HE'S WRITING A NEW POST.
Hello internet! Long time, no see! That's right, I'm back, I'm ready to go, I'm a new person. Kind of. And... wow, I've had a hell of a couple months. I'm gonna be back to the regular minimum-one-post-per-month-and-maybe-more-if-I-feel-adventurous way of doing things, STARTING TODAY. So, sorry for the hiatus, but considering how many page views I got over approximately three months of not posting, there might even be some pretty good traffic coming in over the next little revival.
July. July was... well... July was quite the month. July changed me, for the better. What happened, you ask? I attended two different summer music programmes: a brass seminar with world-renowned international faculty members, and an orchestra camp that, though less well known, taught me a surprising amount more than I was expecting at the beginning. And my approach to practicing is completely different from what it was before.
First, the brass conference. And where I usually keep things anonymous, I figure the bigger the event, the less relevant keeping it anonymous is. I attended the Domaine Forget brass seminar in Saint-Irénée, Québec. In particular, the trumpet masterclass-givers were Thomas Rolfs, principal of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and Eric Aubier, considered one of Maurice André's most successful students. And both were amazing for different reasons. Aubier is one of the most musical players I've ever heard, without a doubt. Everything he played, no matter how angular or modern, sounded like a dance. And he seemed to have every single piece of music memorized, whether Tomasi or Jolivet or Bohme, and demonstrated pretty much everything he talked about, always wowing the students. Rolfs, on the other hand, is probably the most powerful player I've ever heard live. I've never heard one of the "great" orchestras live, but I've heard countless recordings, and thought I had a pretty good idea of what a principal trumpet sounds like. Then Rolfs played the opening of Mahler 5, while sitting less than three feet away from me, and my presuppositions were completely shattered. It was a sound unlike anything I had expected. Rolfs' classes were almost entirely focused on breathing, as he's a Cichowicz (YEAH SPELLED IT RIGHT ON THE FIRST TRY) student, and that was kind of Cichowicz's thing.
Throughout the masterclasses, I quickly realized that being the principal trumpet in my little town meant nothing. Out of twenty-six trumpet majors, I was easily in the bottom five. Part of the curse of living in the out-of-the-way cities that I have for more or less my entire life is that I lose a proper sense of scale, and now I have a much better idea of what trumpet students who take their art seriously are supposed to sound like. If there's one thing I "knew," and definitely should have known, but learned for the first time, it's to never let yourself get away with anything. As Rolfs said more than once in masterclass, "You just proved you can play with a good sound, why would you chose to play with anything less?" There really isn't a reason, especially when practicing, to let any note that comes out of the bell sound worse than the absolute best note you can produce, and that's a philosophy that I'm trying to implement absolutely every time I pick up the horn.
The event also came with a student gala, where we were put in chamber groups based off of our placement auditions. Most of the top-tier students got quintets, and I ended up being put in trumpet ensemble. I hesitate to call it a lower level ensemble, since all of us are top students in our respective schools, but if I'm being honest, I'll call it a mid-range ensemble, for the musicians present. But you know what, I really enjoyed it. The fact that we had all traveled to this explicitly to make brass music meant we were all much more dedicated than a random pile of university students of various music-related majors that many smaller schools have for ensembles. We all learned from each other, we all gave it everything we had, and we sounded pretty solid come the concert. Oh, and though I usually don't like trumpet ensembles, we played the one piece written for them that I love forever, which blogger isn't letting me embed for some reason: Ewazen's Fantasia for Seven Trumpets.
The faculty concert. THE FACULTY CONCERT. Sounds that I didn't think were possible happened. Two sounds in particular. First, Jesper Sørensen, second trombone in Berlin, played excerpts from a Schumann song cycle (I forget which, but really want to say it was Dichterliebe (YEAH TWO FOR TWO IN SPELLING WEIRD THINGS RIGHT)), as well as a Schumann Romance, and... I don't think I've ever heard a sound that beautiful. Not from a trombone, not from a brass instrument, not from any instrument... no natural sound. But man, he did it. And second... this thing:
Next up, the orchestra camp, PRISMA. Actually, I think I might leave a lot of my discussion about this for a separate post, since I have a lot I want to say about the trumpet sound that I've thought about because of that, and since then. But I will say that the third movement of Tchaik 6 sounds amazing in full brass sectional, and we can probably just forget about the rest of the orchestra.
But yeah. I guess the coolest thing about these programmes is... you meet people who are GOING places. The trumpet students I met at Domaine aren't barely passing undergrads who are falling through the cracks. These players are the future of the orchestral trumpet scene. I'm confident that over half of these players will have established themselves in performance careers in the next five to ten years, and some of them may even make the major orchestras.
That brings me to one moment from PRISMA that I do want to address now. One of the scarier moments was when we had a discussion, full students and faculty, about auditions. When people asked the faculty about their audition experience, it turns out many of the string faculty members were offered big-names jobs almost freely, or won concertmaster/principal positions on their first audition, or were active orchestral musicians before they hit twenty. And that had me (and probably several other students in the room) scared... how could we ever hope to do THAT?!
Thankfully, the next day, the brass faculty asked if we wanted to veto sectional in exchange for a brass-specific audition discussion, which all us students agreed to. And hearing their stories was... a relief. These players, all fantastic musicians, had to go through our struggle. They (and their students, colleagues, and mentors) played dozens of auditions before getting their first gig, had to go through the brutal audition circuit, and face orchestra politics. They told us stories of people in our situation, with our level of skill, who made their careers happen through determination, motivational drive, and enthusiastic, disciplined practice. They made us realize that people out there were once just like us, and that if we care and apply ourselves to our MAXIMUM potential, we can do the same. And that's something everyone needs to hear.
So yeah, I think that's enough for today. I have one or two more related posts I'm planning on making based on my summer adventures, and then back to the old norm of alternating stuff about my playing life with random continued featurettes that I do. Thank you for your patience, dear internet, and I'm glad to have you back! And I hope you continue to follow my little pointless drivels as I keep writing them! I'm going to send you off with this, a lovely concert that I know more than one person would refer to as "brass porn" (not NSFW at all):
Until next time!