An Unexpected Apologetic for Adoption

I have been a Star Wars fan for really all of my adult life. As part of the “Star Wars Generation,” I grew up with a passing familiarity with and enjoyment of the original trilogy, but became more familiar with it as a teenager, first through video games and even a Dungeons and Dragons-type roleplaying game set in the Star Wars universe, and later through the Special Editions of the original trilogy released in theatres in the mid-90s. Since then, I have found the various Star Wars media—including movies, television, novels, and games—to be a type of easy escapism. They are not great literature, nor does the quality of the stories stand up to the intense scrutiny brought by a “toxic fanbase” that is looking for existentially significant experiences through popular media that are not designed to provide such. But again, as easy entertainment, Star Wars works just fine, and provides a break from my usually considerably weightier reading.

But that doesn’t mean that there are never moments of particular poignance in Star Wars, and one of these came during the finale of Obi-Wan Kenobi, which was released a few weeks ago. While the initial focus of this episode is on a duel between the titular character and his former apprentice and friend Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader, after Kenobi defeats and abandons Vader the focus shifts to the desert planet of Tatooine, where Skywalker’s young son Luke is in danger from Reva, a fallen Imperial Inquisitor determined to somehow exact vengeance upon Vader by destroying his son. (Ignore for the moment that Vader is at this point in the story unaware that he has surviving children, and will not become aware of this for over a decade.) Kenobi realizes Luke’s danger and rushes back to render aid, but is too late to be particularly effective.

Happily, in the meantime, Luke’s adoptive parents, Anakin’s stepbrother Owen Lars and his wife Beru, mount a heroic defense of their home and nephew. While they are no real match for Reva, they are able to delay her long enough to allow Luke to escape into the desert. Reva finds him, but thanks to a change of heart on her part (and the ironclad “plot armor” provided by the necessity that Luke survive to take on his role in the films and other media that occur later in the story’s timeline), she returns him unharmed, and all is well.

My point in writing today is the touching heroism of Owen and Beru Lars. That couple initially occupied a minor role in the story, and meets a violent demise in the original Star Wars film (which takes place about ten years after the events of Obi-Wan Kenobi). That their roles and their relationship with Luke are more fleshed out here is a nice addition to the story. Though Luke is not a blood relative of theirs, they not only gladly took him in as an infant, but they are clearly prepared to defend him at all costs, including at the risk of their own lives. In this context, Owen’s opposition to Luke undergoing Jedi training becomes not just a reactionary resistance based in his own conservatism and desire to “keep his head down,” but a well-intentioned desire to keep him safe. Put simply, Owen and Beru think of Luke as their son, and treat him as such. One cannot imagine there being any difference in their relationship if Luke were their own “flesh and blood.”

As an adoptive parent, this part of the story resonates deeply with me. Not only can I not imagine that our relationship with our son would be any different were he our biological child, I really don’t think about this very much at all. He simply is our son, and we are determined to love, teach, provide for, and defend him as we would had he been our biological child. While the particular circumstances of the Lars homestead might be different (i.e., we do not have caches of weapons strategically placed in our home in case of invasion), the self-sacrificial love that they are willing to show is, I’m sure, familiar to just about all adoptive parents. Most of us have heard the occasional “adoption horror story,” of course, but the “adoption love story” is much more common. While every adoption story brings with it some degree of pain and loss, our stories bring a much greater degree of love, joy, and fulfillment. Seeing that little subtext at the end of Obi-Wan Kenobi brought just a bit more depth to an already enjoyable series.

Posted in Adoption, Parenting, Popular Culture, Star Wars | Comments Off on An Unexpected Apologetic for Adoption

“Due North” Complete Performance Recordings

This past March I presented a recital of music for trombone, euphonium, and tuba with piano by Scandinavian composers. Entitled “Due North,” the program highlights some lovely music by composers that are perhaps “off the beaten path” a bit, yet from a part of the world that has produced some very fine low brass music over the years. This was the first complete solo program I had performed since 2019, as pandemic restrictions prevented my doing so for over two years. The program went relatively well and was well-received, the only disappointment being that I did not receive the recordings until this week! I’m happy to share this live performance, “warts and all,” with readers of The Reforming Trombonist.

Trygve Madsen (b. 1940): Euphonium Concertino, op. 123

Vagn Holmboe (1909-1996): Trombone Sonata, op. 172a

Axel Jørgensen (1881-1947): Romance, op. 21

Arild Plau (1920-2005): Tuba Concerto

Posted in Arild Plau, Axel Jørgensen, Doubling, Euphonium, Music, Performance Videos, Performances, Tenor Trombone, Trygve Madsen, Tuba, Vagn Holmboe | Comments Off on “Due North” Complete Performance Recordings

On Video Games and Neural Pathways

When I started this blog ten (!) years ago I found it considerably easier to write frequently (usually weekly) than I do now. The change is mainly due to my son, who was two then and family life centered around the home, with my wife staying home with him full time. Now he is twelve and has numerous activities that require our time and attention, and Mrs. Everett has long since returned to teaching music herself. Add to that a steadily increasing slate of responsibilities at church, and my ability to sit and write “for fun” has declined precipitously. Nevertheless, I enjoy writing here and intend to continue doing so for the foreseeable future, even if with reduced frequency.

My last post here, almost exactly three months ago, used a video game comparison to illustrate a problem in music teaching, and I’ll be using a related illustration today. Imagine with me, if you will. It is the summer of 1991, and the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) has just been released. You have just turned twelve years old and you are thrilled that your parents purchased this new system for your birthday. The only small disappointment is that so far the only game you own is the one that came with the system, Super Mario World. While other games will follow, for the time being you are content with this one, and are greatly enjoying the improved graphics and more expansive world building made possible by the more advanced technology of this new system. At twelve, you are not yet quite clever enough to be amused by the trope of having the stages of the game steadily increase in difficulty and complexity, while the main bosses, once reached, are consistently incompetent and easily defeated.

That was my life in the summer of 1991, and it was a pretty good one. I spent way too much time playing Super Mario World and, with a little help from Nintendo Power magazine (there was no Google or YouTube yet, remember?), finished the game before school started. I didn’t realize it then, but I was also establishing neural pathways that would persist years into the future.

Just a few days ago, my son asked if we could purchase a subscription to Nintendo Switch Online. He was interested in playing some of the games from older systems that were available through the online service, and suggested offsetting the cost by canceling another, rarely-used service to which our family had subscribed. This seemed reasonable, so I purchased the subscription. I have also enjoyed revisiting some of the games from my childhood, including Super Mario World. While this is unsurprising, I have been surprised by the extent to which my memories of how to overcome the various challenges of the game have remained mostly intact over thirty years later, as have the instinctive actions needed for effective gameplay. Not that I haven’t had to “dust things off” a little, but I am far from starting from scratch. Even my son is impressed!

Now, what does that have to do with brass playing…or anything important? Only this: repetitive actions establish neural pathways that enable the brain and body to act instinctively and efficiently, and these can persist even after years of disuse. I didn’t have to relearn how to play Super Mario World; I just had to, in a manner of speaking, find those old paths again. Effectiveness in playing a musical instrument depends on this same phenomenon. Daily practice establishes neural pathways that enable music making to take place largely on an instinctive and subconscious level. This frees the player from the burden of consciously thinking about “how to play,” so that the conscious mind can focus more on “how it goes.”

But, there’s a catch. While good habits and correct technique establish neural pathways that facilitate great playing, poor habits and faulty technique establish neural pathways that facilitate poor playing. Habits that are continually reinforced become ingrained, whether good or bad. Have you ever noticed that, even after years of playing and practicing correctly, sometimes an old bad habit that you thought you had long since overcome begins to find its way into your playing again? Somehow, those familiar paths persist, and while poor habits can and must be replaced with good ones, well-established poor habits can easily reassert themselves and must be guarded against.

Playing a musical instrument well is an enormously complex task, and effectiveness requires a mix of instinct and conscious awareness. Training those instincts requires daily and systematic practice in which good playing habits (and thus the neural pathways associated with these) are further ingrained and strengthened. Poor habits, sadly, never fully go away once established; they are only replaced with good habits that must be, again, continually reinforced. The better we train our young students in good habits from the beginning of their playing careers, the greater their likelihood of persisting in those habits in the long term, and avoiding the arduous and continual task of replacing poor habits in the future.

Speaking of Super Mario World, I was just involved in a multitrack recording project that presented one of the themes from the game, arranged for a massive trombone ensemble. It was a fun project and the end result was really great. I hope you enjoy it!

Posted in Alto Trombone, Baritone Horn, Bass Trombone, Contrabass Trombone, Daily Routine, Euphonium, Music, Neural Pathways, Pedagogy, Performing, Playing Fundamentals, Practicing, Recordings, Teaching Low Brass, Technology, Tenor Trombone, Trombone, Tuba, Video Games | Comments Off on On Video Games and Neural Pathways

“This is an Etude. It is not The Legend of Zelda, and it’s not 1987.”

As a child of the 80s (okay, born in the very late 70s, but I don’t remember any of it), I am increasingly convinced that I grew up in the best time to ever be a kid. The internet was not yet a reality in most households (perhaps thankfully), but we had cable television and plenty of great cartoons, and even though most of those cartoons were basically 22-minute toy commercials, we had a ball watching them. Despite the only thinly-veiled profit motive behind their production, most cartoons of the time had at least a working moral compass with an obvious dichotomy between good and evil (He-Man was good, Skeletor was evil; the Autobots were good, the Decepticons were evil; G.I. Joe was good, Cobra was evil…you get the point). Popular entertainment nowadays—including programs intended for children—contains a great deal more moral ambiguity, which is perhaps more realistic but arguably unhelpful. But, that is a digression from my present point. For now, suffice it to say, again, that the entertainment options enjoyed by kids in the 80s were great.

There was a Legend of Zelda cartoon, too, whose purpose was–you guessed it–to entice kids to buy video games.

Those entertainment options included the very earliest home video game systems, and during that great decade, my family had first an Atari 2600 and, later, the first iteration of the Nintendo Entertainment System. To be sure, the graphics and sound of the NES are rather crude to modern eyes and ears, but the 8-bit graphics were a massive improvement over the Atari, and the gameplay was decidedly better. The first three Super Mario Bros. games were released on that system, as well as the first two entries in The Legend of Zelda franchise. I still remember receiving a copy of the first Zelda game and being first taken by the shiny gold (i.e., gold-colored plastic) casing on the game cartridge, and then very intrigued by this concept of saving one’s game. Unlike previous games that were played from beginning to end in a single sitting, Zelda was intended for more long-term play, and allowed the player to save his or her progress at various points. This not only facilitated a more expansive world-covering adventure than had been possible previously, but meeting an unfortunate end in some battle did not necessitate restarting the game at the beginning, but instead at the most recent save point. While players of modern video games might take this concept for granted, in 1987 it was still pretty new, or at least new to me.

See all those enemies? The music and action would have almost certainly slowed down until some were eliminated.

As great as the original Zelda game was, though, the gameplay was sometimes clumsy or confusing, and occasionally the amount of activity on the screen would overwhelm the modest computing power of the NES. Remarkably, the game rarely froze entirely, but the action of both player and enemies and the music would slow down until enough enemies were dispatched to reduce the number of moving objects to a more manageable level. (The rest of you 80s kids remember what I’m talking about.) As a music teacher, I am often reminded of this little phenomenon during my students’ lessons.

For better or worse, most of my students’ early musical training leads them to place much greater emphasis on pitch accuracy than on rhythmic accuracy. This most often manifests itself in students slowing down the tempo when the rhythmic activity becomes more pronounced, and sometimes in obliterating all sense of rhythm or time in the interest of “chasing notes.” It’s as if we’re right back in 1987, and each of those sixteenth notes is an “enemy” that makes the CPU (i.e., the student’s brain) slow down until “Link” can destroy enough of them to allow running at normal speed again. While it is wholly unremarkable that most students in 2022 have no idea what I’m talking about when I tell them that their playing reminds me of playing The Legend of Zelda in the 80s, I do find it remarkable that many of them do not seem to notice that they slow down at the “hard parts,” and others do not seem to understand that this is a problem.

So what is the solution? One way or another, students must be brought to understand one important yet counterintuitive idea: rhythm and time are more important than pitch. While we tend to think that the melody is the most important aspect of any tune, the rhythm actually plays a greater role in making it recognizable. As an experiment, simply tap the rhythm of a well-known tune (like “Mary Had a Little Lamb” or “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”) on a table and ask people if they recognize it. Chances are, they will. Now, pick another tune and play the pitches in order, but completely out of rhythm. Your listeners will almost certainly have more difficulty identifying the chosen song. The rhythm really is more important.

Moreover, good timing (thinking here of a felt sense of “the beat” more than the rhythm) is important not only for musical reasons but also technical ones. A solid sense of time will lead to better coordination of breath, articulation, and the various other elements of technical execution. This is interrupted when one slows down to accommodate difficult rhythms.

All of that said, slowing down to “get the notes” in a difficult passage does hit on one important aspect of addressing musical challenges: complex tasks are best mastered by reducing them to series of simple tasks. Students who slow down while learning the pitches probably intend to improve their rhythmic performance in the future, but for the reasons discussed above, this effort will almost certainly be more successful if approached in the reverse order. Master the rhythm first, and then learn the pitches. This promotes better time, better coordination, and better accuracy. It’s okay if a slower tempo is necessary at first, so long as a consistent tempo is maintained throughout rather than varying according to difficulty.  

To be honest, sometimes I miss 1987. I mean, being eight years old was pretty great, Ronald Reagan was still president, and the Saints went to the playoffs for the first time. And yes, I loved playing the original Zelda game on the old NES system, but that was a video game, not performing music. When playing an etude or performance piece, maintaining steady rhythm and time is of primary importance, no matter how many “enemies” are on the page.

Posted in Breathing, Music, Music Education, Musical Interpretation, Pedagogy, Performing, Playing Fundamentals, Popular Culture, Practicing, Rhythm and Time, Teaching Low Brass, The 1980s, Video Games | Comments Off on “This is an Etude. It is not The Legend of Zelda, and it’s not 1987.”

Preparing for College and University Auditions

One of the first articles posted on this blog back in 2012 was a list of Fifteen Steps to Playing a Better All-State Audition. That piece was so popular and, I believe, so important that I have reposted it yearly in the early fall. Because auditions for college and university music programs typically occur in the spring, it is appropriate for a comparable article on that subject to appear at this time of year. All of the items listed in that previous article apply equally to college and university auditions, so I have repeated only a few of them here in cases where some targeting to a different audition context is necessary. The suggestions here mainly address items specific to college and university auditions.

The type of student that I have in mind as I write is the typical aspiring undergraduate music education student auditioning for admission, scholarships, and ensemble placement in a moderately selective music department at a state college or university (in other words, the type of student I usually hear and the type of program in which I teach). Those auditioning for conservatory programs or other highly selective environments will apply these words of advice somewhat differently. While these ideas appeared previously in separate posts targeted toward freshmen and transfer students, I have decided that the two scenarios are similar enough to warrant combining the ideas from those previous articles into this current form.

1. Practice daily…and not just when the audition is near.

This should not even need to be said, particularly for aspiring (and current) music majors, but it does. Perhaps I’m becoming less patient as I get older, but it seems to me that students practice less and less as the years go by. This is definitely true among the high school students I hear (an observation confirmed by their band directors), and is even true among college music majors (performance majors excluded…mostly). Students will attempt to cram for big auditions, juries, or sometimes even lessons, but we all know this doesn’t work. The ability to play an instrument well has to develop over time, with deliberate and repetitive practice serving to increase physical strength and facility, eliminate errors, and reinforce good habits. The music faculty members that hear your audition will know the difference between a student who has crammed and a student who has been practicing diligently over the long haul. They want the latter type of student and will make every effort to get that student to come to their school. (In other words, they will offer you more money!) Practice diligently and daily, even when there isn’t a big audition coming.

2. Take private lessons.

Even the best band director lacks the time and expertise to work individually and on a high level with students on every instrument. As with the decreased practice time I just mentioned, it seems that fewer high school students are taking regular private lessons than did a generation or two ago. And yet this is the best way to ensure that you will play at the highest possible level (provided that you are practicing, of course). Ask your band director for the names of capable teachers in your area. Local professional players, band directors that are specialists on your instrument, and college and university faculty and students are possible sources of such lessons. If the cost is prohibitive or you have to drive a great distance to reach the nearest teacher, biweekly or even monthly lessons are better than none at all, and many teachers are willing to set up such schedules. Nowadays online lessons are even a possibility, and I have begun teaching several high school students this way. Remember that these lessons really will pay off, not only in improved musicianship but also in higher scholarship offers. They might literally pay for themselves!

Community college students will, of course, have lessons included with their curricula. Make sure you are coming to each lesson thoroughly prepared so your teacher can help you position yourself for success at the next level.

3. Develop playing fundamentals.

One of my trombone teachers was a student of Emory Remington (1891-1971) at the Eastman School of Music, a name that is virtually synonymous with the phrase “daily routine.” Remington advocated the daily practice of fundamental exercises in order to develop his students’ playing to the highest possible level, and if anything, I have only expanded upon that, recommending that high school and most university students complete a 20-minute routine each day before moving on to practicing scales and repertoire. (For performance majors, my recommended routine is more thorough, requiring 45-50 minutes.) The temptation to forego repetitive exercises in order to spend additional time on repertoire is tremendous, and many students give in to it. Resist that temptation, and invest the time to seriously develop your fundamental playing skills on a daily basis. You’ll soon find yourself able to tackle more and better repertoire in less time as a result. Diligent fundamentals practice isn’t a time-waster—it’s a time saver! Remember, too, that unlike an audition for all-state bands or similar groups, those evaluating your playing in a college or university audition are not listening for your present playing ability only, but are also gauging your potential for further development. If you already have at least most of your “ducks in a row” fundamentally speaking, you will be a much more desirable recruit for university-level programs.

4. Master your scales and arpeggios.

For college and university auditions scale and arpeggio requirements will vary from school to school; if you are unsure what the expectations are at a particular school, check the music department website for instructions. If you are still unsure, call or email either the band director or the professor who teaches your instrument. In most cases all of the major scales are required for entering freshmen along with a chromatic scale. Community college students wanting to transfer to a university and enter at the junior level will also need to know minor scales (all forms) along with major and minor arpeggios. Students demonstrating familiarity and facility with required scale and arpeggio patterns will be very well received, indeed.

5. Learn clefs and transposition.

I started learning to read in tenor clef during my junior year of high school and added alto clef during my senior year. While learning clefs is certainly approachable for high school trombonists (at least for those that aspire to becoming music majors), few do so, and I end up introducing them during the initial semesters of college-level study. Likewise, with euphonium players reading both treble clef and bass clef parts—I occasionally get an aspiring freshman that can already read both, but only occasionally. Still, if you come to the audition having already begun to develop these skills, you will show yourself to be an ambitious student that will be a desirable addition to a college or university program. If you play an instrument for which transposing at sight is commonly required (such as trumpet or horn), beginning to develop these skills before beginning college is similarly advisable. As is the case with major and minor scales and arpeggios, students transferring from community colleges should make sure to be proficient in all required clefs and/or transpositions when entering the university. Including repertoire that demonstrates these skills in your audition materials is often wise.

6. Choose good repertoire.

College and university auditions typically require scales, possibly arpeggios, a prepared piece or two, and sight-reading. While some schools have a list from which prospective students are required to choose audition pieces, others simply want to hear any piece or pieces which give an accurate representation of your abilities. At the latter type of school, many high school students choose to play their all-state band audition etudes, which is usually acceptable but uninteresting. If you want to impress the faculty members on the audition panel (and particularly the teacher for your primary instrument), perform selections from the standard solo or study repertoire for your instrument. Playing a piece from this repertoire sends a message to the audition panel that you are developing a basic familiarity with your instrument’s standard literature. This indicates curiosity, usually a desirable trait among university students. If you are not familiar with your instrument’s solo and study repertoire or are otherwise not sure where to start, see if the applied teacher at the school for which you are auditioning has a solo list for freshmen published online, perhaps in a course syllabus for applied lessons. If you can’t find such information at that particular school, a Google search will yield listings of appropriate pieces from comparable institutions. You can also call or email the applied professor; trust me, he or she will appreciate the initiative taken to ask for help in choosing a great audition piece. Of course, if you are taking private lessons (whether as a high school student or community college transfer) your teacher will be able to help you make a good choice. Listening to recordings of great professional players on your instrument is also a good way to develop an awareness of your instrument’s repertoire. Real, commercially produced recordings, that is. Not YouTube.

7. Choose good repertoire for you.

Don’t just choose any standard solo work or etude, though. Choose something that makes you sound good, something that exploits your strengths while drawing less attention to weaknesses. This will require purchasing and reading through several pieces in order to choose the best one for you. Great players will make even the hardest pieces sound great on their recordings, and sometimes your first reading of a piece that sounded interesting and approachable on the recording will reveal that it is presently beyond your reach. Every player—at every level—has “chinks in his armor,” and the audition panel will be at least somewhat aware of yours regardless of the piece you play. Still, there is no need to give undue exposure to weak areas of your playing. Choose a piece that challenges and excites you, and that ultimately allows you to sound your very best.

8. Prize beauty, expression, and taste more than technical display.

Perhaps the biggest difference between all-state type auditions and college and university auditions is that in the former context playing “high, fast, and loud” is often rewarded, while in the latter beauty of tone and maturity of expression are most prized. Although at the college level we want to hear a prospective student demonstrate technical mastery, in many respects, this is easier to teach and develop than “musical” skill. Playing with a great sound and demonstrating even the most nascent sense of musical direction will impress university faculty members more than showing us how many notes you can play in two minutes. (Of course, if you can deliver the whole package of technique, tone, and expression that will be even better!)

9. Practice sight-reading.

Sight-reading is a big part of just about every audition, yet many students neglect to practice it. While some perhaps think of sight-reading as a “you’ve either got it or you don’t” type of skill, in reality, it can be developed and improved with regular practice. While there are method books published with the express purpose of being used for sight-reading development, practically any piece of music can be used for this purpose. Read anything and everything you can find, spending at least a few minutes each day on this kind of practice. If you aren’t sure you’re getting it right, ask your band director, applied teacher, or some other knowledgeable person to listen and evaluate your reading. Recording yourself and listening to the playback can also be helpful (for this and every other part of the audition!). Sight-reading practice can also be a good forum for developing basic familiarity with the standard repertoire for your instrument. Purchase as many solos and method books as you can afford and get to reading!

10. Remember the purpose of your audition.

Finally, remember that while you are auditioning for admission and scholarships, the initial audition for a college or university program is usually not competitive in the sense that you are auditioning for chair placement or otherwise determining your place in the “pecking order” at that school. Your goal should be to give a favorable but accurate demonstration of your playing and knowledge, showing yourself to be a capable, curious, and ambitious student with the desire and ability to grow as a musician and contribute to great performances during the course of your time in the music department. Do that, and both admission and scholarships will follow.

Additional Advice for Community College Transfers

One peculiar aspect of teaching music at a university in Mississippi is that many of our students transfer here after spending one or two years at a community college. While the presence of community colleges and of transfer students is not unique to Mississippi, not every state has community colleges with large and active music departments, complete with highly qualified faculty, private lessons, ensembles (including marching band), theory courses, etc. While the transition from community college to university is relatively seamless for students in some majors, music students can find themselves repeating many or even all of their sophomore music courses based upon the results of entrance auditions and exams. These remaining thoughts might be of help to transfer students hoping to make the transition as smooth and as free of repeated coursework as possible.

11. In music theory, take great notes, study hard, and find out what the university courses cover.

Music theory is perhaps the area in which the greatest number of music transfer students find themselves repeating material. In some cases, this has to do simply with poor preparation or study habits on the part of the student. If you are “barely getting by” in theory at the community college and studying very little, chances are that you are not truly mastering the material and will find your recall to be severely wanting when you take your theory placement exam at the university. Sometimes, though, even bright, diligent, well-prepared students experience difficulty in some area or another, leading to a recommendation that one or two semesters of theory be repeated. This might be due to some incongruity between the theory curricula at the two schools. Perhaps the courses at the university cover certain concepts that the comparable courses at the community college do not, or perhaps there is simply a difference in terminology used at the two institutions that might cause confusion. Reach out to students that you know at the university and ask them if you can see a syllabus or even some assignments to see what you need to be learning. You could even email the university theory faculty with your questions. Finally, check the music department website; there may be a study guide to help you prepare for the placement exam. I have seen students avoid an entire year of repeated work simply by asking questions, finding information, and diligently reviewing their theory class notes for a few weeks before the placement exam is given.

12. In applied music, practice diligently, learn standard repertoire, and master your scales.

While applied faculty members will gladly admit adequately prepared transfer students at the junior level, my colleagues and I usually find ourselves having transfer students enter at the second-semester sophomore level in the lesson sequence. More rarely, a student is asked to repeat both sophomore semesters. Why is this so? In most cases, the cause is simple: lack of overall practice and preparation. A student who plays with an uncharacteristic sound, poor technique, poor sight-reading ability, etc. is simply not ready to enter at the junior level, likewise, a student who does not know all of the major and minor scales and arpeggios or lacks familiarity with standard instructional and performance repertoire. For trombone players, I would add lack of skill reading tenor and alto clefs and for euphonium players reading both treble and bass clefs. While in some cases a student’s deficiency is due to some physical issue that needs to be addressed, most often the culprit is lack of diligent practice and study. Go to the woodshed and get to work!

13. Remember that faculty members’ primary goal is to see you succeed.

As a teacher, I often say that the truest measure of my success is not my playing ability, my knowledge of advanced pedagogical techniques, or my published writing or recording projects. Rather, the truest measure of my success is the success of my students in the professional world. Most students who pass through my studio are aspiring school band directors, and nothing is more professionally fulfilling for me than seeing students with whom I have worked for two, three, four, or more years go out into the world and use the tools I and my colleagues have provided them to build great music programs of their own. Indeed, not only my professional fulfillment but also my continued good reputation and that of my colleagues and my institution depend on having our students be as successful as possible in the profession. If we think having you make a seamless transition from the community college to the university with no repeated coursework will best contribute to your success, we will do that. If we believe that the review and development of concepts and skills that come from repeating some material will best for you, we will recommend that you do that. And by the way, this policy is not limited to transfer students—we will just as readily demand repeated courses from current university students when we deem it necessary and have often done so. There are no double standards. Whether you choose to start at a community college or go to a university immediately after high school, good, old-fashioned hard work will be required if you want to be successful in the music business. Good luck!

Posted in Alto Trombone, Auditions, Baritone Horn, Bass Trombone, Career Choices, Community Colleges, Contrabass Trombone, Daily Routine, Education, Emory Remington, Euphonium, Higher Education, Music, Music Education, Music Theory, Pedagogy, Playing Fundamentals, Practicing, Scales and Arpeggios, Sight Reading, Teaching Low Brass, Tenor Trombone, Trombone, Tuba | Comments Off on Preparing for College and University Auditions