Bret on the Clarineat podcast

I had the pleasure of appearing on Sean Perrin’s Clarineat podcast. We talked about my blog, teaching, woodwind doubling, and more. Visit Clarineat.com to listen and subscribe, or search for it in iTunes or your favorite podcast app. Join the mailing list, too, to win a fancy ligature or future giveaways (plus stay up to date on new interviews).

facebook-logo-01

Recital videos, August 2016

I performed a recital with a faculty colleague on our campus at Delta State University, and again at the University of Mississippi (“Ole Miss”). Program and videos are below.

The idea behind the first half was to play Paris Conservatory competition pieces from 1916 (100 years ago). The Büsser and Lefebvre pieces are not unknown, and the Fauré Fantaisie for flute and piano is core repertoire. The Paul Puget Solo for bassoon and piano was much harder to find, as it seems to have been out of print for some time. The University of Michigan library has it, and was willing to send their yellowed copy on interlibrary loan for a fee. (I am hoping to get it up on the IMSLP. Update: it’s now on the IMSLP.) If anybody is familiar with the piece, I would be curious to hear from you.

No special theme on the second half, just a couple of contemporary works I wanted to do. Greg Pattillo’s Three Beats for beatbox flute was a fun challenge and a crowd pleaser. (My beatboxing has a long way to go. Also: I bought the piece as a PDF through Pattillo’s website, but the site seems to have been updated and now I can’t find it to link to.) And Roberto Molinelli’s Four Pictures from New York is a charming piece for saxophonist playing soprano, alto, and tenor, performed here with piano but also available in several ensemble versions. I copied Otis Murphy‘s substantial cuts to the third movement, which make sense for the saxophone/piano texture.

Program (PDF)

Teaching multiple instruments: IDRS 2016 presentation

Lecture notes from a presentation on teaching multiple instruments, especially double reeds in a higher education setting, from the 2016 International Double Reed Society conference.

Downloadable version

Teaching Multiple Instruments

Dr. Bret Pimentel, Delta State University

IDRS Conference 2016, Columbus, Georgia

More and more university music teaching positions require wearing several hats, sometimes including teaching multiple instruments. (Oboe plus bassoon is an especially common combination, even though it’s unusual for musicians to play both well.) Teaching multiple instruments is also a potentially valuable skill for instructors at lesson studios in private music schools or in music stores, for instructors in middle or high school band and orchestra programs, and for those establishing private studios from their homes.

Getting hired

  • In many multiple-instrument hiring situations, the expectation is proficiency on one instrument and willingness to fake your way teaching the other(s). Any actual training or background on secondary instruments immediately sets you apart. Strongly consider taking at least a few lessons on a secondary instrument—this shows seriousness about the multiple-instrument thing, even if it doesn’t make you a virtuoso.
  • Having access to books (or websites) isn’t a substitute. Neither is “knowing a guy” who you can “ask questions.” Though those are usable resources, they aren’t convincing to hiring committees because they don’t demonstrate any actual effort prior to submitting your application.
  • Be honest but positive with yourself and with hiring committees about your ability and/or enthusiasm for teaching multiple instruments. For example:
    • “I play oboe professionally, but I am deeply committed to both instruments and am working to improve my bassoon skills. I have some experience playing bassoon in semi-professional settings.”
    • “Bassoon is really my thing, but I took oboe lessons for a couple of summers during graduate school and am enthusiastic about teaching the double reeds.”
    • “Teaching bassoon would be a brand new challenge for me, and one that I would take seriously.”

Lesson time

  • You won’t have to fix all of your students’ technical issues on day one, but you will have to assign repertoire and studies right away. Spend some serious time browsing other teachers’ syllabi and “suggested repertoire” lists (many are available online!), and start compiling some lists of your own. Are you ready to recommend, for example:
    • some remedial etudes and an easy solo for an incoming freshman?
    • an hour’s worth of varied and challenging-but-doable repertoire for a junior entering a competition?
    • a solid program for a senior recital that can double as serious graduate school audition repertoire?
    • Baroque pieces?
    • pieces with extended techniques?
    • chamber pieces with strings?
    • concerti with concert band?
    • and so on…
  • You will, of course, have to address technical issues at some point. Be advised that your students know when you’re making things up. But it can be a great experience to spend a few minutes researching a question together, or calling a colleague or mentor on speakerphone for advice.
  • Both you and the student can learn a lot when you dare to get an instrument out and try some things together. Your students know it’s not your main instrument, and appreciate seeing you step out of your comfort zone. Consider giving them a chance to teach you something—teaching is a skill they should be learning anyway.

Managing resources

  • Institutional resources like money, time, and space are often allocated per faculty member, not per instrument taught. As appropriate, consider making a case for the following (for example):
    • Funding for your oboe studio plus funding for your bassoon studio. Per-faculty funding can be unfair to students, who won’t benefit from purchases made for the other studio.
    • Additional prep time built into your schedule to accommodate the logistics of multiple studios.
    • Studio space and storage space suitable for several studios’ worth of instruments, sheet music, reed desks, etc.
  • If you are a single-instrumentalist teaching multiple instruments, consider forming partnerships with others in the same situation. Visit each other’s schools once or twice a year, maybe more often if the travel is short. Be each other’s consultants, guest artists, masterclass teachers, reed sources.
  • Consider which aspects of running a studio you can streamline to accommodate multiple instruments without multiplying your workload. For example:
    • Use your university’s LMS features, perhaps to combine all of your applied students into one “course,” instead of having to communicate separately to each instrument group.
    • If permissible and appropriate, rotate or combine things like studio classes and chamber group coachings.
    • Repurpose, say, oboe sight-reading excerpts as saxophone excerpts, or vice-versa. (Doesn’t work as well between oboe and bassoon. Clefs, you know.)

Staying sharp (figuratively)

  • Join an organization. Attend conferences. Read the journal. Summer camps (that welcome or at least tolerate adults) are great, too.
    • For oboe-plus-bassoon teachers, IDRS is perfect! Be sure to attend recitals and masterclasses for your secondary teaching instrument, and familiarize yourself with equipment and repertoire options in the vendor exhibits.
  • Build your library of recordings, pedagogical materials, and experiences related to your secondary teaching instrument(s). If it suits your goals, budget toward buying or upgrading your secondary instruments and investing in your further education.
  • Be smart, informed, and conscientious about learning what pedagogical techniques, ideas, etc. you can share between instruments and what you can’t.
  • If you are at even an intermediate performing level on a secondary instrument, strongly consider playing it on your faculty recitals (one short, easy piece?). Keep yourself challenged to improve.
  • Shameless plug: Keep an eye on bretpimentel.com for blog posts and other resources related to playing and teaching multiple woodwind instruments, and the fundamental techniques that those instruments share.

Long-term career planning

  • Is teaching multiple instruments an end goal for you, or just a way to get that first teaching job that will be a stepping stone to something that fits you better? Hint: either is okay, and it’s also okay to change your mind.
  • If you need to meet certain expectations for tenure, annual reviews, etc., be smart about how your multiple-instrument duties affect this. For example:
    • If leadership in professional organizations is important, you may need to attend your major instrument’s conference every year, instead of bouncing from conference to conference.
    • Understand student recruitment expectations—will you need to keep your studios balanced in a certain way, or is it acceptable if, say, recruiting for your main instrument is more successful?

Report: 2016 International Double Reed Society conference

I had a blast at the 2016 International Double Reed Society conference, hosted by Columbus State University in Columbus, Georgia. As I have said before, the IDRS puts on an outstanding conference, maybe my favorite of the various woodwind conferences I attend. Very well organized, with lots of outstanding talent, varied events, and presences from all the top makers and dealers of double reed instruments and gear.

A few personal highlights:

  • Excellent evening concerts, some with chamber music and some with orchestra. Too many great performances to do justice to them all, but a couple that stood out in my mind were the premiere of Alan Elkins’s double oboe concerto with Elizabeth Koch Tiscione and Kathryn Greenbank, and Cary Ebli‘s performance of his own edition of the Donizetti Concertino for English horn.

    double-concerto_mini
    Elizabeth Koch Tiscione and Kathryn Greenbank
  • Too many recitals to count. I liked, among others, Joey Salvalaggio‘s “When Giant Babies Attack,” Paul Hanson‘s always-astonishing solo bassoon with electronics, the Paradise Winds reed quintet, Benjamin Coelho with Andrew Parker, Eric Stomberg with Barry Stees, and Mark Ostoich with Alyssa Morris and Petrea Warneck playing Morris’s new and outstanding trio for two oboes and English horn.

    hanson_mini
    Paul Hanson sound check, with appropriate reaction from conference volunteer
  • Some very interesting lectures and presentations. A few favorites were Mark Eubanks‘s on bassoon reed tuning, Jamie Sampson‘s on her methodical research into bassoon multiphonics, and Janet Grice‘s on adapting Brazilian choros to double reed instruments.
  • I gave a presentation on teaching multiple instruments. You can check out my handout/lecture notes if you like.
  • I got to meet or reconnect with lots of cool people, including some who, to my delight and surprise, introduced themselves as “fans” of this blog or of my other online stuff. I’m always happy to connect with nice people who find my stuff useful or interesting in some way.
  • And I did come home with a, uh, souvenir:Paul Hanson sound check, with appropriate reaction from student volunteer

2015 in review

Here are some of the things that went on here at your favorite woodwind blog during the past year.

If you have read anything interesting or useful here during the past year, I hope you will consider leaving a comment, getting in touch via email or social media, buying a shirt or sending a donation, contacting me aboutadvertising opportunities for your relevant business, and/or pointing your all your woodwind friends toward bretpimentel.com.

Thanks for reading in 2015, and best wishes for the new year!

Dissertation on Divertissement for multiple woodwinds

A few years back I commissioned a piece, Divertissement by Sy Brandon for multiple woodwinds soloist with piano, with the help of a Co-op Press Commission Assistance Grant. Brian Levels, who was until recently a doctoral student at the University of North Texas, has written a dissertation on the piece, which is now available through the UNT Digital Library. Be sure to check out the dissertation, and, of course, the piece.

Fingering Diagram Builder, version 0.7

I have released version 0.7 of the Fingering Diagram Builder. Mostly it supports some new instruments. Let me know if you run into bugs or have suggestions or feature requests.

Here’s what’s new:

  • I fixed a bug that was preventing saving custom presets. Not sure if anybody noticed.
  • Viennese oboe diagrams.
  • German clarinet diagrams, in Oehler and Albert variants.
  • French bassoon diagrams, in Jancourt and modern Buffet variants.
  • The (Conservatory) oboe diagram now (optionally) has a thumb low B key.
  • The (German/Heckel) bassoon diagram now (optionally) has an offset C-sharp trill (hat tip to Trent Jacobs).
European woodwindy goodness. L-R: Viennese oboe, Oehler clarinet, Buffet bassoon
European woodwindy goodness. L-R: Viennese oboe, Oehler clarinet, Buffet bassoon

Note that I do not play or own a Viennese oboe, an Oehler- or Albert-system clarinet, or a French bassoon, nor am I suitably fluent in European languages to 100% understand the related pedagogical literature, so I could really use some assistance on making sure these new diagrams look right and things are named properly. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have suggestions/improvements.

As always, I’m glad to hear from folks who are using the FDB, and to see the cool things you are making (websites, blog posts, books, posters, handouts…). The FDB generates thousands of images every month, which I think is pretty cool.

Fingering Diagram Builder, version 0.6

I have just released version 0.6 of the Fingering Diagram Builder. It’s almost a maintenance release, that mostly just attempts to fix a few problems and add a little polish. Your suggestions and bug reports are, as always, welcome (as are your donations, social media pings, links, etc.). Go play around with it or read on for the details.

New hotness
New hotness

Here’s what’s new:

  • The user interface got a minor facelift and some usability improvements. For example, if you dare to use the “Keywork details” tab, you may notice that the menu stays a little more manageable size-wise, and if you’re working at a desktop monitor you can tweak things without losing sight of the diagram.
  • Several of you wrote in to point out that the Dropbox functionality had become broken. Dropbox changed some things on their end and I got a little behind on making the necessary adjustments on my end. Long story short, the FDB now uses Dropbox’s slick little popup thing if you want to save your fingering diagrams there. You might have to enable popups for the FDB in your browser. Also, if you’re not using Dropbox yet, how do you even survive?
  • Valved brass instrument diagrams have been around since version 0.2, but they were little-known because for some reason I lumped them in with the simple-system flutes. I know. They are much easier to find now. You can stop writing in to ask if I know of a website that does diagrams for brass instruments.
  • If you are into creating custom styles, you can now include your selected instrument as part of those if you wish.
  • The Creative Commons license has been updated to version 4.0. That really just means that some of the legalese underlying it has changed. You’re still totally free to use the diagrams for your not-for-profit projects, or to hit me up and make the necessary arrangements if you want to use the diagrams to make something you’re going to sell. (Here’s a cool example of something made with literally one bazillion FDB diagrams: it’s a book.)
  • I did a bunch of other stuff under the hood to improve stability and speed and to lay groundwork for future improvements.

As always, there are more improvements in the works. I usually wait until I have more of a “wow” feature to show off before doing a release, but I wanted to get a fix out there for the Dropbox users. Enjoy!

2014 in review

Here are some of the things that went on here at your favorite woodwind blog during the past year.

  • The runaway hit of the year in terms of sharing on Facebook/Twitter/etc. was my look at “the amazing shrinking woodwind section,” a sort of commentary on how woodwind doubling has changed since the mid-20th-century “Golden Age” of Broadway. Some more doubling-related items: a look at the clarinet for saxophone players, a musing on playing multiple woodwinds in recital, and the question of the “main” instrument.
  • A number of the other articles that got a lot of traffic and social media love were related to practice techniques and philosophies: one on what I call “anchoring,” one listing some ways to practice technical passages, one about memorizing, one about knowing whether you are playing something “right,” and one about just plain slowing down. Most of these, of course, originate from conversations with my students. We have a lot of conversations about practicing.
  • Some articles, as always, dealt with specifics of woodwind playing, like one about chronic flatness on the clarinet and one about saxophone hand position.
  • I reported on a few items from my professional life, such as a visit to ClarinetFest, the presentation I gave there, and the fact of my doctoral dissertation becoming available online. I also shared some warts-and-all videos from a multiple woodwinds recital performance.
  • I did twelve new installments of my “favorite blog posts” from other people’s woodwind blogs. At this point I have well over 500 woodwind-related blogs in my feed reader, and I at least skim every new post. Many of my favorite posts end up coming from a relatively small handful of extra-good blogs, but that’s not a foregone conclusion and sometimes a dark horse slips in there. If you think I might not be following your blog yet, let me know and I’ll check it out. It has to be at least somewhat woodwind-related and have a syndication feed such as RSS or Atom (most blogging platforms like WordPress or Blogger already have these built in). On a related topic, I’m a little behind on updating my various lists of woodwind players’ sites and blogs (such as the woodwind doublers list), but I’m hoping to catch up in 2o15. Feel free to get in touch if you feel like your site should be listed but isn’t and I’ll give it priority consideration.
  • I did one set of “required recordings” in January, but skipped August this year since my university reed studio has turned over since I started the required recordings and so I’m in reruns now. When I end up picking some new ones for my students, I’ll share them with y’all too.
  • There has been a lot of discussion about the problem of musicians being expected to give away their performance talents for free, but I also felt the need to address the idea of original content like blog posts being used by for-profit companies without actual compensation to the creators. This was a reaction to being approached by a woodwind-related company whose products I have purchased frequently over the years, to see if I would like to let them re-“print” some of my blog posts on their website in exchange for what they called “exposure.” I refused but I have witnessed a number of friends and acquaintances boasting about their content being “selected” for this dubious honor. If you are creating original content, I encourage you not to give it away to businesses that do not intend to share their profits with you, even if they try to make it seem like a compliment.
  • Another year, another April Fools’ Day post that apparently nobody liked but me. I remain undeterred.
  • I reviewed Ben Britton’s new saxophone overtones book and the ReedGeek tool.
  • There weren’t any major updates this year to Broadway Doubling in Musicals or the Fingering Diagram Builder, two of this site’s most popular features, but I’m always tinkering with some new ideas. Stay tuned.
  • As always, there were a few posts that I hoped might generate some lively conversation but didn’t. A couple that spring to mind were one about coaching student chamber ensembles and one about college music study on “auxiliary” instruments (like tenor saxophone or bass clarinet). It’s not too late if you want to chime in.
  • I introduced some original t-shirt designs that are currently for sale to help support my activities on this blog, and a number of you fashion-forward people are already turning heads in your new woodwind-related apparel. If you don’t have yours yet, be sure to check them out.

If you have read anything interesting or useful here during the past year, I hope you will consider leaving a comment, getting in touch via email or social media, buying a shirt or sending a donation, contacting me about advertising opportunities for your relevant business, and/or pointing your all your woodwind friends toward bretpimentel.com.

Thanks for reading in 2014, and best wishes for the new year!