Belmont Summer Winds

Last Summer I was not satisfied with the quality of band camp I attended thus I began the search for a new camp.  I decided the best idea to narrow my search was to look for summer programs at the different colleges I was interested in. That’s when I found Belmont Summer Winds.

I had been looking into Belmont University for a while because of its reputation as a good Christian Private Liberal arts school with a music therapy program, a great clarinet professor, and its gorgeous campus. Everything was exactly as I had hoped it would be.

Belmont Summer Winds

Belmont Summer Winds is a band camp hosted at the Belmont University campus in Nashville, TN run by Belmont’s Director of Bands, Barry Kraus. During this one week session, students participate in master classes, jazz ensembles. woodwind ensembles, brass ensembles, private lessons, and Wind Ensemble rehearsals led by Belmont staff and alumni. After each full day of music, students enjoy fun activities on campus to get to know each other and have a little fun (Not that rehearsals aren’t fun but…..)

Auditions

Auditioning for Belmont’s Summer Winds Camp was actually my favorite audition I’ve ever done. Not because I played my best, but because I got to pick from my own repetition what I was going to play. The last band camp I went to required me to spend all summer learning and preparing my All Region and All State material in hopes that I would make first band. But this summer I got to play one of the solos I had been preparing in my lessons at home and with only one band total I was only competing for a chair. This was a lot less stressful and a lot more convenient as students who attended the camp came from all different states. Learning both Arkansas and Tennessee All Region Material in one summer would have been a challenge.

Master Class

The clarinet Master Class was led by Belmont’s Clarinet Professor, Dr. Daniel Lochrie (pronounced like Loch in Lochness Monster). Throughout the week, master classes were the time we got to get feed back on our playing from a professional clarinetist. Dr. Lochrie plays with  the Grammy-winning Nashville Symphony and is co-founder of The Eastwood Ensemble. Through out the week he gave us classes on the basics: tone, scales, fingering, embouchure, tonguing, articulation, voicing, hand position, sight-reading, piece preparation, and nerves. (man we got a lot done). I don’t think I’ve ever been in a more productive master class. In one week we covered everything clarinet that I can think of. Hopefully soon I can write a blog post about each of the aspects of clarinet and share some of Dr. Lochrie’s insight and teaching methods.

Private Lessons

I treated my week at camp as a Belmont crash course. Belmont was one of my top two colleges that I was considering to join next fall (more on that later) so one of my main priorities while I was there was to get some private lessons from Dr. Lochrie to get to know him better, introduce myself as an interested future student, and play for him. I think this was the best thing I did while I was at Belmont. During my lesson Dr. Lorchie and I talked about Belmont’s audition process, its scholarship opportunities, and even the idea of getting to play with Vanderbilt’s Marching Band because Belmont does not have one of its own. Most of what I learned about the school of music at Belmont including their performance, education, and therapy programs I learned during my two hours of lessons with Dr. Lochrie.

Sectionals

Sectionals are always so fun. How often do you get to play a piece with only woodwind parts during high school band? Unless you go to a school who focuses on small ensembles, this never happens. The band camp I attended last summer was very brass focused which was great…. for the brass players. But this camp had equal focus on brass, woodwinds, and percussion due to the quality of time and attention we received in our respective sectional classes everyday.

Chamber Music

I believe that the two best thing you can do for your music career is 1: take private lessons and 2: play in chamber groups. By playing one on a part in a small ensemble, you have to be responsible not only for your part, but for fitting yourself in the groups sound. At Belmont’s camp I had the opportunity to play in a woodwind quintet. I have playing in duets and trios, but I have never played in a woodwind quintet before. It was so fun to be playing music focusing on woodwinds.

Wind Ensemble

Led by Dr. Kraus, the Wind Ensemble spent two classes a day in group band rehearsals preparing music to perform in one week. My band only plays one concert a year and we get months to prepare, but one full concert with a large wind ensemble, a jazz, ensemble, woodwind quintets, brass quintets, and other instrumented ensembles is a lot to learn and prepare in one week. But we did it!!! Performing such a long, challenging program and doing it well was a huge accomplishment for everyone who participated.

Out of the two band camps I have attended, Belmont was by far my favorite. I highly recommend looking into it even if Belmont is not a school you are looking into for college. I traveled 8 hours from Arkansas to Tennessee, but one guy at camp traveled all the way from California to attend camp at Belmont . No matter where you are or who you are, look into Belmont Summer Winds Camp for next summer.

Plastic Reeds: facts and myths

Reeds are both a blessing and a curse. Have you ever purchased a new box of reeds and gone through the entire box not liking the sound of any of them? This has been a regular occurrence in the last year or so of my playing. I have finally achieved a tone quality I am proud of and sometimes my reeds get in the way of creating that sound.If you’ve ever been in the same situation I have found myself in, there are two options for you. The first being making your own reeds. Now this can be very expensive to buy all the tools to take the process easier, but cheaper in the long run because reeds will no longer be $3 a piece, but more like 80 cents a piece!!!! Making reeds can be a lengthy topic and I have already started on a how to make your own reeds post, but right now I’d like you to consider option number two: The Plastic Reed.

plastic reed fact and myth

Fact or Myth?

Now most people have some concerns when it comes to plastic reeds because of some myths floating around the clarinet world about them so let’s get those out-of-the-way first.

“Plastic reeds are more expensive”

Fact. Plastic Reeds are more expensive than cane reeds. I got my Légère Classic reed for $17 dollars and can play on it for about 6 months. Where I paid $28 for a box of Vandorean V12 cane reeds that lasted about the same amount of time.They last longer than cane reeds because the plastic is much harder to crack than the cane is.

“Plastic reeds last forever”

Myth. Plastic reeds like most things have an expiration date. Of course like a cane reed precautions can be made to elongate the life of the reed. If you rotate 3 plastic reeds, you can get them all to last about a year. The tip of the plastic reed does weaken and wrinkle after excessive playing so be sure to take care of your reeds and break them in properly.

“Plastic reeds don’t chip”

Myth. They are made of plastic: they aren’t invincible. Over the last two years I have only had one plastic reed chip the way cane reeds do but in the reeds defense it got hit really hard by an ecstatic flute player at a football game.

“Plastic Reeds run thinner than the traditional cane reeds”

Fact. I normally play on a Vandorean V12 reed with a 3.5 strength and when I purchased my first Légère Classic reed with a 3.5 strength I notices immediately that the reed was weaker than my cane reeds. So I moved up to the 3.75 and felt much more comfortable playing.

“Plastic reeds produce a bad tone”

Myth. I am very proud of my tone on both my cane reeds and my plastic reeds and I don’t know anyone that can listen to me and tell me which reed I’m playing on.

Using a Plastic Reed

There are many occasions to use a plastic reed like marching band, teaching private lessons, and practice, but I would not play a plastic reed at an audition or a concert.

Marching Band

Plastic reeds are less resistant and allow you to produce a much louder and clearer sound that can be heard off the field better. Plastic reeds also don’t adjust to temperature or humidity changes, therefore they are perfect for playing outdoors.

Teaching Private Lessons

While teaching private lessons you can easily go 15 minutes without playing your clarinet. but in 15 mins, your reed will have completely dried out and have a wrinkled tip from drying on your mouth piece. With a plastic reed, you don’t have to wet it. You can pick up your instrument and start playing right away. Therefore you don’t waste anytime in your lessons wetting your own reed and the lesson can be more focused on your students playing.

While I love playing on plastic reeds, I have not and do not recommend making a complete switch to plastic reeds. Cane is the traditional reed material and will be used as long as the clarinet is. While cane may be unpredictable and annoying at times, it works and it works well. If you have any questions about plastic reeds or my set up please leave a comment!!

 

Concert Etiquette: for the Audience

Going to a formal performance or concert is nothing like a sports event or competition. In order to be respectful and support the audience, the best thing you can do is make sure you are using the proper concert etiquette.

What to Wear

When going to a formal performance or concerts, Sunday best is always the best choice. Not too hot or too cold.

Girls: A simple dress, skirt, dress pants, or even nice jeans(no holes) with a  blouse would be simple and appropriate. Some times auditoriums can be cold so it would me smart to bring a light sweater or jacket.

Guys: A good pair jeans with out holes or khakis with a nice shirt(no T Shirts) like a polo or simple dress shirt would be ideal. With dress shoes or work shoes instead of tennis shoes. I would not advise you to wear a hat, but if you do be sure to take it off before entering auditorium.

Before Performance

When buying tickets keep in mind young children. If you will have a young child who may cry or have a fit during a performance, please sit on an edge seat so that you may exit the auditorium as quickly as possible so not to disturb the performers or other audience members.Before even leaving your house make sure you have the tickets with you so you aren’t struggling to get back in time. Please use the restroom before finding your seat. No one likes having to stand up in the middle of a performance because the person in the center of the row has to use the restroom.The isles between seats are always really tight. Don’t be the person who blocks the aisle with your coat, huge purse, and umbrella. When finding your seat the letter refers to the row and the number refers to the seat. If you are struggling to find your seat find someone who works there to help, don’t just sit in a random seat. Some performance halls have a concessions stand to buy snack Or drinks to eat during the performance. So be sure to stop by to get something before entering the auditorium (make sure food is allowed in the auditorium). The best performance venues have a coat and bag check. Use them.

Performance, performance, concert, concert etiquette, etiquette, audience, performer

During the Performance

Before a performance begins, often times the lights will dim. This is your signal to end your conversations, turn off your phone and pay attention. When the performers or musicians enter the stage, do not wave, shout, or yell as the p (even if its your daughter). Be sure to pay attention to any announcements before the show. If you plan to record or take pictures during the performance make sure that it is allowed.

There is nothing worst than getting stuck in front of a couple that wont stop talking or the young child who thinks its okay to put their feet on or kick the back of your seat. Please try to save your comments until after the performance and make sure neither  you nor your children are not shuffling your feet or moving throughout the performance.

At the end of each piece, you should applause respectively but do not whistle, yell, or shout out names. Sometimes a the band will stop playing as if it was the end of  the song, but some pieces of music have multiple parts or sections called movements. Before the performance, it is smart to read through the program and take note of any pieces with multiple movements because you are not supposed to clap between movements. If there is no formal program, (or in the odd chance you didn’t get one) an easy way to know when to clap is when the conductor steps off of his podium or box and faces the audience.

After the Performance

At the end of the program, your level of enthusiasm and clapping represents your appreciation for the performance. If you really enjoyed the performance, a standing ovation is  more than acceptable and highly recommended. In many professional performances, an encore performance has been prepared. If you enjoyed the performance so much that you would like to hear more,  keep standing and continue clapping with the same intensity after the group or soloist exits the stage.  After the encore you should give another standing ovation, but when the group leaves the stage, you should gather your things and leave. Don’t rush, but the longer you hang around and talk in the auditorium the longer the people who work there have to stand around before cleaning up. With that in mind if you got concessions during the performance, please take your trash out with you and throw it away.

Hope this helped! Enjoy listening to music and seeing live performances!