Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Reldnips and Mr. Ting

During the last class period we discussed new brass bands and the evolution of the those bands, particular in the area around Madison, Wisconsin.  It seems there is a growing market for groups combining brass band elements with influences of hip-hop, R&B, soul, pop and other modern styles.  Reldnips and Mr. Ting  is an assemblage of musicians in Iowa City, and the University of Iowa School of Music.  The group performs regularly in the area.  I would recommend checking them out, especially if you are interested by the styles of music we heard in class Monday.

Boston Based Dixieland

The Hot Tamale Brass Band is a Boston based dixieland jazz band.  The group plays traditional dixieland tunes common during the turn of the century.  Hot Tamale performs all over the Boston area in parades, clubs, Mardi Gras theme parties, and has been performing for pregame celebrations at Fenway Park as of 1999.  They can be heard on their next Mardi Gras themed engagement at the The Bayou N’ Boogie  Festival

Brass Band Resources

There are plenty of great resources avaiable to learn about new brass bands and stay up to date on what's happening in the brass band community. I wanted to share three that I've enjoyed.

Four Bars Rest is a comprehensive brass band site.  It includes articles, news, editorials, and classifieds along with a market place.  Worth checking out if you want to get your feet wet in the traditional brass band world.

If you're more interested in the New Orleans style of brass band playing I would recommend visiting a few great band websites including The Storyville Stompers and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band.  Both are great bands and come from the New Orleans tradition.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Alison Balsom

Alison Balsom is becoming one of the most famous solo trumpet artists today.  Growing up in England, she was influenced and participated in English style brass bands .  She went onto to study at the Paris Conservatory and with Hakan Hardenberger.   She is currently the principal trumpet with the London Chamber Orchestra and visiting professor at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.  Below is one of my favorite recordings

I came across this video while researching members of the Summit Brass.  Allan Dean is professor of trumpet at Yale University and a member of the St. Louis Brass Quintet and Summit Brass.  In this clip he plays and speaks about a trumpet used during the civil war period.  I found it very interesting, hope you do to!

Rafael Mendez Brass Institute

Summer music festivals can be great places to meet other musicians who share similar interests in chamber music.  I attended the Rafael Mendez Institute a few summers ago and it was an excellent learning experience.  The University of Denver in the Lamont School of Music hosts the camp during mid July each summer.  The weeklong seminar offers master classes, brass chamber playing, lessons, and career clinics.  Dedicated to the memory of Rafael Mendez, large tuition scholarships are available in his name courtesy of family members.  The faculty consists of the members of the summit brass.  I would recommend this camp to someone who would like to try a summer music engagement without making a huge time commitment.  The camp runs for about a week and concludes with a final concert on which all the brass ensembles perform.

The Denver Brass

Comprised of 14 professional brass players, the Denver Brass have been performing together since 1981.  They perform 2 classical series per year as well as contracts around the Denver area.  They appeal to wide audiences because they perform a wide range of music including classical, jazz, broadway, latin and collaborations with other instruments in different styles.  The group often has theme concerts that even incorporate costumes.  They are a unique brass ensemble that has created a large market for their product.

Soul Rebels Brass Band

During this mornings listening session we heard several examples of innovative and relatively young brass bands.  My favorite was the Soul Rebels Brass Band. One of the things that most impressed me by their work was the ease with which they could change character and style so efficiently.  The incorporation of rapping creates a new style that has many possibilities.  The rapping was energetic and passionate in the music we listened to this morning.  I will go back and listen to the lyrics more closely but the energy and spirit with which they were spoken peaked my interest.  This is a group I will be looking forward to learning a lot more about and hopefully hearing much more of the in the following years!

Masterclass Reflections

Yesterday’s master class was the third time I have heard Chuck Lazarus present.  Each time I hear his philosophies on brass playing they resonate more and more.  At the forefront of his playing are extremely clear musical ideas.  Most great teachers will say this, but he personifies these ideas.  He explained if you have an absolutely clear idea of the way you want to sound and are completely engaged in the music, the product will be better immediately.  Perfect rhythm was an idea he emphasized through out the entire class.  He combines extremely thoughtful musical ideas with perfect rhythmic clarity and integrity to get a superior musical product in any style.  He is also an efficient player in every sense.  The way he brings the instrument to his embouchure, the precision with which he holds the trumpet, and the consideration he puts into each breath and articulation all exude utmost musicality and thoughtfulness.  By eliminating anything non musical and unnecessary from his playing he simplifies the thought process and is able to engage in musical ideas.  He is very naturally talented and he compliments this with thoughtful and efficient practice and performing.  I was quite impressed with everything he had to share yesterday and I would recommend hearing him speak if you get the opportunity. 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Charles Lazarus Master Class

Charles Lazaurs, trumpet section member of the Minnesota Orchestra, will be presenting a masterclass Sunday, April 22 at 2:30 pm in the CSM choral room.  Charles has been a member of the Minnesota Orchestra since 2000 and is a former member of the Dallas Brass, Meridian Arts Ensemble, and Canadian Brass.  An active composer, he is known for his blend of lounge/ exotic with funk influenced jazz.  He has released several solo albums of original compositions.  I've had the opportunity to work with him in the past- he's an amazing musician and I think his masterclass will be relevant to musicians on any instrument.  Below is a sample of his playing, enjoy!

Music Education

 This past week I had the opportunity to participate in educational outreach clinics with the graduate trumpet ensemble.  We spent three days in the Chicago area performing at high schools and presenting clinics about chamber playing.  Often times when universities come into schools to perform and teach the real objective is to recruit these students.  While recruiting is very necessary to sustain a successful studio I believe it must be of secondary importance when presenting clinics to students.  The purpose of our presentation was purely educational and I could tell (with the exception of one school) that students were engaged and interested in what we had to share.  To me this is the purest form of music education.  Our objective was to pass on valuable information about our experiences with chamber music and aid the students in their own endeavors. I’ve been part of university recruiting visits to schools in the past that left me feeling unsatisfied with the objective of the visit.  Students are not impressed when university groups come to show off how well they can play without making the presentation relevant to what is going on in the students young musical lives.  The visits must be approached in a most professional attitude with no expectations of anything in return.  It sound cheesy but when you feel good about what you are sharing and you have the opportunity to help students learn about something you love that is payment enough.  I hope to be part of similar clinics in the future and I look forward to teaching and educating on my own.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Hornheads

It's been awhile since I've shared information on a specific chamber group.  For this post I'd like to feature one of my favorite jazz groups.  The Hornheads are an acapella jazz quintet from Minneapolis, Minnesota.  The current members are Michael Nelson, trombonist/composer/arranger, Steve Strand, lead trumpet, Dave Jensen, trumpet, Kenny Holman, soprano/tenor sax, and Kathy Jensen, alto and bari sax.  The group has been together since 1991, can be heard on over 60 recording projects, and has toured extensively with Prince and Tower of Power.  They cover a variety of repertiore including works of Ellington, Bernstein, Monk, Stevie Wonder as well as their own compositions.  The innovative ensemble has reached a large audience, especially with their work in high schools, jazz festivals, universities and art series across the states. Enjoy the clip!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

What We Do Is Secret

Lansing McLoskey's work, What We Do Is Secret, concluded our listening session on Monday.  McLoskey currentley serves on the faculty of the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami as an associate professer.  His early influences included the Beatles, Bauhaus and Black Flag.  He began writing music for punk rock bands in the early 1980's, he also played guitar.

What We Do Is Secret was a new listening experience for me.  Upon first listening it was hard for me to follow and stay engaged in the music, I found listening to the piece to be a little exhausting.  After listening several more times I've come to appreciate some of his techniques.  I especially like the opening to the third movement, New York's Alright (If You Like Saxaphones).  I hear very clear jazz influences and the percussion introduction reminds me of a style similar to drum cadences found in marching cores.

Because the piece is so new and the style is unfamiliar it's hard to form an opinion on the piece.  The most interesting thing about the work, and composer, must be the assortment of influences that led to this style.  Young composers writing music for instruments in the classical genre are continuing to be influenced by all kinds of music.  With so many styles readily available to musicians I think genres will continue to blend, resulting in pieces like What We Do Is Secret.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


After listening to Bernstein's final composition, Dance Suite, I've been thinking about the composer and his career.  Bernstein grew up in Lawrence, Massachusetts and studied at Harvard and the Curtis Institute of Music.  He continued his studies at the Tanglewood Festival before being appointed the assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic in 1943.  He went on to conduct the New York City Orchestra and also teach at the Tanglewood Festival.  He was the music director for the New York Philharmonic from 1958-1969.  He compositional output as well as teaching and conducting engagements are numerous. 

In class we began to discuss his legacy as a composer and also questioned how he would feel about being recognized for his popular works, as opposed to his serious work.   Jamie Bernstein depicts her father as a man with two contradicting personalities.  He was influenced, and enjoyed, the popular music of his time while facing opposition in composing that very same genre from his teachers.  He was extremely interested in people while still having an introverted side.  I think his personality is evident in the way he blends classical and popular styles making them one.  Although he wrote more serious works, including the Mass, he seems to be best known for his more "popular" orientated music.  It's hard to tell how Bernstein would react to his best-known works being those in the popular style but his music is much like his personality.  Maybe after you meet the energetic outgoing side you'll want to get to know him better and be willing to listen to his more serious work.