I was just having a conversation with someone earlier this week about why I don't make reeds at home. I try very hard to only process cane (gouge, shape, and/or profile) at home because I'm easily distracted. A lot of people do homework or clean or do other tasks with TV or music on in the background. I like to do that, too. However, doing it while I'm mindlessly shaping cane is different than when I'm doing fine tip work.
Recently, though, I have started listening to YouTube videos while I do tip work. I still don't do tip work at home very frequently (I like to use Janis McKay's office at UNLV or the UNLV reed room), but now I find listening to a specific kind of YouTube video isn't distracting. I've tried to listen to orchestral performances or watch TV (through Hulu or a similar service)...but this is the only thing I can listen to while I do tip work...
That's right....serial killer documentaries. Today's riveting documentary is "Harold Jones: The Welsh Child Killer". I'm not sure why this doesn't distract me. I think my affinity for murder-mystery anything (as evidenced by my obsession with the board game Clue) makes me focus a bit more.
Before you unfollow me because of that really weird tidbit, tell me what you listen to when you make reeds!
Boy, am I going to catch heat for this one...
Recently, a colleague of mine posted a picture of a marching band excerpt to Facebook asking for strategies to help her student learn the excerpt. This student is one of those kids in band programs across the country who is the best of his group but lacks fundamental training and a baseline of skills. We all know those kids. I was one of those kids when I started playing bassoon. I couldn't play my chromatic scale and didn't know what flick keys were--but I was principal in the San Bernardino County Honor Band in 2003!
In looking at my friend's post, it seemed odd to me that she had tagged me in it. "Hmmm," I thought. "I'm not a clarinetist...what help could I possibly be?" Then I saw the excerpt...
The opening to Le Sacre du Printemps...for marching band...
It suddenly made sense why I was tagged in the photo with about 10 other bassoonists.
This brought up a lively debate on the merits of this work and how to teach a student to play something they aren't ready for (not to mention play something that wasn't intended for their instrument). Until, of course, the band director of said high school chimed in. He came to the defense of his program, igniting a series of comments which spoke to exposing kids to this type of literature and how marching band is a fundamental tool in the aid of musical development...
...which got me thinking---is it? Is marching band a fundamental tool in the development of musicality, musicianship, collegiality, etc...? I was in marching band all four years in high school. I've seen marching bands do big shows (one year, an 875 piece band marched Pines of Rome). But just because we can do things like this...does it mean we should?
I think there is a place for marching band in the world. Especially in the West, it seems, marching band is a cult-like phenomenon which obviously can't just go away. But I think getting students to play things they can't/shouldn't (e.g., a high school clarinetist [or anyone for that matter] playing one of the most difficult bassoon excerpts ever on a football to the box) is a detriment. Have new music commissioned specifically for the marching band idiom. Do really awesome shows that are designed for the field to teach kids about blend, power chords, whatever---just leave concert hall music in the concert hall. I don't think we'd ever see "Jock Jams, presented by the New York Philharmonic"...so let's not watch as things like Rite of Spring are thrown on a football field.
I've been talking with my colleague Bronson Foster a lot lately about niche ideas in the music world. Podcasts, vlogging (like my friend and colleague Eryn Oft), blogging (á la yours truly), etc...
I thought my contribution would be this thing I'm calling Fresh Finds Friday (accompanied by a mighty slick hashtag). The idea behind Fresh Finds Friday is to record yourself playing something new (or new to you), something you enjoy, and/or something you want to share with the world. The point here isn't a polished performance--it isn't a recital. But just playing for fun and sharing that fun. Or whatever motives you---the debate on whether or not music is "for fun" isn't what I want to drum up here.
For my first #freshfindsfriday, I will share a video of my "performing" Jabberwocky Jam by John Falcone. I've liked this piece for a really long time. While I'll probably not recital it (at least not until I have a secure job somewhere and the freedom to do whatever I want), I do play through it. This was the first time I read the narration (sorry, Carroll fans!). Check it out below!
I hope you'll join me in #freshfindsfriday...or whatever day you want to upload stuff!
A few months ago, I started following Eryn Oft on Instagram (@erynoft). She is the Professor of Double Reeds at Jacksonville State University and is an all around great musician (but I'm not biased!). She and I recently became Facebook friends which lead to an interesting conversation about her cane trials taking place this summer. For more on that, check out this blog post.
Eryn is trying out Medir, Cote d'Azure, Charles, Glotin, Pisoni, Reiger, RDG, and Vandoren cane. Feeling inspired by this (and at a point of terminal FRUSTRATION with my current reed supply), I've decided to piggy-back on her great idea by also doing my own reed trials!
I'm trying out Danzi (in both a Fox 3 and a Christlieb shape), Medir (but with a goblet shape), Reiger, and Gonzalez (with the Bocal Majority shape). I will probably eventually order more, but we will see.
Why should you pay attention to both?!!?
Here's the most awesome thing about following both Eryn's trials and mine: we are going to get very different results which will benefit YOU in the long run! Eryn lives in the South; I live in the West. She has her own reed making method; I have mine.
But it should be fascinating to see what we come across. Check out her Medir review at the above linked blog post and follow us on social media below!
Eryn's Instagram (@erynoft) Kevin's Instagram (@kevinreberle)
Eryn's Blog (here) Kevin's Facebook (here)
Stay tuned for my trials reviews and subscribe to Eryn's blog to get hers!
There really isn't a good reason to collaborate. Honestly. Collaboration is messy, a lot of work, and frustrating most of the time. The number of pianists I've fired in my lifetime out of frustration is more than triple the number of romantic relationships I've had.
So then why are we forced to collaborate throughout our careers?
Simple: Collaboration makes you better. And who doesn't want to get better?
I have a friend and colleague, Bronson Foster, recently contract me for a gig. Now, aside from Bronson being an excellent emerging conductor, he is also a bit of a collaboration nut. I mean, I guess he has to be because he's a conductor...but he loves it.
Not me. No way. I would much rather play in an ensemble (which I understand is collaborating) or play solo than work with a small number of people. The scheduling is always a nightmare and the personality conflicts are enough to drive anyone crazy.
But I want to be a great bassoonist, just as Mr. Foster wants to be a great conductor. So, I get myself to a place where collaborating is a priority.
But again, why collaborate if you dislike it so much?
Because, my friends, learning to like something is the best way get better at it. Want to get better at listening to pitch? Work with a pianist. Want to get better at lyricism? Work with a lot of chamber players? Want to get better at being a damned good musician? Work in small groups.
And don't we all want to be better?
I've been reflecting lately on live, solo performance. Not just my own performances, but the performances of my colleagues. In the past year, I've noticed some general issues that have bothered me, including...
I am just as guilty of these things as pretty much anyone. I believe, fundamentally, that it is harder to be a performer than it is to be a musician. But how can we as classical musicians bridge the gap between artist and showman? Enter....drag queens.
Drag queens may be an extreme example. I've seen the art of musical performance likened to athletes or artists of other disciplines. But as I was watching YouTube videos and the documentary Paris is Burning it occurred to me that these performers are exactly like classical music performers...or at least how they could be to break some of the barriers of stuffy performances.
There are superficial characteristics of drag queens that we can apply to the musical world: the lip syncing, the musicality of a performance, the transformation from man to woman (similar to what a lot of us try to do in reinterpreting music). But on a deeper level, drag queens transform into a character, a product, and an image. Those of us in the classical world can learn a lot from that process.
I'm not saying you need to go out and become a drag queen. What I am saying, however, is that in creating a brand and identity, set the bar very high for yourself based on what you want to be known for and what your colleagues are doing.
As musicians, we are some of the only people in the world (actors also come to mind) who gain employment based on very short "interviews". Anyone who has gone through music school will know what a psychological trip the audition process is. In my life, I have taken about 10 auditions, mostly for regional employment, and have been a nervous wreck for every single one. Since this past May, I have applied for 4, been invited to participate in some capacity for all of them, and not won a single one.
Preparing for an audition can be a scary, daunting task. In the back of my mind, I always have that little speck of doubt that says "There are going to be hundreds of people who have practiced these more, play these better, perform better under pressure than you". It has taken me a while to realize that none of the people that will show up at the audition will play like me. I've done live auditions and submitted CDs which I have been very proud of, but didn't make it through to subsequent rounds. What to make of all this?
When taking an audition, I think it is key to remember that the committee listening to you has a very specific idea of what they are looking for. In this respect, I think 2nd bassoon auditions (or any 2nd audition, really) are the most terrifying because you have to be the kind of sound that blends with the whole woodwind section and makes the principal shine. So, prepare your excerpts and your concerto. Do only what you can. At the end of the day, my experience and the experience of my colleagues has shown me that it is really about 80% sound and 20% technique that committees look for. It is an ever increasingly competitive market out there--but represent you to the fullest. It's all you can do.
I recently purchased the lefreQue system for bassoon. I have to say that in a week of testing, I am quite satisfied and surprised by the results I'm getting.
What is the lefreQue?
The lefreQue is a system of metal plates that go over the connections on the bassoon which are either cork or thread. Plates go from the bocal to the wing joint, the wing joint to the boot, the long joint to the boot, and the long joint to the bell. The plates are available in a variety of metals: brass, red brass, silver plated, solid silver, and gold plated. I purchased the silver plated lefreQues--there is an option to do a solid silver at the bocal connection, but I felt that reed adjustments could be made to capitalize on the lefreQue system, so silver plated it was!
What is it supposed to do?
In theory, the cork/thread on each of the tenons and on the bocal deaden the vibrations that go through the wood. It makes sense when you think about it, really. The overtones in the entire spectrum are supposed to improve greatly.
How did I connect it to my bassoon?
I purchased all 4 recommended connections: bell, bocal, wing, tenor. I've attached them like this...
Wing & Boot
My initial reactions
Overall I am impressed with the lefreQue system. I would say that if you are having issues with fatigue, erratic intonation, or thin sound, you ought to give it a try!
Several people have asked me for my opinion on how a reed room should be set up. So, today, I took pictures of my reed room and thought it'd be fun to share them here.
What are some of your reed room organizing questions? What's in your reed room and how is it set up? Leave some comments below!
After much frustration and waiting (and waiting and waiting and waiting), I finally received my MD Reed Profiler in late May (not in time to profile reeds for my Detroit Opera audition, but in time for summer tinkering).
Things I like about the MD Reed Profiler
Things I don't like about the MD Reed Profiler