If You Like Solo Training Duets, Check Out Solo Training for One Horn!

In looking over some year-end tax information from Mountain Peak Music, the publisher of my two books, I noticed a couple of things:

  1. Horn players like Duet Books! Solo Training Duets  did pretty well in 2019, probably because of the recently released 2nd edition, and also because duets are an enjoyable way to package useful content (fundamentals, long tones, solo repertoire, etc.) Thinking about this generated some interesting ideas for future publications…more on that in the future!
  2. People might not know about my other book, Solo Training for Horn: This book is actually more recent than the first edition of the duet collection, although it has been far less popular. There are probably a couple of causes for this, number one being that it was published in 2016 and horn players might have forgotten about it, and also because it isn’t something you can necessarily pull out and sight-read with a student or colleague. However, I would still encourage anyone who enjoys Solo Training Duets  to check out the solo book. There are several pieces covered in the one-horn book that don’t appear in the duet book, and I think there are some very useful exercises and derivative etudes. One could even put together a comprehensive warm-up/fundamentals routine by picking and choosing certain excerpts. This is a topic I plan to explore further in a future post.

Meanwhile, feel free to visit the Mountain Peak Music website and view the samples from Solo Training for Horn. I also recorded a brief promo/demo video for the book back in 2016. Take a look and listen, and let me know what you think. I would be happy to answer any questions you have about it!

Conference Report: 2017 IWBC

Photo Credit: Cavitt Productions

I recently returned from the 2017 International Women’s Brass Conference, hosted by Dr. Amy Schumaker Bliss at Rowan University in Glassboro, NJ. It was a fantastic four days, full of great performances and presentations. Congratulations and thank-you to the IWBC and Rowan University for hosting a terrific event! While I didn’t attend everything – it simply isn’t possible at these type of conferences – I did make it to multiple concerts and presentations, and also ran an exhibit booth for Mountain Peak Music.

Black Bayou Brass performed on the first day of the conference, and our program of new music for brass trio by women composers was very well received. It was once again our pleasure to perform Gina Gillie’s Scenes from the Bayou, as well as other works by Gillie and Adriana Figueroa Mañas. We shared the recital with a faculty horn/tuba/piano trio from Youngstown State University: Stacie Mickens (horn, and fellow UW-Madison alum), Brian Kiser (tuba), and Caroline Oltmanns (piano). They performed two works by  James Wilding,  Distill for horn and piano, and Melencolia for horn, tuba, and piano. Both pieces were really interesting, and expertly performed. Wilding’s music was new to me, and it is certainly worthy of further study. On first listening I found his use of various colors in all three instruments particularly noteworthy.

After the brass trio performance, I spent some time setting up the Mountain Peak Music display, and rehearsing with Gina Gillie, Sarah Gillespie, and Stacie Mickens for our Saturday performance of Gina’s Horn Quartet No. 1. This challenging, multi-movement piece is a substantial addition to the repertoire, and is published by Veritas Musica Publications. Check out the YouTube demo recording, you won’t be disappointed!

Photo Credit: Cavitt Productions

We put the entire 18-minute work together in only three rehearsals, and the Saturday performance went very well. On a personal note it was great fun getting to rehearse and catch up with my former UW-Madison classmates.

My time on Thursday and Friday was spent in quartet rehearsals, at the exhibit booth, and at presentations and concerts. Here are a few highlights.

New Music: One of my favorite parts of any conference is hearing new music. Although I heard (and performed) several new works at the 2017 IWBC, one that stood out was Imaginings, by Dorothy Gates. This single-movement composition for horn and piano was composed for and premiered by Michelle Baker, recently retired 2nd horn of the Metropolitan Opera. Ms. Baker sounded fantastic, displaying great agility and expressiveness throughout the three-octave range the piece requires. I enjoyed it so much that I bought a copy for myself and am planning to program it on an upcoming recital this fall. Be on the lookout for this work in the future, I think it’s going to get played a lot!

Presentations: There was quite an array of interesting topics at this conference, ranging from practice and teaching strategies to discussions about auditions, gender, and race. I particularly enjoyed Dr. Stacie Mickens’ presentation on “Positive Practice Strategies” and a panel on Entrepreneurship with Mary Bowden (trumpet soloist, founding member of Seraph Brass), Beth Mitchell (freelance tubist and teacher in Los Angeles), Michael Parker (tubist with Monumental Brass Quintet, owner of Parker Mouthpieces), and Anna Skrupky (Director of Rowan Prep program, horn performer and teacher and UW-Madison alum). Dr. Mickens is Associate Professor of Horn at Youngstown State University, and presented some very solid strategies for effective practicing. I was not familiar with one of the sources she referenced, Bruce Kaplan’s Practicing for Artistic Success: The Musician’s Guide to Self-Empowerment, but will definitely be reading it in the future. Kaplan’s book lays out a unique, thorough, and systematic approach to practicing. 

The Entrepreneurship panel was equally informative, and each person brought a unique perspective to the topic. Here are some of the common threads I heard in their remarks:

  • Don’t be afraid to pursue your artistic and professional goals.
  • Stand up for yourself, but be nice! You will continue to run into former colleagues, classmates, etc. throughout your career.
  • Familiarize yourself with a variety of technology in order to stay organized and promote your career. These can include: websites, audio/video recording and editing, social media, and more.

Exhibits: I didn’t have the opportunity to visit many of the other exhibits, but based on talking with visitors to the Mountain Peak Music table there were a number of big and small companies represented at the conference. Horn exhibitors included Balu Musik, Siegfried’s Call, Baltimore Brass, Patterson Hornworks, Houghton Horns, and “big-box” companies Conn-Selmer and Yamaha. I really wanted to try the new Geyer model horns from Patterson, but alas I did not get the chance. Maybe next time! One issue that I noticed, and also heard mentioned by other exhibitors, was location. Most of us were tucked away in individual rooms, somewhat removed from the flow of traffic. As I heard one exhibitor put it, conference attendees “did not have to walk past our booth to get to anything.”  To some extent this was not entirely within the control of the conference hosts. One generally cannot alter the layout of a building. However, it would have been nice if the exhibits could have been more centrally located. On a positive note, one really great idea was the use of “Gift Coupons” for competition winners. These gift cards were issued by the IWBC to the winners, and could only be used at the exhibit booths. At the end of the conference, the IWBC reimbursed exhibitors for the coupons spent at their booths. This is a fantastic idea because it encourages participation in the competitions, and drives traffic to the exhibit booths – a win for everyone! I have not seen this concept employed at other conferences, but it is something to think about for other similar events.

In closing I think the 2017 International Women’s Brass Conference was a great success, and I encourage any and all brass players to consider attending the next one!

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.

 

 

New Book: Solo Training for Horn

Solo Training HornI’m pleased to announce that my new book, Solo Training for Horn, is now available from Mountain Peak Music. If you follow my blog you probably have heard about this project already, but in case you haven’t, here is a brief summary of the book and its contents.

Solo Training for Horn is designed to help you meet challenges found in eight popular solo works. When practiced regularly and intelligently, these studies will provide the foundation for successful performance of the works on which they are based, and other repertoire as well.

This collection consists of 12-15 studies per solo, each one focused on a relatively short passage or collection of passages. Literal repetition is generally avoided in favor of varied and progressive repetition. Most studies begin from a point of ease, and gradually progress to extremes, often going above and beyond what is required in the original works.

Works include: Sonata, Op. 17 by Ludwig van Beethoven, Villanelle by Paul Dukas, Concerto No. 1, Hob. VIId:3 by Franz Joseph Haydn, Concerto, K. 495 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Morceau de Concert, Op. 94 by Camille Saint-Saëns, Adagio and Allegro, Op. 70 by Robert Schumann, Concerto, Op. 8 by Franz Strauss, and Concerto in D, TWV 51:D8 by Georg Philipp Telemann.

And if you would like to hear a few excerpts from the book, here are two promotional videos.

As with my previous publication for Mountain Peak Music, writing Solo Training for Horn was an incredible learning experience. I hope that teachers and students of the horn find it a practical and effective addition to their repertoire of etudes and exercises. If you have any questions about the book or the writing process I would love to hear from you.

What’s next? Once the semester begins I will return to at least semi-regular blogging, and continue preparations for a recital coming up in early October (more on that later). I have a few bigger projects on the horizon, but for now am gearing up for the new academic year.

Coming Soon from Mountain Peak Music: Solo Duet Training for Horns

In my Semester Preview, I mentioned a new book project for Mountain Peak Music. Work on the publication has been going well, with an anticipated release in 2015. The title is Solo Duet Training for Horns, and it will consist of duo adaptations of several standard solo works for the horn. David Vining, owner of Mountain Peak Music and author of Solo Duet Training for Trombones, has written a very nice description of the concept behind the series. The comments are applicable to both trombone and horn players.

These duets are designed to assist trombone players in learning six of the most popular trombone solos. The two parts are equal in importance and difficulty. Solo Training Duets can be used to help students learn style and technique, as recreational musical diversions or even as additions to recitals.

The horn edition will contain the following:

  • Paul Dukas, Villanelle
  • Alexander Glazunov, Rêverie, Op. 24
  • W.A. Mozart, Horn Concerto No. 3, K. 447 (All 3 movements)
  • Camille Saint-Saëns, Romance, Op. 36
  • Camille Saint-Saëns, Morceau de Concert, Op. 94
  • Franz Strauss, Nocturno, Op. 7

In choosing works for this project, they needed to meet these criteria.

  1. Popular solos which appeal to a wide range of ability levels, with a special focus on advanced high school and college level players
  2. In the public domain internationally. (Sorry, no Strauss Concerto No. 1!)
  3. Work well as duo arrangements

There are of course more than six works which fit these requirements, so I had to use my best judgement as a teacher and performer to narrow down the list. Hopefully these duets will be useful to horn teachers and students. Briefly, here are some of the benefits to studying solo material in this manner.

  • Because each part contains an equal amount of solo and accompaniment material, they are actually more difficult than the original solos in terms of endurance and technique. By learning the duo parts, students will be more than prepared to perform the solo version.
  • Students will gain a much more thorough knowledge of the entire work, both solo and accompanying parts.
  • The duets can function well as etudes or in performance as concert works.
  • They are fun to play! I have confirmed this with my students!

To  generate some interest in the project and to give you an idea of what the finished book will contain, here is a short “teaser” video. The source material is the first movement from Mozart’s Concerto for Horn, K. 447.

As you will notice, I am performing both parts, through the magic of multi-track editing and recording. Because of the somewhat impromptu nature of the recording, I decided not to put any of my students on the spot. However, in the future I will definitely invite my students to join me (if they are willing!) for additional videos.

I am having a great time working on this project, and look forward to its completion. Adapting these works for horn duo is a tremendous learning experience, requiring in-depth study of the entire score. In some instances a small amount of re-composition is required in order to make the voice leading work for two voices or to make a part more playable on the horn. In all cases, I have tried to be as faithful as possible to the composer’s score.

Stay tuned for more updates!

 

Fall Semester Preview

Now that the dust has settled a little bit from the first week of classes, here’s an overview of some activities coming up this semester. I’m very excited to be working with my colleagues and students again, and am looking forward to a great fall!

  • Faculty Recital, Music for Horns and Organ: This year my annual faculty recital (October 7th, First Presbyterian Church, Monroe, LA) will feature music for horn and organ, including several works for two horns and organ. I’ll be joined by Richard Seiler on organ and Andrew Downing on horn. Andy and I will give a repeat performance of this program on October 19th in the Dallas area. There is a lot of great repertoire to talk about on this program, so look for a follow up post in the near future.
  • Orchestral Performances: Highlights of this season (Fall 2014-Spring 2015) with the Shreveport Symphony Orchestra, Rapides Symphony Orchestra, and Monroe Symphony Orchestra  include Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, Brahms’s Symphony No. 1, Dvořák’s Cello Concerto, Schumann’s Symphony No. 3 (Rhenish), and more!
  • Book Project: I’m very excited to be working on a new publication for Mountain Peak Music, forthcoming in 2015. If you aren’t familiar with this company be sure to visit their website because they have some terrific publications, especially for brass players. I’ll post more details about my project in a future article. As this book will be the major focus of my research efforts this semester (and beyond), I will out of necessity be posting less new content to this website. I still plan to keep the job listings page updated, as well as write periodic reviews and other articles, but it is unlikely that I’ll be able to write something new every week.
  • Horn Studio Recital: On November 11th the ULM Horn Studio will present an evening of solo and ensemble music for horns, including several works in the standard repertoire.

These are the major events for me this fall, and as other things of interest come up I will post updates here. In related news, I am in general having success adhering to my New Year’s Resolutions, although restricting my email checking is quite challenging at times.

 

 

Review: Long Tone Duets for Horns

While poking around the website of Mountain Peak Music – who publishes Marian Hesse’s Daily Routines for Horn and Daily Routines for the Student Horn Player – I came across this set of duets by David Vining (image at left linked from the Moutain Peak Music website).  It shipped very quickly, and I’ve been using it in lessons this week as a warm-up and intonation study.  It’s a great book, and a nice supplement to the now classic Intonation Exercises for Two Horns, by Verne ReynoldsIn lieu of  an exhaustive list of the contents see the brief description below, quoted from Mountain Peak Music’s website.

Long Tone Duets contains a duet in every major key with additional duets on various topics interspersed throughout the book. It provides the perfect venue for teachers to discuss details of intonation, tone quality, blend and balance with their students, or for students to warm up and play long tones together. Players who use Long Tone Duets will improve their tone, intonation and listening skills.

In addition to the exercises in each major key, there are studies in pitch bending, common chord progressions (I-V7-I, ii-V7-I), and an exercise based around the solo from Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony.  Long Tone Duets packs a lot of material into a small package, and is suitable for intermediate to advanced players.  One other way to use these exercises is for transposition practice – it helps to play the exercise as written first, and then add one or more transpositions.  Playing the same exercise in a different key not only builds transposition skills, but also helps students develop an awareness of their tendencies in a given key.

Another detail worth mentioning in the horn edition is the preface, written by John Ericson of Arizona State University.  Ericson makes a great point that in the 19th century (and before), duets likely played a large role in horn teaching.  Duet playing seems to have fallen out of favor somewhat in horn pedagogy, but perhaps it will make a comeback through the efforts of artist/teachers like Vining and Ericson.  Ericson also notes in his preface that “one can easily use the studies in different octaves than printed to address specific needs of the moment.”

As with Mountain Peak’s other publications, the design and packaging is attractive and very well done.  Vining has also recorded a video demonstrating some of the studies contained in Long Tone Duets (embedded below).  I plan to continue using this book in my teaching, and I look forward to future publications from Mountain Peak Music.

%d bloggers like this: