Visualization, Visualization, Visualization

The more I learn (and the less I suck), the more important I find it to visualize (internally "HEAR" the sound, approach, and attitude) before I pick up the horn. It's been a crazy day--water main broke. Family time. The boy may have the pox (chicken) -- it's 10PM and I finally get a chance to warm-up.

This is what's going in my head right before I pick up the horn- what's going into your brain before you warm-up this week?

Please drop a comment below, and share with the class!

Deep Thoughts at 3AM (My Educational Philosophy)

As I am up FAR too late tonight- I had the opportunity (read here: obligation) to write down my current "Educational Philosophy".

A couple of things come to mind: First: This is what I believe now. Today. Check in month, decade, eon, and things surely will have evolved. Second: Rather than write a narrative about the typical "How I teach" I decided to use the opportunity to be starkly FRANK. Honestly, I'm a little bit afraid and nervous how this might be read or interpreted by the recipient, but have decided rather than "play it safe" do what I've been urging my students to do, and take a risk. This has been percolating for the past few years and finally has emerged as a "moderately coherent" document- We'll have to see what it looks like tomorrow morning though. :)

'nuff said: Here's What *I* believe, as an educator. Friday, April 22, 2011

Statement of Teaching Philosophy Dr. Jonathan Brummel

In the summer of 1997 I was forever ruined as someone who merely “teaches” as a backup plan, and was doomed to lead a life of continued development. I think I have to blame my father and the Boy Scouts of America for raising me with a strong work ethic and moral compass, but it was my summer employment at the Cazadero Music Camp that truly ruined any possibility of becoming a teacher who simply ‘settled.’

I had recently completed my first taste of being a professional musician, having performed daily for thousands of park guests at Disneyland. The following summer I was destined to be a music instructor in a thousand year old forest with a tradition for educational excellence dating back to the 1970s. Founded by Mr. Robert Lutt, the Cazadero Music Camp has a history of attracting conductors and staff that are highly accomplished musicians, but are more significantly some of the most impassioned and talented educators in the field. Working with people for whom music education was not merely a job, but a lifestyle and joy, I fully engrossed myself in the selfless art of music education. The skills I learned that summer were many, but the approach which I adopted was one of full engagement with the people I was working with, and doing whatever it took to help them either accomplish their goal or take their abilities to the next level- and enjoy themselves in the process.

Education is an interesting thing--as I have grown through the years, I have morphed from a fledgling educator who was desperate to prove how much I knew in order to mask my underlying ignorance, to now fully embracing not only how ignorant I am, but also have learned to acknowledge and enjoy my mistakes. With each day, I become more competent, more accomplished, and make daily distinctions that take me further down the path of mastery. I have made it my mission to not be perfect, right, or amazing-- but simply to be better, every day, than the one before. This has led me to a greater level of skill and knowledge in my subject area.

In my youth, I found it necessary to always have the “right answer” and often taught my students in the same fashion my mentors taught me- simple rote instruction. The advice given was often good, always meant well, but I now take a very different approach with my students (often to their initial surprise, and occasional discomfort) -- I teach them how to teach themselves. The mechanics of playing a brass instrument are quite simple indeed, however the conditioning of the various skills, musculature, and psychological aspects of playing (and reproducing them on a consistent basis) are extremely complex. The biggest distinction I had to learn as an educator was that it is my duty to make the student responsible for their own development. If I can help the student become not only accountable and engaged in their own development each time they pick up the horn, then not only will their development accelerate rapidly, but they become responsible for all of their own accomplishments. When I coach my students now, rather than simply give them a list of things “to do this time,” we spend time exploring why it did or didn’t work, and how we can apply that to either get greater positive results, or use it as a data point of what “doesn’t work.”

By putting the focus on continued development and refinement as opposed to our internal judgements of “right or wrong” I have seen improvement that far outpaces both my, and my students progress. In our exploration together, I will use any tool or tactic necessary to keep the student in a positive state of mind and keep them mentally present and engaged. Levity is often used, but the mood can also be extremely focused and intense-- it is all dependent on what the particular student needs in order to progress.

I work with students ranging from third grade through professional musicians, and my mission is constant- how can I help this person grow, through the vehicle of music? Some of my students have gone on to significant success in a musical career, but all have not only gained a deeper understanding of music and ability ability to perform it. The greater benefit is a gain in self-confidence, focus, determination, planning, and problem solving - skills which are beneficial in all aspects of life. The curse, and gift, of my summer at the Cazadero Music Camp, was that I am driven to give my students the best of my abilities and current understanding of the topic they are studying or struggling with (because in five years I will certainly have a refined opinion from that of today), and that I am compelled to enhance my own skills so I can offer them more.

MWM 5 - Live Panel at Summer Music 2010

On Tuesday, July 6th, three outstanding trombonists came and played for the students at Summer Music to promote their upcoming recital at the Lafayette Public Library, July 18th, 7PM. Mr. Timothy Higgins (newly appointed principal trombonist of the San Francisco Symphony), Mr. Paul Welcomer (second trombonist of the San Francisco Symphony), and Mr. David Ridge (principal bass trombonist of the San Francisco Opera) played music that is being prepared for the upcoming recital, conducted an open rehearsal, and participated on a panel discussing music and performing arts along with the Summer Music faculty.

The live panel at Summer Music ( featured musicians from the San Francisco Symphony, San Francisco Opera), and San Francisco Bay Area Educators and freelance Musicians.

Panel Memebers include: Dr. Jon Brummel, Mr. Timothy Higgins, Mr. Paul Welcomer , Mr. David Ridge, Mr. Troy Davis, Mrs. Danna Mitchell, Mrs. Alicia Telford, and Mr. David Martell.

Questions came from middle school students attending the workshop, while the discussion was facilitated by Dr. Jon Brummel.

Direct Download Link
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Don't forget to check out:
Tim Higgins Trombone Recital, July 17, 2010 3:00PM in Atherton, CA
The Trombone Triplets (Higgins, Welcomer, Ridge) at the Lafayette Library, July 18th, 7PM, Lafayette, CA

Girls can't do that?


In an ongoing effort to fight the mythos of "uh, chicks can't do that dude" there are two videos below that Mr. Alex Iles shared with the trombone list recently.

In his post he referenced an interesting note, Amanda Stewart was recently appointed Associate Principal trombone with the New York Philharmonic. This is a post which was WoManned for many years by her predecessor Ms. Lisa Albrecht.

So, take a listen, and ask yourself--REALLY?

Our job as artists, and humans is to go out there and hone our craft- kill the biggest beast, become the greatest player/teacher/human/traffic cop you can, and DO IT, not sit around saying "uh. . . cause" and it was "the man".

I spent an interesting ten minutes in a hot tub just last week in a downtown "urban" YMCA listening to stories of "how the man" and "reparations" and how a million other things than THEY were responsible for the predicaments and circumstances they found themselves in.

Trust me friend, I'm not immune. As I sit here covered in baby "urp" exhausted from a late gig last night at a casino, the last thing I want to do is fire up and have at it, but instead of whining and copping out, I'm going to go kiss my baby, brew a fresh cup of Joe, and get to work. Very few gigs, jobs, and life experiences were won, kept, or enjoyed while in bed.

Dr. J

Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra- St. Louis Blues

Gotta love the YouTube! - I wish I'd had the opportunity to see this two decades ago!

Great solo in the middle by Bob Brookmeyer. The intricate harmonies of the That & Mel band are something to behold. Playing them in the Contemporary Jazz Orchestra was a real education for me- the concepts of tonal blend amidst the section are paramount in order to make such dissonant music sound "right".

Moment of Silence for Trombone Great: Steven Witser

Steven Witser dies at 48; L.A. Philharmonic's principal trombonist - Los Angeles TimesThe loss of a stellar player, teacher, and human: Steven Witser.

I did not have the pleasure of knowing Mr. Witser personally, but I do have several close friends and colleagues who were students and friends of his--through which, I have learned greatly.

The picture above is a scanned "Baseball trading card" style production by the Los Angeles Philharmonic's outreach program. This was shared with me by colleague Alisha Ard. These "trading cards" were passed out to children during the orchestras educational outreach program in an effort to involve children in classical music. Of the 76 trading cards assembled, Mr. Witser was the only trombonist represented. Upon inquiry as to why the only trombonist was Mr. Witser, Ms. Ard was told "SOME sections aren't as good about getting their information back to us."

:) As we all know, life often gets in the way of returned calls, email, greetings, and human contact. It's impressive to note that amongst the busy schedule with the Philharmonic and life, he took the time to share with the next generation of audiences and musicians.

The overall resonating vibe surrounding Mr. Witser's legacy through his students and peers always surrounded two facets--he was an impressive and inspiring musician, but also, or more importantly, a good human.

Thanks for all the great inspiration Steve, through your recordings and your students-- god bless you and your family, and may we aspire to similar evolution as musicians and humans.

Bonehead hits New York

Made it to NYC, quick 4-5 hr nap and it's go time!

I really should have taken a photo- it's a neat feeling (even when you're flying coach) to approach the baggage carousel and see "that guy" with the sign is actually waiting for YOU.

OK, it's probably petty, but it's the little things that are nice- as I become a little more road weary I begin to truly appreciate the convenience of things like a nicer hotel, the workout facilities at a hotel, a decent meal (instead of fast food). (Maybe I'm just turning into an old fart?)

I must say that despite the initial lack of details, the YouTube and Google coordinators for the project really have gone all out to "take care of the talent." It's really nice to arrive at the hotel at 2 A.M. in a car (rather than subway or the Taxi) and settle into a really nice room (instead of the fleabag joints I have often frequented in the past).

Check-in at the hotel was effortless, and they had a "swag" bag with some goodies, a t-shirt, a really sweet hard drive from Samsung with the YouTube logo on it, schedules, and meal vouchers. Quick note on the hard drive- I've owned, and own, many small portable hard drives, but this new one is really quite impressive. It's a little under half the size of a normal "mini" hard drive, has a nice plastic grip on the bottom, and a variety of cables. I just transferred all the video from my Flip Mino onto it, and it copied multiple gigs onto it at a quite speedy rate. I'm actually going to use it for all of my future video editing & photos for the laptop. It's my new mobile jump drive of choice. It'd be nice to have a 500GB version, but I assume that's to come later as technology improves.

I kind of feel like I'm going to All-State Honor Band for Adults. :)

Streaming Trombone Concert featuring Jacques Mauger- Paris Conservatory Professor of Trombone

Streaming Audio: WEDNESDAY, February 18th, 6PM Pacific Time

Press Release Below:
Distinguished Trombonist to Perform in Free Concert at Catlett Music Center

"This will be a very special concert," says Irv Wagner, professor of trombone with the OU School of Music. "We have Jacques Mauger as a guest soloist with the Trombone Choir."

The University of Oklahoma School of Music presents the Trombone Choir with featured guest soloist Jacques Mauger, professor of trombone at the Paris Conservatory of Music in France. The concert will begin at 8 p.m., on Wednesday, Feb 18, in Sharp Concert Hall. The program will consist of Triumphal Symphony by Hector Berlioz, Deux Danse by Jean Dufay and other works. Wagner says one of the thrills of his career was as a guest soloist with the Paris Conservatory Trombone Choir in 2007 under the direction of Jacques Mauger. They played many of his compositions as well as accompanied him on the solos. Wagner invited Mauger to come to Oklahoma and perform with the OU School of Music Trombone Choir. Mauger agreed if Wagner would set him up with the top five Trombone Schools in the country including the University of Oklahoma.

While in the United States, Mauger will perform with the OU School of Music, University of Texas in Austin, University of North Texas, Julliard School of Music and the Eastman School of Music. "It is very nice to be included in the company of the top five Trombone Departments in America," says Wagner.

Creativity: Inspiration & Perspiration

In a never-ending quest to "suck less" I find myself at times drifting, dealing with projects that "aren't critical or important" but nonetheless have merit--but don't seek to fulfill my purpose, or bring me closer to my destiny.

Without getting mushy & metaphysical, I think we all face an internal battle--doing that which is truly important to US and is doing good--either in the world, or in our own physical, character, emotional, intellectual, or skill set "muscles".

I recently underwent a surgery for a torn meniscus of the left knee and was reminded by a physical therapist of a tenet that I hold most keenly in my trombone playing, a "muscle has only two states- growth and atrophy." Simply, a muscle is either getting stronger, or getting weaker.

I believe that as players, teachers, and humans we struggle with a similar challenge- either being on track, or getting distracted.

I had a young student contact me regarding the outcome of a recent audition. He stated firmly that he was ready to "knuckle down" and "do whatever it takes." With that in mind, I think it important to reflect on the two primary elements to achievement - Inspiration & Perspiration.

You must have the inspiration to get better, achieve, suck less, , or you won't have the desire, or the energy, to get your butt out of bed and get to work! Sure, we have the short term pain of deadlines, job, gigs, school concerts, etc., but the LONG game goal- where do YOU want to be, and WHO do you want to become--that's the real game, which requires a bigger vision and plan.

Second: PERSPIRATION. Simply put- get off your butt and get to work! Have a plan, get a coach, and go gangbusters toward your goal with everything you've got- and then go a little more. Check in, mark your progress, plan your practice sessions (or life/project/work/etc.)


With that in mind I wanted to share two quick things that have spurred on my thinking, then it's back to work:

Gang, Constraints & Blocks: Merlin Mann, a great thinker in the organizational field (and very funny) recently re-fired his defunct podcast with a great 10 minute audio post on blocking time.

Get Inspired: I worked with my friend and colleague Barry Green, author of The Inner Game of Music recently doing some PowerPoint presentations for his recent book The Mastery of Music. In in there's a great anecdote by Dave Brubeck and his inspiration for some of the rhythmic complexity found in his later compositions- astride a tractor in the Central San Juaquin Valley. I found this video and couldn't help but smile.

Bottom line: GET INSPIRED, then GET YOUR BUTT IN GEAR! What am I doing to do this for myself? Well friend, I wrote this article (to publicly put me on the line) and am enjoying a great cup of coffee, listening to my favorite trombonist play the Michael Haydn alto trombone concerto (which I've committed myself to do in a month ) - now that I'm fired up and REALLY WANT to practice- it's on.

I'm headed to the woodshed to practice- what are you going to do TODAY to make yourself more happy and FULFILLED as a human, player, parent, teacher, etc? (regardless of career) - I'd appreciate your thoughts in the comments field below, then GO AND GET YOUR BUTT MOVING!

Best, DrJ "I suck, You suck. I practice today so that I will suck less tomorrow."