Giving Lessons in Haliburton

I’m starting to give lessons in Haliburton. Not a full marketing drive, but I asked a new trombonist in the Highlands Wind Symphony if he’d like to get some lessons from me to help improve his tone and he said yes. So we’ve had lessons two Saturdays in a row. I don’t play trombone but that’s ok because my focus is on breathing and buzzing. Both work together to give a good foundation for all brass musicians. Yesterday, we were working on the harmonic series in warm ups and he played a high Bb. He said it was the first time he’d done that! I said it was due to faster air flow encouraged by his work with the Breathing Gym and the emphasis on buzzing. The noted sounded great too! I was really proud of him and took it as a bit if a nod with my methods. I picture running a brass education studio up here. I don’t know how profitable it could be, but it would be very enjoyable.
In related news, I sent an application in coach the winds in the Kawartha Youth Orchestra. I don’t know it would work with my schedule or theirs, but the person I was in contact with suggested I apply anyhow. I’ll let you know how it goes!

The day after a lesson

I had a lesson yesterday with Sasha Johnson – tubist for the National Ballet, and professor at the Glen Gould School, among other gigs in Montréal.  And now it’s the day after and I’m reading old entries of my blog and thinking “Dan, right idea, wrong execution”.  Not that it’s totally bad — I had the right idea after all, I just have a better way now.

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Sam Pilafian Masterclass, part 1

On Friday, November 4th, I had the chance to attend a masterclass by the iconic tubist, Sam Pilafian. I attended the morning session on breathing – a subject Sam knows much about, considering he’s the co-author of the Breathing Gym, along with Pat Sheridan. Sam has a long and storied career in the biz: founding member of the Empire Brass Quintet (the American counterpart to Canadian Brass), classical and jazz soloist (concerto competition winner), and recorded with the likes of the New York Phil, the Boston Symphony, the Met Opera Orchestra, and Pink Floyd. You can read *all* about him here. Continue reading

G#, how I love thee

The Pictures concert is in 2 days. I got a lesson with Sal Fratia earlier this week and he was so encouraging. We worked on general sections of the tuba part. Touching on volume, articulation, sustain and breathing. The Catacombae movement was discussed too. With such sustained and loud chords, I needed to figure out how to last and not have to break the slur lines. One little trick is to start the note at ‘ff’ but back off a little then crescendo towards the end before doing the real decrescendo into the next bar.

We also discussed using a larger mouthpiece for the movements other than Bydlo. I forgot to bring it (PT-72) on this trip to Toronto. So I’ll practice this weekend with it and bring it to the sound check and make a decision then.

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Face to Mouthpiece

This was a little tidbit from my lesson with Nick Atkinson, but it’s really affecting me.  Nick suggested I breath from the corners of my mouth without really pulling away from the mouthpiece.  The conclusion I drew from this is that my embouchure is maintained while I’m taking a breath.  This is very useful when needing to take a quick breath while in the outer ends of the tuba’s range because, for me at least, it reduces the chance of kacking or fluffing the next note because I’ve reset my embouchure when I pulled away (just a bit, but still) from the mouthpiece to breath.

But this is also helping me in another way — slurred octaves and fifths when warming up on the harmonic series.  C-G-C, etc.  I’m trying to remember the details of that moment with Nick, but I believe it also involved not sitting so lightly on the mouthpiece (but not so deep that the pressure adversely affects a free buzz).  Get inside a little bit.  This is really helping my harmonic series slurs (first three notes of each) by reducing the “flip” sound when switching notes (smoother and quicker transition).  I’m going to explore this further.

Lesson with Nick Atkinson

So during my trip to Ottawa from March 25 to 28, I was able to get a lesson with Nick Atkinson – my teacher from when I was going to the University of Ottawa.  At the time, he was the tubist for the National Arts Centre Orchestra, the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra, the Rideau Lakes Brass Quintet, and conductor of the UofO wind ensemble.  Today, he continues to play with the NACO, Rideau Lakes and now the Capital Brassworks (which didn’t exist back when I was going to school).  He no longer teaches at UofO, nor does he play with the OSO – both of those positions are taken up by Martin Labrosse, who was a student of Nick’s way back when.  Nick jokes that he’s getting old, but he’s as lively as ever — and sounds as good as ever.  That man is master of the Eb tuba.

So Nick and I met up at his place for the lesson.  Continue reading