2010 Louisiana Music Educators’ Convention

I spent a few days last weekend at the Louisiana Music Educators’ Association 2010 State Music Conference, which is held annually in Baton Rouge.  As always, this year’s conference was very well organized, with a variety of clinics, performances, and exhibits.  You can view the entire conference schedule here: 2010 LMEA Conference. I presented a clinic on Monday morning at 8:00am (!) titled “Strategies for Successful Solo Performances.” Although I was a little disappointed in the sparse attendance at my session this year, the handful of people who were there seemed interested and I hope they got something out of the presentation.  I did manage to record my clinic on a new camcorder, but am still working on the technical details of editing and converting the content to a web-friendly format.  When it’s ready I’ll post a few clips from the presentation here for those who might be interested.  The idea for this presentation came from a desire to see more solo performances from high school and middle school horn players, either in the form of  public performances or participation in district and state solo/ensemble festivals.  I think many of the high school and middle school horn players in Louisiana (and elsewhere) could benefit from positive experiences as soloists early in their musical education.  Do they need to play Strauss 2 as high school seniors? – not necessarily – but incorporating solo literature into the usual diet of scales and etudes is a good place to start.  I divided my presentation into the following parts:

Practice Strategies

Suggested Timetable for Preparing a Solo Performance

Repertoire Recommendations/Guidelines

Dealing with Performance Anxiety

Stage Presence

Tips on Rehearsing with Piano Accompaniment

Horn/Piano Placement Options

Sample Solo Repertoire (Demonstration)

Readers of this blog will find many of these topics familiar as I’ve covered them in several posts over the last few months.  Some of the material was written prior to its inclusion in a blog post, while other parts (Stage Presence) were written specifically for this blog and later adapted for use in the presentation.  For the final part of the presentation I was joined by Mrs. Coralie White, Associate Professor of Piano at ULM, to demonstrate some basic solo literature.  I picked three pieces which I felt were appropriate for a middle school, intermediate high school, and advanced high school student – an arrangement of Allerseelen by Richard Strauss, Romance by Saint-Saëns, and Reveries by Glazunov.  Once I get the video recording edited down I’ll probably post those performances to YouTube and this blog.  You can also check out the handout from the presentation here. Boldin – LMEA Clinic Fall 2010

In addition to presenting, I also spent some time observing the All-State ensembles and talking with prospective students.  Throughout the weekend high school students can come up to the various college displays and speak with faculty from those schools about auditions, scholarships, and the music program in general.  I usually try to get in touch with the horn players in the All-State ensembles prior to the convention, and then follow up and speak to them in person sometime during the weekend. I enjoy meeting and talking to these students, and the convention in general is a great way to network and build connections throughout the state. The horn sections in the orchestra and bands sounded great at the rehearsals – Louisiana has some very talented young players!  I wasn’t able to stay for the band concerts on Monday, but I’m sure they went well.  LMEA also brought in some wonderful clinicians to work with the All-State ensembles: Ralph Ford from Troy University (Concert Band), Dennis Fisher from the University of North Texas (Symphonic Band), and Tonu Kalam from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Orchestra).

If you are a music educator at any level, I encourage you to get involved with your state’s music educators’ association, and consider attending their annual conventions or conferences.  It’s a great way to meet fellow music educators, as well as build up your experience and professional development.

Rehearsing with Piano

One of the big fall events I look forward to every year is the Louisiana Music Educators’ Association State Conference, held in Baton Rouge.  This year I’ll be presenting a session on solo performances, with tips for both teachers and students on various aspects of solo playing.  One area I want to help strengthen in my part of the state is student participation in local and state solo/ensemble festivals, and I am gearing my presentation towards students who may not have much experience in preparing solo works with piano accompaniment.  Here is a brief excerpt from my presentation.

Tips on Rehearsing with Piano Accompaniment

Learn every note and rhythm to the best of your ability before the first rehearsal with your accompanist. Rehearsals with your accompanist are best spent working on ensemble and musical issues, not learning your own part.

When tuning, sound the horn’s pitch first. If the piano plays first, most good horn players will simply adjust at the embouchure to match the pitch.  Sounding the horn note first will give a more accurate idea of the instrument’s pitch so that the player can make any necessary adjustments with the tuning slides.  Suggested tuning pitches are the second line “G” and third space “C” for horn in F.

Establish good communication with your accompanist. Eye contact, small gestures, and well-timed breaths are all excellent ways to stay in communication with your pianist during a performance.  Though they are always important, these cues are absolutely crucial at the beginning of a piece and at transitions.  Small annotations in both the solo and piano part can also serve as reminders of what the other half of the ensemble is playing.

Experiment with different placements of the horn and piano. Even slightly different configurations can result in drastically different results.  Let your ear be your guide!  Consider the following factors when trying different placements.

Size/acoustical quality of the room – is it a dry or resonant space?  A dry space might require a less direct placement of the horn (bell away from the audience), while a resonant space might work better with the bell more towards the audience.  In most cases, it is best to avoid pointing the horn bell directly at the audience.

Size/type of piano- Experiment with different lid settings (full stick, short stick, closed) on grand pianos.

Avoid pointing the horn bell into dampening materials such as curtains or acoustical tiles.  The horn projects best when the sound can reflect off a hard surface at least six to eight feet behind the bell of the instrument.  If the bell is too close to the reflecting surface the sound can get brittle and tinny, too far and it can become diffuse and unclear.

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