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Building A Better Section: Low Brass

Author - Provided by Jupiter

Rarely does one find a musician possessing the versatility of style and level of competency that Scott Garlock has with the low brass family. Along with indisputable virtuosity, he exhibits contagious enthusiasm with his diverse interests and has proven ability in motivating performers everywhere he goes. He has a DMA in trombone studies from the University of Iowa, and holds both a Masters in Music History and Literature and a Masters in Music Performance from the University of Akron.

Scott’s performance opportunities have ranged from numerous studio sessions on albums (over 100 recordings by himself and with the Knox College Jazz Groups including the CDs Mr. B Natural, No Excuses, Not All Cults are Bad, and Y is a Vowel in Spy), commercials and jazz concerts. He has accompanied such greats as Sarah Vaughan, Diane Schuur, Rosemary Clooney, Joe Williams, Carl Fontana, Louie Belson, Clark Terry, and Tony Bennett, in addition to the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra and yearly European tours with the Knox Jazz Ensembles. In the classical realm, Scott continues to perform with several symphonies including the Knox Galesburg Symphony, Peoria Civic Opera Company, the Peoria Symphony and the Quad Cities Symphony.

Aside from Mr. Garlock's performance record, he has an equally impressive teaching background. He taught in the public-school system for over five years, has guest lectured at many colleges and currently directs bands at Knox College and teaches music history, world music, and history of jazz.

His continued interest in music education has given impetus to several publications which include "Developing a Jazz Soloist Feeder program" in Keepin' In Tune, and "Building a Better Low Brass Section: Methods and Motivation” the Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic. His current research interests involve role models and recruitment in instrumental music, music aesthetics and jazz combo pedagogy. Mr. Garlock hold membership in the International Trombone Association, International Association of Jazz Educators, the Music Educators National Conference, and the American Federation of Musicians.

Statement of the Challenge

No ensemble utilizing brasswinds can be successful without a strong low brass section. However, in most scholastic situations, there is a cry for more and better players on these instruments.

Brass players have the lowest retention rate of any of the instruments, with trombone having the highest dropout rate of all (euphonium and tuba were not included in any of the surveys or those mentioned below.)

In tests, researchers have found that:
- of 526 students, only 3.3% had trombone as their first choice of nine instruments. However, only 6.6% said that trombone would be their last choice.
- in the same study, only 51.9% could identify the trombone in aural examples.

Reasons for the Challenge
- the lack of role models in popular culture for low brass players. There are few “accidental exposures” on the radio television or print media.
- the history of the portrayal of the low brass on TV, in movies, etc.
- the effect of role models on self-esteem.
- numerous researchers indicate the importance of self-esteem or concept in retention and success of band membership.
- inherent bias against low brass players found in method books in band music.
- considerations on renting in performing for the beginning low brass player.
- renting a euphonium or tuba is usually out of the question. School instruments offered to the beginner are customarily not in the same class as the shiny trumpet, saxophone or flute that can be rented at the local music distributor.
- physical difficulties in playing the low brass.

Recruitment Techniques
Research tells us that:
- after drums, trombone is considered to be the most masculine of instruments.
- girls choose a wider variety of instruments than boys.
- boys come to kindergarten with preconceived notions about the gender of instruments and girls attach gender during 3rd to 4th grade. We lose students before we have the opportunity to land them in the baritone section.
- encourage the implementation of brass into the general music curriculum.
- the best players on instruments are started on these instruments.
- bassoonists seldom have a hard time starting bassoonists. We need to focus on their beautiful sounds and roles rather than their daunting size. Work to either make the low brass equal or give it special enthusiasm in the initial presentation of the instruments.
- the effect of establishing a tradition of low brass in a district. (James Croft and Pockets of Excellence)
- choosing individuals to play. Save some Lake Wobegon children for the low brass.
- choosing the proper instruments for the beginner to play. Start tubists on euphonium, or 3/4 tuba first. Also, make sure that there is an instrument for home and for school that both function and look decent. For those large enough to play tuba, use tuba chairs. Start all trombonists on an F-attachment horn or on a specially designed horn that takes into account the size of the beginner.
- start all brass players on tuba mouthpieces.

Creating a Friendly Environment

Research indicates various reasons for choosing a particular instrument or dropping out.

Reasons for quitting an instrument:

  • Too hard to play
  • It's dumb, I don't like it
  • Too big, weighs too much
  • Don't like the sound
  • It's boring


Reasons for choosing an instrument:

  • It's awesome I like it
  • I like the sound
  • It would be easy
  • I have a friend that plays it


NAMM survey of drops in 1992:
41% lost interest
21% conflict or disinterested by the teacher
15% stronger outside interests

Scholastic achievement has been shown to be just slightly ahead of self-concept as predictor of success. Size of lips, size of person (obviously look at the parents first) not as important.

  • Choose music that will enable them to stay interested.
  • Utilize solo and ensemble contest as much as possible to foster low brass chamber music.
  • The ease in arranging for low brass ensembles. They need to hear how beautiful their sounds are by themselves!
  • Organize, attend or perform at local conferences, colleges or Tuba Christmas.
  • Establish a library of recordings for role model purposes with female artists also.
  • If guest artists cannot be funded, schedule regular visits to the elementary and middle school level by high school players on the same instruments.
  • Because these instruments require extra headaches on parents part (rides etc.), implement Suzuki parent involvement techniques.


What else can you do?
Encourage instrument manufacturers and distributors to feature young attractive students playing instruments with a sense of modernism in their visual media.

Encourage composers to further increase the importance in difficulty of low brass parts to illuminate the mindless Tierney found in much of their parts. Are the players in capable of playing fast or are they simply never expected to?

 

 

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