The month of April brought a ton of great events with awesome colleagues and students, but that also meant it was quite busy. A university masterclass and recital, four high school masterclasses, two orchestra weeks, and a concerto (technically in the first few days of May, but still…) within a month definitely provided lots of perspective on my life and career and was also incredibly invigorating. To go back to the very first post on this blog “Injury. Recovery. Redirection.”, this was definitely the most significant action on the redirected path of my career so far.
Recently, I’ve had a very strong gut feeling that I need to not only share my experiences with playing injuries, but also the habits and processes that I learned through recovering from those playing injuries. April was the month to put that gut feeling into action by shifting my focus to educational events. First, I was a guest artist at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point with my good friend Jared Dalgleish, who is the Associate Lecturer of Low Brass there. During my visit, I gave a lecture titled “Brass Instruments and the Human Body: An approach to simple and healthy brass playing” which provoked a really great conversation with the students and faculty members who attended. Afterwards, I taught lessons to two fantastic bass trombonists and played a solo recital that evening. In this event alone, I experienced three distinct perspectives centered around the same message of sharing what I’ve learned through my experience with playing related injuries. The following week I had the pleasure of working with three fantastic high school band programs in the Grand Rapids, MI area; Northview, Grandville, and Allendale. And it really was a pleasure, these kids can PLAY. This was yet another perspective still focused on the same goal.
In order for me to stay fresh on any long term task, I need to break it up with other activities, so it was perfect timing that I spent the next two weekends playing concerts with the Lansing Symphony and the West Michigan Symphony. Immediately following that though, it was back in the saddle at Lakewood High School with my good friends Adam Noaeill and Anna Werling and their band students. I did a full day of sectionals and masterclasses with all of their ensembles, 7th grade through the top high school group, and the next day I soloed with them on a piece titled Paceline by Tyler S. Grant. I was also very happy to have been in the consortium for this piece a few months back.
Now this was all incredibly exciting but with this variety of activities came massive challenges, the most obvious being exhaustion. This schedule combined with normal day to day activities made for a very hectic month and at times caused me to withdraw into myself. But when this happened, I had to keep trusting my gut and focus on the task at hand which was to encourage others with tools that I learned through my own experience. Giving a lecture to a university audience, teaching university students one-on-one, putting what I teach into practice in a solo recital, teaching high school students in sectionals and masterclasses, and soloing with a high school ensemble each provided different perspectives that worked together in ways that I couldn’t have imagined beforehand. Working with high school students, in particular, on healthy brass playing techniques forced me to boil the concepts down for a more simple and direct delivery which made me think, does it really need to be any more complicated than this for anyone? Sure, there are certain components that may require a deeper understanding and knowledge base to be most effective for some people, but as simple as possible (but not more than that) is always my goal.
In reflecting on my thought process during this busy time, it reminded me of the quote below from Gary Vaynerchuk, media mogul and entrepreneur. It truly is the entire purpose of what we do as musicians to tell our story through music, at least as performers. As teachers, it is our job to find ways to encourage our students to tell THEIR story and as a result pedagogy is constantly evolving (or at least should be) in order to discover the best way to achieve this result for each student and bring more true, authentic, and moving music into the world.
With this focus on perspective recently, I’ve been following my friend Jeremy Wilson’s activities very closely since he just performed what looked like an incredible concert at Vanderbilt University which he called “Perspectives”. I’ve long admired Jeremy’s playing but this recording from the International Trombone Festival in the summer of 2017 really blew me away, not only because of the fantastic playing but the new piece titled Tresin Terra by David M. Rodgers is truly phenomenal! Definitely give this a listen!!
MUSIC. It's good for ya.