Brief Review: Audrey Flores, Solo Horn Recording

This summer I was contacted by Audrey Flores, an active freelancer in New York City, with information about her recent solo recording with pianist Manon Hutton-DeWys. The self-titled album consists largely of standard 20th-century works, with the addition of a lesser-known but equally substantial piece, Barbara York’s Sonata for Horn and Piano. Here’s a complete list of the contents.

  • Reinhold Gliere, Four Pieces, Op. 35
  • Bernhard Krol, Laudatio
  • Barbara York, Sonata for Horn
  • Otto Ketting, Intrada
  • Trygve Madsen, Sonata for Horn, Op. 24

These are solid recordings of repertoire that every serious horn player needs to know, and Flores and Hutton-DeWys play with great style, tone, and phrasing. Even if you own other recordings, these are definitely worth a listen. The real gem on this album, though, is the Sonata by Barbara York. Composed in 2009 for Chief Musician Heather Doughty of the U.S. Coast Guard Band, this three-movement work is both lyrical and athletic, requiring plenty of technique, endurance, and flexibility. The third movement is given an especially impressive rendition by Flores, in what may very well be a world premiere recording. But don’t take my word for it – you can listen to the entire album on both Spotify and  YouTube. I love learning about new repertoire for the horn, and I’ll be adding the York Sonata to my list of recital program material for the near future. It’s worth noting that York has another work for horn and piano, the Arioso Gloria.

Bravo to Ms. Flores and her collaborators on this fine recording!

 

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Summer Project: Solo and Chamber Music Repertoire List

One long-postponed project I began this summer was to create an annotated list of the solo and chamber music pieces I’ve performed over the last 20 years. I should have begun this project years ago, but my memory has generally been good enough to keep track of most of the details about my performances. Additionally, most of the information is preserved in the form of old programs in either electronic or hard copy format. I always told myself if I really wanted to know the last time I performed a work I could dig back through my files and find out. This is of course easier in theory than in practice, and the benefits of having all the info in a central place outweigh the time and effort it has taken to put it together.  It’s nothing fancy, just a Google doc that I can update as new works are added. It contains the following fields:

  • Composer
  • Title
  • Instrumentation
  • Year Performed

In the “Year Performed” field I’m also making a note if the work was performed at a conference and/or was commissioned by me. Here’s a small screenshot showing the first few entries. (If you would like to see the complete list please email me and I would be glad to send you a copy).

While I do have access to the majority of my solo and chamber music programs, the list is not complete, for a variety of reasons.

  • There are some works that I know I’ve performed, but don’t have documentation to prove it or to provide the year. These include works performed for studio and/or master classes, works performed on tours, and other situations where a printed program was not produced. I’m debating what to do about these works; perhaps I’ll just put the info down and give my best guess as to the year.
  • In most cases I did not include arrangements or occasional works like Christmas and other holiday selections. To keep the list to a manageable size I needed to draw the line somewhere. One exception to this is arrangements which are major works in the repertoire, like Robert King’s brass trio arrangement of the Beethoven Trio, Op. 87 for example.

If you don’t already have a list like this, I strongly recommend starting one, regardless of your level. It’s very easy to set up, and the information will come in handy for future recital programming and other endeavors. Trust me, the longer you wait, the more difficult the task will be!

Thoughts on Voice and Horn Collaborations

One of the things I love about my job is the opportunity to work with talented colleagues in two  faculty ensembles: Black Bayou Brass, a brass trio, and Trio Mélange, a voice, horn, and piano trio. I’ve written extensively about performances with the former, but haven’t posted nearly as much about the latter. However, Trio Mélange is quite active, having performed at the 45th and 48th International Horn Symposiums, and at various other venues in Louisiana and surrounding states. This summer, we’ll be engaged in two major projects: performing at the New Music on the Bayou Summer Festival, and recording a CD of music by Eurico Carrapatoso. We’ve been rehearsing intensively in preparation for both of these projects, and I thought this might be a good opportunity to put down a few thoughts about collaborating with vocalists. Of course, the basic principles of  chamber music still apply; collegiality, communication, putting the ensemble first, etc., but this article is geared towards horn players who may not have worked with singers before. Working with a great singer and collaborative pianist is very rewarding, and as horn players we are lucky to have some really wonderful repertoire by composers old and new. See the end of this post for my short list of recommended voice, horn, and piano works. And now, here are some considerations for the horn player working with a vocalist.

  • Know the Text: As instrumentalists, we sometimes get preoccupied with notes and forget to consider the text. You don’t need to have every word memorized, but you should definitely have a good idea of the basic structure and content. In addition, pay attention to the differences in sound of the various common languages (German, French, Italian, and English).  They each have their own idiosyncrasies, which can help inform our approach to sound and articulation.
  • Balance: Achieving the right balance between the voice, horn, and piano will depend on several factors, but in general it pays for the horn player to be sensitive to what register the singer is in. For example, a soprano or tenor’s high range projects extremely well, and in those instances balance with the horn will be less of an issue than when the singer is in the low range. Depending on the repertoire and other factors, there will be times when you will need to play extremely softly (think woodwind quintet) for the voice to be heard clearly (remember, the audience needs to hear the words!) In other situations, you will be able to play at a full forte or even fortissimo and not worry about covering the voice.
  • Read from the Score if Possible, or Write in Cues: I like to have copies of both the full score and my own part in rehearsals, but for most performances I use a horn part with lots of vocal and piano cues written into it. Singers are used to rehearsing and performing from a piano-vocal score, and having your own copy of the score will help rehearsals run more smoothly.
  • Rhythm is Flexible: Good singers have excellent rhythm, but in my experience their training prepares them to be much less rigid than instrumentalists when it comes to rhythm and phrasing. This is a good thing!  Learn everything you can from the fluid, expressive way singers approach phrasing, and learn to anticipate and follow in the same way a great collaborative pianist or opera conductor does.
  • Differences in Response: The voice is a different instrument than the horn, and is subject to its own peculiarities. Depending on the tessitura, sometimes it can take a little time for the singer’s note to sound, but in other instances a note can begin more or less instantaneously. The timing of entrances and releases together will take some conscientious practice in rehearsals, but it can be done.
  • Breathing, Watching: Related to the above point, ensemble will be vastly improved through good communication – namely breathing together and watching each other. I’ve found that watching the vocalist’s mouth is a reliable indicator for entrances. It can even be helpful for the singer to “conduct” a little when working through challenging passages for the ensemble.

Hopefully these tips will be of use the next time you collaborate with a vocalist. Above all, listen intently, and follow your musical instincts. To close out this post, here is a short list of recommended works for voice, horn, and piano. Some of them are in the public domain, and available on IMSLP (links provided) Feel free to add to this list in the comments.

  • Hector Berlioz, Le jeune Pâtre breton, H 65 (soprano or tenor)
  • Benjamin Britten, Canticle III: Still Falls the Rain (tenor)
  • Benjamin Britten, Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings (available with a piano reduction)
  • Gina Gillie, To the Seasons (soprano)
  • Franz Schubert, Auf dem Strom, D.943 (Usually with soprano voice, but also with tenor)
  • Richard Strauss, Alphorn, TrV 64 (mezzo soprano)

For more details on repertoire, check out the following dissertations, which are available through the International Horn Society’s Thesis Lending Library.

  • Burroughs, Mary. “An Annotated Bibliography of the Works for Horn, Voice and Piano from 1830-1850 with an Analysis of Selected Works from 1830-1986.” D.M.A. diss., University of Illinois, 1990. UMI# 90-26150
  • Lewis, Gail. “Benjamin Britten’s Writing for Horn with Tenor Voice: Serenade Op. 31, ‘The Heart of the Matter,’ Nocturne Op. 60.” D.M.A. diss., University of Wisconsin, 1995. UMI# 95-26717.
  • Ulmer, Marissa L. “Bibliography of Twentieth- and Twenty-First Century Chamber Works for Voice, Horn, and Piano with Selected Annotations.” D.M.A. dissertation, West Virginia University, 2006.

 

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.

Faculty Recital Recordings and Upcoming Posts

October was a very busy month, with a performance or other professional obligation every weekend. November will be a little lighter, which should allow me to post more regularly…at least until December. In early October Richard Seiler and I presented a recital entitled Old Wine in New Bottles: Transcriptions for Horn and Piano. The performance went very well, and I’m pleased to share videos of a few works from the program. All but one  were my own arrangements, which I am planning to record for a forthcoming recording project. More on that later.

First up is my version of Weber’s Romance. For program notes please refer to the link above, but in short the piece  – which is attributed to Weber and often performed by trombone players – works quite nicely on horn. The horn part is not terribly difficult, but does tend to emphasize the low range. It is published and available through Cimarron Music Press.

Next is my take on Ravel’s Vocalise-Etude en Forme de Habanera, originally for voice, but transcribed for numerous other instruments. Not yet published, but coming soon!

The last excerpt from our program is Robert Schumann’s Fantasiestücke, Op. 73, in a wonderful arrangement by Kazimierz Machala. It’s a great piece, but not as difficult as the Adagio and Allegro, Op. 70. I’ve performed the Fantasiestücke multiple times over the years, and it is always rewarding to play.

One item worth noting in the videos is that I am standing by the keyboard, with my bell facing the audience. I have seen more and more horn players standing this way for solo recitals, so I decided to give it a try for this program. My usual position is turned about 180 degrees, in the bend of the piano. These two setups have their advantages and disadvantages, and it is worth trying both as well as other variations. Much depends on the size and acoustics of the hall, but in general I liked being closer to the keyboard for ensemble reasons as well as getting more clarity of sound.

Looking ahead to future posts for this blog, I have a sizable backlog of items for review, including recordings, books, and a new horn!

Fall 2016 Semester Preview

Chamber Arts Brass Quintet: Marilynn Gibson, Micah Everett, James Boldin, Jack White, Myron Turner

Chamber Arts Brass Quintet: Marilynn Gibson, Micah Everett, James Boldin, Jack White, Myron Turner

With the first week of classes at ULM finished, I now have the chance to catch my breath and post a few thoughts about the upcoming semester.

Ten Years of Teaching: This semester marks the beginning of my 11th year at ULM. I’m extremely grateful that after ten years of full-time college teaching, I still enjoy it! Though working in higher education is not without its challenges, I remain optimistic and excited about my career. I’m planning to post a few more reflections about this, but for now I’ll just leave it as-is. As a throw-back to my first year of full-time teaching, see the picture of our faculty brass quintet at top left, taken in December of 2006.

New Low Brass Faculty: Related to the above post, one of the reasons I still enjoy my job is the opportunity to work with faculty who are both dedicated and gifted. This semester we welcome a new member to the brass faculty at ULM, Dr. Jeremy Marks. It should be noted that our previous Low Brass professor, Dr. James Layfield, recently won a position with the United States Air Force Band in Washington, D.C. Congratulations to both Dr. Marks and Dr. Layfield on their new positions!

Upcoming Recital: On October 4th I’ll be giving a solo recital, collaborating with Dr. Richard Seiler on piano. It’s been awhile since I gave a strictly solo horn and piano recital, having performed with lots of other combinations (horn and percussion, horn and organ, horn and voice) over the last few years. Our program will feature all transcriptions and arrangements, the majority of them by yours truly. More on the program in a future post.

Recording Projects: Now that Solo Training for Horn is on shelves, I will be turning my attention to two recording projects. The first is a collaboration with ULM voice professor Dr. Claire Vangelisti for a recording of voice, horn, and piano works  by Eurico Carrapatoso. We’ve performed several of his very fine compositions over the years, and are looking forward to recording them for this project. Following that will be my second solo CD, this time a collection of my own transcriptions and arrangements for horn and piano and horn with other combinations of instruments. Both projects are still in the planning phase, and I’ll share more details as we move forward.

Orchestra Concerts: Though not a full-time orchestral musician, my work with the Shreveport Symphony, Monroe Symphony, and Rapides Symphony orchestras keeps me plenty busy. I feel very lucky to perform with these groups regularly, and to have the opportunity to play major repertoire with great horn sections. Some highlights of the 2016-2017 season include Brahms’s Symphony No. 3 with the Shreveport Symphony and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 with the Monroe Symphony.

Commissions: Black Bayou Brass has been very active recently in commissioning new works for brass trio. Among these is a new work by Sy Brandon, Inventions for Brass Trio, and a forthcoming work by Gina Gillie. Brandon’s commission was funded by an eleven-member consortium of brass trios, and Gillie’s commission was made possible through a grant from the International Horn Society’s Meir Rimon Commissioning Assistance Fund. One of our trio’s missions is to promote and premiere new works, and we are very excited about performing these new pieces.

Upcoming Blog Posts: I have several posts planned for the coming weeks, including reviews of recent recordings and publications, helpful websites for practicing, planning recital tours, and various other topics. Be sure to follow Hornworld for the latest updates.

To close I want to wish all my students and colleagues a great fall semester!

Coming Soon From Mountain Peak Music: Solo Training for Horn

I’m long overdue for a new post and an update on my forthcoming publication from Mountain Peak Music, but with the end of the semester now in sight I can finally carve out some time to remedy that! In short, the first draft of Solo Training for Horn is over 50% complete, and I anticipate finishing it by the end of August. Intended as a companion to Solo Duet Training for Horns, this book will contain exercises and routines specifically designed to help players tackle challenges found in eight standard horn solos. As with the previous book, all of the works are in the public domain. There is some overlap with the duets, but there are also plenty of new pieces as well. Here is the list:

  • Beethoven, Sonata, Op. 17
  • Dukas, Villanelle
  • Haydn, Horn Concerto No. 1, Hob. VIId:3
  • Mozart, Horn Concerto, K. 495
  • Saint-Säens, Morceau de Concert, Op. 94
  • Schumann, Adagio and Allegro, Op. 70
  • Telemann, Horn Concerto in D, TWV 51:D8
  • F. Strauss, Concerto, Op. 8

Though there are some commonalities between the duet book and this one, I found my work on Solo Training to be much more involved and thus slower. While the material is of course largely based on the works listed above, creating these derivative exercises required a different mindset and approach than the earlier book. To help explain and demonstrate some of these exercises, I put together a brief video to accompany this post. FYI, I will be giving an expanded version of this presentation at the 48th International Horn Symposium in Ithaca, NY this summer. The presentation won’t be an advertisement for my book, but will instead focus on ways you can use some of the same techniques to create your own derivative exercises. These are not new ideas, but I think that students and teachers will find them especially useful because they are now organized and collected in one place.

Fragmentation/Transposition: Taking a short motive or motives from a challenging passage and transposing it to different keys. This builds more comprehensive technique and greater awareness of the intervals than simply repeating the same passage at the written pitch level. For example, mm. 96-102 from the first movement of Beethoven’s Horn Sonata, Op. 17…

beethoven…can be adapted into the following progressive exercise:

beethoven_exercisesHere’s a demonstration of the complete exercise.

a la Kopprasch: This means taking a familiar pattern and changing the rhythm and/or articulations to create a more engaging and challenging exercise. For example, this triplet passage from the Villanelle by Paul Dukas…

dukasbecomes:

villanelle_exerciseAnd here it is demonstrated.

Flow Study: Removing all but the most important notes from a lyrical or technical passage, and reducing it to a flow study. Notes are gradually added, while maintaining the same basic melodic shape and direction to the air stream. Transposing the exercise to other keys makes it more useful and interesting to practice. The familiar opening of Mozart’s K. 495…

mozart1

Becomes:

mozart_exercise

Here’s the video.

Here are two more examples which combine several strategies. Both are based on this passage from K. 495.

mozart2

The first exercise deals with a small portion of the phrase:

mozart_exercise2

And now the video:

The second exercise deals with the passage as a whole, with varying rhythms and articulations.

mozart_exercise3

And the video.

I hope this brief introduction to Solo Training for Horn has whet your appetite for more, and if you like any of the exercises presented above feel free to print them for your own use. The book will have many more exercises and routines, roughly 12-15 for each solo work. I’m very excited about completing the book, and look forward to sharing it with the horn playing community. Stay tuned for more updates!

Upcoming Brass Trio Recital

blackbayoubrassBlack Bayou Brass will be performing a faculty recital at ULM on Thursday, March 24th at 7:30 p.m. in the Emy-Lou Biedenharn Recital Hall. We’ll be joined by several guests for this multimedia performance, which includes the world premiere of a new work for brass trio by Roger Jones. In addition we’ll be performing two brief works for brass trio and piano (with Deborah McClung-Guillory, a member of ULM’s piano faculty), Abe Lincoln’s Songbook, by Douglas Hill (with Jay Curtis, narrator), and Capital Dances, by Steven Winteregg. Here is some more information on each work, adapted from our program notes.

Bandera for Trumpet, Horn, Trombone, and Piano, by Kerry Turner (b. 1960) Kerry Turner’s music is ubiquitous in the horn world, especially his original works for horn quartet.  He also has some very fine works for brass ensemble, including this trio for brass with piano. When compared to the brass quintet, brass trio is a more limited medium, but the addition of a piano opens up a whole new realm of harmonies and textures. Here are some more details, taken from the composer’s notes in the score:

In the summer of 1979, I was employed on the Mayan Ranch in Bandera, Texas, located about sixty miles south of San Antonio. It was there that I encountered all of the excitements as well as the hard work associated with ranch life. Cooking breakfast out on the trail for ranch guests, cleaning out ancient tarantula-ridden bunk houses, and chasing away rattle-snakes and water-moccasins were some of the typical duties I had to perform. It was here that I experienced the traditions of the Old West that were to later influence my compositional style. Bandera for trumpet, horn, trombone, and piano is a tribute to these people who keep alive the venerable cowboy life.

Bandera has been recorded on the album Unlikely Fusion.

Heart of the Andes, by Daniel Baldwin (b. 1978) Baldwin’s music is accessible, fun to play, and musically fulfilling. Inspired by the landscape painting of the same name by American artist Frederic Edwin Church (1826–1900), Heart of the Andes conveys the breadth and grandeur of the original work. The following information about the painting is found on the website of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/09.95/.

Fully ten feet in breadth and rich in botanical detail, The Heart of the Andes is Church’s largest and most ambitious painting as well as the most popular in his time. It represents the culmination of two expeditions to Colombia and Ecuador in 1853 and 1857, inspired by the writings of the world-renowned naturalist Alexander von Humboldt. Humboldt conceived the equatorial landscape of the New World as a kind of laboratory of the planet in which the range of climatic zones, from torrid to frigid, could be studied from the jungles at sea level to the perpetual snow of Andean mountains such as Chimborazo, in Ecuador, represented in Church’s picture. Within its classical landscape format, the artist literally attempted to convey the variety of earthly life, most conspicuous in the lush foreground. At its three-week premier in 1859, The Heart of the Andes was housed in a huge windowlike frame and illuminated in a darkened room by concealed skylights. Twelve thousand people paid a quarter apiece to see it in New York, whence it toured Great Britain and seven other American cities until the eve of the Civil War.

Originally scored for clarinet, bassoon, horn, and piano, the piece can also be performed by any trio combination with piano. The textures and harmonies are reminiscent of Eric Ewazen, and it makes a very nice addition to the brass trio repertoire. During the performance we will be projecting an image of Church’s painting onto the rear wall of the stage.

Capital Dances, by Steven Winteregg (b. 1952) Winteregg has written a number of works with horn, many of them for Richard Chenoweth. We’ve known about this great trio composition for some time, but haven’t had the opportunity to program it until now. This being a presidential election year, we thought the political theme of the work would be quite fitting. The following information is from Chenoweth’s liner notes to the recording Flights of Imagination: Chamber Music of Steven Winteregg.

Commissioned by the University of Dayton Brass Trio, Capital Dances was inspired by the cartoon dance sequences of political cartoonist Jules Feiffer. These dance sequences followed an imaginary performer through various dance movements accompanied by satirical political commentary and often ended with an engaging twist or thought. In Capital Dances, Steve composed a musical version of these political dances, attempting to capture the spirit of the artistic commentaries.

Sketchbook for Brass Trio, by Roger Jones (b. 1944) Jones has written two other works for our trio, and we are excited and honored to perform the premiere of his latest composition for us. Here are his notes about the piece:

Sketchbook for Brass Trio is a Suite of four movements designed to be performed as a whole or in various reorganizations including fewer movements if needed by the performers. The work, written in 2014 and dedicated to the Black Bayou Brass, in residence at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, is designed to provide ensembles with recital material that is colorful, playable, and interesting to the audience as well as the performers. Each movement is named with a sketch concept. No actual drawings inspired the writing. Players are encouraged, if desired, to find one or more sketches to display for each movement before or during the performance. It is the composer’s hope that this work will bring some pleasure to both performers and audiences.

A slideshow of various paintings and other public domain artworks will accompany this performance.

Abe Lincoln’s Song Book, by Douglas Hill (b. 1946) These charming arrangements of several of Lincoln’s favorite melodies are a delight to play, and are available for several different combinations of instruments. Hill writes the following about this unique work:

Abe Lincoln’s Song Book” was written in 2008 in celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday on February 12, 2009. This Brass Trio (Trumpet, Horn, Trombone) with narration has a selection of Abraham Lincoln’s favorite melodies. Lincoln felt a deep love and abiding respect for all kinds of music, similar to his extraordinary ability to feel compassion and respect for all kinds of people. These wonderful little songs capture a glimpse of his time and his place on this earth. Through Lincoln’s favorite songs we can celebrate the boy who became that most remarkable man who grew beyond us all as an example of a timeless, extraordinary human being.

We’ve chosen seven of our favorite arrangements for this performance, which will be narrated by Jay Curtis, General Manager of KEDM Public Radio in Monroe. To hear an excerpt from the piece, see the video below, which features the Contrapunctus Brass Trio with the composer narrating.

We hope that you can join us for this concert!

 

Brief Reviews: Quality Tones App and The Big Book of Sight Reading Duets

Today’s brief reviews will consider two new products for brass players: Quality Tones – an app for iOS and Android devices – and The Big Book of Sight Reading Duets, from Mountain Peak Music. Both provide a creative, fresh approach to learning fundamental musical skills.

app-iconQuality Tones was designed by Spencer Park, a member of the San Antonio Symphony Horn section, and is available for a reasonable price on both the Apple Store and Google Play. I first heard the term “Quality Tones” at a master class given by William VerMeulen, though the concept can probably be traced back to Arnold Jacobs. Essentially, quality tone studies are meant to train the brass player’s mind and body to produce any pitch at any dynamic, with varying lengths, articulations, and tonal shadings, all with a consistent and beautiful tone quality. The Quality Tones app provides a means to achieve that end, by presenting a fully customizable selection of random notes, dynamics, articulations, etc, presented on individual “slides.” The app is meant to be practiced with a metronome, and notes can be repeated until the desired effect is achieved. After trying out the app myself and with a few students, I found it both fun and easy to use. The capacity for variation built into Quality Tones is fantastic, and training sessions could easily be created for a wide range of playing levels. Development is ongoing, with updates planned for adding drone, tuner, metronome, automatic slide advancement, and tone/decibel feedback features. One other tweak that might be helpful is to include time signatures for each quality tone study.

Horn_Cover_Web__91885.1442358992.225.275The Big Book of Sight Reading Duets, created by David Vining (horn version edited by Heidi Lucas), provides a progressive, enjoyable path to  improved sight reading. I’ve been using this book for the past several months in my teaching, usually beginning each lesson with a few random selections. It has rapidly become a favorite among my students, who are quick to remind me if we forget to begin a lesson with it! Despite several quality publications on the market, sight reading still remains a mystery to many students, who often avoid practicing it out of an ill-founded belief that one either can or can’t sight read well. While it is true that some otherwise competent musicians struggle with sight reading while others seem to have an almost uncanny gift, in my experience it can be improved provided that the necessary time is invested. These duets make putting in that time less of a chore. The 100 duets are grouped by difficulty, and each skill level includes a range of styles and challenges. Transpositions as well as bass clef versions make the horn edition by Heidi Lucas even more effective. While it might be tempting to immediately dive right into this book, I strongly recommend that students and teachers first read the Introduction, which is full of practical sight reading advice, and perform the clapping duets found in the beginning. Your students may scoff at the idea of clapping rhythms, but they won’t after the first couple of examples. In some ways the clapping duets are more challenging than the regular examples, and demand an even higher level of concentration and rhythmic integrity.

If you’re looking for some innovative ways to approach the interrelated topics of accuracy and sight-reading, check out the resources above. You won’t be disappointed!

A Recital Practice Plan

Photo by Emerald Harris/ULM Photo Services

Photo by Emerald Harris/ULM Photo Services

So be sure when you step, Step with care and great tact. And remember that life’s A Great Balancing Act.
― Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

As this semester draws to a close, I’m gearing up for several performances in December and during the spring. These include: recruiting concerts and a recital with our faculty brass trio, various orchestral performances, and a recital tour with Trio Mélange, a voice, horn, and piano trio (see image at left). The trio consists of myself and two ULM colleagues, Claire Vangelisti, soprano, and Richard Seiler, piano. We’ve performed together frequently over the past few years, including a contributing artist concert at the 45th International Horn Symposium in Memphis, TN. In addition to a faculty recital here in Monroe, we’ll perform at Centenary College of Louisiana, Stephen F. Austin State University, and The University of Texas at Tyler. Our program will include several lesser known, but high quality, works for voice, horn, and piano.

  • Carl Gottlieb Reissiger, 4 Gesänge, Op.117
  • Eurico Carrapatos, Dois Poemas de Miguel Torga
  • Gina Gillie, To the Seasons
  • Auguste Panseron, Le Cor: Romance

It’s a challenging program (approximately 52 minutes of music), and while it would be nice to have an open practice schedule to devote exclusively to this repertoire, as you can tell from the above I am going to be balancing a lot of different material in my day to day work. During graduate school I would have gone through all of this repertoire, plus etudes, ensemble music, and other materials, every day, averaging three and a half to four hours of practice. At this point in my career, though, I simply do not have the time to devote four hours every day to individual practice. Now, I strive to practice for two hours each day, unless I have a concert or heavy rehearsal schedule. When preparing for multiple programs, I usually create a rotation that allows me to practice everything over a period of several days. This approach seems to work, and it is really the only way I’ve found to make sure I cover everything. Here’s my current rotation for the Trio Mélange program. The numbers beside each work indicate specific movements to be practiced.

Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4 Day 5 Day 6 Day 7
Reissiger 1, 3 Reissiger 2, 4 Reissiger 1,2 Reissiger 3,4 Reissiger   3, 1 Reissiger 4, 2 Reissiger 1,4
Carrapatoso Carrapatoso Carrapatoso Carrapatoso Carrapatoso Carrapatoso Carrapatoso
Gillie 1 Gillie 2 Gillie, 3 Gillie 4 Gillie 1 Gillie 2 Gillie 3, 4
Panseron Panseron Panseron Panseron Panseron Panseron Panseron

The Gillie and Reissiger are both lengthy, four movement works (20 and 17 minutes, respectively), and this schedule allows me to address each piece in its entirety multiple times over the course of a seven day period. The Carrapatoso and Panseron are a bit shorter and less technically involved, and won’t require as much time to prepare. Because of intervening commitments like rehearsals and performances, it might take longer than a week to progress through this seven day schedule. However, keeping track of the dates allows me to pick up where I left off  in the rotation after missing a day. After a warm-up/fundamentals session, I work for approximately 10-15 minutes on each piece, depending on the needs of each day. The remainder of the two hours is spent on ensemble music, etudes, and other chamber or solo repertoire. As the date of the performance gets closer, one or more of these days will be replaced with complete runs of the program.

If you’ve not tried such a detailed approach to recital or audition preparation, give it a shot! You will hopefully find yourself more prepared, more confident, and less stressed out even in the face of multiple performing commitments.