Wednesday, April 25, 2012


For my Brass Literature course I was asked to write a blog about something related to brass.  I chose to write about Benevolent Brass, about helping others through our music, about returning the relationship between the performer and the audience...  Thank you so much for reading this blog and I hope you may take away as much as I have gained from expressing my opinions and finding out information about benevolent music.  Life is an adventure and a privelage.  I encourage you to live your life to the fullest and to touch as many lives as you can through who you are and what you do.  Think about when you reach the end of your road and look back, what kind of person and actions would you want to see from yourself.  The greatest joy, I believe, in music is helping others through a medium in which they can carry with them always.  Music is something that can help people through them discovering something about themselves, perhaps that was something they thought they had lost or something they never knew about themselves.  Thank you for reading.  They only thing I ask is that you pass it on:)

The Unacknowledged Founder of the Brass Quintet

It was Viktor Ewald that first came up with the voicing of the modern day brass quintet.  His accomplished this by adopting the voicing of two sopranos, one alto, one tenor, and one bass. I find it intriguing that he conceptualized the concept of a brass group through the human voice.  The human voice is considered the most natural and purest of the instruments.  Before reading this article I knew very little about Ewald and the background of the quintets.  I have played tho of them and performed one on many occasions but had not delved any deeper then musical study.  This article is very interesting.  It is truly fascinating how much of research and scholarly activity, let alone performance execution, is done so on the original premise of opinion.  Forsyth wrote, "There is in general no true legato on the trombone."  I would have to say.. ask the trombone players what they think.  I am a hornist and would never presume to tell them what is true and false or can and cannot be executed on their instrument.  I learned extensively from this article on not just Ewald but also on the art of music research in general.  Researching something is just like life itself, a journey.  This journey will take you many places unexpected, it will try your will and your very soul, you will meet with many obstacles, there will be pleasant surprises, there will be many moments of frustration and disappointment...   Smith dedicated his life to this journey of uncovering and properly acknowledging Ewald's brass quintets.  His determination, force of will, and dedication are what brought him along his path to where he is today. As with everything, I encourage the reader to apply this to every aspect of their life.

Music and Your Body: How Music Affects Us and Why Music Therapy Promotes Health

I wanted to make sure I posted at least one article explaining how music promotes good health.

Crazy horn video

I thought this video was very entertaining! Check out this video on YouTube:


For my Brass Literature course, I have to give a presentation on a successful professional brass group. Part of the assignment was to interview one of the members. For my presentation I chose the Washington Symphonic Brass. To me they are one of the best brass groups ever. I had the pleasure and privilege to interview trumpet player! Co-founder, manager, and arranger Phil Snedecor. I wanted to share the questions and answers from our interview. What I learned from Phil is exactly my vision of where I hope more musicians will want to aspire to be.   1.  What overall "sound" is the goal of the group? We want to have a world class symphonic brass sound but we are so much more then that. The sound we want to get, orchestral color, is not what the audience perceives as brass. Orchestral colors. 2.  When you think of "making music" what is the first thing that comes to mind? Bud Herseth said, how it goes. There is a technical aspect and then there is how it goes. I try to take the technical aspects away and just think about the music. In the end you want to transcend the instrument. Think what it is supposed to sound like before you play it. 3.  What kind of give and take do you think the ensemble employs on a daily basis? That's easy. We are going to have a rehearsal today and about 25% will be discussing what/ how we want to play it, how it sounds. The arrangement is very much alive as we discuss it. Marty will say how do you want these notes played, short or long, muted or not 4.  What pre-existing groups or players have inspired group members? What players or groups have inspired you? First part, milt and I started this in 93 because we both missed that kind of playing Millar brass ensembles and summit. Both inspired group at first. Later on, minogle brass smaller group then we are European, very creative and German brass really amazing also. We just try to keep... Most inspiration comes from the audience; I do not write an program for colleges or reviews, I write for the audience. We are not a performing group, we are a show. Programmatic things every time. Those four groups. Individuals Marty Hackleman, Chuck Casey, all the time, inspire me... Listen to Shosty because I wouldn't write it for anyone else on the planet. For Marty, pushed him to a new height and both grew from each other. Jenz Linderman, a lot of great trumpet players, inspired by Empire Brass a lot... Very inspirational. Not so much what you play as how you play it.. Never forget that you are in very good shape.. Need to make it come alive from the page. 5.  How has the group sound developed since you first began? When we first started played all music originally written for brass. First concert in 93 tomasi, etc. limited by our own rep. If we were a brass band we would have a fazillion things written for us, bu we are orchestral. What can we do tht has already been done to what has never been done. Sound has changed because we have expanded our color palette. 6.  What musical element does the group as a whole believe is the most important? Second important? Third? This is gonna sound strange but te group as a whole has come to me many times and said most important element is Phil's arrangements. Phil thinks most important are the individuals capabilities and characteristics. It all cones back to what tey can do to make it something more. Going to have a lot of complaints from group members cuz doing a Denver arrangement, this isn't WSB. Crank out arrangements based upon personalities. Stuff at Towson became. Different animal, music is alive because it was completely different experience,bathe exciting and want to do that. I think that is important especially in a college is to get excited about the repertoire. 7.  What ideas and projects are the group working on? Marty wants to record classic rock for brass, and also American brass. This week we are doing Broadway stuff, that's taken over my life for the past two weeks. Bass trombone says through horn puttin on the ritz. Come out of this recession alive an get more money for concerts and cont. to record. 8.  How do you hope to inspire future generations? By showing them that what has con before them isn't all there is. Take any instrumentation an ake something out of it that no one has ever thought of. All instrumentation and all sizes, play new, please audiences, be original.

Sound or Silence

What happened to the performer having a relationship with their audience? Throughout history there has been proven a strong bond and give and take between performer and audience. In the classical period as well, as other classical music periods, there was often even a strong relationship between the composer and the audience. This is something that was lost in the twentieth century. There needs to be some kind of give and take between audience and performer. Without that, what is the point? If a tree falls in the woods, crashing to the ground with a loud bang and no one is around to hear it, did it make a sound? If musicians do not appease their audience, the audience will cease to attend and it will be just as this age old philosophical debate. Is it then that the musician performs only silence even though they are playing music?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

"Kids Music"

As I have had the opportunity to get to know Gabbie, my fiance's four year old, I have learned that the average child is extremely lacking in music exposure. I asked her what type of music she wanted to listen to to which she replied "kid's music". Her idea of kid music when we first started hanging out was songs such as "I've Been Working on the Railroad" or "The Ants Go Marching On". These songs are kinda cute an catchy the first time you listen to them, but as a musician listening to this kind of kid's music is torture, especially listening to a whole album! Almost all of it is four quarter notes per measure on 1, 4, and 5.... Agh! I think I will have nightmares of Barney chasing me with a polka band for months! It is horrifying how limited this music is. How is a child supposed to grow mentally if they are this musically limited? This is molding a child that is extremely close minded, dull, repetitive, and has an extremely small attention span. So, how do we crack open the box and massage the brain per say? Well begin with the question of what good concepts is this kind of music built upon? There is a simple melody, a chorus, recognizable lyrics, a topic a child can relate to... What other genres have these traits? I have been playing all different types of music for her such as early jazz, new age, pop, classical, indie, Disney tunes, etc. early jazz is especially good to listen to gecause it has a simple structure, the instruments make cool sounds, the singers often sing about simple things or something a child would find funny. New age she listens to when we are learning or relaxing to go o sleep or calm down from a temper tantrum. It has been very effective. Disney tunes, a child can relate to their favorite heroes and their princesses while giving parents a nostalgic journey that contains a lot of variety. I have begun reserving the "kid music" Gabbie originally referred to for cadences when we are going from place to place because they are fun to say. She now asks for "classic" which is how she says classical, "the dog barking" music which is translated to early jazz, and other types. :-)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Music and mood: nature or nurture?

Yesterday evening, I played a piece of my new daughter, Gabriella (a four year old), called The Banshee by Henry Cowell. To those of you who do not know the piece, it is executed by experimentation of fingernails, and fingers on the piano strings. I thought it was really neat. Gabbie and I have been learning a little about what some of h instruments sound like thi week, so I played it for her and my fiancé. She was instantly scared and plugged her ears. She said, "I don't like those sounds; they are scary!" I have been pondering this since yesterday evening. She has had absolutely no exposure to any classical music or, to my knowledge, any "scary movies". So,are there sounds that we instinctually associate with different emotions? I began popping search words into google related to this matter and came up with: Scarier Music is Scarier with Your Eyes Shut Why Horror Music is so Scary A Little Fright Music: A Few Notes on Why We Find Fright Music Scary Some of the articles I found said that we are conditioned to find these types of music scary, but if that were truly the case, why would a four year old little girl find a simple technical example on the piano really scary? I believe there is more to this like some of the articles suggest. We are nature before we are nurture. What exactly happened to imprint some sounds as scary into our DNA? Some of these articles suggest animal sounds, dynamics, etc. is it possible tha some cataclysmic tragic soundtracks have been instilled into our very being? And if that is the case, are other emotions written into us as well? What if someone could play a child that has experienced horrible traumas happiness? Amplify the aural happiness with sunshine, a safe environment... Could you help wash away their traumas?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Volunteer opportunities for musicians

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Genius in Being

I recently read a very frustrating article called "How to be Brilliant" by Annie Murphy Paul. The article explains how to become brilliant at one thing by not talent but dedication. These kinds of articles always have the usual good points such as taken isn't everything, you must use that talent and take I further. It always baffles me, however, that the articles inevitably talk concerning just one element or facet of our life. Why does every scientist or person seeking a solution to one problem forget that we are human BEINGS. They say sacrifice, give up friendships, family, other activities.... This might seem great to a scientist studying a lab rat but it is a horrible way to treat any being. Ultimately, no matter how great we end up being at something, at the end of our lives we inevitably look back on our journey. I believe people like Beethoven died miserably and pathetically alone. We call this genius. I think there is something incredibly wrong with this picture. I believe the genius is the person that can look back, at the end of their life, and see a well rounded life of love, friends, family, and yes even their art. The other things that involve humanity give humanity to the music. Perhaps this is why we are ever seeking "genius", because we picked one piece of a human and removed all of the other elements. Even the scientific aspects of our brain know better... We have multiple areas of our brain that we fail to tap, and yet we perpetually are furthering our narrowmindedness. Art and music themselves are endless and indescribable in words alone. True genius, I believe can be achieved by opening ourselves up to life.