Tales from Band Camp III

Another “reading” for the McAllen Symphonic Band on the 22nd of April. I wasn’t as nervous this time around, but I probably should have been. Again I showed up early to help with the chairs and music stands, but they were already prepared (I guess I need to show up an hour early to be able to help with that). I went ahead and got my things setup and did a bit of mouthpiece buzzing and picked my parts out of the stack of trombone music. I also over heard there would be a new trombone player joining us, so I felt a bit more at ease, another newbie to share my jitters with. Well, I was wrong in that department.

The “newbie” turned out to be a band director from Roma High School. Probably the fact that he was carrying an Edwards trombone with a Thayer valve should have tipped me off that this guy was a real player. But I really didn’t realize how good he was until he started doing some warmups. He was breezing through lip slurs that I try to do myself, then hitting pedal tones I could only dream of playing, and following that up with lip trills… maybe I should pack up my horn and go home…. Wow, it was impressive. Then watching him pretty much breeze through every song we sight read, getting the rhythms right, alternative positions, not fluffed notes. I was amazed! And I did not let the moment get by and not learn something from this guy. And I hope to learn more from him in the future. Just hearing and watching him play I can learn things.

Again this “reading” I struggled through, but I think I was able to actually play more music this time. It did help having someone else playing the 2nd trombone part as well (last week I was the lone 2nd trombone player). At this point I think the sight reading is my weakness. Checking the key and time signatures, watching for changes and catching those odd rhythms like dotted 1/8th notes. Luckily I have several method and etude books to practice with at home.

There is no practice next Monday and then we have one more reading on May 6th. Then we break for the rest of May and start up rehearsals for the next on June 3rd.  We have several practices for a concert coming up on the morning of July 4th in Archer Park. It will be so much nicer when I can practice the music before I show up for rehearsal :)


Tales from Band Camp II

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I am now a member of the McAllen Symphonic Band. Laura’s Dad (Art) has been playing with them for a number of years. Laura and I occasionally would attend the concerts, but since my renewed interest in playing trombone, we’ve attended every concert they have had. After I got my new trombone, I have been thinking it would be nice to join the band and start playing in that type of environment again. Well, with the help of Art, that has all come to past.

On April 15th I had my first practice with the band. The rehearsals they are currently having are what they call “readings”. Where they read through pieces of music, one after the other just to find material for the next season of concerts (2013-2014). So in other words, they are doing what I hated to do while in the EHS band – sight read! So, needless to say I was very nervous. In fact, I was nervous pretty much all that day leading up to the practice.

I got there about 30 minutes early to try to help get things setup (chairs and music stands) but all of that was pretty much done, so I had a chance to talk with Art and he introduced me to several people, including two of the other trombone players in the band. They figured I would be playing the 2nd trombone part so I setup my stuff next to them (they were playing 3rd trombone and bass) and started to do a bit of mouthpiece buzzing to get warmed up. Just before the rehearsal started the 1st trombone players sat down and then I started to even get more nervous. Vern, then 3rd trombone sitting next to me helped me relax a bit when he said he was 80 years old, he chops were not as good as they used to be, his hearing was not as good as it used to be and his vision was not as good as it used to be. Still, I think he played me under the table!.

The “reading” was a fast paced run through of a lot of songs. Pretty much a blur for me now. I would say it was probably 8-12 songs, ranging from easy to fairly complicated (for me anyways). As we started I was very impressed with not only the 1st trombone players sight reading and playing abilities, but both Vern and John’s (bass trombone) both were doing great as well. The 1st trombone players were playing all the parts and doing it really good, whereas I think I was only able to played about 40% of the notes that night. I started out really bad, but it got a bit easier as the night went on.

Once it was all over, I was glad I still had some chops left and wasn’t completely blown out. I packed up my stuff and went headed home on a bit of a high. It was great to be playing in a trombone section again, in a full band. Yes, I was nervous, but at the same time it was a lot of fun and it felt great being back in that environment. When I got home I told Laura that I wished they practiced every night (not only because I ended up having fun, but because I really need the practice!).


Tales from Band Camp I

Time for an update on my venture back into the world of music! It’s been almost 8 months (!!?) since my last post, so several things have changed. I’ve been back playing the trombone now for over a year and things are starting to come together. I am probably not where I wish I was at, but I cannot complain about the progress I have made so far.

My range has improved over the last year. I cannot remember what my range was a year ago, but back then I would normally struggle getting high Gb and above, and my pedal tones were non-existent. Currently using my “symphonic” mouthpiece (a Denis Wick 5BS) I can get up to double high D and down to Ab pedal tone. Using my “edgy” mouthpiece (Denis Wick 7CS or Bach 12C) I can get several notes higher, but I my lower range suffers. My F-Attachment range is still rather stuffy, but I just recently got my Bb/F trombone, so that will hopefully clean up soon with more practice.



Speaking of F-Attachments, yes I did get my new horn. I spent several months (if not many months) researching trombones. Although I would have loved to get a nice professional horn. I just could not see spending that much money on a trombone at this time. Maybe in 5 years if I am still playing I will look into getting a pro horn. Until then I concentrated on finding a good intermediate horn. I was looking at several different models, but decided on a Getzen 725 horn. It is a dual bore horn (.525/.542) with an open wrap F-attachment. It’s a beautiful horn and sounds great. Like I said my trigger notes are a bit stuffy, but they will work out with more practice. I still plan to use the King 606 horn that my Father in Law Art is letting me use. It’s a student horn, but because it is smaller bore, it has a brighter sound/tone, where as the Getzen is a mellow sound. And I still have my original blue P-Bone.

I am playing with the church band usually every other week. And that is a bit more stressful on me than a normal concert band situation would be. I am the only brass instrument playing with the band and therefore my parts tend to stand out a bit more than if I am playing with a full section of trombones. But, I think it has helped my “stage fright” a bit. Since I got the new Getzen trombone, I have been playing it, but I am

With some help from my Father In Law, Art Ratley, I now have a seat in the Mcallen Symphonic Band and have recently started attending rehearsals. That first rehearsal was really a nervous time for me, but I made it through. But that’s a another blog post by itself. thinking about switching back to the King for the church band since it seems to sound better in a “solo” environment. Maybe someday I’ll get a better “straight” trombone.