There’s a funny thing that happens in conservatories. While learning to become an amazing musician, you can easily get sucked into a mentality that alienates music from popular (e.g. anything other than classical) genres.
For me, this train of thought first took root when I stopped listening to the radio, frustrated with the uninspired, monotonous, commercially-produced noise blaring from every station. Soon, however, I deemed almost everything that wasn’t art music or classical saxophone literature “illegitimate,” spreading from pop and hip-hop to video game music and even some movie scores (John Williams I have always loved you and will love you forever). With a narrow, closed-minded worldview, I settled into the role of a music snob.
In the nearly five years since I graduated with my masters degree, my views have thankfully expanded. This is in large part due to the fact that I am surrounded by young musicians. The wonderful, tender-hearted young people I work with ha...
My high school students have spent the past several months mastering three etudes in preparation for TMEA All-State auditions. Despite the talent and level of dedication, the repertoire is challenging for the vast majority of students.
After spending months mastering and honing every note, rhythm, and articulation with relentless detail, there is the small matter of then performing in front of the foreboding curtain which separates the student from the panel of judges. Surrounded in a room of their peers, students must execute every detail of the music with utter perfection. The performance is then scrutinized by a panel of highly-trained experts, who then choose the best students (a very small handful) to advance. The process continues with higher stakes at each round, until four saxophonists are chosen to make the Texas All-State Band.
In case you didn’t catch that last part: FOUR saxophonists make All-State. Four. Out of several hundred if not thousands.
Every year during district and region audition season, I second-guess myself as a teacher. It's rather comical that the cycle is so predictable, yet it never seems to lose momentum. The pattern goes something like this:
1. I coach etudes ad nauseam
2. I preach the importance of slow, methodical practice
3. I meticulously scrutinize minutia so students can hear at a deeper level
4. I host a mock-audition to get kids used to the intense audition environment
5. My kids go off to their auditions
I'm rarely surprised at the results of auditions. (Most of the time, I can anticipate a student's trajectory within five minutes of their very first lesson.) I know which of my students get nervous and which ones thrive under the pressure of performance. I know their sweet little idiosyncrasies better than they do. And yet, though it is entirely out of my control and I do EVERYTHING in my power to prepare them (from making practice plans to writing specific weekly goals), I worry for them....
Although it wasn't intentional, I found myself defending my performance when I first started writing this blog post. I could write about each little thing that didn't go perfectly in the live performance (which is now on YouTube). I could write about how hot the stage was, and how it affected my pitch, and how my horn is a mess despite four unsuccessful attempts to fix it, and how the stormy weather affects reeds; but the bottom line is that would be a waste of time and an even larger run-on sentence.
A week ago I had the privilege of playing a concerto with the Austin Symphonic Band. I was excited for several reasons, the most obvious being the opportunity to be a featured soloist. It also gave me the chance to get a great recording of my playing that I could post on the internet and be proud of. To date, this has never happened. I'm certainly not ashamed of my performances, but, having done so little studio recording, I have yet to play an entire piece live entirely in-tune and...
I'm happy to announce that I am now a D'Addario Reserve Methods Clinician! I love D'Addario (previously Rico) reeds and now get the opportunity to work with students, band directors, and other private teachers showcasing clarinet and saxophone products.
I'm excited to go to training and visit the D'Addario factory in Burbank, California in a couple weeks. I'll post pictures once I return.