STS: Southeast Trombone Symposium – Day 3

Today was once again a very informative and beneficial day. After breakfast in the morning, we had a warm up session, only this one was lead by Paul Pollard. This guy is a very good teacher. He keeps his thoughts organized but has very practical ways to explain them. He basically took us through his routine, which starts out with breathing exercises. We combined breathing with stretching. We stretched the muscles in our shoulders, neck, back and everywhere in between. He compared playing trombone without stretching and exercising your lungs to playing basketball without stretching and warming up. You may be talented and can play well, but your career will not last long without doing these essential, methodical exercises.

Next, we did some buzzing. Apparently, Pollard’s students were planning to make t-shirts that said “Buzz It!” on the front because his answer to solving any problem is buzzing it. If you are having a problem on the horn, you must find the source of that problem, which you will likely find if you pull our your mouthpiece and “buzz it.”

Pollard then moved on to long tones. In his eyes, 90% of what a trombonist plays, minus solos, are variations of long tones. If we play them that much, we definitely must practice them and become masters of them. He stressed the importance of doing them in every register. If you aren’t regularly playing in the extreme registers and doing long tones in them, your response and effectiveness in these registers may be unpredictable and unreliable. After doing long tones as a group, he noticed that some people were really tense, which led him to another high point. He highly stressed the importance of relaxing when you play. After examining my own body while playing, I noticed that I was tense in places I never even thought of. Even thinking about his during the warm up and thinking of staying relaxed had instant results in response and tone.

He also does slurs in his warm up. He makes sure to slur every single day in all registers, slurring from his lowest range up to his highest range and back down. Then he starts up high and slurs downward. The end of his routine is occupied with playing something lyrical in all ranges. His students are required to take a Rochut (one every week) and play it as written, down one octave, down two octaves, up an octave, in tenor clef, in tenor clef down an octave, in tenor clef down two octaves…you get it (I may be forgetting one or two more – he kept listing ways). He does this in his warm up, as well. We, however, as a group played some chorales.

Additionally, Pollard talked about something that really fascinated me. I have always know this stuff, but he put it into a system that really makes sense. He calls it the pivot system (apparently it used to be taught a lot more than it is today). It is centered around the fact that you blow air to the back of the mouthpiece when you play low, pedal notes and you blow air down into the bottom of the mouthpiece when you play high notes. You pivot your air in this 90 degree area depending on what register you are playing in. For higher ranges, you will be blowing more down than back, and vice versa.

After the warm-up session, the Atlanta Symphony trombone section gave an excerpts class. In this class, they covered Hindemith’s Symphonic Metamorphosis (Turnadot, Scherzo) and Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries. They went over the situations you may encounter while playing these pieces, along with the roles of each player in the section. They played them as a section and even allowed a few participants to sit in. What a powerful sound a good trombone section can make!

After lunch, we had choir rehearsal. We were in the studio theater today, which sounds completely dead when compared to the Legacy Hall. Oh well. We got a lot of stuff accomplished in rehearsal. After choir rehearsal, George Curran gave a masterclass in which 5 bass trombonists played. He gave some good advice on preparing yourself for audition situations, breathing efficiently, and ways to practice excerpts. Following this, we had quartet rehearsal, coached by Curran himself. Our group, even after one day, is starting to work well together. We are starting to match articulations and styles well.

On the concert tonight, every faculty member played at one point or another. Paul Pollard’s solo was definitely the highlight of the show. As an opera orchestra member, he likes to play lots of opera transcriptions. He played one that comes from a toy doll singing a love song to the boy that fell in love with her. He decided to add theatrics and act like the doll. He moved around very stiffly, like a wind up doll would do. To top it all off, he had a helper come “wind him up” twice after drooping forward. Colin Williams played the Castérède Sonatine. I was not a huge fan of the way he interpreted it, but it was very well played. Nathan Zgonc played the Sulek Sonata (Vox Gabrieli). After a short intermission, they all played some chamber music. The most interesting, for me, was the Beethoven Drei Equali, mostly because my quartet at home is working on this. The concert was wonderful and I cannot wait to hear more tomorrow.

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