Favorite blog posts, August 2013

Read these excellent mostly-woodwind-related blog posts from the past month, and thank me later:

Interview: Jay Mason, saxophone and woodwind artist

One of the cool people I’ve come in contact with through this blog is Jay Mason, a very busy southern California woodwind player. If you’re a fan of Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band (and you should be), you have heard Jay’s baritone anchoring the saxophone section. You may have also heard him on film scores (like the recent Monsters University), on television (The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, for one), in the theater (numerous productions around southern California), on high-profile recording projects (Patti Austin, Barry Manilow, Chick Corea…), and backing up a wide variety of marquee acts in concert (Barry White, Kenny Rogers, Michael Bolton, Bob Hope, and many more). He also teaches at Cal State Long Beach and Concordia University – Irvine. Jay was nice enough to take the time to answer some questions about his work.

Jay Mason and friends
Jay Mason and friends

BP: What do you do for a living?

JM: A combination of playing saxophones and woodwinds in recording and live situations, and music education.

What education (formal or otherwise) and experience prepared you for the work you do?

I was very fortunate to have several great young players in my high school bands, both jazz and concert band, who have gone on to successful careers in music. The choir director there started a music theory class during my junior year, which was very thorough and inclusive of many styles, which really helped me to understand how music works, not just how to play. In college, quite a few of the professors either were or had been involved in studio and live work, and working with them, talking shop, etc. helped me to understand what I needed to do if I wanted to become part of that scene. In terms of experience, the opportunity to double on flute and clarinet, as well as all of the different types of saxophones, came along in college in a variety of situations in and outside of school: musicals, different ensembles, saxophone quartets, you name it. After college, I performed at Disneyland for quite a while, which put me into a huge variety of situations, playing everything from piccolo to bass saxophone, often having to read new material or learn new parts quickly, and make it happen day in and day out, no matter the weather, the crowd, or my mood and health.

What is a typical work week like for you? Continue reading “Interview: Jay Mason, saxophone and woodwind artist”

Faculty woodwinds recital, Aug. 27, 2013

Bret Pimentel, woodwinds
Kumiko Shimizu, piano
Nicole Davis, cello

Works by Georg Philipp Telemann (1681–1767)

Faculty Recital
Delta State University Department of Music
Recital Hall, Bologna Performing Arts Center
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
7:30 PM


Sonata in A minor for oboe and basso continuo, TWV 41:a 3 (c. 1728)

  1. Siciliana
  2. Spirituoso
  3. Andante amabile
  4. Vivace

Sonata in F major for recorder and basso continuo, TWV 41:F 2 (1728)

  1. Vivace
  2. Largo
  3. Allegro

Sonata in F minor for bassoon and basso continuo, TWV 41:f 1 (1728)

  1. Triste
  2. Allegro
  3. Andante
  4. Vivace

Fantasie no. 8 in E minor, TWV 40:9 (1732)

  1. Largo
  2. Spirituoso
  3. Allegro

Concerto in A major TWV, 51:A2 (c. 1728)

  1. Largo
  2. Spirituoso
  3. Allegro

Sonata I from VI Sonates en duo, TWV 40:118 (1738)

  1. Vivace
  2. Adagio
  3. Allegro


Georg Philipp Telemann (1681–1767) was a leading composer of his time, celebrated both critically and popularly. He is reputed as one of the most prolific composers of all time, with over 3,000 known works (count among his honors an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records). His output is not only staggeringly large, but also very diverse, sometimes to the chagrin of the churches that employed him; his operas and other secular projects were sometimes regarded as unseemly. Still, composers of the stature of Handel and J. S. Bach were students of his works. Continue reading “Faculty woodwinds recital, Aug. 27, 2013”

Required recordings, fall 2013

As you know, I require my university woodwind students (oboe, clarinet, bassoon, saxophone) to grow their personal listening libraries by a minimum of one recording per semester. Here are this semester’s picks. They are all available from Amazon on CD or MP3 or both (links provided), and also on iTunes.

Carolyn Hove: English Horn & Oboe

Oboists get some key English horn repertoire this time around, as performed by the reigning queen.

Carolyn Hove: English Horn & Oboe

Amazon (CD)

Repertoire: Hindemith Sonata; Salonen Second Meeting (oboe); Marvin Pieces; Persichetti Parable; Carter Pastorale; Stevens Triangles IV Continue reading “Required recordings, fall 2013”

Ask yourself these questions before becoming a woodwind doubler

For me, there was a point in my education and career when I decided that I was a woodwind doubler, or at least that I was going to be one. Prior to that decision, I had really identified as a saxophonist, or maybe a saxophonist who doubled a little on the side.

If you are thinking that serious woodwind doubling—committing to playing several instruments at the highest possible level—might be your thing, then I suggest you ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I willing to commit major practice time to each instrument?
  • Am I willing to accept a slower rate of improvement and/or more extensive practice routine than I would if I remained committed to a single instrument?
  • Am I willing to sacrifice or at least postpone some high-level performance goals on my primary instrument in order to devote time to my secondary instruments?
  • Do I have the resources and/or financial discipline to accumulate the necessary high-quality instruments and other equipment?
  • Do I have the guts to perform on instruments that aren’t my strongest one(s)?
  • Am I genuinely interested in and motivated by each of the instruments I intend to play?
Photo, stonelucifer
Photo, stonelucifer

If you answered “no” to one or more, then you might be happier and more successful maintaining a single “primary” instrument, and taking a more casual approach to doubling. Or you may not have fully come to terms yet with the realities of woodwind doubling. Playing any one instrument well requires non-trivial investment of time and money, and very little of that can be truly recycled for a second instrument: if it takes you 10,000 practice hours to achieve your goals on your first instrument, expect to take another 10,000 to achieve the same goals on another.

There are of course many advantages to woodwind doubling, which I won’t rehash in depth here other than to list a few: more and/or different employment opportunities, expanded musical experiences, and, for some, great fun. But it’s not for everyone (probably not for most people). If your answer is “yes” to each of the questions above, then carve out some extra practice time, start saving your pennies, and clear your calendar for some new opportunities.

Buying a new instrument for college-level study

If you are preparing to start a college music degree, you may need or want a new instrument. I strongly suggest that you contact your professor before making this purchase. Every professor is of course different, but here are some things that you are likely to discover in most cases:

Photo, Andrew Shieh
Photo, Andrew Shieh
  • The professor will be happy and relieved that you are seeking their advice before making a purchase, and will be anxious to work with you on finding the right instrument. They have seen previous tragedies involving students arriving on campus with new, expensive, and totally unsuitable instruments.
  • The professor will likely encourage you to start the semester with your current instrument, even if it’s not really college-worthy, so that you can take the necessary time to pick out a new instrument together. The professor will in many cases want to try out instruments with you to help you pick out the very best one.
  • The professor in many or most cases will have a variety of suitable makes and models in mind, including some (relatively) budget-friendly options. They are likely to have a favorite—probably the model they play on themselves—but will likely concede that the same instrument is not suitable for every single musician. Still, some may require a specific model.
  • Serious college study will require a professional-grade instrument. If you are window-shopping at a music store or online retailer, you can likely assume that anything marked “student” or “intermediate” will not be adequate for the rigors of college study. On the other hand, be aware that not everything labeled “professional” by the seller is high-quality enough for true professional use, even if it’s that maker’s top-of-the-line model. Additionally, instruments that were genuine professional models several decades ago might not be considered such anymore.
  • You may need to prepare yourself for some sticker shock. Depending on your personal financial values, it may be appropriate to use student loan funds to cover this educational expense.
  • The professor’s opinions may not jive with your opinions, the opinions of your old private teacher or band director, or opinions you read on the internet. Be prepared to learn your professor’s way for now, and make better-informed decisions on your own after graduation.

The same advice holds true for mouthpieces and other paraphernalia. Have a great semester!