Jan 9, 2010

Advice for the college bound high school trombonist

This month I want to talk about the high school trombone player looking to go to college in pursuit of a professional playing/teaching career. First it is important to realize how competitive it is to be admitted to the top music schools.

There is also a question of whether to major in trombone or get a music education degree and a minor in trombone. First of all, it is important to know that auditions for symphony orchestra's in this country do not require a degree in music, although in some European countries a degree is required to even audition. If a person is looking to eventually obtain a college teaching position, a masters degree is usually the minimum degree requirement. If however a student is looking only to be a playing professional, majoring in trombone is the best option. This decision should only be made with the understanding of the difficulty of succeeding in an industry where there are few jobs and many applicants. If you are willing to put in 4 years of really intensive study and practice, without falling victim to the good time college life, you may have a chance to be successful.

In choosing a place to study, as a budding instrumental major, I can't stress enough the importance of choosing the right teacher, rather than the school. This can be done through recommendation or actually acquainting yourself with the methods of a particular teacher. How much time can the teacher spend with you? How big is the studio? When I started college, there were only 2 trombone players in the school, which was a good thing for me because I had just started playing trombone after playing euphonium for 8 years. I didn't have anyone to compare myself to, and didn't get discouraged by being around far more advanced players. If I had been in a big program I might have realized how far behind I was and possibly given up. Maybe someone else would have thrived in a program with a large number of students, but at that time it was a good situation for me because I didn't know how far behind I was.

At what level should a student be at when starting a college degree? I can tell you what I look for. A student should be able to produce a reasonably resonant sound, and more importantly be able to tell when it is good and when it isn't. Also, I want to see a desire to achieve a good sound which is not as simple as it seems. If a student can't tell the difference when they are getting a good sound and not getting a good sound, then that is a problem that may not be overcome. You can teach technique, high register, etc, but the student must have an innate desire and ability to be aware of the sound they are making. What I am describing is a decent set of fundamentals, meaning an efficient relaxed way of playing and a sensible approach to dynamics and phrasing. I don't mind if a student is not familiar with the excerpt repertoire, as many high school students mainly study solo material. I don't automatically take the most advanced student, because no one can tell how far a certain person will progress in a program. I would rather take someone not so far along that has better fundamentals, because if somebody is far along in their schooling and still can't produce the type of sound and musicianship needed to be a successful player, chances are it won't happen with further schooling.

Bob Isele

I am sad to report the passing of one of the greatest trombone players of our time. Bob Isele, 91, was solo trombone of the Marine Band from 1937 to 1961. He also played in the National Symphony Orchestra from 1964-70. Bob was unequalled as an interpreter of the Arthur Pryor style of solo playing and anyone who heard his performances thought Pryor himself had returned to life. Bob's most famous "feet" was to play Pryor's "Blue Bells of Scotland" with the slide tied to his shoelace!

Mouthpiece Report

For the past several years the Parke mouthpiece company had been making copies of the mouthpiece I use. Since they seem to be no longer available, Karl Hammond Design, who made the original model, will be making my mouthpiece available to the many people who have asked for copies. I am also working with Karl on alto trombone, and small shank mouthpieces, which will be available shortly.

TenorPosaune Web Development