February 17, 2012


One of the classes I'm taking this quarter is Performance Practice and Criticism. The name pretty much says it all. We all draw lots at the beginning of the quarter to determine our two performance times and then each week five members of the class present a piece, up to 10 minutes in length. During the performance the rest of us scribble comments and criticisms that are both turned in later for a grade and also given to the performer at the end of the class period for their reference.

Each week there is a different faculty member that presides over the masterclass and gives spoken feedback to the performer on the spot. We've had a flautist, a bassoonist, a percussionist, a conductor...(the list goes on) and finding ways to constructively criticize players proficient on an instrument other than your own can be a challenge for everyone. As a trumpet player it's tough to come up with useful things to say to a harpist or guitarist. Most of the time I think they just sound good! So the class has provided me great practice in getting my ears tuned in to details of approach and musicality that I might not have otherwise noticed. Conversely, it's always interesting to see what my peers hear in my playing. Advice that I get from the cellists in the class is often quite different from typical criticisms I get from other trumpeters.

Today I completed my second and final class performance and fortunately the video recorder worked this time.

This is Intrada by Otto Ketting...

Though it was certainly not perfect (gosh I wish I could take back the first note!), I feel pretty good about the performance. I think I dealt with the effects of my nerves reasonably well and though it hadn't been the best morning chop wise, I still made most things in the piece basically work. The feedback I got from John Henes--our resident Alexander Technique teacher and former professional trumpeter--was largely positive. He especially liked my entrance and bow--which was great because that's something I worked on with him in Alexander last quarter.

Just to give you an idea of the class, here are some snippets of what a few of my peers wrote to me on their comment sheets...

"Your dynamic contrast is superb. If anything, I'd be curious how soft you could get while keeping the gorgeous dark tone you have in your playing."
--a sax player

"Sometimes when you're holding a longer note to its finish, it's hard to tell if you're using vibrato because it gets a little uneven/airy sounding."
--a horn player

"A few of the grace notes (or quicker notes) sounded too flippant. I missed the effect of the short interruptions in the melody."
--a flute player

"I really love your feel for this piece. Your playing is extremely mature and I really appreciate how comfortable you are taking lots of time in between phrases."
--another flute player

"The way you arrived at the end of the middle section (immediately prior to the recap) sounded perfect for an ending. If you are going to do this, perhaps pausing a moment longer before continuing will create some tasty tension in the audience."
--a trombonist

"Cool ending"
--a euphonium player

"I liked the kind of schizophrenic nature that it had and yet you had such a peace that it all flowed really naturally. But I really liked your sound."


  1. Just watched this with Norm Smith and your mom. Your mom is about to explode!

    Well done you!

  2. Rod, Norm and I watched this together. I hadn't had any time to get to my computer till last night after dinner and Norm was here on his way to Mertyl Beach. I'm not going to critique but I will tell you that you are beautiful and your performance was professional in every way. It was a thrill to get to watch you.

  3. I totally agree with "anonymous". Thanks for posting this for the rest of the world who was not able to be in Chicago.
    Terrific. Bruce