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!!

 

6 Best Apps for Musicians

Today’s technology is constantly changing and growing and to keep up to date everyone, even musicians, must learn to use it to our advantage. There are thousands of different music apps and computer programs designed for and by musicians. These are just a few of my favorite apps that I use on my iPad for practice and teaching lessons.

6 best music apps, reedit

Tonal Energy(iOS/ Android $3.99)

I use this music app everyday as a tuner, a metronome, and a recording device. I love having everything in one place. Perfect for every instrument, the tuner can listen to you and tune you to both a concert pitch and your instrument pitch with the use of a green smiley face, or it can play a sustained pitch for you to match. The metronome gives you easy access to 60+ different meters!! You can even set up a sequenced met for pieces with multiple different meters and tempo changes. But my all time favorite feature of the Tonal Energy app is the audio/ video recording feature. You can record yourself playing and then play it back at any speed you want to listed to your self and really isolate you’re playing.

Fingering Charts Pro(iOS $2.99)

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Fingerings are crucial to playing any instrument. You may assume you and your students should know all your fingerings, but not all instruments respond the same to each fingering. Fingering Charts Pro is perfect for finding alternate fingering to make harder passages easier and help you find the perfect fingering for your instruments intonation. This music app has fingering charts for 21 different instruments that are easy to navigate and understand.

 

Smart Music(iPad FREE)

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Smart Music is the perfect application for private lessons and classes. With both an iPad app and a computer program, Smart Music is easy to access for all students with access to the internet. Smart Music allows teachers to create classes, enroll students, and assign students playing assessments and enforce practice sessions. There are thousands of different method books and solos with accompaniments . With its own metronome, fingering charts, tuner, and immediate assessments, this is the perfect practice tool for young musicians.

Chromatik(iOS/ Android FREE)

6 best music apps, reedit, chromatik

Chromatik is a fun app to play around with. It has various music from different genres including classical, jazz, rock, pop, musicals, and popular movies for every instrument. You can highlight, take notes, record, and even play along with the music video on Vevo! This app is perfect for finding quick fun music that everyone knows and loves.

Garage Band(iOS $4.99)

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As electric backing tracks are becoming more popular, Garage Band is becoming more popular. If you are a musician interested in composing or playing with an original backing track, garage band is the perfect app for you. With the ability to record vocals, play the key board and other stimulated instruments, you can create your own music to play along with. Some popular bands first albums were made with garage band tools.

Scanner Pro (iOS/ Android $3.99)

This might be the most helpful app. Making hundreds of copies of music all day everyday, can be very tiring, but its even worse when some one needs music they don’t have.  Scanner Pro makes it easy to take a PDF scan of music right from your phone so you can email it to anyone in just seconds. I have done this many times for my private lessons.

Now I know some of these music apps cost money, but it is so worth it. I have tried lots of different apps but these are my all time favorites that I have found to be the most effective.