American Trombone Workshop, Friday report
Hey everyone, I got to spend quite a bit of time at the ATW this week at Ft. Myer, Virginia. What a great event! As always, Chris Branagan, Sam Woodhead, and the entire US Army Band does a fantastic job of putting on a world-class workshop. I have a number of things I want to write about, but I'm going to start with some events and exhibitors from today that made a great impression on me... First off, exhibitors...
Sterling Music Editions - Sterling is run by US Navy Band (and former Kalmus Music employee) trombonist David Miller. Now, normally most people wouldn't get all that excited about a music publisher, but man, I can tell you David has some amazing things! I have a pet peeve, and that is poorly produced (and highly priced!) sheet music. I hate it when I spend a significant amount on a new piece only to find it is printed on low quality paper, with poor page turns, and (gasp!) white glossy paper to boot (too much glare). Everything David publishes is absolutely beautiful. Nice paper, which I admit to having a fetish for... I got that from my friend and former roommate Jack Sutte, who loved to walk in to Patelson's Music in New York and just smell all the old French paper...... yeah, I know, weird, but strangely compelling as well, and I guess it rubbed off on me! Anyway, David's works are produced as printed music should be, for the performer, and quite inspiring to look at. In addition to his own arrangements, he publishes works by his Navy Band colleague Andrew Skaggs. Andy is a beautiful trombone player, and I had the fortune to play next to him on a few pieces on the Washington Trombone Ensemble concert at the workshop on Wednesday night. David just published a new edition of Adolphe Danhauser's solfege book, in alto clef. For anyone who has endured sight singing from the Danhauser book, this if a fabulous walk down memory lane, and it is a challenging and enjoyable addition to the alto trombone repertoire.
Dillon Music - always a treat. The folks at Dillon provide fantastic customer service, and this visit was no exception. Jose helped me out trying out some Greg Black mouthpieces, and was a pleasure to chat with. They have just about anything you would ever need as a trombonist!
Giddings and Webster - Ivan Giddings is a no nonsense guy that makes some of the most awesome mouthpieces on the planet. Stainless Steel, baby! Ivan has a large selection of sizes available, and they play wonderfully. I bent Ivan's ear while I worked on finding something that works for me, and he was very helpful. Go check it out, or better yet just order a Euros or Boreas and be done with it! Seriously, Ivan has a large number of sizes and signature mouthpieces available, and he has something to work for YOU!
Soulo Mute - Soulo makes both Cup and Bucket mutes. Man, I have NEVER played a bucket mute that sounds this good. Absolutely beautiful. The bucket has a couple of different positions it can be placed and the sound is just so... BUCKET... and mellow... and dark... and just, man, it just makes me want to play something (anything!) with a bucket mute. I might even play Tuba Mirum with this thing I like it so much! The cup mute is very nice... adjustable cup, and it gets a very "old school" cup mute sound. Gorgeous.
Wow, what a trio of soloists!
Dr. Benjamin McIlwain performed Polina Nazaykinskaya's Concerto for Trombone ; Pittsburgh Symphony trombonist James Nova performed Norman Bolter's "Of Mountains, Lakes, and Trees" with the composer conducting; and Vanessa Fralick, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, performed Henri Tomasi's Concerto for Trombone.
The soloists all performed beautifully. These were three very difficult pieces. The Nazaykinskaya started out deceptively tame, but beautiful, and got progressively harder and more interesting as the piece went on... As someone sitting near me said at the end, "my face hurts!". Very challenging and interesting - Dr. Mcilwain gave the piece its due diligence and performed beautifully. The Bolter piece was a tour de force for James Nova. Playing alto, tenor, and bass trombone, Jim demonstrated not just what it means to be a "utility" player in a major symphony (Pittsburgh), but what it means to be a true musician first, and complete student of the instrument as well. What an incredible piece. Each movement is published as a separate work as well, just in case you don't happen to play bass, tenor, AND alto! Finally, Vanessa Fralick gave a very interesting and beautifully jazzy performance of the Tomasi Concerto. Vanessa has a beautiful approach, and such an easy sounding high register. Anyone who thinks "girls can't play high", well, Ms. Fralick gave us all a master class in lyrical high register playing, not to mention STYLE, tonight! Well done, all around.
I have some other thoughts on events I have heard this week, so stay tuned!