Archive for the ‘Artists’ Category

An Interview with Jon Whitaker

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

whitaker_jon01

I’m thrilled to announce that Jonathan Whitaker has returned to the Edwards family. Jon is the Assistant Professor of Trombone at the University of Alabama. Roll Slide has become a trombone powerhouse in recent years. In addition to his studio duties, he also manages, teaches, and conducts for the Alessi Seminar every summer. He’s comfortable in venues as varied as Avery Fischer Hall (where he has performed with the New York Philharmonic) and the Super Dome (where he was the featured soloist with the Million Dollar Band at this year’s Sugar Bowl). Jon recently released a solo recording titled Nature’s Gift, which is available for purchase on his site.

Jon and I sat down to talk shop last week…

CG: Thanks for taking the time to visit with us, Jon.

JW: Absolutely!

CG: 2013 was a busy year for you. Can you take us through the highlights?

JW: It sure was… filled with tons of fun projects. But I must say, the highlight of 2013 was the birth of my son, Garrett.

The top of the musical list for me would have to be giving the world premiere of Jim Stephenson’s Three Bones Concerto written for Joseph Alessi, Peter Ellefson and myself at Alabama and then performing it at the 2013 Eastern Trombone Workshop. Joe and Pete are my heroes on the instrument and I am so honored to be able to share the stage with them in this project.

Editor’s note: You may watch the premiere performance here, here, and here.

I also enjoy performing and teaching at the Alessi Seminar each and every year it is in the US. 2013 marked my fifth consecutive Seminar!

In addition, some other highlights would be performing the Leopold Mozart Concerto with the National Music Festival Chamber Orchestra and the release of two recording projects!

I also really enjoy the successes of my students — competitions, successful recitals, completion of degrees, etc.

CG: How do you balance performing and teaching?

JW: That is a tough one. There are many weeks where this is a real challenge — balancing 23 students, studio class, trombone choir rehearsals, countless committees, family and practice. I like to keep myself busy and I always try to have some sort of playing project on the books all of the time. I also try to play a little in every lesson I teach, just to keep things working on the horn throughout the day. I arrange my schedule so that from 7 – 10am is “my time.” I go to the gym most mornings and then practice a healthy dose of fundamentals before I start teaching.

CG: Many young players are laser focused on performance. What advice do you give these players as you groom them for careers in music?

JW: I think it takes a special type of student to be successful in a performance career. I don’t think that a student necessarily needs to be the most talented player at a young age to be successful (although it doesn’t hurt). The students that I feel like are the most successful are the ones that have the best work ethic and that do the right thing, the right way, at the right time… all of the time. This is something that I preach all of the time to my studio! They may not all get the message but the ones that do will have a great chance at being successful.

CG: What is the best advice you’ve received from your teachers and mentors?

JW: I have been fortunate to have so many great teachers and mentors throughout my life. From my early college years, Ray Conklin at Murray State University instilled the importance of playing with a good sound and was insistent on correct fundamentals. I can’t remember many lessons with him in which we didn’t spend some time on fundamentals. Tom Ashworth at the University of Minnesota was an incredible role model because of his versatility and virtuosity. Many of my most important moments in lessons with Tom were when he was demonstrating… always inspiring. At IU, Dee Stewart instilled an ease of production that leads to a resonant sound. This was always the message and I couldn’t hear it enough. Midway through my career at a DMA student at IU is when I met Peter Ellefson. There are too many instances to count where his playing, teaching, advice, counsel, and wisdom left a lasting impression me… still does to this day!

Another important mentor is Ray Cramer (long time Director of Bands at IU). His advice about teaching is something that I think about each and every semester. He told me to, “take every student as they are and make them better every time you have them in the studio. Everything they have done up to that point is out of your control.”

CG: You played Edwards in the 90s before moving on to Bach, Greenhoe, and Shires (all of which are professional, American-made instruments). We’re happy you’re playing our horns again. Talk about this instrument journey you’ve been on. How can people learn from your experiences?

JW:Well, I have recently wondered why I took the journey to begin with. I have always been drawn to the sound of a Bach trombone. That is the sound I grew up listening to. I have always been in search of an instrument that I could make that sound on but with a little effort as possible. When I played the Greenhoe for the first time I was drawn to the sound and it was a great deal easier to produce than on a stock Bach trombone. The Shires was a step further in the direction of ease. But something still wasn’t right with it. This current setup is a great balance between ease of playing and getting the sound that I have had in my head for years and years.

I also think that we change as players, both in concept and as well as physically. Over the course of the last couple of years I have lost around 125 pounds and I feel like I have had to adjust my approach to some things from a technique standpoint. These type of adjustments lead to my need for different equipment.

CG: I have to be honest… I’ve learned a lot from working with you (and Pete Ellefson, too — an avid Bach junky). You play tested the early Getzen 4047DS against your Bach. Now you’re playing the T350-HB. What makes that horn work for you?

JW: I was actually a bit sceptical of the Thayer valve with the harmonic brace when you first sent it to me. My initial setup before coming to the factory was built for stability, which is what I was needing — a horn that was stable and that slotted perfectly on every partial. But, it was a very tight blow. Once making the trip to get fitted, I found that the HB was a crucial part of the balance of this instrument for me. I am always amazed at how the valve affects the way the horn plays on the open side. I have always loved how open horns tend to blow with a Thayer valve but I also love the stability of a horn with a rotor valve. For me, the T350-HB is the perfect balance of ease, stability and resonance.

CG: Your new CD Nature’s Gift is now available. I’m sure our readers would love to know more about what it takes to record a CD, from the creative to the technical. Can you share some details about this recording project?

JW: If you want to learn about yourself as a player, record a CD!!! The process of recording requires such great concentration, endurance and consistency! All of the rep on this project (except for the Demos) are works that I have performed many times and I think this is an important part of the success of the sessions themselves.

I also choose to do all of the editing and post production on this project myself. At times I thought I was crazy for doing so, but in the end I am glad that I did. I certainly learned a great deal from the process that will help me in future projects.

The title track of the CD is a piece written for me by my good friend Anthony Barfield. Anthony and I first met at the 2007 Alessi Seminar and have collaborated on a number for projects over the years including two other commissions, one for Stentorian Consort and Joseph Alessi and the other a version of his piece Here We Rest for solo trombone and band that was premiered in Carnegie Hall in 2012. We have also collaborated on a recording project of his piece Red Sky with the University of Alabama Wind Ensemble.

This piece was written in dedication to my daughter, Ainsley! In the piece, Anthony captures the real joy and emotion of becoming a father and just how much of a gift children can be in a person’s life.

The commissioning of Eric Ewazen’s Visions of Light has proven to be an extremely important part of my career. While a DMA student at Indiana University, I was very fortunate to conceive and administer the commission of this fantastic work for trombone and wind ensemble. The work was written for Joseph Alessi and the Indiana University Wind Ensemble (Ray Cramer, conductor). We were extremely fortunate to be able to offer the world premiere at the MidWest Clinic in Chicago in 2003. This project began a long friendship with one of my true heroes, Joseph Alessi!

CG: Tell us about what we can expect to hear from you in the next year.

JW: I have 4 solo performances scheduled for this semester:

  • Red Sky by Anthony Barfield with the UA Wind Ensemble on February 8
  • Colors by Burt Appermont with the UA Symphonic Band at CBDNA on March 1
  • Three Bones Concerto by Jim Stephenson with Joseph Alessi, Peter Ellefson and the UA Wind Ensemble at the American Bandmasters Association Convention on March 5
  • Hymn to a Blue Hour by John Mackey with the UA Trombone Choir

I have also commissioned a new work for trombone quartet and saxophone quartet by Nick Demos to be premiered at the 2014 National Music Festival with the Mana Saxophone Quartet.

There are also plans for me to perform Red Sky at the Manhattan School of Music next year. And I will probably start working on ideas for my second recording project.

CG: What are three things our readers may not know about you?

JW: I am an avid bass fisherman… I just wish I had time to do it. There are very few things that are as relaxing as a day on the water.

I actually wanted to play the clarinet in grade school. My band director said, “Nope. You are tall. I think you should play trombone.”

I love a good cigar!!! Actually, that is no secret to many of your readers.

CG: Thanks for taking the time to share with our readers, Jon, and thanks for playing our horns. We look forward to hearing great things from you and your studio.

Marshall Gilkes’ Farewell WDR Concert

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

Marshall Gilkes has been a member of the WDR Big Band for the past four years. This Friday, he’ll perform his final concert with the band in front of 120 audience members at the Sendesaal in Bremen, Germany. Fortunately for the rest of us, it’s going to be streamed live online.

The concert will feature Marshall’s big band arrangements. If you’re unfamiliar with his playing, below are a few samples of what you can expect to hear when you leave work early on Friday to catch the concert.

Dave Taylor Performs Works by Dave Taylor

Monday, January 20th, 2014

Dave Taylor. Photo by Robert Del Tredici.
Photo by Robert Del Tredici

We’re always interested in Dave Taylor’s performance schedule. After all, it’s as unique and eclectic as he is. True to form, he recently performed concerts in one of New York’s premiere venues, Bargemusic, which is essentially a floating stage beneath the Brooklyn Bridge. Here are a couple reviews of the performances:

From The New York Times:

The virtuosic bass trombonist David Taylor figured in three pieces that played with the astounding range of sound effects his instrument is capable of. He was joined by Ms. Vinokur in his own “And If All were Dark,” a deeply satisfying short piece that draws a sonic arc from flylike buzzing to rich, mellow tone and back again.

From SoundWordSight:

The festival ended, Sunday, with the world premiere of David Taylor, TOO Suite, for himself on bass trombone, and Olga Vinokur, piano. Here jazz funeral blues met poetry Schubert used, and gave the festival a theatrical, popular send off. Dave is acknowledged to be the master of this instrument.

Over the next year, Dave is set to perform his own compositions in numerous venues. Here’s the rundown:

  • Dave will present a masterclass at the Manhattan School of Music with special guests Eric Ewazen, Daniel Schnyeder, and Johnny Reinhart on February 13.
  • On February 21, Dave will perform Double Diploid, his composition for bass trombone and string quartet, with The International Street Cannibals on their EKPHRASIS concert.
  • In March, Dave and the New York Trombone Consort will perform a concert for Shapeshifter Lab.
  • Also in March, he’ll present a recital at Brooklyn Brass Fest that will feature two of his compositions: Too Suite for Bass Trombone and Piano and Mute Maeutikoi for Bass Trombone and Trombone Ensemble (featuring The New York Trombone Consort).
  • Dave will join fellow trombonist Josh Roseman in April at The Loove in Brooklyn. He’ll perform a concert of his own music that Josh plans to film and record.
  • June begins with a two-week Holland tour with the Dutch trombone ensemble The Low Brass Connection. Performances will feature Too Suite for Bass Trombone and Trombone Ensemble (as performed by the Washington Trombone Ensemble).
  • After the tour, Dave will come back to the US to take part in the Summer Trombone Workshop. The workshop will feature performances of many of Dave’s compositions.
  • Also in June, Dave will perform his composition Hoppy Daze is Here Again (a radio opera for bass trombone and orchestra) with the ensemble Cabinet.
  • In August, Dave will once again be in Europe, this time to perform a concert of his compositions at the Outreach Festival in Schwaz, Austria.
  • Summer ends with a performance at the Labor Day Bargemusic Festival. He’ll perform a commissioned work. More details on that later.

Craig Mulcahy Video Interview

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

We recently featured Craig Mulcahy as our May artist of the month. As a follow-up, Craig sat down with Chris Branagan to discuss his music career, taking auditions, and equipment.

As a bonus, we get to hear Craig sounding great while warming up for a rehearsal.

Our favorite line…

“I can’t say that I was ever happy with any audition I’ve ever played, but I’ve been fairly satisfied with the results.”

An Interview with Craig Mulcahy

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

Craig MulcahyChances are, if you’ve been to see a performance of the National Symphony Orchestra in the last eight years, you’ve had the pleasure of hearing Craig Mulcahy lead the trombone section. Mulcahy has been a member of the NSO since 2005 and its principal trombonist since 2010. He has brought his very own richness, color, and distinctive sound to the orchestra.

As the artist featured for the month of May, Mulcahy sat down with Edwards Instruments for an interview to meet the man behind the trombone.

We first spent some time talking about his job with the National Symphony. One of the country’s most prestigious orchestras, it was founded in 1931 and performs at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts located in Washington, D.C. Since its founding, the orchestra has had seven conductors. A unique aspect about Mulcahy’s time with the NSO is that he’s worked under four of those seven conductors, and in his words, “they couldn’t have been more different.” One of the main things he has learned in working for a variety of conductors is how important it is to be flexible in order to do the job well.

“You need to remember how to be the team player in all of this [changing conductors]. Although there may be times when you are the soloist, you’re still under the direction of the conductor, and it’s your job to make good musical decisions. The different conductors all have varying degrees of input about how you play solo passages. For instance, in a performance of Mahler 3, there are a lot of nuances (that every principal trombonist works on) that I wanted to bring to the performance, but the conductor wouldn’t take many of them. I ended up having to be flexible and adjust by following the conductor rather than trying to lead from the back of the orchestra. I think flexibility like this, on an artistic and not just technical level, is critical to being successful in the principal chair.”

Mulcahy went on to discuss his appreciation for the new director of National Symphony, Christoph Eschenbach:

“He will let the performers do whatever they want (within reason). He gives musicians absolute freedom in their solos and expressive lines, and makes you feel like you’re more of a valuable part of the orchestra.”

Mulcahy mentioned how much he appreciates Eschenbach’s unique take on standards of the orchestral repertoire, particularly on a recent tour to South America.

“He gives us a new, fresh personality which is taking the orchestra in an exciting direction, especially on real war horses of the repertoire, like Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony. It had only been two years since the last time the NSO performed the piece when Eschenbach conducted it on tour to South America, and it was really just a completely different piece. I’ve been playing that piece for a long time and those were the most exciting performances; it felt brand new.”

Along with being the principal trombonist of the NSO, Mulcahy maintains a demanding schedule as a husband, father, and adjunct professor of trombone at Catholic University of America, George Mason University, and the University of Maryland. At Maryland, Mulcahy teaches alongside National Symphony colleagues Matthew Guilford, bass trombone, and Barry Hearn, assistant principal. We asked him what it was like to manage such a schedule:

“It’s busy, but rewarding. Matt, Barry, and I are building a tremendous trombone studio at UMD that we’re very proud of. Our students have been competitive and successful in a number of international auditions and competitions. At home I enjoy the challenge of finding a balance between spending time with my family and trombone. It’s not always easy, but I can usually get done what I need to get done. Sometimes, my daughter requests to come downstairs to watch me practice. That’s usually followed up by a request to play my trombone, which she loves to do.”

After talking awhile about Mulcahy’s schedule, we spent some time discussing about what sort of hobbies he enjoys, whenever there is a bit of free time. Besides posting slide-cam duets of Bordogni etudes or videos of his sister Holly (a professional violinist) playing trombone excerpts, he also enjoys hiking and working on his 1968 Toyota Land Cruiser. As a native of Colorado, it’s no surprise that Mulcahy is an avid hiking enthusiast.

“I absolutely love hiking. In the summer, I frequently play with the Grand Teton Music Festival in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and when I’m not playing, I’m hiking. Being from Colorado originally, I need to get my mountain fix, and Jackson Hole is perfect for that.”

Finally, we ended our interview talking about his trombone and a little about his relationship with his former teacher, Joseph Alessi. Mulcahy is currently playing the Edwards T396-A, which was designed for the New York Philharmonic Principal Trombonist.

“I played on an Edwards for the first time while I was attending the University of Northern Colorado. It was during a trip to the Eastern Trombone Workshop in ‘93 when I played one at their exhibit. I bought one the following year. Before that, I played on a Conn 88H that had a nice sound, but didn’t hold together well at high volumes. During my first three years as an Edwards Artist, I’ve been fortunate enough to perform recitals and give master classes at numerous schools and festivals, including being the featured artist at the 2011 Beijing International Trombone Festival.”

On Mulcahy’s website, www.craigmulcahy.com, you can read about how studying with Joseph Alessi at Juilliard has catapulted his career into the direction it has taken now. During our interview, Mulcahy took some time to talk about his teacher.

“Studying with Joe at Juilliard was great because he would hold everyone to the highest standard. This is kind of easy to say, because every teacher has this in mind, but Joe simply wouldn’t accept anything less than the best effort from his students. He always had a good way of knowing not only what you were capable of, but also how focused and motivated you were. If you slacked off, he knew right away (and frankly, sometimes that was the case with me). There was an intensity to his teaching that brought out my best. He lit a fire under my rear and motivated me like none other. These days, I only see Joe every once in a while, usually when the New York Philharmonic comes to Washington to perform at the Kennedy Center, or when the NSO travels to New York to play at Carnegie Hall. I value the time we get to spend together, talking about anything, trombone-related or not.

“When I think about my time at Juilliard, one of the most important things that I got from Alessi was a sense of awareness on the trombone; about how to analyze how things were sounding in a more real-time environment. It allowed me to become my own teacher, which is something that I encourage with all of my students. At some point they have to ‘leave the nest’ and develop their own sense of awareness. I think it’s important that they don’t wait until somebody has to tell them they’re flat or sharp, or if an articulation is fuzzy, but that they develop the ability to actually hear it for themselves.”

Announcing “Artist of the Month”

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

Craig MulcahyWhen we first published our site years ago, the artist page (yep, there was just one back then) received plenty of traffic. It contained very little information other than our artists’ horn specs, but that didn’t stop many of us from visiting every few days or weeks. Some used the information it contained to figure out trends. For others, it just satisfied a curiosity.

Over time, we added bios and the periodic artist feature or interview. We got busy building horns and the latter fell by the wayside, but we’re working to fix that. David Farmer, one of the new guys on the Edwards team, is going to interview an artist every month. We think it’ll be a great way to learn more about the people that play our horns. From time to time, we’ll even ask you to submit questions you’d like answered.

Our first artist interview is with Craig Mulcahy, principal trombonist of the National Symphony Orchestra. We’ll be posting his interview (and possibly a video) on our blog soon. We announce our posts on our Facebook page, so feel free to follow us there.

For those of you that want to see our old artist page, The Wayback Machine has you covered. And for the record, that site design (with the bold red font on the baby blue music motif background) was launched before most of us worked for Edwards. Just so you know…

David Taylor is Not Complacent

Friday, April 5th, 2013

Dave TaylorDavid Taylor’s versatility as a musician is apparent when you look at his gig calendar. He’ll be covering many parts of the globe in the next few months, so if shows up in your area, be sure to go hear him perform. You’ll never play your Bordognis the same way again.

Before we get to the gigs, check out this entertaining interview Dave recently had with Michael Davis. Dave tells some great stories in a way that only he can tell them.

Onto the gigs…

Today and tomorrow (April 5 & 6), Dave will be playing with the New York Philharmonic on their CONTACT series.

On April 12, will be in Buffalo for A Musical Feast where he’ll perform his new piece, Song and Dance for Bass Trombone and Piano. ArtVoice did a feature on Dave where he talks about the new work.

After that, Dave is heading to Klagenfurt, Austria on April 17-21 to premiere Three Songs and a Dance, his new concerto for string orchestra. He’ll also present a masterclass, perform a duet with Dietmar Kublock (Vienna Philharmonic), and perform a solo piece on a concert.

Dave will then take part in the Charles Mingus 91st Birthday Celebration on April 22.

On May 5, Dave will perform with the International Street Cannibals at St. Marks Church in NYC.

The following week, Dave will head to Los Angeles to perform with Daniel Schnyder, Kenny Drew Jr., and the Pacific Orchestra.

Finally, Dave will perform with the Mark Morris Dance Co. in Ojai, CA on June 8-16.

Toby Oft Featured in BSO Video Series

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

One of our newest artists, Toby Oft, was recently interviewed for the Boston Symphony’s It’s your BSO series. If you’re inclined to watch (and why wouldn’t you be?), you’ll learn about the rebuilding of the BSO low brass section, conductors and entrances, Symphony Hall, and coffee. We’re looking forward to hearing from Stephen Lange and James Markey next.

Brian Allen Moving Right Along

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

Pretty amazing spring for a trombonist in Mexico. Played Vive Latino (biggest rock festival in Latin America) and recorded a new album for RareNoise Records with Brainkiller. Played all over the country with Brainkiller, A Love Electric and legendary percussionist Cyro Baptista. Beautiful festivals and venues in Oaxaca, Puerto Escondido, Chiapas, Durango, Tobasco, Guadalajara, Queretaro, Puebla, Morelia, Aguascalientes and Mexico City. A solo concert. A short US West Coast run. Tomorrow, opening for Peter Brotzmann in the world-renowned Aural Festival.

Thursday, I head to Europe for a week of teaching and playing:

  • Friday, May 11
    Workshop
    Luzern Conservatory, Switzerland
  • Monday, May 14
    Porgy & Bess with Christian Radovan (trombone), Alois Eberl (trombone, accordion) and Se-Lien Chuang (bass recorder)
    Vienna, Austria
  • Tuesday, May 15
    Workshop
    JIM Institute for Jazz and Improvised Music at Anton Bruckner University, Linz Austria
  • Thursday, May 17
    Workshop
    Prague Conservatory, Czech Republic
  • Friday, May 18
    Jazzdock with Mark Aanderud (piano) and Tomáš Hobzek (drums)
    Prague, Czech Republic

Thank to Edwards for sponsoring these workshops.

Here are a few videos of Brainkiller at Vive Latino.

Please join us at facebook.com/brainkillermusic and me at facebook.com/nellanairb.

Horowitz Reviews Taylor

Thursday, April 5th, 2012

Joe Horowitz’s review of Dave Taylor’s performance of “Schubert Uncorked” with the PostClassical Ensemble is an entertaining read. Here are some of our favorite lines:

“Following a wayward trombonist at the piano is a lot simpler than chasing him with an ensemble in tow.”

“The sheer virtuosity of Taylor’s command of Schubert acrobatic showpiece was never in doubt – he can play it, and beautifully. But Taylor’s virtuosity is divinely wed to an idiosyncratic musical personality wholly his own. A lot of head-shaking and head-scratching followed that dress rehearsal.”

“None of us had anticipated the shock of “Doppelganger” in this context – it was Taylor’s first opportunity to open up and blast us full force. In the audience, bodies bobbed as if electrocuted. Watching the response of the musicians onstage was a rare pleasure: I have never seen members of an orchestra react as vividly, or visibly, to a soloist’s entrance as on this occasion.”

Not that we need extra incentive to hear Dave play, but Joe’s writing really makes us wish we had been in the audience.

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