 43 for tu-ku-tu, and a Purviance 8 with a Conn 60B for commercial. He went on to say that the Purviance and Bach mouthpieces are actually quite similar, but that the psychological support of picking up his "commercial" mouthpiece is enough to help him out in tough gigs.
Later in the afternoon, there was a career seminar, entitled "Auditions: How to win and keep a job with a major symphony orchestra or service band." The seminar was in panel format, with army soloists, orchestra section players and an orchestra conductor. The category of keeping the job was mostly just common sense: arrive on time, be prepared, be someone pleasant to work with, etc. Getting the job, however, was more interesting, as it sparked a number of debates between panelists. One centered around the use of splicing in audition tapes. Some of the panelists felt that if one couldn't play through the audition piece well enough to record it, they shouldn't be auditioning. Other panelists felt that, in today's recordings, even the pro's use extensive splicing, and that to compare favorably to what the audition committee is used to hearing, splicing was worthwhile. The conductor, who supported splicing, offered one warning anecdote. A concert pianist recorded a very difficult solo, and the editor at the studio spent days splicing together the best recordings, sometimes 32nd notes at a time. When the pianist returned to the studio and heard the final result, he remarked "I can't believe I played it like that!" "Don't worry," replied the editor, "you didn't." They also discussed the role of visualization in auditions, and suggested that auditioners should take more time between pieces, to prepare themselves completely. According to the panelists, audition committees obviously looked for a candidate that stood head and shoulders above the rest musically, but that early rounds of the audition were often spent listening more for what went wrong than what went right. In early rounds especially, poor time keeping and poor intonation were the major causes for elimination (along with, of course, inability to play the audition piece).
That evening, students had a chance to put those ideas to work in a round of mock auditions. While this was certainly a valuable experience (even though I have absolutely no orchestral aspirations), very little of it translates well by email. I will, however, share an anecdote from David Hickman that was perhaps the most inspirational trumpet story I have ever heard. He told us that he had a student who now played in a "Canadian quintet" named Jens Lindemann (upon hearing this name, everyone started paying much closer attention), but who, while in college, was just an average player. In Hickman's studio of 15 trumpet players, he was "maybe 12th." One year Lindemann participated in the ITG trumpet competition, "outdid himself" and made the final round. While he placed at the bottom of this final round, making the final round inspired him, he decided that the next year he was going to win the competition. When the music came out, he began practicing it religiously. Although before he had only practiced at a fairly low level, he dramatically increased his practice time, and began performing the competition pieces wherever possible. By the time the competition rolled around, he had *performed* each of the pieces over 100 times at small recitals throughout Canada. He won the competition, soon after got the Canadian Brass job, and is now kicking some serious butt (listen to the CB's Bernstein CD for a demonstration of this). Hickman emphasized that in just over two years, Jens went from an average player to first trumpet of the CB. After that story, I spent the rest of the evening in a practice room.