Upcoming Performances Part 2: International Women’s Brass Conference

Shortly after the New Music on the Bayou Festival, my colleagues and I will be traveling to Glassboro, New Jersey for the 2017 International Women’s Brass Conference, hosted by Dr. Amy Schumaker Bliss at Rowan University. If you haven’t had a chance to attend an IWBC, it’s a wonderful conference, with lots of great performances, presentations, and exhibitors. Of particular interest to horn players is Featured Artist Michelle Baker, Second Horn of the MET Orchestra (she recently announced her retirement after 27 years with the orchestra). I had the opportunity to work with her for a brief time at the Round Top Festival Institute. She’s a fantastic performer and teacher, and an all-around nice person! For more information about Baker’s career, see Barbara Jöstlein Currie’s interview with her in the May 2017 issue of The Horn Call.

At this year’s IWBC I’ll be involved in two performances, as well as running an exhibit table for Mountain Peak Music.  The first performance will feature Black Bayou Brass in performances of music by Gina Gillie and Adriana Figueroa Mañas. Here’s our program:

Trio for Brass, Gina Gillie (b. 1981)

  1. Fanfare and Chorale

Triad, Adriana Isabel Figueroa Mañas (b. 1966)

  1. Magic Dreams

Scenes from The Bayou, Gina Gillie

The first work by Gina Gillie is one of our favorites in the repertoire, and makes a great opener. It’s published by Veritas Musica Publications. If you’re looking for a fun, challenging, and musically rewarding work for brass trio be sure to check it out.

Adriana Mañas has composed some very fine works for brass trio, including her Three Chorals and Triad. Magic Dreams, the final movement of Triad, is notable for the variety of timbres and articulations it employs. It makes for a nice contrast with the opening work on our program.

We’re especially excited about performing the newly-commissioned Scenes from the Bayou. We premiered this work locally back in March, and are looking forward to sharing it with a larger audience. This commission was funded in part by the Meir Rimon Commissioning Assistance Program of the International Horn Society, and is a substantial addition to the repertoire. Here is a video compilation of several excerpts from the premiere.

On the last day of the conference I’ll be collaborating with several University of Wisconsin-Madison alums (Gina Gillie, Sarah Gillespie, Stacie Mickens) for a performance of Gina Gillie’s Horn Quartet No. 1. Like her brass trio compositions, Gillie’s horn quartet is a really strong work with lots of great writing for all four parts. Like Paul Hindemith’s Sonata for Four Horns, the final movement of Gillie’s quartet is a set of variations on Ich schell’ mein Horn. Here’s a recording of the piece with the following performers: Gina Gillie, Mark Robbins, Gustavo Camacho and Becky Miller.

If you’re planning to attend the conference, we’d love to see you at either (or both) of the above performances, or at the Mountain Peak Music booth. I’ll also be posting regular reports to this site during the conference. If you won’t be attending the 2017 IWBC , I hope you’ll consider attending some kind of a conference or festival this summer. They are wonderful opportunities to hear great performances, and to network and connect with friends and colleagues.

Upcoming Performances: 2017 New Music on the Bayou Festival

New Music on the Bayou

The spring semester is winding down, but my colleagues and I are gearing up for several performances this summer. First up is the 2017 New Music on the Bayou Festival, May 31-June 3 in Monroe, LA and Ruston, LA. Now in its second year, this year’s festival is shaping up to be even more exciting than the inaugural season last year. An impressive array of composers and performers have been brought together for a few intense days of rehearsals, performances, and presentations, and if you are within driving distance I highly recommend coming out for one or more of the events. As with last year’s festival, a few ensembles will be featured, including the Implosion Percussion Group, and Trio Mélange, a voice, horn, and piano trio comprised of faculty at the University of Louisiana-Monroe.  We’ll be performing two works, For Jessica, by Jason Mulligan, and Connect All. We All Connect., by Oliver Caplan.  Both works were chosen for the festival through a competitive submission process, and we are excited about sharing them with audiences here. Contrary to some opinions about contemporary music, not all of it is highly abstract, esoteric, or demanding on traditional audiences. In fact, these two works are very accessible, and the horn parts are rewarding to play. Don’t take my word for it, though! Listen for yourself, and see what you think. Here’s a sample recording of Oliver Caplan’s Connect All. We All Connect, linked from the composer’s Soundcloud account. Caplan writes the following about this work:

Are we individual actors, alone together? Or are we bound by our common humanity? Connect All. We All Connect. explores the interconnectedness of people in today’s world. At times fragile and questioning, at times confident and affirming, the piece ultimately sounds a message that we are our best selves when we embrace heartfelt connection.

The performers aren’t listed, but they really sound great! Perhaps this piece will strike you (as it did me) with its simple beauty and profound message. If you want to hear more new music, be sure to check out the New Music on the Bayou Festival this summer!

The Daily Routine: A Modular Approach

While working on a forthcoming project, I’ve been thinking a lot about routines, and how the various exercises we choose to play each day can be structured. For much of my playing career, I’ve tended to choose one routine and stick with it for an extended period of time. Recently, however, I’ve been experimenting with putting together a routine by selecting various exercises from multiple sources. I still cover all of the basics: sound production, flexibility, range work, technique, etc., but instead of playing literally the same exercises for days on end, I have been rotating through sets of similar exercises. This modular approach has been lots of fun to play around with, and has the added benefit of keeping me interested and engaged in what I’m doing every day. There are certain parts of the routine that stay more or less the same, but after the first 15 minutes or so I begin to vary things. Here’s where I’m getting my material these days:

For ease of use, I photocopy exercises (or groups of exercises) out of each collection and keep them together in the same folder. From these pages I choose exercises which best fit my needs for upcoming performances. As an example, I’ve been focusing on high range and endurance a bit more in preparation for some contemporary repertoire at the New Music on the Bayou Festival, as well as a recording session in June.

Of the items listed above, William Vacchiano’s book is probably the least familiar to horn players. Jeff Nelsen introduced me to this collection several months ago, and it’s been really fun working through some of the studies in it. Vacchiano was a legendary orchestral player and teacher, and his book actually contains 11 complete routines. The exercises are generally pretty short (less than a page usually), and incorporate many of the important trumpet excerpts in the orchestral repertoire. As compared to horn routines, these studies are more technical and tend to emphasize the high range. While I don’t recommend using them exclusively, several exercises work pretty well on horn. Here are two of my favorites.

Don’t these sound fun? I usually balance these out with some low range and stopped horn work.

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that you throw away your trusted routine. In fact, it’s taken me a long time to feel comfortable enough with my own playing to try swapping things in and out of my routine. If used correctly, a good routine instills confidence, while at the same time being challenging enough to promote growth. If the modular approach appeals to you, begin by substituting a small portion of your regular routine (5 minutes or less) and see what you think.

On a related note, I’m very excited to dive into Jeffrey Agrell’s new book Horn Technique: A New Approach to an Old InstrumentIn the Introduction, Agrell suggests a similar modular approach to the daily routine.

Brass Trio Performance Videos

Here are some videos from two of our recent brass trio performances. The first is from our recent faculty recital at ULM, and features excerpts from Gina Gillie’s Scenes from the Bayou, a work we commissioned with assistance from the International Horn Society’s Meir Rimon Commissioning Assistance Fund. It’s a great piece, full of catchy melodies and fun writing for all three parts. We’ll be performing the piece again this summer at the International Women’s Brass Conference in at Rowan University in New Jersey.

Next is our complete Contributing Artist Performance at the 2017 Mid-South Horn Workshop. We performed Diversions for Brass Trio, by Roger Jones, another composer who, like Gina Gillie, really knows how to write well for brass trio.

One interesting thing for me with this work is that I performed it as a member of the same ensemble (but with different personnel) back in 2011 at the Big 12 Trombone Conference in Lubbock, TX (you can check out the recording here). Both performances went really well, I think, and it was quite interesting for me to listen to these two recordings back to back and hear how my playing has changed in the last six years.

Conference Report: 2017 Mid-South Horn Workshop

Photo by Aaron Witek

Last week the ULM brass faculty were very busy, performing our annual faculty recital, and performing at the 2017 Mid-South Horn Workshop, hosted by Dr. Nicholas Kenney at Southeast Missouri State University. Though more brief than the International Horn Symposium, this three-day conference was packed full of performances, lectures, and exhibits. The beautiful facilities at SEMO, as well as the hard work and organization of Dr. Kenney and his students, resulted in a fantastic workshop. Bravo!

In addition to performing with our brass trio and presenting on my Solo Training for Horn book, I also ran the exhibitor table for Mountain Peak Music, who publishes both of my books. This was a new experience for me, but very enjoyable. While I wasn’t able to attend as many of the conference events as usual, the extra time to speak with both old and new acquaintances was certainly welcome. The sheet music exhibits were placed along a heavily traveled route between one of the main performance halls and the instrument exhibits, providing ample exposure. After several hours of visiting with passersby at the exhibit, here are a few of my thoughts:

  • Horn players are always hungry for duets: Visitors to the Mountain Peak exhibit were especially interested in duets for themselves and their students, with The Big Book of Sight Reading Duets and Long Tone Duets being the most popular. If you don’t know these two publications check them out, they are fantastic for teaching. I also sold a few copies of my Solo Duet Training for Horns book.
  • Horn players love routines:  Another very popular book at the MPM table was Daily Routines for Horn, and its companion Daily Routines for the Student Horn Player. Many players I spoke with were not aware of these two publications, and I enjoyed speaking with them about the various patterns and exercises found in the Daily Routines series. If you are getting tired of your regular old routine (or just looking for more teaching materials) give these some serious consideration.
  • Not enough horn players know about Mountain Peak Music: This publisher is gradually gaining more recognition in the horn world, but after my presentation and at the exhibit table I spoke with lots of people who didn’t know anything about MPM. If you are in the market for high-quality, fresh teaching materials that will energize both you and your students, consider exploring their publications. All of Mountain Peak Music’s offerings for horn can be found at this URL: http://www.mountainpeakmusic.com/horn/

Though I didn’t attend lots of performances, I was able to make a lecture-performance by the St. Louis Symphony horn section on Saturday afternoon, and the Saturday evening concert featuring Tod Bowermaster of the St. Louis Symphony and the Southeast Missouri State University Wind Symphony. I have not had the chance to hear the St. Louis Symphony live, but their horn section sounded fantastic! The presentation included performances and discussion of standard section excerpts, such as the Overture to Weber’s Der Freischütz and the Scherzo of Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony. The blend, balance, and overall sound of the section was quite striking, big without sounding like they were working hard. One topic that piqued my interest was Christopher Dwyer’s discussion of intonation – in his comments he mentioned the Tuneup Intonation Training System by Stephen Colley. I had heard of this book, but not much else regarding its content or effectiveness. Mr. Dwyer highly recommended it, noting that during his studies with Dale Clevenger, the entire brass section of the Chicago Symphony was working through the book. Needless to say, I will be looking into it!

For the first half of the evening concert, Tod Bowermaster performed several horn and piano works, collaborating with Kelley Ker Hackleman. These included standards –  Dukas Villanelle and Gliere Intermezzo – as well as several really nice arrangements found on Mr. Bowermaster’s CD, The Horn in Song. I really enjoyed his solo playing, very musical with a warm, vibrant sound. My favorite work on the first half was a transcription of Telemann’s Bassoon Sonata, TWV 41:f1. I’ve heard this performed on euphonium and trombone, and it also works really well on  horn! For the second half of the concert the SEMO Wind Symphony joined the soloist for Pele by Brian Balmages. This work is getting performed a lot, and it’s easy to hear why – tuneful melodies, with lots of heroic moments for both soloist and ensemble. The concert concluded with Claude T. Smith’s Eternal Father, Strong to Save. If you’ve performed this piece (or taken any military band auditions) you know that the end features a solo horn quartet playing the famous hymn. For this performance, the entire balcony was filled with horn players, who joined in for a striking surround sound effect. A great way to end the evening!

Before wrapping up this post I want to share one more anecdote from the conference. Shortly after arriving on Thursday evening, I grabbed a few minutes in a practice room to run through my Solo Training for Horn presentation materials. When I finished and went to remove my screw bell, it was stuck! This has never happened to me before, but I knew enough not to use anything more than mild force to loosen the ring. It wasn’t cross-threaded, maybe just dry from the weather in Missouri. At any rate, I was very lucky to find Mark Atkinson of Atkinson Horns setting up in the exhibit room. He was extremely generous and helped remove the bell (through a combination of elbow grease and a leather mallet). Thanks again!

I want to commend and thank Dr. Kenney for planning and hosting this terrific conference. I’m looking forward to next year’s workshop, which will be hosted by Brent Shires at the University of Central Arkansas.

 

 

Upcoming Projects, Part 2: June Recording Session

cropped-412093_10151188927572199_2111445695_o4.jpgThis is the second in a series of posts about some upcoming activities this semester and beyond. You can read the first one here. In addition to my normal performing and teaching schedule, I’m very excited to be involved in two recording projects, the first slated for June 2017, and the second for January 2018. Here’s a brief description of the first one.


Music of Eurico Carrapatoso: I’m honored to be collaborating with colleagues Claire Vangelisti and Richard Seiler on a recording featuring the music of Portuguese composer Eurico Carrapatoso. Carrapatoso is well known in his native Portugal, and is beginning to get some exposure here in the U.S.  Vangelisti and Seiler will be recording several of his works for voice and piano, and I’ll be joining them for three soprano, horn, and piano works:

  • Duas porcelanas musicais
  • Sete melodias em forma de bruma
  • Dois poemas de Miguel Torga

All three are substantial, multi-movement compositions, with fun (and challenging!) horn parts. I’m planning to write more about the details of this project in a future post, and one interesting challenge for me in the preparation of the music has been the choice of equipment. Carrapatoso’s writing for horn tends to emphasize the high range, with lots of light, lyrical passages above the staff, often in harmony or in counterpoint with the voice. Here’s an example of one from the first movement of his Dois poemas de Miguel Torga:

carrapatoso1

And another one from his Sete melodias em forma de bruma:

carrapatoso2

While certainly playable on a standard double horn, these passages and others like them fit well on a descant horn. We performed the Sete melodias em forma de bruma at the 45th IHS Symposium in Memphis, and for that performance I used a Paxman 40M descant horn, on generous loan from a colleague in the Shreveport Symphony. I’m planning to use that same instrument for our recordings in June, although I’m not entirely sold on which mouthpiece to use. My normal mouthpiece, a Houser GS12, works pretty well, although I’m considering some other options tailored more for the high horn. Updates to come!

 

 

 

Need Rotor Stop Material? Try the O-Ring Store

In this post from several years ago, I discussed the process of changing rotor stops, or “bumpers” as they are sometimes called. It’s a fairly simple, if a little time consuming, process. In the article I mentioned purchasing my rotor stop material from Osmun music. Along with Osmun, there are many other great horn shops out there who sell the material in varying diameters, hardness (duro), and materials. However, another place to check out is the O-Ring Store, a wholesale retailer based in Idaho. Their O-Ring cord stock can be purchased by the foot, in Neoprene, Silicone, Buna-N, among other materials. It is extremely economical to buy rotor stop material this way, as long as you know the diameter you need for your horn, and the type of material you want.

Musicians and Taxes

As we head into tax preparation season, I would like to share a brief personal anecdote about filing my taxes both as an educator and as a freelance musician. The following does not constitute tax advice of any kind, and to cut right to the chase, the moral of my story is to consult a tax professional. Even if you prepare and file your returns yourself, it might be beneficial to sit down with an expert to go over anything you might have missed.

For years I filed my own returns using the standard software. I was never audited, and usually satisfied with the result. However, I normally encountered at least a few tricky questions that weren’t easily answered by the computer. If you’ve ever used tax preparation software, you probably know what I’m talking about. If the program detects anything anomalous in your return, it won’t let you file until the problem is resolved. After several years of feeling like I was missing something in my self-prepared return, I decided to ask around and find an accountant who was comfortable working with musicians. One of my colleagues in the Shreveport Symphony recommended a CPA firm, and I set up a meeting. That was four years ago, and I haven’t looked back since. In short, having a professional prepare our tax return was a great decision for my family.

If you decide to do the same, here are a few tips that might help:

  • Ask around before choosing a CPA or other tax professional. Consult both in and out of your field, but try to find someone who has experience working with musicians. An experienced professional can help you identify deductions you weren’t aware of. For example, here is an incomplete list of possible  deductions to ask your tax professional about.
    • Travel/Lodging
    • Membership Fees for Professional Organizations
    • Conference registration fees
    • Cell Phone/Internet
    • Meals
    • Instrument Repair/Cleaning
    • Dry cleaning costs for tuxes, suits, other professional attire
    • Equipment, sheet music, recordings
    • Teaching supplies
  • Keep track of mileage and expenses. This is easier than ever now with the plethora of apps, online templates, and other tools for tracking expenses. I use Expensify to log my mileage and catalog receipts, but also keep electronic and hard copies of all my receipts. A quick search of the Apple or Android store will yield lots of options for apps.
  • Collect all of your paperwork and total up your expenses before meeting with your tax preparer. I like to keep all of my official documents – W-2s, 1099s, royalty statements, etc. – in one folder, and supporting documents like receipts and mileage logs in another. Shortly after January 1, I sit down and total up mileage and itemize my expenses from the previous year. Doing so will save you time and headache when you meet with a CPA.
  • Don’t assume that a deduction is or isn’t allowed without confirmation. When in doubt, ask!

That’s all I have to say on this topic for now, but perhaps you will find some of this information useful. For another perspective on the same subject, check out this post on the website of Erin A. Paul, an active freelance hornist in New York City.

 

Upcoming Projects, Part 1: Performances and Premieres

For various reasons, I fell so far behind on writing my customary Semester Preview post this year that I decided to forgo it entirely. In lieu of that single post, I decided to write individual “blurbs” about  my upcoming activities.

Our faculty brass trio, Black Bayou Brass, recently commissioned two  new multi-movement works, which we’ll be premiering this spring and summer. The first piece is Inventions, by Sy Brandon. Commissioned through a consortium with several other brass ensembles, this substantial five-movement work is accessible and challenging (though not prohibitively so). In the composer’s words:

The title “Inventions’ has a double meaning as a musical invention is a short contrapuntal composition that is usually based on a single theme. The second meaning is that each movement represents a significant invention.

During the composition process Dr. Brandon provided sound samples and ample descriptions of each movement, and allowed us to provide feedback as each movement took shape. Follow the links below for more information and a sound sample of each movement.

  1. The Wheel
  2. The Metronome
  3. The Periscope
  4. Morse Code
  5. The Airplane

For anyone interested in commissioning a new work, a consortium is a very effective way to generate funding. The fee for Inventions was very reasonable, and we are looking forward to performing it on our March 14 faculty recital.

In June we’ll travel to the International Women’s Brass Conference  to premiere a new work by Dr. Gina Gillie, Associate Professor of Horn at Pacific Lutheran University. Gillie has published a handful of compositions, and is quickly making a name for herself. Her music is tuneful, engaging, and very fun to play. We were fortunate to be awarded funding for this commission from the International Horn Society’s Meir Rimon Commissioning Assistance Fund.  The Meir Rimon Fund is a fantastic program, and well-worth exploring. Gillie’s new work is entitled Scenes from Black Bayou,  and was inspired by the beautiful natural scenery at Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge (see image above). Black Bayou is, of course, what our trio is named after, and is located a few miles north of the ULM campus. We’ve begun rehearsing the trio, and are having a great time with it. If you’ll be attending this year’s IWBC at Rowan University in New Jersey, we’d love to see you at our performance.

New Video: Louisiana All-State Etudes, Set 2

Happy New Year to all of my readers!

For my first post of 2017 I am sharing a video recorded back in December; two Kopprasch etudes that will be used for the upcoming Louisiana Music Educators Association All-State Auditions. Although these auditions are generally held in September and October, many districts in Louisiana use them as Honor Band audition material during the spring. I last recorded these etudes about 10 years ago, so it was time for a new (and hopefully improved) version. As with the previous set of etudes in this new series, I’m working on a set of preparatory exercises to accompany them. Look for those in a future post and video recording.

If you’re interested in the equipment I’m playing on this video, the horn is my new Yamaha 671, and the mouthpiece is a Laskey 75G in silver plate.