message: 6
date: Thu, 31 Jul 2008 20:07:06 -0500
from: "William Foss" <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
subject: [Hornlist] Players & Musicians

Sorry about the double post-- I just wanted to get as many ideas about this topic as I can. I look forward to hearing input, and hopefully very little heated disagreement. Also, I really enjoyed meeting a lot of you in person
this past week; it was nice to put some faces with the names.

It seemed to me that a theme that was present throughout the conference (especially the "Pedagogical Pearls" and "Meet the Masters" sessions) was the state of music education. The information that I took is that today, a large portion of the teaching community is very focused on getting students through an audition=97so much so that we lose individual musicianship. On Tuesday, Dr. Hill stressed the need for teachers to focus on teaching each
student. "We are not teaching horn, we are teaching individuals" (or
something to that effect).

I remember that during the "Meet the Masters" session Mr. Cerminaro said something to the effect of (and I am paraphrasing, I don't remember exactly what it was that he said), "All of us on this stage are great musicians first and great horn players second." I thought that that was a very good
point. They spent some of the time talking about students who do not
understand the historical and musical contexts for the music that they play=

The problem seems to me to be whether students are being taught to be
players or musicians. I'm sure that we have all heard players who hit the right notes, but are uninspiring (sometimes even boring) to hear. I had class with a piano professor who was very fond of encouraging us to play expressively saying, "=85that's why they call it 'music' and not 'notes.'" =
tired as I got of hearing that, it has stuck with me and is one I've even
used when I teach my middle school and high school students.

I wonder how long this trend will continue. Certainly the system will stop short of educating students who are technically proficient but fail to play

I am curious as to what everyone's thoughts are on this, and is this as
severe a problem outside the US?

William Foss

message: 7
date: Fri, 1 Aug 2008 10:38:07 +0100
from: "Jonathan West" <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
subject: Re: [Hornlist] Players & Musicians

I suspect that a surprisingly large number of orchestral musicians
(even at a professional level) regard their work as a craft rather
than an art.

By that, I mean that they regard their task as beginning and ending
with the mastery of their particular instrument and playing the notes
in whatever fashion the conductor requires of them. They aren't much
concerned with musicianship and interpretation, they leave that to the

Playing to a professional standard requires huge amounts of work to
achieve that mastery of the instrument, so it is inevitable that much
teaching work is directed towards technical matters, and there is
always a danger that musicianship and interpretation is forgotten.

The difference between good professional musicians and great ones is
not in the mastery of the technical aspects of the instrument, but in
the fact that they have (and think deeply about) the musicianship as

Jonathan West

I put these two posts together because they speak eloquently to an issue that has been bothering me for quite a while. Perhaps every generation feels the same way about the next one coming along, but I do think that there has been a serious cultural shift in this country that has affected the Classical music world along with everything else. That issue is "bottom-lining" and it has elevated itself to the level of a cult. We have bottom-lined everything from our economy, politics, education, food, entertainment, Xmas and even sex. Health care and quality of life were recently bottom-lined by a young poster on this or the Yahoo forum by the formula, Money=Life. Pathetic.

Quality of life or our work has no meaning any more. If it is not measurable, hence bottom-lineable, it doesn't matter. It doesn't exist. Subjectivity is a dirty word. Objectivity is king. Too bad there is no such thing as true objectivity. Subjectivity is what makes human beings. I love the comment in JW's post about leaving the musical part to the conductor! So true and so pathetic. Conductors? They have been bottom-lining for so long they haven't got any music left in them. Fortunately for them, the performances are now judged only by the "perfection index," which simply requires the right notes at acceptable tolerances of dynamics and rhythm. Just read the reviews. Those have been bottom-lined too. We have lost our way.

I have to admit that part of the fault does lie with us in the business and our obsession with auditions. We had to try and make hiring more fair so we have gone to the other extreme now and made it into a game- a zero sum game. One of the best orchestras I ever worked in was one put together for our Midsummer Mozart Festival by the conductor and myself and a very musical oboe player. We never auditioned anyone, we just hired the people we thought were the best that we had worked with- the most sensitive musicians for what we were doing. They had a union contract with all the benefits and protections that most other small orchestras only dream about, but there were no auditions, and no one ever complained about it. But I digress.

Why spend your time worrying about becoming a musician when all you have to do is win an audition? That is the bottom line, right? Get the job. Do whatever it takes. There is a pretty small list of excerpts when you consider the actual repertoire, and a couple of solo pieces and you are all set. You don't even have to know the pieces, just the excerpts. The solo pieces? Copy a recording. It is much different in Europe, where students are expected to know more about music and to be more capable of playing solo works and have some idea about style and expression. A lot of that is because classical music is still more alive in those cultures from where it sprang. The handing down of expression and style is considered the number one item of importance, as it should be. We here are often VERY remiss in this process. I'm not making a blanket accusation here, but i think the people at the IHS thing and a lot of others would agree with what I am saying. (OK, I didn't go to that lecture, but I got a full report from my spies.)

Anyway, I'm glad this subject is finally coming up. This is what my next book and DVD set is all about- expression, phrasing and practicing for it FIRST, rather than last. Make the musical expression your FIRST priority and you will find the QUICKEST path to excellence on your instrument, and in the process, you will become a musician- an artist- not just a player. Start with the tone and work from there. We heard a lot of strange noises coming from the rooms where you could try all the horns in Denver. That is another subject for another day. But that day is coming soon.
Wendell Rider
For information about my book, "Real World Horn Playing", the DVDs and Regular and Internet Horn Lessons go to my website: http://

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