Recently, I was re-reading a short interview from the Juilliard Journal with Dan Druckman. Dan was
(and still is) chair of the percussion department and director of the percussion ensemble at "the yard" and is just simply one of the finest musicians I ever had the chance to work with. I was lucky to play in his group and have the chance to take a handful of lessons with him during my college years.
In the article, Dan said that he wants his students to do whatever is necessary to be prepared on stage
Somehow, reading this now, where I am in my own career, really resonated with me.
This sense of doing what is necessary, with the underlying subtext being ( no matter what) is often missing from today's teaching.
I can assure you, I did not always feel like I was in "a safe place" in Dan's rehearsals, or in Jonathan's rehearsals, or in Abel's lessons - but those experiences sure did drive me to do what was necessary to be prepared. I would practice when I was tired, or it was late, or I was hungry, or whatever....I did what was necessary.
As students, you aren't always going to feel good about what you are doing - hell you may even really dislike your teacher or ensemble director for a period. I certainly had negative thoughts about my teachers/conductors.
At the risk of sounding like the old man yelling at kids on his lawn - the job of a teacher isn't always to make you feel good (!!!!). I do think about my students well-being ( often more then my own teachers did) but at the end of the day my job is to prepare you for a VERY challenging profession. playing in an orchestra, working as a chamber musician, teaching at the college level - these are difficult and rewarding professions - you have to be ready to make it happen.
I didn't always do what was necessary, but when I did, each time it produced a performance that I still remember to this day.
Students - if you are serious about this - Do what is necessary. Practice at night, in the early AM, when you are sick, when you are "sad". Study scores, go to concerts, network - do, what is necessary.
Since the start of my professional career, either by design or by decree, I've been closely involved in recruiting students. I would like to think I've build a bit of a reputation as a program builder.
Beyond anything I've done as a player, conductor, or teacher, one common theme has been the ability to attract students to programs, but year round academic programs and summer festivals.
Some people think this is not a teachable skill, that you either "have it" or you don't. I do not believe this is the case.
Recruiting is a skill, something that can be studied, practiced, and personalized. I've learned quite a bit talking to hundreds (if not thousands) of students and parents over the last 15 years. What works, what doesn't and what it really takes to get someone into your program.
So, some thoughts, which may or may not turn into a larger lecture/clinic/presentation
Meet people where they are:
Most often, if you are being brought into a program to "build" or "develop" you are likely taking over a program that has been neglected, or was never fully developed in the first place. You have high expectations, clear ideas as to what you want to accomplish, and the personal talent to make it happen. But you don't have the people to impliment your vision.
The first thing you MUST NOT DO is "beat up" what you have...you need to meet the students you have where they are and build them up. Set a standard and hold them to it, but Don't lie to them ( "you are the most amazing group of students EVER"), BUT DON'T ATTACK THEM EITHER. You start with what you have, give them some early successes, and build from there.
Think about "quality of life" issues first
Again, try to score some quick victories. Is the studio dirty? - get it cleaned up. Instruments need repair, do some simple repairs to make things function better. Lost equipment? Create an inventory. Take care of them a little, and they will take care of you.
Think about the culture
Be around. Go to student concerts. Check out their rehearsals. Show them you care about what they are doing now. If you are at a college program, visit the academic advisor and get the course outlines. Set a standard and show that you are involved. Take an interest in the students. Ask how their classes are going... Let them know you care and that you are paying attention.
Have some early victories
create opportunities for the students to achieve. Get them on a concert series, bring them to a local school to perform. Invite guests to work with them. Don't apply to PASIC after a year, but create opportunities for them succeed.
Just a few suggestions. Step two.... What do you do when you've started to build something. Adjusting expectations, raising the bar, and creating a competitive yet inclusive environment.
Summer is over ( even if it is hot outside) and we are back to another semester of performing and teaching. Even with my summer festival work at Sewanee and Music for All, there is still nothing like the feeling of this time of year. The excitement, the anxiety, the potential. The clean studios. The freshly dry-cleaned shirts. It is great. I love it.
Also - I think it's a good time to remind all students studying music who may read this of one important thing:
You. Are. not. A. Special. Snowflake.
Congratulations on making it to a college or conservatory program, good for you.
Now, that's enough.
No more congratulations until you do something with your career.
You have to get to work. It is no one's job to motivate you - you made the decision to go into music.
Somewhere, right now there is someone practicing who is going to beat you at an audition. When you are complaining your teacher is mean to you, or the practice rooms are too hot, or too cold, or the marimba isn't at the right height, or the timpani aren't completely clear - some kid is playing on lousy drums, in a small hot room - and that kid is going to whip you in an audition.
Also - while I'm at it - I'm not a special snowflake either. I need to keep practicing, working, studying, reading and learning to get better, smarter, and more effective as a performer and teacher.
So - enjoy the first week back, catch up with your friends, check out a party or two...and then get into the studio and do the work. No one else can do it for you.
I have been thinking quite a bit this summer about careers, and the progression one takes from high school ( I think I want to be a music major) to college ( wait, am I a music major?) onward to graduate school (OH GOD I'M A MUSIC MAJOR). How do we prioritize what is important at each step, what matters, and how much a student should have the opportunity to do their own thing VS. following the path before them.
I have never really been a "do your thing" kind of player, or teacher. There are, in my view, clear pathways set down before every student, and before you can re- invent the world, you have to actually the right things, first, in order to become a solid player and musician.
From time to time I have students ask me questions that are basically variations on the theme "why do I have to do this this way"' why do I have to play Bach, or Time for Marimba, or excerpts or whatever.... And my answer is, because every developed player in the world prior to you has done this, so do it.... And I'm finding this answer not working as well as it use to.
Let me be more direct. You can have the coolest skinny jeans in the world, and the slickest website, and the best elevator speech in the history of classical music.... If you cannot produce something meaningful as an artist, then you are just an empty shell. A fraud. You must understand how music works, understand the classics, and be able to produce great art from the established cannon, or you are just a joke.
I find often ( but not exclusively) in the percussion world that students can become more concerned with endorsements, social media and content marketing then the mechanics of being an artist.
When you are a student you have one job.....Learn. How. To. Be. A. Musician. You do not need a website, or a fan page, or snapchat. You need to learn how to play well. REALLY well. You need to listen to your teacher and colleagues and other musicians. And go to concerts. And learn about music. All kinds of music. Attend festivals, and practice.... Relentlessly.
To me there is no shortcut, no way around the work of practicing and studying. Do that, and other things will work themselves out. This does not mean you ignore learning the business, or networking, or thinking about what you want to do... Heck I wrote a blog post about career planning....and My own career has taken paths that I did not expect in the least. However, I'm deeply grateful I learned how to play....
I did not have a website until I had a career, my YouTube channel didn't get me one festival job, and not one student has come to study with me because I have Instagram. I have what I have, and hopefully my career as a player, teacher and conductor will continue to grow because I am good at what I do, not because of hits on a website.
Go, get to work. Learn your Bach, your Porgy, your 2/3 clave, and your Carter. Talk to me about a website or matching jeans in a few years.
our 3rd annual summer percussion academy at George Mason University.
I've been thinking about time lately. Years ago, when I was in college, someone said to me " the most valuable thing you have in your life is time" and I didn't know what they were talking about. Cause I had TONS of time back then. Now - I still have time, but not as much as I did when I was 20. I have more responsibilities now, of course, and less time to just do "what I want". I think students forget that they have a short window of time in their life to actually DO what they want to do - 4 years seems like an eternity - yeah.... it isn't. You must make the best of every moment you have - each lesson, ensemble rehearsal, clinic, master class, all are important. You also have to learn and study and think about priorities - what matters now. You have to juggle what matters to you, and what matters to your teachers, friends and family.
Early in your life, you are likely not able to set very many of your own priorities - you are learning pieces that your teacher gave you, or writing papers that someone else assigned. Gradually, you'll start to have to take more ownership of your own life, and time, and how you use that time. What you do with that time will set the stage for your career and your life. Asking - "why am I doing this, does this get me to my end goal" is an important question to have at the front of your mind.
Don't just float through the business - manage it, plan, and use the time you have to the best of your ability. Before you know it, someone will want you to actually make a living doing this
There are many great books on the topic of time management and planning. I've found First Things First by Stephen R Covey ( author of the 7 habits of highly effective people) to be useful. Also, for a more focused book on the music career, I can recommend Beyond Talent: Creating a Successful Career in Music by Angela Myles Beeching.
Over the next few weeks I'll be posting additional books, lists and ideas on the topic of career planning and performance.
Some great images from the summer- I'll be posting items from Music for All and more performances from the 2016 Sewanee Summer Music Festival
I'm nearing the end of my 6th summer at the Sewanee Summer Music Festival. my first engagement at Sewanee was in 1993, I was a dopey high school kid who thought music was fun, but basically had no clue about the profession. When I left Sewanee that summer, I was still pretty dopey, but I came home with one major idea - I love music, and somehow, I'm going to make this my profession. Period. It took me many years to actually become a professional, and I had many more influences along the way - but I can look to this one specific moment, summer 1993 at the Sewanee Summer Music Center( now festival), as the spark, the moment that sent me down the path I currently walk. I will always be grateful to the teachers I met and worked with that summer, many of whom, Frank Shaffer and Bruce Dinkins in particular, became lifelong friends, mentors and colleagues.
Summer Music Festivals can be transformative places, intensive opportunities to try out new ideas, perform, take risks and really think about why and what you want to do as a musician. They are also places to improve, push yourself and see how you stack up against players from other programs across the US. I've made lifelong connections from my experiences at various festivals, and I would not trade what I learned there for anything - my summer music experience is at least as valuable as anything I did in college or graduate school.
When I student tells me " gosh, I really want to do a festival but they are too expensive" or "I need the time off" or "I don't know, I think I'll just stay home and practice" I usually get pretty annoyed. If you are serious, you invest in yourself, in your education and in your career. You have your ENTIRE lifetime to work, but you won't work the way you want to if you do not invest in developing the musical ideas, playing experience professional networks needed to be a successful musician.
GO - go right now, and start planning for your 2017 summer festival experience, you will not regret it.
Over the last couple of weeks - I've done the following
1. Hosted Virginia All State Band and Orchestra at Mason
2. Played 10 performances of Carmina Burana at the Kennedy Center
3. Played ( and continue to play) Anvils in Das Reingold with the Washington Opera
4. coached chamber music/ taught private lessons
5. taught lessons
6. recruited students
7. Planned my part of a summer festival
9. did a clinic for a HS orchestra
10. prepared my college band for an upcoming concert
at some point, I'm sure I slept, ate and maybe even made some time for friends/family. This is called a life in music. It is a snapshot of what I do, and likely similar to what other musicians do every day. I am lucky - most, if not all of what I have listed above is work that I sought out, and I am honored to have had the chance to do - it is diverse, interesting, challenging and fun. I'm grateful to have had the opportunity.
This is called a life in music - it is about being organized, dedicated, driven and focused. It is about selecting and using your time wisely, and being open, regularly, to self evaluation and review of processes. It is about working hard, and understanding that the phrase " I wanna be a music major" doesn't mean just "I wanna play" but it means being committed, in my view, to a career in the music industry that is dynamic and rewarding
a short post I hope to expand on later.
I love when students audition for our program and tell me "I want a career in an orchestra"
This is still the standard path for percussionists, and typically one of two ( the other being marching percussion) access points or inspirational moments for most young players
However, the more I teach and the more I see what's happening in our field, I would like to offer a suggestion
Prepare for a career as a musician, not for a career taking auditions.
You don't know what the business will look like and you don't know what your career will become.
But if you are dedicated and prepared and a little lucky, you'll be able to do well. Study with people who prepare musicians, not excerpt jocks.
As an undergrad, Learn how to play in an orchestra, play in a chamber group, play solo percussion and marimba.
Become a better musician. Prepare for a life in music.
I have written before about gratitude, being happy for the opportunities you have in the business. That is all still true.
I think everyone needs to remember that we are LUCKY to be musicians, LUCKY to have people who want to hear from us, and fortunate to have a life filled with bringing people some degree of joy through the arts
I also like to be busy... Some say too busy. However I also find it very important to stop and reflect a little.... Look for patterns, places I can do better, and things I can point to and be proud of. Get moving, and keep moving, be leave a little time ( a few hours, or a day) to reflect and meditate on what you have done, and what is coming up.....
Speak of - the next few weeks take me to the pit of the Kennedy center, the stage of the atlas performing arts center, a shared recital with chad burrow in Virginia and Michigan, a master class at nyu and finally to the music for all national festival in Indianapolis. Whew, hold on tight
quick update - off to Lincoln Nebraska this week to conduct an honor band, looking forward to one more week of guest conducting. After this week, I'll be spending a few weeks performing as an orchestral percussionist and chamber musician. Looking forward to returning to the back of the orchestra, and sharing the stage with some terrific performers - more to come on that
I was thinking today about what students worry about - often students see professional musicians at a certain point in our careers and think "if I don't do that by a certain time....I'm a failure" They see fancy websites, podcasts, concert performances, tours and audition success - What they don't see, unless we tell them, are our own failures.
They didn't see us shedding for auditions at 2AM, or getting our resume's rejected from auditions, or loosing competitions, or cold calling contractors/players in town to get gigs - or teaching 20-30 or 40 lessons a week to pay the bills. They were not there when you first started your program, had to beg for students, or struggled to pay the bills. Every "successful" musician has a story to tell the next generation - it isn't always easy to tell, and you certainly don't pull the curtain back all together at once - but being honest about the business and the work it takes to do well - that matters.
been a little while since I last posted.... Winter break ( I actually took a break) and the start of the semester kept me busy.
I'm now sitting at a chilis in Pittsburgh, on the second of three consecutive weeks on the road. This time it is conducting, and I'm having a wonderful time working with some truly terrific students. First, Austin Texas, conducting the region 18 5A wind ensemble, one of 5 honor bands. Had a terrific time with some really wonderful musicians and colleagues. Got to visit with and do some classes Kathy Humphrey at Cele middle school and Ryan Cirna at Pflugerville HS. Also spent some time at Ann Richards school for exceptional women leaders and their great band director ( and mason alumni) Stephen Howard
Then it was off to Pittsburgh and the Alle Kiski honor band. Great, hard working students and some really wonderful teachers. Had a blast re-visiting the Mackey Strange Humors.
However, the only bad part of this particular trip was the massive snowstorm that hit my hometown. As of today, Saturday Jan 23, I'm still here in Pittsburgh, unable to get down the PA turnpike or anyplace remotely close to DC or NOVA. Pittsburgh has a few inches of snow, but DC apparently has 20++ and it's still snowing
I'm in a nice hotel, close to a movie theater, restaurants and a mall. I think I'll check out the Warhol museum tomorrow.
I hope to make it home Monday.... Time will tell.
My hosts here have been great and I'm making the best of it, but I would like to be home!!!!
If I do get home, it will be for a couple of days, before I leave again for the PMEA district 7 honor band. Good times and hopefully easier weather :)
The joys of road work. I'm supposed to go to Nebraska in February.... Stay tuned
I just returned from PASIC in San Antonio. I had a blast reconnecting with old friends and making new ones. Enjoyed the expo room, and the "hang". Also saw some performances and presentations - Chris Lamb, as usual, reminded everyone that we should be humble....as long as he still has a stick bag.
However I was most struck by the emeritus section, lead by Alan Abel and Richard Weiner. Full disclosure - I studied with Alan so I'm going to be inclined to like what he does.
However, there is more to this then my "fanboi" status for a former teacher and mentor. When I looked on that stage one thing struck me more than what they played or how they played.
These guys, to a person, joined their orchestra before it was "hip" to be an orchestral player.
They won their jobs before the modern audition system, before mallet endorsements, custom drums, before blogs, subscription websites, summer seminars or anything available now to both students and professionals. No excerpt books, "vlogs" or annotated guides to study.
What they did have was passion, ears, hands, and brains. Of course, some had mentors in early conservatory programs - nothing however, like the resources, support or guidance available today.
They listened, adjusted, strived to make good sounds, and in general just did their job really really really well. Every day.
They wrote their excerpts out by hand, and learned by doing, by trial and error, and by being open to criticism. That criticism, just as an FYI, was not couched in the warm and friendly lingo of today's modern, emotionally connected world....
Make no mistake, today's musicians ( myself included) are highly trained, smart, talented and dedicated. This is not "back in my day..." Post. I love where we are as percussionists - some of the best playing and teaching is happening right now, all over the country. The level is higher than it has ever been, and we are not even begun to fully explore percussion as a chamber or solo/concerto instrument.
No doubt, this is a fantastic time to be a Percussionist
However, the next time I hear "well I can't do this because of that... " or "I just don't have the right mallets or sticks...." Or my personal favorite - "well no one told me what to do?!?"
Go watch a video of Alan and Richard playing Scherazade... And then go practice
Trust me, someone a long time ago played snare drum better then you....and they did it without a a video tutorial.
Go shed......and strive to do them justice
i always have mixed feeling when I travel for work. I really enjoy performing, giving classes and working with other students, but I am always worried about my folks back at Mason.... Not that they are doing anything wrong, I just never want to be a drive by professor. I'm actually pretty happy we have reached the point where I can leave and let grad student run a studio class, and deal with departmental programs, and the students can coach ensemble on their own
I mean, I love to perform, and it is important both personally and professionally that I am out in the field working, recruiting etc....
It makes the program better and brings much needed attention to the great work we are doing at Mason
Still, as I write this on a plane to Illinois, I cannot help but run a list of things over And over again in my mind.... Just to make sure they are ok.
I guess that's a good thing.
This will be a short post, since I'm kinda swamped at the moment :)
However, if you are a music student, or a professional in the early phase of your career, please, please please stop saying how busy you are, how much stress you are under, how tired you are etc....
As a musician, regardless of performance/education/industry etc... you WANT to be BUSY. YOU NEED to be busy, you better hope that you are busy.
manage your time, manage your varied interest, and know thyself - but ALWAYS welcome the opportunity to perform, teach and "be" a musician - some day, someone will show up and want what you have - Keep working, be involved and don't complain about having a lot to do, or before you know it, you'll have all the time you want.
how often to we get this question? From concerned parents, nervous high school students and even college music majors having a crisis or concern about their career.
Often, you'll hear advise like this
Do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life!!! Or follow you dream and you'll never regret it!!! :)
Or... My favorite, do you LOVE music? Cause if you do GO FOR IT!!
I tend to think that is a load of garbage that does nothing to actually answer the question.
Make no mistake, music is work, it is a job, and it should be treated as such. You must have the drive, skill, talent, and brains to be successful. When I am leaving my studio at 11pm, or driving downtown to play a concert on a Sunday, or Friday or any day, I am going to work. I love what I do, but I don't love it every second of every day.... No one does and take silly to think that just because you love music you should try to make it your profession.
Typically I ask these questions when talking to a student who wishes to play or teach music for a living
Do you enjoy being alone in a room for 4-6 hours every day? How about 8 hours when getting ready for a recital or audition?
How do you deal with rejection? Cause you'll fail more often then you will succeed in music.
Do you want your weekends "off"? How about holidays?
How are you motivated?
Do you have the ability to get yourself up to work without an outside motivating force like a teacher or coach? Can you work alone or do you need to always be practicing/learning music together?
What kind of parental/family support do you have? Is there someone telling you to quit or have a fall back plan? If so listen to them and decide if they are correct..... You'll need your family or some type of support system to get to into the profession successfully
Can you take direction? Are you a good follower?
As a musician you aren't always in charge of your time, literature or musical ideas, how does this make you feel?
Speaking of time.... Can you manage your time or do you need someone to help you with that?
The music business is a great big wide profession with a huge number of pathways - what do you want to do? Do your homework, read study and talk to musicians in the business? Is it orchestra job or bust? Would you be happy freelancing? College teaching? Public school?
Do your research, take lessons with people who do what you wanna do, think and be an active member of the business from the very start. People who finish last in medical school are called Doctor, people who finish at the bottom of their class in music school are called hungry....
ALWAYS keep music in your life, go to concerts, have your children study and participate in school bands, play in your local community orchestra, but don't jump into this business without knowing everything about it
So, I lied
I said in an earlier post that I wouldn't talk about picking a school.... Yet here I am, About to jump in and tell people what to do! Really, I have advised a large number of high school and college students as to their next steps. I tend to write in smaller, quick chunks, so this will likely take up a few posts - here we go:
I can recall just this year spending a day with a prospective student, I could tell they were having a hard time deciding between Mason and another in state school. Cost wasn't an issue ( academic scholarship from both institutions) and proximity to home wasn't an issue ( this can often be a deciding factor for students). As we spoke and I asked her some of these questions, we both realized that a school right outside Washington DC, with a large ( 24 majors) and competitive program with other students who do festivals and DCI corps wasn't really her bag. She wanted something entirely different and would have been miserable at Mason. I was happy to spend the day with her, and even more happy to help her decide on the right school for her.
This is a big point - it isn't the 1980s or 1990s anymore! In 1994, when I was looking for a college, I had 4, maybe 5 realistic options for a serious music performance degree. Now, I think there are 15-20 legit undergraduate programs that can offer high level, symphonic, contemporary chamber music programs to a motivated undergrad. This is great, but also means that the choice is much more personal, and focused.
When selecting a school you are likely going to be drawn by the person who teaches percussion - you met them at PAS, saw a youtube video, a friend went there, they are "famous" or perhaps someone you admire in the business studied with them. They do ( or did) what you want to do, so you are drawn to them - perhaps they have a dynamic personality, high profile in the field etc...
And ask these questions, either as you read someone's bio, or in your conversation: what are they doing and how involved are they in the business now? Are they still performing? How often? Where? How often are they on campus and how regularly will you see them for lessons, master classes and studio class. Are they full time, adjunct? Do they teach at 2-3 different schools?
There is no correct/black/white answer to any of these questions - all you are doing at this point is "fact finding". I didn't care that my teachers in undergrad were all "adjunct" I cared where they played!
Something will resonate with you, and will lead you down another path of questions. Questions like:
What are your graduates doing? Will I always see you for a lesson, or will I have to study with a grad assistant?
Remember when you are talking to the professor, they are making evaluations of you as well - always be respectful, and get as much information from their bio BEFORE YOU E MAIL THEM!
Sometimes, you cannot speak directly to the professor....
and you end up talking to admissions people, or someone in the school of music office. These folks are trained to sell you on the school - Look at all the glossy, fancy websites, print advertising and social media. Then, largely ignore it. Watch the videos, listen to the admissions pitch, and then ask:
1. What are you scholarship opportunities, and how do I apply for them?
2. Can I see your practice facilities? How much time does each percussionist get in each practice room? What kind of access do I have to equipment? How late is the building open?
3. Can I get a lesson with the teacher(s)?
4. Where can I find audition information?
* a note about the word conservatory....I've often joked with my colleagues at Mason that if we decided to one day change our name to the Mason Conservatory, we would triple our enrollment overnight!! Just having the word conservatory next to a school's name doesn't mean a thing. Really. Be careful on this one.
Next up - PARTICIPATE. Visit the school, attend a summer program, and take a lesson. Oh, and GRADES.....
On Selecting Literature - this is an addition to an earlier post - see below for the start everything.
Orchestral excerpts: for undergrad auditions not typically asked for, unless you are auditioning at one of the major conservatory programs. If you are not totally familar with orchestral rep, don't bother.
Prepare: Of course pay close attention to dynamics, musical ideas, shapes etc...but also know something about each composer you are performing. For example - do they have other works for percussion? Have you played them? Why did they write this piece? Was it a commission, from a book etc..? The more you know, and can share, the better.
Also, with all forgiveness to my composer/percussionist friends, unless you are a graduate student with a highly developed interest in writing music, you rally don't want to bring your composition as your ONLY solo - perhaps if you bring it with you, but make sure you cover all the bases first.
Plan ahead: The spring before your senior year you should start looking at various pieces with your teacher, with the goal of having the program set by mid summer. This gives you some time to make changes and adjustments going into the busy fall season.
A note on graduate auditions:
This is an entirely different subject. MM programs are so personal and specific it is hard to give general advice. All i can offer is this- know exactly what you want, and you'll find the right program. Chamber music, orchestral, solo, big city, small town, etc.... Get to know the students in the program, research the teachers, and look at what type of scholarship and grant opportunities exist.
Up until now, this blog has primarily been about my playing, teaching, work at Mason, Sewanee, and other places etc...but I thought it was time to start adding some educational articles and ideas as well.
So, why not start with what many of you have coming up
College Audition Observations - Part 1, some general thoughts
I am proud to say we heard a record number of undergraduate and graduate auditions, nearly 40 in all, with an overall quality that is higher than ever before.
Over the course of these and previous auditions, I have begun to notice some patterns emerge particularly among high school students. In discussions with my colleagues across the country I think it is fair to say these are national trends, which are both encouraging and perhaps a bit concerning.
I thought it would be helpful to offer some observations, thoughts and suggestions both for students and teachers. I won't be discussing the specific university selection process or how to "pick a school"..... Many resources are already available for those seeking that information. Of course, some of this is common and perhaps already out there in the community but it cannot hurt to hear it again!
To start, the level of keyboard playing, particularly four mallet solo marimba performance, literature, attention to detail and sound production are all at a level that is higher than ever before. However.....
YOU REALLY NEED TO BE ABLE TO PLAY SNARE DRUM.
For whatever reason, the development of snare drum technique and the ability to control and produce and even sound on snare drum is suffering. Decent rudimental skills are not enough ( and frankly are often lacking), the demonstration of concert techniques, soft playing and roll control are all vital to the overall development of the concert snare drummer. Most universities are looking for comprehensive players at the undergraduate level who can, at the minimum play keyboards, snare, and timpani, and demonstrate multi percussion skills - drum set skills are a plus and will often be asked on auditions.
Select literature you can play. Often students will try and push themselves to do something harder than they can, thinking they have to impress the committee - we really want to see where you are NOW and what your potential is for future success. Don’t spend your time searching for the newest, hardest pieces, just prepare well, and plan. It is painful to sit through someone struggle to play the latest and the greatest, only to fall apart in a basic sight reading....which brings me to -
Yes, you have to sight read. Sight reading is a vital tool that we use to determine not only how well you play your instrument, but how you will handle ear training, theory and ensembles. Keep in mind you are not just auditioning for a percussion program - there is a music school behind all of those drums. Which also means.....
You should be prepared to sing and match pitch. Again,it is not good enough just to be a decent drummer or a virtuoso marimba soloist, if you cannot match pitch, you will not pass aural skills. Understand music history, theory and have the ability to not only match pitch, but identify intervals and chords.
Dress for success. This one is pretty clear, isn’t it? You would be surprised how students will dress, both at the live audition and auditions video's.
A word on audition videos - if you send an audition video, either directly through youtube or using decision desk, acceptd or any number of other pay services, remember that this is an audition. Don't record in your bedroom in shorts and a tee shirt, or think it is "creative" to record outside, poolside or anyplace else that you think will make us "remember you." We will remember you if you play well!! Consider this a live audition, look directly into the camera, introduce yourself, tell us what you are going to play, and then play.
Bring a resume and literature list. Take the time to make a nice, clear, easy to read resume, a list of rep you are playing at the audition, and a representative list of music (orchestral, solo, chamber, method books and solos) you have done over the last two years. You can also put one set of copies of all the music in this folder, put a nice cover on it, and hand it to the professors in the room. Believe me, this goes a long way. If you are sending a video audition, make sure the supportive materials are sent to the committee, or available on your audition page.
Be prepared to answer " why". Why do you want to be a music major, why do you want to study with me, why did to pick that piece, why do you want to come to this university? If you mumble or stumble through these answers it will send a bad message to the committee. Also, have one or two basic questions ready to ask - often the committee will as you of you have any questions, and it is worth it to be prepared. They cane be generic " I'm curious about your scholarship opportunities" or more specific to the school/teacher/studio - just have something to ask that allows you to interact with the committee.
Next up - SOCIAL MEDIA! What it means, how we use it, and how you should use it!
I think I'll just leave this here, a small sampling of the great time we had at Sewanee - thanks for a wonderful summer 2015!!! I'll be posting more about the festival here during the year. Can't wait to get back on the mountain in 2016!
Finished a terrific week at the Music for All Summer Symposium. Grateful to everyone for inviting me, and looking forward to the next time I get to work with Michael Mcintosh, David Collier and Thad Anderson. Below you'll see some pics from the week, along with some photos from my time ( so far) at Sewanee. I was asked to conduct part of the July 4th band concert, which was great fun, and of course many shots of the students hard at work learning all of the notes we throw at them!
right when I got back to Sewanee I had the chance to play a concert with Joshua Roman - We performed as part of his residency at the SSMF - "Mariel" by Osvaldo Golijov. A truly remarkable work which I hope to play again soon
Next up here at the festival are student performances of Nordic Peace, Cage 2nd construction, Kyoto, Haydn quartets (set for mallet quartet, of course) and a couple of additional faculty concerts, and of course a great number of orchestral performances, and the concerto competition winners next week!
A busy and rewarding summer for sure.
Having a GREAT WEEK here at music for all!!
We have a large number of students participating in this years concert percussion track.
Also enjoying my time with the percussion. Specialist academy directors and terrific colleagues David Collier and Thad Anderson
More to come on this soon!
I'm about to depart for my 5th summer in residence at the Sewanee Summer Music Festival. Sewanee is a special place - kind of hard to describe. Yes, it is a music festival. A wonderful chamber music and orchestral training academy for very advanced HS and college students. Wonderful faculty, great conductors and an enormous amount of playing in a VERY short time ( 4 weeks)
But the totality of the experience is far more than just playing music. I don't know if it is the mountains, the pace of life, the community, or the people, but something just makes Sewanee a unique place to spend time. I look forward to re-charging my musical batteries there each summer. This year, I'll be performing on three different faculty chamber music concerts, teaching 11 private lessons and coaching percussion chamber music. And riding my bike. And hopefully spending some real quality time by the pool with some great friends and wonderful students. Each time I hit the exit for the University of the south, and cross the boundary for the domain if the University of the South, I slow down, smile and say quietly out loud - "ahhh - Sewanee"
In addition to my time at SSMF - I am on the faculty for the Music for All Summer Symposium. the MFA symposium is a wonderful educational experience for band directors, future teachers and talented high school student. Hosted at Ball State University, I look forward to connecting and reconnecting with wonderful colleagues and sharing what I know with the teachers and students attending the symposium. A great week, with great people. http://www.musicforall.org/what-we-do/summer-camp
Finally - I return to Northern Virginia and promptly jump into our own summer percussion camp at George Mason University. Each summer, our faculty, alumni, guest artists and most experienced graduate students work with NOVA area middle and high school percussionists. In one week, we cover marching percussion, concert percussion, jazz, afro cuban, steel pan and chamber music. In addition, there will be daily special performances and a "grand finale" concert showcasing all of the students in performance.
This has been the pattern for the last few summers - busy and rewarding. A great combination of teaching, performing and travel. Can't wait to get started!