The weekend before last I went to the Northeast Horn Workshop at the University of Delaware. Compared to the one in Ithaca a year ago where I felt totally out of place, at this one I felt quite at ease. Another year of playing really made a difference. For the most part I was able to keep up during the ensemble readings and I could really tell that I have improved a lot. I also learned a lot more from the lectures and master classes than I did the year before.

I’ve also made another mouthpiece change which, so far, has made a big change for the better with my playing. I’d been thinking about changing the stem of my mouthpiece for a while because the one I’ve been using was made fatter to try to compensate for my former Hoyer horn and it’s sharpness problem.  At the workshop I chatted with Scott Bacon about this and he suggested that I try a Moosewood AW11 Megamoose. This stem is heavier and has a deeper cup than the Moosewood B12 that I was using. I was under the impression, as it turns out incorrectly, that I would play better with a smaller cup and smaller bore so I’m very surprised at  how well I play with this stem. Among other things, I’m missing a whole lot fewer notes, slurs are better, my range has stayed the same and playing just seems easier. Plus my endurance is better. I didn’t change my rim so I don’t think I’m going to go through one of the new mouthpiece disasters that I have in the past.

In addition to the two bands that I’m in, I’m playing in a horn quartet this spring as well as a chamber music group. Learning the new music doesn’t seem as hard as it used to be. In the chamber music group I’ve been assigned the 1st movement of the Brahms Horn Trio. As I’m working on the music, and forcing myself to learn Eb transposition, I’ve managed to go from being completely terrified to thinking that maybe I can actually play it. I’m also starting to feel better about playing 16th notes. A couple of months ago I just couldn’t seem to get my fingers and my brain to sync up for really fast passages. I still can’t get quite up to the tempo the passages should be played at but I’m a lot closer than I used to be. In the horn quartet we are working on a Telemann piece that I’m feeling quite positive about. As recently as last week I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to play it. I think that for the first time since I started playing again I actually believe that I have gotten measurably better and it’s a nice feeling.

Blogging consistency –>

Rehearsal Etiquette Update

Last night’s band rehearsal was with the ‘serious’ band. Again it was poorly attended though more people showed up than at the last few rehearsals. I guess the concert this coming Sunday made some folks feel some responsibility. Well, I think all the repressed annoyance broke out and mostly not in a good way.

Chatter and noodling were constant. No fun stuff just disrespectful nonsense. What’s interesting is that the conductor didn’t make any attempt to stop it verbally. He just calmly said, “from the top” and whoever was listening started playing. This new tactic by the conductor worked better than the no talking berating we usually get from him.

After band a few of the members and I talked about what’s going wrong with the band. We all agreed that it wasn’t fun anymore and that most were going because the band has been around forever and they will just weather the storm. Then we talked about why the band wasn’t fun anymore. The obvious annoyance by the conductor when things go awry is one thing. He will call out a section for missing notes or playing something wrong but not in a positive ‘this is how to fix this’ way. Then he yells at people for not practicing. Most members of the band don’t want to get yelled at and most of them don’t have much time, if any, to practice. I don’t think he realizes that his comments are perceived as negatively as they are. In fairness, he does praise sections when they do really well.

But the bigger problem is his method of recruitment to get new people in the band. He has an extensive network of doctoral performance graduates, and semi and pro musicians who he has convinced to play with the band on a regular basis. So far this is not a bad thing; it’s what he says to the band about why he’s recruited them that’s the problem. Basically he says, ‘I’ve got these guys here so you older folks don’t have to play so often. You can sit back and rest and just play the easier stuff.’ This translates to you older folks aren’t good enough for me.

At last night’s rehearsal he did less yelling and more praising so maybe he’s beginning to figure out why folks don’t show up anymore. We have a one week break after the concert and it will be really interesting to see how many people show up at the next rehearsal.

Improvement –>