Here are some of my thoughts on a variety of topics related to performance and practice. I believe that progress occurs when we are on point and focused on the desired product. Feel free to contact me if you would like my insight on a particular issue!
CREATING MUSICAL OPPORTUNITIES:
While there are many wonderful opportunities for young musicians in school organizations, it does not compare to the variety of possibilities that exist outside of the educational “bubble”. However, knowing where to look can often prove very frustrating. For the student that takes personal responsibility for their musical development, here are a few suggestions and ideas:
Attend Summer Music Festivals:
These camps can last anywhere from 2-8 weeks and are an excellent way to immerse yourself in music. Afterwards, you will find that you have progressed at an amazing rate (both fundamentally and musically).
You can find camps that focus on your area of interest (orchestral; chamber; jazz/commercial; etc.). Most camps will require an audition (taped or live). A few of the more prestigious camps (such as Tanglewood and NRO) are free for those accepted into the program. Visit for a fairly comprehensive list of possibilities.
• Hot Springs Music Festival - Hot Springs, AR
• Sewanee Summer Music Festival – Sewanee, TN
• Eastern Music Festival – Greensboro, NC
• Brevard Music Festival – Brevard, NC
• Festival Institute at Roundtop – Roundtop, TX
• Aspen Music Festival – Aspen, CO
• Tanglewood Music Festival - Lenox, MA
• National Repertory Orchestra – Breckinridge, CO
• National Orchestral Institute - College Park, MD
• Music Academy of the West - Santa Barbara, CA
• Bar Harbor Brass Week
• Boston University Tanglewood Institute
• Rafael-Mendez Brass Institute
• Stony Brook Summer Music Festival
• Menlo Summer Brass Institute
• Bowdoin International Music Festival
• Atlantic Brass Quintet Summer Seminar
• Henry Mancini Institute – Los Angeles, CA
• Jamey Aebersold Camp
Nothing stretches your musical limits quite like concertizing. Learning to perform as a soloist carries benefits to every facet of your musical life. Considering that music is a form of expression – each of us must determine what we want to say and how we want to say it. Constantly placing ourselves in a solo performance setting is one of the very best ways to refine our musical voice.
In addition to the musical benefits of performing solo recitals, there are also invaluable lessons learned in the art of performing. Many students think of performance as the act of playing an instrument. However, the music is only one factor in a performance. Stage presence is a HUGE part of performing, and must be mastered in order to really connect with the audience. Programming is also an essential tool. Make sure your choice of music is accessible yet challenging (both to the performer and audience). Give them a wide variety of styles – or present them with a unifying theme for each piece.
If you have never performed solo recital, I would suggest you begin by splitting a one-hour recital with a friend (or friends). This will help ease you into the process of performing for an audience. Possible locations could be your school, church, or a local retirement community.
Inevitably, you will perform music for trombone and piano. It is VERY important that you learn how to most effectively work with your accompanist in putting the program together. Here are a few tips:
• Learn your music – especially the accompaniment. Listen to recordings and analyze the score. Have a true understanding of how everything fits together. When your part is resting, do you know exactly what the accompaniment is doing? If not, then you should become more familiar with the piece. After all, this is your piece. This speeds up the process of putting things together during the first rehearsal.
• Do not go into a rehearsal if you aren’t able to play the piece. There is nothing more frustrating for an accompanist than for the soloist to really be struggling with the part. Most would consider rehearsing like this a complete waste of time and energy.
• Do not expect more than 4 or 5 rehearsals before the performance. Try to keep in mind – while this is a culminating performance for you, it is only one of many for which the accompanist is preparing. There are only so many hours in a week. That being said, if your accompanist offers more time – take it for the gift that it is.
• Have definite musical ideas to offer. Know exactly how you want each phrase to sound. Do not simply go where the accompanist leads. You are the soloist, and it is the pianist’s job to follow. However, this is a collaborative effort. If your pianist has an idea – listen and you may like it.
• If things go wrong during a run-through or performance, do not try to “fix” things. Simply play your part as you know how to play. Remember – you can only see your line, but the pianist has the entire score and can see where you are.
• Acknowledge the work your pianist has done, both during the performance and afterwards. Even if they offer to play for free, it is always a good gesture to pay them or buy a gift for them. Make sure that you are both on the same page (ha) in terms of payment before the first rehearsal.
In order to keep growing as an artist, you must keep track of short term and long term goals. Solo competitions are a great way to stay motivated and to keep pushing your artistic boundaries. However, I think it is VERY important to remember that the only person you are ultimately in competition with is yourself. Your performance is the ONLY thing you can control. When the act of competition becomes the focus – I think it’s time to take a step back and refocus on being a musician.
Many competitions have age limits and repertoire requirements, so it is important to plan ahead and stay updated in order to put your best foot forward. The International Trombone Association has several competitions for both classical and jazz trombone (broken up into progressive age brackets). For more information on each, visit They are:
ITA Solo Competitions
• Carl Fontana Jazz Competition – age 22 and under
• Gilberto Gagliardi Competition – age 18 and under
• ITA Alto Competition – age 25 and under
• J.J. Johnson Jazz Competition – age 25 and under
• Robert Marstellar Competition – age 22 and under
• George Roberts Bass Trb. Competition – age 18 and under
• Frank Smith Competition – age 25 and under
• Larry Wiehe Competition – age 23 and under
• Donald Yaxley Bass Trb. Competition – age 25 and under
In addition to the ITA competitions, there are several other organizations that offer similar opportunities and are worth consideration:
• American Trombone Workshop
• Zellmer Trombone Competition
• IWBC Competition
• Lieksa International Trombone Competition
Keep in mind that most of these competitions require tape submission in order to be considered. Here are a few of the most frequent causes for disqualification:
• Failure to meet postmark deadline.
• Failure to provide proof of age.
• Failure to be an ITA member in good standing.
• Failure to include proof of registration payment (or check).
• Failure to record materials in specified order or with specified cuts.
• Failure to record with prescribed accompaniment (i.e. no piano)
• Failure to follow instructions regarding cuts.
• Failure to provide an unedited recording.
• Failure to record prescribed repertoire according to stipulated rules.
• Failure to avoid all spoken dialogue.
• Failure to follow instructions regarding the labeling of CDs and CD containers.
Workshops are trombone-specific conferences that are an excellent time to be immersed in the culture. Up to a week in length, trombone workshops feature performances and masterclasses from the world’s top classical and jazz trombonists. In addition, there is a wealth of exhibitor displays for instruments, music, equipment, etc. These are an excellent way to recharge your battery and be inspired by world-class performance and teaching. A few of the most prominent include:
American Trombone Workshop
International Trombone Festival
Southeast Trombone Symposium
Form a Chamber Group:
There is a unique sense of pride that comes from belonging to a great chamber ensemble, in which there is one player per part. Whether it is a trombone quartet, brass quintet, or trombone ensemble – the process of taking ownership in choosing music, rehearsing, scheduling performances, and forging the overall artistic direction of a group cannot be matched.
In addition, rehearsing/performing in a chamber setting teaches you how to work with others towards a common goal. If there is a correlation between sports and chamber music – it is the lesson of teamwork. When considering potential members, talent-level and attitude should be weighed carefully. Make sure everyone shares common goals for the group. Otherwise, there will be frustration as the different ideas and philosophies begin to appear.
Teaching & Practice Concepts