tenet (ten' it), noun: a principle, doctrine, or belief held as truth

Welcome to my blog! Here I will share some of my thoughts on horn playing and teaching, which I think about a lot, and maybe some other things, too. Since my job (which thankfully, allows me to do a lot of playing and teaching) keeps me very busy, as does my wonderful family, I may not write frequently. My goal will be quality, not quantity!

Please share your comments.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Wine Tasting and Listening (to the Horn, not the wine)

I don't know much about wine.  I know when I taste one I like, and when I taste one I don't like, but that's about it.  The following is a description from wine.com of Wynns Shiraz 2005...
The nose shows intense dark fruit aromas, dominated by plums, raspberries and stewed rhubarb. Well integrated oak components add vanillan depth and eloquence. 
If you're like me, your forehead is wrinkled after reading that.  And that's just the "nose," or how the wine smells; they haven't even gotten to the complex flavors yet.  "Stewed rhubarb!?"  I don't have the slightest idea what that smells like, and I'm not sure I want to.  Obviously, the wine expert who wrote that review recognizes a LOT more detail in the aroma and flavor of wine than I do.

In the same way, there is a big difference between the way I listen to horn playing, and the way my students listen.  Too often, they are content just to hit the right notes in the right rhythms, when I can't help but notice the "crud" between the notes, the lack of air support, the bumpy slurs, the inconsistent attacks, the uneven tone color which is generally out of character for the piece anyway, and so on.

To progress to the next level as horn players, or just as musicians and future band directors, my students need to "train their palate" to be more sensitive to these finer details.  A big part of my job is to help them develop this sensitivity.  One of my basic philosophies of teaching is that my goal is to make myself unnecessary.  In other words, I want to give my students the tools they need to be their own teacher. 

I don't like to make things unnecessarily complex.  There is a time to keep things simple (that's the subject of my next blog), but when we practice - or teach - we need to strive relentlessly for perfection.  And that means examining EVERY nit-picking detail.  Don't settle!

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