What advice do you have for students?
One of my biggest things for students is always to seek opportunities to play with one another regardless of the instrumentation. I’m part of this professional low brass and percussion duo; you can’t replicate it with solo playing. I grew as a musician technically, musically, and fundamentally far more than by just playing solos. I think, again, despite whatever instrument you’re playing or that your friend is playing, if you can get together and play duets or trios or quartets, you will grow so much quicker because you’re developing your ears and your sight-reading. You don’t even realize that you’re putting in all of this vital work. Perform with people as often as you can, even if it’s just a scale or just an exercise; just get used to playing for and with people. It’s such a great experience to do that.
What advice do you have for teachers?
In regards to low brass students, do not underestimate their abilities. The further back in a band setting you get, the students tend to be a little less developed. I mean that in the nicest way possible. I find that if you don’t set limitations like “oh that’s fast” or “oh that’s high,” students will naturally develop those notes without the preconceived notions that it’s high or fast. One of the biggest downfalls right out of the gate with teachers who are teaching beginners or even in middle school and high school is that they set these parameters of what is high, what is low and is too soft, too fast. It doesn’t allow the student to define for themselves what is too high and what is too low. Frequently because of that, I’ll start working with students that have this idea of what is high when, in reality, they have another two octaves to go before it’s too high. Try not to set those boundaries and parameters. Don’t underestimate them because when unleashed and when inspired to be unleashed, the students can play faster and higher and lower than what you expect. We kind of set them aside because the beginning repertoire is easy for them.
Also, throw them a woodwind part every once in a while (transpose it into their range) right away, so they aren’t freaked out when they get it in a more advanced repertoire. Put every student on the same level as far as learning and developing those skills around the same time. Have brass learn double tonguing at the same time as the flutes are learning it. It’s more work for the educators because they don’t have a book that does that. That’s the unfortunate side effect of that, but it’s so beneficial for the students. That’s my biggest advice for teachers. Don’t set parameters, and don’t underestimate students.