Ah, it's always nice to do something out of the norm, and to have some challenges that make us reassess our approach, both to the instrument, and to music in general. This week, I get the chance to play alto trombone on not one, not two, but three pieces on an entire Marine chamber orchestra program! Mendelssohn's Ruy Blas overture, with it's typically high 1st trombone parts opens the program. Following that overture, we play Grieg's famous piano concerto (most people would play on tenor, but I'm having fun staying on alto for it), and closing with the 4th Symphony of Robert Schumann. Beautiful music, and a pleasure to play with my amazing colleagues. This one won't be live streamed, unfortunately... If you're in the DC area, come check it out! More info: HERE
Hi everyone! Things have been kind of nuts this year! Hence, not too many videos. I was discussing this subject with my dad, Jimmy Clark, the other day, and had some thoughts that I wanted to get out!
For those that haven't checked in for a while, go to Clark Media Productions to see what I've been up to for much of this past year, in addition to my regular duties with "The President's Own", U.S. Marine Band. It's been a fun year!
If you have any thoughts on the video, I'd love to hear them! Chime in with your comments below or on the Youtube channel.
29 year ago, I spent the first of 3 unforgettable summers at the National Music Camp at Interlochen, Michigan. That summer, I met a young trumpet player that completely knocked me out with his positive attitude, musicianship, fearlessness, and friendship. I seem to find large projects to take on in the summer, these days. With my boys home from school, and many hours spent parenting, and learning how to be a better father and husband (and that is an ONGOING thing!), I have taken to the example set by an author whose book I read a couple of years ago, Jocko Willink, and I find myself getting up many mornings (not all, still working on it) at 0430 to get a couple of hours of work in before the house stirs itself awake and the needs of my young ones overtake my own.
Many of you are very familiar with Valor Brass, and the work this fabulous group of musicians has done over the past 13 years. Our recording, Inaugural, in 2014, really changed a lot of things in life for me. It was the first time I had really been an integral part of a creative process to make something lasting, throughout every stage of the process. Specifically, the process of recording an album, and seeing it through to completion, absolutely fascinated me. Our audio engineer, Ed Kelly, really captured what I felt was the true essence of our quintet. That was the beginning of my interest in recording, and my exploration of that art, and what I could bring to my own recordings. Needless to say, I took to it with a lot of focus and motivation, and began looking for every way that I could learn more about it, and put my skills into practice.
This June that trumpet player, Jack Sutte, and I reunited in Cleveland, to record two complete etude books, written by a young composer in Texas, Nathan Ost. Jack and I have remained in constant contact since that summer of 1988, rooming together at Curtis, and again in New York while we worked on our masters degrees at Juilliard. Jack has spent the last 18 years as 2nd trumpet of the Cleveland Orchestra, and continues to push the bounds of new music as a trumpet soloist and with his brass trio, Factory Seconds, in his spare time.
The three days of recording we had in June were just fantastic. Jack has the ability to get to the heart of a piece of music like few people I have ever known, and he showed up to the sessions ready to make music. Juggling a tough week of work performing the complete West Side Story film score in evening concerts, we recorded, during the day, all 42 of Nathan’s etudes at Baldwin-Wallace Conservatory, where Jack is a faculty member. I am very excited about the recording, and the fantastic musicianship it portrays. I hope you’ll take a listen.
Nathan Ost has written two collections of etudes that I have no doubt will become a well-used and familiar resource to trumpet players around the world. Modeled after the characteristic studies of Arban, and lyrical studies of Bordogni, his Lyrical Studies and Characteristic Studies are a fresh and interesting musical approach to developing technical facility, but most of all, musicianship. I am so glad I had the opportunity to put Jack’s playing to “tape” and give budding trumpet players a beautiful reference with which to explore these new compositions.
Nathan has a great deal going on his website... If you buy either book in PDF delivery format, you receive the recordings of Jack playing all the etudes, for free! Cheers!
As you may now suspect, producing personal, musical recordings is a passion of mine. Check out clarkmediaproductions.com for more examples of what I’ve been up to lately.
Hi everyone - starting a new short video series called What I'm Practicing... hope you enjoy and comment on what you are working on or would like help with!
I had a great visit recently out at Camp Pendleton, California, with the 1st Marine Division Band. I occasionally have the opportunity to visit our sister bands in the fleet, and take a week to do some training with them. What that means for us is, sitting in on band rehearsals, offering private lessons, master classes, and just doing a lot of playing together. The weeks have always ended up being great fun, and have given me a great appreciation for what our Marine fleet musicians do, and are responsible for, on a daily basis. They have a difficult job, and it encompasses way more than just playing their instruments!
One of the younger musicians posed a question to all of us in a master class that I have heard a number of times before, both in our trips to the fleet as well as in many other settings throughout my career. In fact, I have asked myself the question many times!
The question the young marine asked was: “How do you stay motivated to play and practice?” I don’t think he tagged on “especially when work is not very much fun sometimes”, but there was definitely a sense of frustration and exasperation this young man was feeling about being a musician as well as keeping up with his everyday “work” duties. So, here’s the answer I gave him….
First of all, forget what you were taught to feel OBLIGATED to do in your every day practice as a musician. Yes, you need to maintain your basic skills as a performer, but how you do that is now totally up to you. Many of us were taught one way of playing, warming up, practicing, etc. You are now on your own. You are not beholden to anyone! There is no teacher there to tell you what you are doing is wrong or unproductive, or that the music you’re playing isn’t really what you should be working on. Want to play along with movie soundtracks instead of practicing Rochut every day? Go for it! Want to learn a violin sonata on trumpet? Do it! The point is that your music making is only limited by your imagination.
Action: I want YOU, dear reader, to take a second to think. What is the FIRST thing that pops into your mind that you would like to play or do as a musician that you are not currently doing. Now, write that in the comments below. I want to see what everyone comes up with. See below for my own comment… This should be interesting… It can be anything, really.
So, after forgetting our obligations and thinking about what we really want, the second thing is to COLLABORATE. Music is way more fun when you include other people. Most definitely, there are times where we must practice alone for hours on end to develop new skills. No doubt. However, many things that are mundane or are simply “staying in shape”, or “getting in shape” are much more fun when you include other people. Don’t like trombone quartets? Start a brass quintet. Hate brass quintet? Form an R&B band. Whatever.
I didn’t phrase the next thing to this young man how I’ll say it now, because I didn’t want to sound rude to him at the time, but if you’re bored or unmotivated, it’s generally your OWN FAULT. If you have been pounding away on the same old thing and it has gotten stale, and you’ve neglected to change up your routine, then that’s on you. Find some new things to play. Check out a new warmup method. Find a new etude book. Work on a new solo. Make a recording. Get after it!
Hang out with other motivated people! One thing I get from my colleagues often, is that I get to be around their music making and see what motivates them. It both inspires and motivates me. The often quoted saying, “you’re the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with”, is very true. Find the people around you who ARE motivated, and spend some time with them. Play duets, buy them coffee, pick their brain, form an ensemble… Valor Brass has been around for 13 years now, and the motivation and encouragement we bring each other is a large reason.
So, I’m truly curious to hear what everyone else does, whether in music or in any other field, to stay motivated! Please, comment below, and let the ideas fly!
I always try to keep in mind another favorite saying: “Motivation is for amateurs!” I love that. In other words, just do the work, every day.
Drop me a line, let me know what you're up to!
The Virtual Trombonist