Knowing when to say no

For many working musicians, it is once that time of year again. The time of year when a plethora of gigs and performances (often holiday related ones) start pouring in the door. In all the excitement it is easy to get carried away before you realize that you’ve out-done yourself and now have more performances than you can handle. I myself have recently realized that I may have bitten off more than I can chew for this particular season. When caught in a situation such as this, always remember to just pace yourself, but the best way to ensure that this problem doesn’t arise in the first place, is to make sure you know your limits as a performer and when to say enough if enough.

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Knowing Your Limits

This weekend I had quite a bit of playing to get done, and I was not 100% “careful” with my playing chops. By no means have I seriously damaged anything but it can be and has been a minor inconvenience. Some time ago, when I did have a serious embouchure problem, I was told by multiple people the best thing I could do was take ibuprofen and sleep. In spite of complying with these methods it still took about a week to feel “normal” again.

With that said, here’s an article (specific to trumpet players, but is still applicable to most brass instruments) about appropriate ways to embouchure recovery and how to prevent such a problem in the first place.

Musicianship and the Brain

This isn’t necessarily a new idea to many, the idea that participating in “music” one way or another promotes healthy brain growth/ stimulation.

As much as we claim to no know this fact, I feel there is very little we can truly speak on. This article talks about specific examples of neurological benefits, some of which including:

  1. Musicians have an enhanced ability to integrate sensory information from hearing, touch, and sight.

  2. The age at which musical training begins affects brain anatomy as an adult; beginning training before the age of seven has the greatest impact.

  3. Brain circuits involved in musical improvisation are shaped by systematic training, leading to less reliance on working memory and more extensive connectivity within the brain.

A Cool/Sentimental Peice

I’m sure the 2011 Japan earthquake is not fresh news to anyone who may be reading. But many people don’t know about the project, “A Song for Japan.”

A Song for Japan was started with the intent on raising awareness, or as put by the group leaders, “sending our prayers” for those misfortunate enough to lose friends and family during this tragic event.

You can read more on the specifics here

Long story short, a beautiful composition was made for trombone that can be played as a solo, duet, trio, quartet or even octet. Although the piece was originally just for trombones, there are multiple versions ranging from brass ensemble to woodwind quintet to even symphonic wind band and big band. All downloadable for free!

So maybe if anyone out there was looking for some interesting music to play with a group or even in your own classroom, try giving this a listen.

Heres the official video:

Situational Etiquette

Again, this past weekend I had participated in a great many performances. Of them all one stands out among the rest that took place at a pub in the late evening of saturday. What makes this venue stand out in my mind was a particular audience member that felt the need to “heckle” the band. She had obviously had a few too many and was not reserving herself by continually trying to tell us as a band what we should be doing using very “colorful” vocabulary.

Now that I reflect on the event that transpired two days ago, I began to think of that rude woman from the pub, reflecting further caused me to wonder why she thought her disregard of “concert etiquette” was reasonable or justified (and no, being drunk is a poor excuse).

Fact of the matter is, whether it’s a performance at symphony hall or a pub in a small town, we’re people that have elected to take time out of our busy lives to entertain you for an evening with minimal monetary compensation. Many say concert etiquette is in respect of fellow audience members who also would like to enjoy the performance, I say its more important appreciate what the ensemble members have sacrificed for our sake by being as respectful and courteous towards the performers as you can be.

The “Bad” and the “Good”

I have never been much of a church goer, such an act is so far beyond my character that many friends and colleagues found humor in my attendance at a place of worship this sunday morning. A brass quintet that I take part in was hired to play there communion service. After a grueling hour long commute, the entire five-piece ensemble (myself included) was very skeptical of ourselves for our fear of producing a low quality performance. Our skepticism had nothing to do with personal skill level, but was actually fueled by a lack of what we considered high quality arrangements and a desire for rehearsal time after a long summer apart. In spite of our negative digressions, to the ensembles surprise we produced and excellent performance hearing nothing but good things from the entire congregation after the service.

How could it be that a performance, so destined to fail, became successful?

I thought afterward, although we deemed our versions of the music to be inadequate, as adept and efficient musicians, we subliminally accepted that we have to sell this product and make the best of it. With the proper (more optimistic) mindset we managed to perform with a more intense level musicality to the point where we actually began to enjoy playing our priorly received “bad” arrangements.

As a group we learned that there is no “bad” music, what makes something “bad” is a persons lack of enthusiasm or willingness to operate at their full potential simply because they don’t see themselves enjoying it.

Next time you claim something to be “bad” in all aspects of life, consider a change in attitude, and you just might enjoy yourself more than you thought possible.