ITEC 2006: The Pedagogy of Great Musicianship—in Review
The ITEA Journal thanks those who agreed to review ITEC sessions. Most accepted the task months to weeks before ITEC, and some were gracious to fill in, at times, “last minute” in order to facilitate another’s schedule conflict.
Some reviews are still “in progress” and hopefully will soon be submitted and added to this article on ITEAonline.org. In addition, anyone who would like to submit a CD of photos from ITEC 2006—please do so! Also, great appreciation is extended to Alan Hood (trumpet, Denver Brass) who dedicated a great amount of time as our ITEC photographer.
~Jason Roland Smith (ITEA Journal Editor, email@example.com; 740.593.1620)
|2006 ITEC Program Booklet (2.1 MB PDF)
|Thursday, June 29
|2006 ITEC Photo Album
TUESDAY, JUNE 27
9:00 a.m. Recital Plus presented by Alan Baer, Jens-Bjørn Larsen, and Caryl Conger
The recital presented by Alan Baer and Jens-Bjørn Larsen was a fascinating display of repertoire, musicianship, and technical mastery. I was really interested to hear the variety of programming and the individual musical approaches to the literature they chose. Both performers really delivered in all regards. The event was a pleasure for all those attending the concert.
Alan Baer began the program with music largely coming from his most recently released recording, Coast to Coast. Mr. Baer started the program with a beautifully executed performance of Franz Strauss’ Nocturne. He dedicated this work to the memory of Rudy Emilson, his first teacher. His tone was pure and smooth throughout with the phrases containing a very tasteful sense of rubato. The next piece was Music for 4 Big Instruments (tuba, piano, bass, and drums) by Alex Shapiro. This was a premiere of an updated version of Ms. Shapiro’s Music for 2 Big Instruments that Baer previously recorded. The addition of the bass and drums really added to the rhythmic drive of the work. I consider this work to be “groove” focused, and the addition of these instruments supplied greater intensity to the metrically shifting composition. Ms. Shapiro’s writing is very idiomatic to all of the instruments. This work is a welcome addition to our repertoire.
Mr. Baer then played a “Canzonetta” from Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto. In this wonderful transcription, Baer exhibited effortless control and some beautifully executed trills. The ending contained a very tasty cadenza. He concluded his program with a spirited rendition of Paquito D’Rivera’s Vals Venezolano. Though short, this was a high-energy work that thrilled the audience. It was an exceptional way to end his portion of the program. Overall, it was excellent to hear all of these works performed so convincingly.
Jens-Bjørn Larsen opened the second half of the concert with the Tango Jalousie by Danish composer Jacob Gade. It was a very effective way of starting his memorized portion of the program. Following his performance containing the expected, yet enjoyable, twists of a tango, Larsen explained that the work is so popular that is played everywhere in Europe. In fact, he claimed that the tango paid his way through school since the royalties of every performance are deposited into a fund for Danish music students. This is a great work. I highly recommend it. Larsen then followed the Gade’s tango with another selection from the “dancing tuba” category—a performance of Piazzola’s Café 1939. Throughout this performance Larsen displayed amazing control and ability to show infinite colors in his tone. The performance was one of the more memorable ones for me from the whole conference. It was simply beautiful.
He ended his portion of the recital with a rousing rendition of Monti’s Czardas. While it is often performed, it was a pleasure to hear. Larsen again showed excellent dynamic and lyrical control including some very sensitive circular breathing in the quietest and highest tessituras of the work. His physical command of the tuba was astonishing. Larsen exhibited his control with an even and smooth flowing sound in all registers, an impressive singing style, and a large palate of dynamic extremes. These elements all came together to highlight the musical virtuosity that is so characteristic of his playing.
Both artists were ably assisted by collaborative pianist Caryl Conger, and both performers gratefully acknowledged Gerhard Meinl’s support for his assistance in making the recital possible. The whole recital was a pleasure to hear. Bravo to these excellent musicians that shared the stage.
~Joseph Skillen, Louisiana State University
11:00 a.m. “Orchestral Careers–Preparing for and Living the Life” presented by Warren Deck and Jens Bjørn-Larsen
Jens Bjørn-Larsen & Warren Deck
I was thrilled to be asked to review the session featuring Jens Bjørn-Larsen and Warren Deck entitled “Orchestral Careers: Preparing for and Living the Life.” I had admired Warren’s body of work with the New York Philharmonic and had remembered Jens’ solo playing as the most colorful and descriptive playing that I had ever heard. The session was both informative and inspiring for anyone who has ever entertained the idea of auditioning for and hopefully performing in an orchestra.
Three things struck me as I observed this session. First, both of these gentlemen were extremely laid back and “real.” I think that many times we tend to put our musical heroes on a pedestal and make them into something larger than life. Having never met Warren personally, I had the idea that his personality would match the qualities that I have associated with his playing—assertive, demonstrative, and hard to ignore. Instead, he (and Jens) presented point of views with a relaxed demeanor that I found particularly comforting. One of the best things about our conferences is that it allows us to see the giants of our discipline in a more human context.
Secondly, both gentlemen presented their thoughts in a way that was very clear and concise. As a teacher I am a big fan of the sound bite, a short sweet nugget of information that cuts straight to the problem at hand. Here are but a few of those nuggets that I thought were particularly instructive:
WD: Preparation for the next audition begins yesterday.
JBL: The one who wins the audition is the one that plays like a winner.
WD: Readiness is bought and paid for in the practice room.
JBL: Tell. Don’t ask.
Regarding preparation, it was agreed that every aspiring orchestral tubist should have a list of 40 to 50 standard excerpts prepared without the carrot of an audition to inspire them. Once the actual audition list is in hand, the player should strategize the list and establish why each excerpt is being asked. Another idea is to attack perceived weaknesses by asking “Which excerpt do I hope they don’t ask me today?” and starting the practice session right there. It was agreed on by both gentlemen that the winning candidate is one who can make the members of the committee hear their part in the orchestra with ease.
As far as dispensing advice for audition success, both Jens and Warren were in agreement about what defines the successful candidate. Both gentlemen stressed the importance of establishing your own musical character for each and every excerpt, but not to the point of becoming musically inflexible. The idea was posed that one should prepare each excerpt with a distinctive character, but should be prepared to play the material six or seven different ways in order to satisfy the wishes of the committee and/or conductor. Warren told a story of his experience serving as a proctor at an audition for the Philharmonic. The committee for this audition was regularly asking candidates to repeat an excerpt with a clear direction to play it differently. Warren said that he could guess by the body language of the candidate whether or not they would be successful, and more often than not, he was correct. The greater your understanding of the material and of what constitutes a musical performance, the greater the odds are for success at an audition.
Finally, both gentlemen were extremely candid about their experiences in their respective orchestras. Jens had just recently decided to resign his position with the Danish National Symphony Orchestra, because, in his words, he “lost the joy of the job.” Both gentlemen spoke openly of the negativity that can pervade in an orchestra, and how it can be difficult to cope with an array of attitudes within the orchestra. While it is possible (and hopeful!) that you as a player may never lose your enthusiasm for the job, there may be some players for whom the job in the orchestra is just that—a job.
Warren stated, “Some colleagues will be your friends, some will not. It doesn’t matter—you still need to cooperate and work toward the common goal of great music.”
Jens added, “The paradigm of defining success as ‘winning the gig’ is false. The paradigm is to be happy and fulfilled with what you do with your life.”
Both described situations in which some conductors used their power to divide and conquer. As Warren summed it up, “The orchestra is a microcosm of the dynamics of power politics.” I would guess that this was probably the first time that many members of the audience were taken out of the concept of the orchestra as utopia and were exposed to the underbelly of orchestral life.
This was an outstanding and truly educational session that tied in beautifully with the conference theme of “The Pedagogy of Great Musicianship.” I hope that the audience truly appreciated the gift of candor that these great musicians shared on this day!
~David Zerkel, University of Georgia
1:00 p.m. University of Missouri Tuba-Euphonium Ensemble directed by Angelo Manzo
The University of Missouri-Columbia Tuba-Euphonium Ensemble, under the direction of Angelo Manzo, performed the Prelude to the “Chat With the Legends” session and acquitted themselves well. The program began with Joe Skillen’s transcription of the Frescobaldi Toccata,with Dr. Manzo choosing brisk tempos for this piece. This was followed by Homáge by John Cheetham (Professor Emeritus of Composition and a great friend to the tuba and euphonium). Homáge is a beautiful piece, reminiscent of the opening section to Consortium. If this piece is not published, it should be.
The ensemble began to hit its stride with Barton Cummings’ From Darkness Emerging. Cummings’ compositions for tuba-euphonium ensemble are among his best works, and this piece was no exception. It was well played by all, with the low repeated-note section handled very cleanly by the second tubas.
Next, we went from Barton Cummings to Journey and an effective arrangement of Separate Ways. The ensemble handled the syncopations well and produced a nice groove on this piece. The concert closed with John Cheetham’s take on Show Me the Way to Go Home, Mashed Potatoes. This is a great (but tricky!) swing chart that, like Homáge, should be more widely available. Overall, this was a good effort by this young group, and I think we will be hearing more from them in the future. An enjoyable concert!
~Richard Perry, University of Southern Mississippi
1:30 p.m. A Chat with the Legends, Part II hosted by Warren Deck with Ronald Bishop, Harvey Phillips, Henry Charles Smith, and Abe Torchinsky
(L–R) Ron Bishop, Abe Torchinsky, Harvey Phillips, and Henry Charles Smith
As the International Tuba Euphonium Association continues to grow and expand, it is always nice to visit with some of the people who helped create the organization and expand the roles our instruments can play in the world of music. Warren Deck led a very interesting and wide-ranging question and answer period with Ron Bishop, Harvey Phillips, Henry Charles Smith, and Abe Torchinsky. He begin the discussion by asking the question “What makes a person a musical ‘legend,’” to which Abe Torchinsky replied, “Don’t die!”
The rest of the discussion alternated between humorous reflections and personal memories, coupled with a great deal of sage advice from master musicians who have all enjoyed tremendous success over their respective careers. The following is a small sample of their collective wisdom:
Deck: What advice would you give to younger players?
Smith: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Build your own opportunities.
Torchinsky: Have confidence, practice hard, know what you are doing and love what you are doing, . . . and you have to be lucky!
Bishop: Create your own opportunities. Work hard because getting to do what you love is very important.
Phillips: There are three kinds of people in the world: people that make things happen, people who watch things happen, and people who wonder what the hell happened.
~James Shearer, New Mexico State University
3:00 p.m. “Tag Team Teaching—Stretching your teaching potential: A class on teaching” by Floyd Cooley and Warren Deck
Floyd Cooley & Warren Deck working with student Brad Slusarczyk
This session offered an opportunity to experience a “behind the scenes” discussion of methods that teachers consider when working with students. Both gentlemen, Mr. Cooley and Mr. Deck, brought years of teaching and performing experience to this session. I believe all participants came away with some new insights. I found the format of discussion followed by a “hands-on” open lesson to be very helpful.
Both Deck and Cooley began by describing their interest in teaching and briefly alluded to their own experiences and philosophies of teaching. Cooley, in particular, spent an acknowledged amount of time with Arnold Jacobs both as a student and later in 1992 and 1993 when he was able to observe Mr. Jacobs and assist him in teaching some of the F tuba students. Since that time he has gone on to establish a very popular course in “one-on-one studio teaching” at DePaul University.
In describing their teaching philosophies, both alluded to understanding the learning styles of each student, the importance of observation, having a large set of analogies for describing various playing situations, and possessing a rather large “tool box” of examples and teaching tips. Mr. Cooley claimed that, “80% of effective teaching is observation with the best teachers having a strong desire to help other people.” Mr. Deck continued that in teaching one must decide, “What we want the students to get,” and then “try to get the light bulb to come on.” Another key element, according to Deck, is asking, “How does each student process information?” Certainly it will be different for each student, but the teacher that is willing to adapt her/his method to each student will find the best results. Mr. Deck also complimented Floyd Cooley’s succinct and elegant way of explaining concepts.
Cooley went on to describe his method of acquiring a “toolbox of ideas.” He said it is important to connect with students and figure out how they learn. Learning styles can involve ears, sight, and/or touch. “It is even more challenging,” he said, “when you aren’t playing the horn any longer.” However one can accomplish a lot still with singing, much the way Bill Bell did when Cooley studied with him. Cooley went on to acknowledge that it was important to play for students as much as possible.
They then invited Brad Slusarczyk, one of Dennis AsKew’s students from UNCG, to the stage to play for them. He chose to begin with the solo excerpt from Gershwin’s American in Paris. His playing was technically correct but lacking in expression. Both Cooley and Deck decided to work with him on phrasing ideas and certain musical aspects. Deck described the bar lines as “musical regularity” that one may use to push and pull against. They began to deal with the phrasing of rests in that particular excerpt. After having Brad play a couple of versions, they asked him to put his horn in his lap. This was to allow him the opportunity to discover what Gershwin had written. Ultimately, Deck said it is our job to “show what you’ve noticed the composer has done.” He continued to say “our musical inspiration should come from the dots on the page, not through the filter of technical difficulties.” Mr. Deck shared an analogy from Ronald Romm where one may compare brass playing to the sensation of flying a plane. He introduced this comparison to show that a teacher needs to have many analogies in their toolbox in addition to their “tricks.” “Ultimately,” (in an eminently quotable moment) Deck said, “our crap becomes his discovery.” Through analogies and connecting with an individual students’ learning style, we can accomplish a great deal in teaching. Mr. Cooley also aided in this portion of the class by supplying some other musical inspiration for the Gershwin excerpt.
After about thirty minutes on the Gershwin excerpt, they asked Brad to play something else. He chose Stuff by James Grant. After a nicely executed section, Mr. Cooley immediately jumped on some articulation issues, note lengths, and choices of certain notes for emphasis. All of this was in an effort to make something good even better. Mr. Deck also emphasized that in regards to articulation, “the motivating factor of a note is the breath, not the tongue.” He continued, “Assuming all things are set up, work on consistency and then add speed.” They later discussed how important it is for the student and teacher to select the correct “tool” to correct a given situation. Applying the “tool” concept, they worked on the differences between blown articulations and released articulations. The rest of the time with Mr. Slusarczyk focused on the various types of articulation.
Overall, the class was a fine opportunity to discuss motivations for teaching, share some approaches, and then to see two fine teachers work with a student in their mostly complimentary styles. The big benefit was to hear the student’s improvements with the variety of approaches we all experienced. Our thanks go to Brad for his willingness to perform with such aplomb in this session. Thanks also to Warren Deck and Floyd Cooley for sharing some insights from their many years of teaching experience.
~Joseph Skillen, Louisiana State University
7:00 p.m. Prelude Concert presented by the Red Rocks Tuba-Euphonium Ensemble, directed by Kenneth Singleton
Richard Perry soloing with the Red Rocks Ensemble. Ensemble members pictured (L–R, backrow) Tim Northcut, David Zerkel, Jason Smith, Jim Shearer, (L–R, front row) Ken Kroesche, & Marc Dickman.
The first evening concert on Tuesday featured the Red Rocks Ensemble. Originally formed to perform at the Red Rocks amphitheater on Friday night, this festival ensemble of professional tuba and euphonium players came together in just a handful of rehearsals under the direction of Kenneth Singleton, who also directed the Denver Brass later that same evening.
Highlights of the concert included Jim Self’s arrangement of the “Finale” to Symphony No. 4, Richard Perry’s version of Autumn Leaves, and Centipede by Troy Helm. Very striking throughout the performance was the control that Singleton had over the ensemble. A technically demanding Tchaikovsky could have come off the rails, but Singleton’s steady demeanor and the talent-laden ensemble turned in an exciting and impressive performance. Lyrical sections were also nicely phrased. The addition of percussion also helped add to the fireworks.
Richard Perry distinguished himself not only as an arranger but also as a soloist in his rendition of the classic ballad Autumn Leaves. The warm sonority of the ensemble and capable improvisation by Perry produced a very satisfying result. This arrangement should find its way into many tuba-euphonium ensembles’ libraries.
Also of note were the good acoustics of the Gates Hall. It definitely favored this type of ensemble. From the floor seating the blend, clarity, and tone color were right on the money.
~John Mueller, University of Memphis
7:30 p.m. “Brass Bagpipes and Soul” presented by the Denver Brass with Øystein Baadsvik & Steven Mead
The Denver Brass concert Tuesday night in Gates Hall featured renowned soloists Øystein Baadsvik on tuba and euphoniumist Steven Mead, and a large contingent of Denver area Celtic performers. This program was actually three for the price of one. The Denver Brass performed the first set, then accompanied Øystein and Mead in the second, and closed with a version of their very popular Bagpipes & Brass show.
In the first portion of the program, the Denver Brass gave the audience a healthy dose of brass with Andrew Wolfe’s Fanfare for the Brave. A work very much in the style of a John Williams, it provided the sort of jump-start to the concert that only a brass ensemble can deliver. The mood was then changed with selections from Porgy and Bess and a trumpet feature, Monk’s Round Midnight, arranged by Margeirsson. As a harbinger of the finale, the Denver Brass then welcomed Celtic violin and guitar soloists, providing great traditional Celtic musicianship and dancing in a much welcomed treble register.
Next, Baadsvik performed first in the soloist portion of the program. In his arrangement of Morricone’s Gabriel’s Oboe, Baadsvik showed off a beautiful tone, great control, and expressive phrasing in this rhapsodic work. By contrast his trademark composition Fnugg Blue, took the audience in a completely different direction as the blues/funk tune featured both electronic and brass accompaniment. The only question that remained was who’s dancing was better, Baadsvik or the Celtic Violinist?
Mead’s selection Sir Eu, by Austrian composer Thomas Doss, was a programmatic work of the Alps. While depicting various scenes the music featured lush lyrical lines, a mixed meter dance, alpine echoes, and an energetic “knuckle busting” finale. His second piece, Moz, was an arrangement by Peter Meecham that paid tongue and cheek homage to W. A. Mozart. Among the works appearing in this parody were the Marriage of Figaro, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, and the “Tuba Mirum” from his Requiem.
Baadsvik then joined Mead to close out this portion of the concert with a simple but beautiful unaccompanied duet version of Come Back to Sorrento.
The Denver Brass
It is a shame that the finale of this program could not have been experienced in the panoramic and airy Red Rocks Amphitheater. Gates Hall was barely capable of containing the aural and visual spectacle as a band of bagpipes paraded through the audience and on to a platform above the Denver Brass while two troupes of Celtic Dancers wowed the audience with their precision and energy on the front of the stage as Scotland the Brave and Hector the Hero were performed en-mass. As a veteran of the Edinburgh Tattoo, this writer found the finale very moving. The audience was extremely appreciative as well.
~John Mueller, University of Memphis
10:00 p.m. Evenings at the Lodge: Joe Murphy And The MJT Rhythm Section with James Self and Jun Yamaoka
After Monday night with MJT at Gates Hall and Bob Stewart at The Lodge, one could have asked, “what else?” (If you left before 1:00 am on Monday, June 26 from the Lodge, you missed one of the most breath taking performances of the week as witnessed by myself, Joe Murphy, and others…WOW!) Well… what came after those two great performances was an evening with three of the very best in the jazz world today.
The evening kicked off with high intensity and great music making of Joe Murphy. You would never have known that he had broken his arm several weeks before and that he was still in considerable pain. That aside, Joe and the high-brow rhythm section of MJT, laid out a set that took you on a journey to multiple landscapes including a set of Yellowjacket tunes. What Joe does best is balance a frenetic pace and intensity with smart, cagy, and unexpected phrasing gestures. From his high ranging and sustained ballads to his “red tag on-sale NOW” be-bop licks, Joe is one of the very finest in our world of jazz today. If you want to hear what I’m talking about, go online and buy a Joe Murphy CD or a MJT CD… sit back (buckle in), serve up your favorite beverage and sip on it in between the smiles and chuckles of awe.
Special Guest Jim Self and The MJT Rhythm Section
The week before ITEC, I received an email from Jim Self. As I’m sure you know, Jim is one of “the” professional recording studio tuba pros in the world today. He has played more major Hollywood movies than anyone I know of, including Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Close Encounters, and many, many more. Unfortunately, this kind of work comes without much notice and that’s what happened to Jim the week before ITEC. It appeared as if Jim would miss ITEC. Luckily for everyone at ITEC, “What Else?” just kept happening. In the middle of Joe Murphy’s burnin’ set, I get a tap on my shoulder and there’s Jim Self. He sits down, takes in Joe Murphy’s playing and then says “I brought my cell phone.” I wasn’t sure what to say. It turns out that Jim’s “Cell Phone” is the name he gives his miniature sousaphone. Fortunately for everyone in attendance, Jim agreed to take his “Cell Phone” out, and he entertained the crowd at “The Lodge” with some “Cell Phone Jazz!” Jim’s always very hip, very west coast sound was a great contrast to Joe Murphy’s more East Coast playing. The crowd went nuts for Jim, for him having made the trip at the last minute and for his great musicianship…thanks Jim!!!
Jun Yamaoka and The MJT Rhythm Section
From the West Coast Jim Self to the Extreme West Coast, as in Japan’s very own Jun Yamaoka. Jun was featured several times during the week, and, hopefully, you were able to catch this free-lance jazz euphonium from Japan. People that have heard Jun play, many times refer to him as the “Chet Baker of the Euphonium” and they are 100% accurate. Not to say that Jun sings, but rather Jun engages the audience with his smooth, warm, and sensual sound, his subtle and simple phrasing and at all times his sensitive musicianship. Jun’s playing is much like his personality…humble, subtle, warm, friendly, and first rate. From his rendition of My Funny Valentine to one of his favorite selections, Beautiful Love, his sensitivity to the small items made for a huge night of music. I had someone in the crowd come up to me and say, “Jun is the consummate storyteller…smooth and soulful,” and that’s exactly what Jun is to all of us.
|2006 ITEC Program Booklet (2.1 MB PDF)
|Thursday, June 29
|2006 ITEC Photo Album