STS: Southeast Trombone Symposium – Day 5

Today was a little less involved day for me. For others, it was the most stressful day of the week. The final rounds of both competitions were held today, along with quartet rehearsals and a masterclass by Colin Williams.

After breakfast, the excerpts competition was held in Legacy Hall. This was interesting to watch. There was only 1 bass trombone player and 6 tenor players. They called for 1 excerpt from the first round and five of the six excerpts on the final round. These were Mozart’s Tuba Mirum, Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortileges, Ein Heldenleben, William Tell, Saint-Saëns Symphony 3 and Mahler Symphony 5. If you know these excerpts, you might agree that the Ravel is the toughest. You could definitely tell this from listening to the competition, but not in the way you might expect. Everyone played this excerpt very well. You could tell they practiced it diligently. However, none of the participants played the Saint-Saëns particularly well. It was quite disappointing, actually. Everybody had spent their time learning the Ravel and had seemingly neglected the less technically difficult excerpt.

After the excerpts competition, we had quartet rehearsal, which went very well. We ran our pieces before breaking for lunch. After lunch, Colin Williams gave a masterclass. He is very good at teaching in this setting, and I definitely learned a lot from listening to this class. He talked for a long time about smoothing out slurs over partial breaks. He showed us ways to work on this and ways to think about it. He also talked about embouchure shifts that may be necessary to reach lower registers. A couple people  brought excerpts to play for him, the first of which was Bolero. The main issue for most people on this excerpt is sound/endurance in the high register. He helped us with some exercises and ways to go about strengthening our high chops. When he practices Bolero, he plays it in different keys. This allows him to save his face while working on the subtle phrasing required for this piece. Another person played the excerpt from William Tell. For this excerpt, he talked about keeping your slide in constant motion for the fast runs. He also recommended doing Arban articulation exercises with the articulations used in William Tell. This will help solidify the articulation by using it in multiple contexts. Finally, he talked about goals. If you want to make large progress, you cannot have ambiguous goals, like “I want to be in an orchestra someday.” You must find out the things you need to improve upon and make methodical, step-by-step goals that will lead you there. He says if you do this, you will look back and realize that you have made an enormous amount of progress.

After the masterclass, I went and practiced for a bit. The solo competition started at 5, so I headed back to Legacy at that time. All of the solos were very good. The three winners were definitely deserving of the places they received. The winner of the excerpts competition got second place in the solo competition. I am jealous because he now gets a completely new setup. Trombone, mouthpiece, case and stand. Congratulations to him!

The concert on Friday night was the Professor’s Choir concert. This was very entertaining. The stage was packed with very good players, all of which are professors. There was literally not room for more people. The best part about this was that there were multiple Iowa guys up there. Dr. Gier, Cory Mixdorf, Paul Pollard, and Dr. Palmer. The most interesting piece was an arrangement of the theme from Star Wars. It was for trombone choir, tuba, percussion and, believe it or not, organ. The week was coming to an end.

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