Andy C. recently conducted an email interview with Art Jennings, Professor of Trombone at the University of Florida.
What inspired you to be a professional musician?
My first private trombone teacher inspired me greatly. He played in the Detroit Symphony and was a really good musician, and most importantly, his love and respect for the art of music was very obvious to me. I wanted to be like him, and do something that I loved and that had great personal meaning to me.
How do you make practice fun?
Several things make practicing most fun for me. One thing is working on music that I really like. Another thing is, I like to focus on a little bit of music at a time, maybe just a phrase or two, practice it over and over until it really sounds good. Getting a little chunk of music sounding great is fun and satisfying and makes me want to keep going with another ‘chunk’. I like it when I having a performance of some kind coming up, that puts me in ‘high gear’ and makes practicing more exciting.
How do you practice duets?
I find somebody I enjoy playing with and go from there. It’s fun to work on precision tuning and rhythm.
Who or what do you listen to become better?
Hearing great performances is easy these days with mp3, YouTube, Grooveshark and other online resources. I listen to great players as much as I can, mostly recordings but ‘live’ whenever possible. Hearing great musical performances always makes me want to go and practice.
How do you articulate on fast phrases clearly?
There’s two basic approaches – 1. slow the whole passage down to where I can get the quality of accuracy and refinement I want and then systematically teach myself to play it at faster tempos with that same quality. 2. breaking the passage down into very short groups (2 or 3 notes maybe) and practicing each group over and over at the fast speed, then start putting groups together into larger groups. The goal is to get them to where they are working ‘automatically.
How do you play higher notes?
Don’t be in a hurry. Develop excellence in your midrange – get your basic technique solid – a well-structured embouchure and good breathing skills working in the part of your instrument where range is not a problem. Then gradually increase your range note by note, without having to strain or force things. It’s a matter of conditioning and it takes time, patience, and regular disciplined practice.
Do you have any tips for us on becoming a stronger player of our instruments?
Keep imagining ever more beautiful and interesting musical sounds and ideas in your head and keep trying to create them on your instrument.
Learn more about Dr. Jennings here: University of Florida Low Brass Studios