“Piccolo Phil” over at The Balanced Flutist discusses the benefits and challenges of woodwind doubling in preparation for an upcoming gig. Benefits:
I actually don’t mind doubling that much, it can be a nice change of pace, plus, show tunes are just so much fun! It’s been great exploring these instruments again, especially since I’ve been really aiming to build a foundation on both instruments, not just patch the holes just enough that I can survive the gig.
Challenges: Endurance, jazz style, obtaining necessary instruments and accessories, and, of course, reeds:
As flutists, we’re super-spoiled. We buy our instrument, a nice headjoint, and we’re done. Not so with reeded instruments – reeds suck.
Here are some sound clips from my faculty recital last month. I try to make a point of keeping myself challenged, and mission accomplished on this one.
The repertoire, selected collaboratively with my outstanding pianist colleague Dr. Kumiko Shimizu, was all pieces with some connection to jazz music. First up on the program was selected movements from Claude Bolling’s Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano. Flute isn’t part of my teaching assignment at Delta State, but this piece was too fun to pass up and my flutist colleague Dr. Shelley Collins is extraordinarily supportive of my flute playing. Since I spend most of my work week living in reed land, however, my flute chops don’t get the attention I would like, and I’m a bit self-conscious about my sound and my control of the instrument. I hear a number of things on the recording that I am less than satisfied with, but overall I think it went okay, and it was well received by the audience (even the part of the audience whose grade doesn’t depend on keeping me happy).
Next was a new-ish piece by young composer Alyssa Morris, a fellow BYU alum. I had heard her Four Personalities for oboe and piano performed by Nancy Ambrose King a few years back at an IDRS conference, and it immediately sprang to mind when I started brainstorming jazz-influenced oboe pieces. We performed the first two movements (second, then first), which, to our ears, had the strongest jazz elements. The first movement (performed second) in particular has characteristic swing rhythms and figures, and it was strange but fun to tackle those things on the oboe.
At the John Mack Oboe Camp over the summer, I heard a fine performance of this piece by the Oregon Symphony’s principal oboist, Martin Hebert. I also got some reed help from Linda Strommen (of Indiana University), which has greatly improved the pitch stability of my reeds. I’m pleased with the improvement over last year’s recital. I’m not sure I have entirely adapted tone-wise to the change, however, and I was a little surprised by my sound on the recording—to me, I don’t quite sound like me.
I’m a little late commenting on this, but I still think it’s an issue worth addressing. Last month there was a minor scandal over an incident in a Farmington, New Mexico school orchestra program, where a beginning violinist was informed that she would not be allowed to use her own, um, unique instrument. Most of the reporting on the story took a similar tone to that employed by the Los Angeles Times:
The gift violin was a surprise from her grandmother. The color was purple, the girl’s favorite.
Lopez encouraged her daughter to stand up for what she believed in. “I told her, ‘Camille, you’re not like everyone else. We’re all different.'”
“She’s done with the orchestra class,” Lopez said. “She switched out. She no longer plays.”
Lopez said she’ll never know whether the decision ended the career of a budding Yo-Yo Ma. “I’d pay for private lessons if I could afford them,” Lopez said. “But it doesn’t matter now, I guess. Camille is taking choir now.”
The Times story sets up the uninformed reader for outrage: an underprivileged but spunky girl, a gift from a grandmother, stifled individuality, personal “beliefs” under attack, abandoned dreams, and a stodgy, stuffy establishment.
But a more careful reading of the Times story reveals some details that won’t escape the attention of music educators.
I had been tempted previously by SaxRax stands, which I continue to hear good things about but haven’t been able to try out seriously in person. I find it difficult on SaxRax’s website to find out exactly what products they are currently making; I had to use their contact form and wait for a response to determine that their single alto and tenor stands can no longer be joined with a special connector, and the double flute-clarinet peg is no longer made (though some old stock are apparently still available). I had hoped to buy a single saxophone stand and eventually build onto it with a second, but now you have to buy a combo alto-tenor stand, and that is currently out of my price range.
Next on my list were the stands by Hercules, which are more expensive than the various cheap stands but considerably less costly than the SaxRax. Hercules’s website is very clear about what products they make. I settled on the DS538B, which holds alto and tenor saxophones, and includes a soprano saxophone peg and two flute-or-clarinet pegs. Saxquest currently sells them for USD $69.95, plus a fairly steep shipping charge (the stand is a little heavy, I guess).
It has yellow trim. Not on the pegs, which might be useful in the dark, but on the base, where its only function is to call attention to itself (and perhaps provide a little free advertising).
I got in touch with a Hercules representative, who pointed out a functional reason for the bright trim on the base:
The reason we make the yellow trim eye-catching is to prevent stumbling over the stand or instrument on the dark stage.
The DS538B appears as though I could disassemble it with an adjustable wrench; it’s tempting to attempt this and spray-paint the yellow parts black. (I can only assume that attempting something like this voids applicable warranties.) Continue reading “Review: Hercules DS538B woodwind stand”→