Welcome to the blog devoted to brass playing and classical music. A blog by two brass teachers: Matt Hurley and Doug Battson.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

The History of the Name

Classic Brass. Catchy title, isn’t it? Better than NWP (insiders joke sorry). So how did we come up with the name?

Back in our college days, Matt wanted to form an ensemble of musicians who would get together, play music, and have fun together. Based on his experience marching in drum corps and his fondness for brass bands, he decided that this ensemble would be made up entirely of brass players and would play classical brass music. Hence the Classic Brass Ensemble was born.

The goals for this ensemble were very noble. This group was to be made up entirely of students of the university we were attending and the surrounding school systems who had an interest in music. It was to be run by students, and its primary goal was to help the students of all ages become better musicians. This was accomplished through a variety of means. First, the students were able to perform in a small ensemble setting and improve their skills that way. Second, the students were encouraged to compose music, arrange music, and conduct their pieces with the ensemble. Third, with the age differences between the university students and the high school students who were in the organization, we were able to share experiences to help the younger students and give them encouragement. We were also learning how to teach these students on a one on one basis, which would benefit us later. Lastly, if the students wanted, they could have the opportunity to learn to play other brass instruments. This last skill was important, as a majority of the students involved were aspiring music teachers.

While the venture was initially a success and was able to survive for a couple of years, the politics of the music department ultimately caused the group to be disbanded. Gradually many of the members moved on to other ventures or other schools. When Matt transferred to NKU, he had wanted to get the group started again in a fresh school with a fresh start. Unfortunately, that dream never materialized.

Now as we are teaching lessons to students, we find that it is now more important than ever to help students become better musicians. Through this blogging technology we are now able to reach a broader expanse of people. As teachers of music, we want to help other teachers become better teachers. We want to help students become better musicians. Through this blog, we hope that you find tools and resources that will help to accomplish those goals. Welcome to Classic Brass.

Quote of the Day

"Thank you [President] Bush. I shall be playing my trumpet until the dawn."

--Wasam Adain, 23-year-old music shop owner in Baghdad
Let the Sweet Sound of Freedom Ring...

Let Me Entertain You

From the Reading (UK) Evening Post:
WHEN Derek Watkins was just a boy, he would take his trumpet on to the pitch at Elm Park stadium to play with a brass band at half time.

Now, when the fans hear Robbie Williams’ Let Me Entertain You blasting out over the speakers in the interval at Madejski Stadium, they are still hearing Derek playing – in the trumpet solo at the end of the song.

For Reading FC fan Mr Watkins, there couldn’t be a better place to hear it.

“Even though it’s not live music any more, when they play that record at half-time, I’m still there in spirit,” he said.

The song is not the only famous recording on which people can hear Mr Watkins.

His trumpet solo also opens the soundtrack for the movie Chicago, while his playing features on every James Bond film soundtrack and other blockbusters including Mission Impossible, The Mummy, Bridget Jones’s Diary, the Harry Potter films and Troy.

He has also worked with Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Tom Jones, Count Basie and John Dankworth, among others, and it is for all this work that he will find himself at the Royal Academy of Music tomorrow to receive an honorary degree in recognition of his outstanding contribution to music.

Outstanding! I love stories like this. Congrats Derek!

Monday, June 28, 2004

Helping Matt Out

Matt has asked me to help him out with this blog. My name is Doug Battson and I will try and do my best. In case you haven't figured it out yet, Matt is a trumpet player. And as his friend for many years, I can honestly say that he indeed has the traditional temperment of a trumpet player (no offense Matt) :>). I will try and help bring sanity and balance to his rants and sometimes lunatic ravings.

As a trombone player, I will help to bring about the other more rational side of brass playing on this blog. You have my word on it.

So I look forward to servicing you the reading public through this blog.



Yer Out!

From the Star Tribune:
At the direction of GM Doug Melvin, the Brewers tape the picture, name, hobbies and hometown of the umpires working each game on the clubhouse door.

For example, one of the umpire profiles read: "Mike Everitt, #57. Hobbies: Playing the trumpet, yardwork, snowblowing and watching sports. Resides: Des Moines, Ia."
I love it when I can blend two of my favorite hobbies into a blog!

Tuba Player's Life Celebrated

From the Lexington Herald

The members of New Orleans' famed Dirty Dozen Brass Band were already in the studio when word arrived that one of their own, Anthony "Tuba Fats" Lacen, had passed away at 53. A veteran Crescent City street musician, Lacen was one of the first tuba players in the Dirty Dozen ranks.

Here in Kentucky, his January death went unnoticed. In New Orleans, thousands turned out for his funeral. His body was honored with a street parade that ran from Gallier Hall, where Jefferson Davis laid in state more than a century earlier, through the French Quarter and back to Lacen's 6th ward neighborhood.

"Man, this cat was famous," said Dirty Dozen baritone sax man Roger Lewis. "All the schools turned out to honor him. There must have been 300 tuba players there. He was just this big, lovable guy."
Even with death, the band plays on... Funeral for a Friend is dedicated to "Tuba Fats."


More on the Dirty Dozen Brass Band.

Laughter Reigns, War Memories Fade...

From the Boston Globe:
The first 24 hours had passed in a blur of boiled cabbage and too-short sleep, and it was already Friday night, the heart of the Balkans' largest brass band festival, and the trumpets and tubas owned the place.

Roving orchestras eight, nine, and 10 members strong took to stages, wandered streets, and crowded around tables in makeshift restaurants. Horns blared from speakers, sometimes with a slow, sad bellow, more often so fierce and fast that passersby were thrown from one rhythm to the next. Always, the trumpet rose above, a sound pure and addictive, best described by a musician who said, "I blow my soul in my trumpet, and the trumpet plays itself."
This is a great story! Read the whole thing...

A Good Time in Ashland

From The Herald-Dispatch:
As far as Quentin Sharpenstein of Louisville is concerned, good music, a quaint setting, an appreciative audience and beautiful weather Saturday afternoon made for one incredible day at the 9th annual Ashland Brass Band Festival.

"The brass band holds a special place in my heart," Sharpenstein said. "Brass band music has grown and grown. I prefer to play outdoors. It’s an incredible day. The people here really appreciate the music. The chamber of commerce did a good job with the weather, too."

An elementary school teacher from Louisville, Sharpenstein has been playing music since he was in the fifth grade.

The former Louisville Manual High School band director is now a member of the Derby City Brass Band. The Louisville brass band was among six bands to play at the Central Park bandstand Saturday.
Nothing quite like a nice day and a brass band in the park. I wish I had known about this one, it was relatively close enough that I could have gone; and I'm certainly sorry I missed it as it sounds as if it was a great time with great music.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Featured Recording

Drum Corps Finals Coming to a Screen Near You

This years DCI finals show is being "streamed" to 43 movie theatres across the nation.
Tom Blair, longtime executive producer of the DCI World Championships DVDs as well as the DCI television broadcast, put it simply: “Grab your popcorn, put your feet up, grab on to the armrests and prepare to be blown away,” Blair said.

Blair said he wants to emulate the World Championships experience closer to home. “The whole idea is to give the fans the in the theater an experience similar to being at the World Championships site. I’m going to gear this to people who wish they could be there, and give these people a flavor of the championships experience,” Blair said.

Blair noted that the cinema broadcast is another opportunity for fans who can’t fly to Denver to enjoy an awesome drum corps evening.

“I think this part of the big picture, another one of the unique of ways that we can now present the World Championship experience to a whole different fan. We’ve got the DVDs that are the ultimate experience in the home, for the afficionado, who wants to know every detail for a corps’ performance. We’ve got the PBS broadcast, which allows us to reach out to the people who aren’t familiar with drum corps, which features background on performers and the entire experience -- a little less than the pure drum corps experience. The theater experience gives us the opportunity to take 35,000 people who can’t come to Denver, take them into that stadium and give them the same experience that they might have being at World Championships. It’s another way to expand into different audiences,” Blair said.

The broadcast will begin at 5 p.m. mountain time and will show the last 17 corps performing in their entirety. Clips of the first seven corps performing will be shown before the live broadcast, so all 24 corps will have exposure for this live event. We expect the show to end around 10:30 p.m. mountain time, after the last score is announced.
Get the list and see if the Big Show is coming to your town!

The Reagan Trumpeter

From the Free Lance-Star:
ARTHUR LEON WHITE played "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" on his trumpet and watched as a flag-draped coffin was carried up the steps of the U.S. Capitol.

The Stafford resident, a member of the Army's Herald Trumpets, was part of the slow, dignified march that had started at the Ellipse some 40 minutes earlier. He wore his dress blues, and was feeling the heat of the day.

But White didn't think about that. He thought about the man in the coffin.

Over 25 years, he's played for countless presidents and prime ministers at White House parties and on special occasions. But Ronald Reagan stands out in his mind. The 40th president was the only one who treated White and his fellow band members "like family."
Thank you for your service, Mr. White. President Reagan appreciated your skills, as did the nation, that day.

Trumpeter Bill Ferguson Celebrates 50 Years with Band

From the Ames (IA) Tribune:
Bill Ferguson tapped the beat with a black loafer, leaned back into his chair and played till he was red in the face.

His trumpet was cocked a little to the right.

His eyes followed the notes of band tunes he'd never played before.

And even as the Ames Municipal Band wrestled with the 13/8, 11/8, and 7/8 time of a piece called "Serenade," it was hard to imagine how Ferguson could be any more at home.

This is his 50th year with the band.

At 11 performances a summer, he's approaching 550 concerts with Ames' band.

And he's still the first one to show up at the Iowa State University band room for the 7 p.m. rehearsals on Monday nights.

"He's usually here by 6:30 saying, 'Why isn't the room opened up?'" said Mike Golemo, the director of the municipal band and ISU's director of bands.

It's not that Ferguson needs the extra practice. Golemo said he's a "great player who has all his chops."

But he does like to be prepared.

He also likes a challenging piece of music.

And he's a respected bandmate, a positive person, a nice guy, Golemo said.

"He looks like he's 29," Golemo said. "I don't know what his secret is. Maybe it's music."

Or maybe it's agreeing to take on a special project even though he's officially retired from 30 years of international sales at Sauer-Danfoss. Or maybe it's keeping his black cars shiny and sporty. Or maybe it's tuning in to the band music on KDAO 1190 AM from Marshalltown. Or maybe it's the car races he likes to watch. Or maybe it's trips to Branson to take in eight shows at a visit. Or maybe it's raising show dogs. Or maybe it's all that time thinking about what makes Stan Kenton's music so special.

Or maybe it's being a trumpet player in a municipal band that features buttoned-down retirees and flip-flopping undergraduates.

"This is an excellent band," Ferguson said. "It's a very powerful band. It's a real joy to play in."
We should all be so lucky! Congrats Bill and thanks for being such an inspiration!

First Myth of Trumpet Playing

From Clyde Hunt's Sail the Seven C's courtesy of Bb Music Production:
MYTH #1 Only special freaks can play in the high register. Don't waste precious time trying to duplicate their efforts. There are plenty of notes below high C upon which to devote your time and effort.

FACT: Nearly any player can dramatically improve his or her high register. What is needed is the desire to do so, and a dedicated, systematic approach. The high register will not succumb to the casual player.
I agree, in principle, with Clyde. Every trumpet player willing to put in the time should be able to play the high register. Unfortunately, there aren't any "magic" methods that a player can employ to achieve success. Hard work and dedicated practice is what is required.

In my studio, we focus on the lowest register of the horn. My philosophy is that the more solid the low end is, the better the foundation is to build the upper end. The key to playing well in the upper register is to be able to play with a relaxed but controlled technique applying sufficient breath support that maximizes tone quality in all registers you can play the horn.

It is hard work. Don't get discouraged and stay focused on results; if you do, you will be playing high and low sooner than you might think.

Welcome to Classic Brass!

Welcome to the blog devoted to brass playing specifically and classical music in general.

I teach trumpet at Buddy Rogers Music in Fairfield, OH and have been a member of a number of outstanding musical organizations throughout my career including: bands, orchestras, ensembles, and drum corps.

I plan to post at least once a week here (probably on the weekends; although weekday posting is a possibility too) with articles, discussions, exercises, and suggestions.

Feel free to participate and if you have suggestions for improving the site or can identify resources I've missed, please drop me a line.