Music Quote of the Day: Art Doesn’t Come Easily


Mozart, about 1780. Detail of Mozart family po...

People err who think my art comes easily to me. I assure you, dear friend, nobody has devoted so much time and thought to composition as I. There is not a famous master whose music I have not industriously studied through many times.

–Mozart in a letter to a friend


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Wild About Harry (Connick Jr.)


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English: Harry Connick, Jr. at the New Orleans...

I just saved 250 bucks. Maybe more. Definitely more, if you figure in that I got paid to sit closer than the most expensive seats ($250 a pop) to that stupendous talent named Joseph Harry Fowler Connick, Jr., aka Harry Connick Jr.

I got a call in the late afternoon yesterday asking if I would be a last-minute replacement in the horn section of the Cedar Rapids Symphony a couple hours hence. I leapt at the chance. This was no ordinary concert.

The occasion was the gala (re)opening of the Paramount Theater, which had finally been rebuilt (thank you FEMA!) after the devastating floods of 2008 put the entire downtown under ten (or more) feet of water. The old theater was indeed grand:

– a superb example of “a 1920’s movie/vaudeville palace”.

But the new hall just takes your breath away – clearly every inch from top to bottom has been redone. You just have to think: this has to be the most stunning hall west of the Mississippi.

The work it took to renovate boggles minds. Imagine the Sistine Chapel-like scaffolding it took to apply detail to that oh-so-high ceiling…

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Music Quote of the Day: Engage Your Brains


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Cover of "Musicophilia: Tales of Music an...

Our exposure to different types of music, and hence our musical literacy, has certainly expanded, but perhaps at a cost. As Daniel Levitin has pointed out, passive listening has largely replaced active music-making. Now that we can listen to anything we like on our iPods, we have less motivation to go to concerts or churches or synagogues, less occasion to sing together. This is unfortunate, because music-making engages much more of our brains than simply listening. Partly for this reason, to celebrate my 75th birthday last year, I started taking piano lessons (after a gap of more than sixty years). I still have my iPod (it contains the complete works of Bach), but I also need to make music every day.

– Neurologist Oliver Sacks, author of Musicophilia


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How to Shoot the Ground Hog


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ground hog day

(Photo credit: paloetic)

Funny thing about horn players. As students we get introduced to a warm-up/workout routine in high school or college and we learn it (a good thing) and then proceed to repeat it for the next umpteen years. Routines have one big positive: you know how it goes, they cover a bunch of stuff – all good stuff – and you can zip through them and feel good about yourself. You’ve done your duty, taken your daily vitamins, and now you can go practice. What could be wrong with that?

Nothing – it’s all good. Except that one little thing…

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Music Story of the Day: Without Music, No Village


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Interamerican Development Bank president Felipe Herrara, a Chilean economist, told of a tiny Indian village on the high altiplano near Bolivia’s Lake  Titicaca, where he’d gone on a feasibility study for a proposed hydroelectric dam. Upon completing the site visit, his team realized they hadn’t used their entire travel budget. Since the village lacked everything, they assembled the local chiefs and explained that they had some money left. In gratitude for hospitality and assistance, they’d like to give it to the community as a gift.

“What project would you like us to fund here in the name of the Bank?”

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Classical Improv: Like 14 New Languages!


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English: University of Texas at Austin wordmark.

Most of my thoughts on improv go into my other blog, Improv Insights, but this is a lot about horn; I was just asked a question in an email by Jacob Schnitzer, an undergrad horn student in the studio of Patrick Hughes at UT-Austin. He wondered about the role of jazz in a horn player’s experience. Here’s what I wrote back:

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Problem Solving Idea: Reframing


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Horns Section Machine

(Photo credit: Todd Berman)

You (meaning me) write articles and blog entries and occasionally get feedback here and there, but mostly you send it out there and don’t hear any echo back about it – if it struck any chords with anyone, etc etc. Comments of (nearly) any sort are always welcome; sometimes comments lead to deeper or more interesting discussions than the original post.  It’s of course easier to send a comment to a blog than to an article. The following is part of an email I recently received from a good friend, someone I met and worked with at Kendall Betts Horn Camp. It’s about a recent article in The Horn Call, journal of the International Horn Society. I am respecting their wish for privacy by removing identifying names.