Friday, October 20, 2017

The Non-Negotiables for Wind Player Success.


  I'm preparing to dive down into the orchestra pit for a three performance run of Prokofiev's wonderful ballet Romeo and Juliet. Before I do, though, I wanted to share some thoughts with you.

  You see, one of the cool things I get to do at UNLV is perform in the Wind Orchestra under the direction of Maestro Tom Leslie. Maestro Leslie is a big name in the field and has even been president of the American Bandmasters' Association. One of the things that I noticed when receiving the syllabus to the Wind Orchestra was a list from Maestro Leslie called his 'Non-negotiables'. It was basically a list of rules which, when implemented by the ensemble, would all but guarantee the highest level of performance and success. Here's the list:

 They make perfect sense, don't they?

It got me thinking "Great! These are good rules for an ensemble but how about for the rest of the day? What are steadfast rules which will all but guarantee success and growth for the wind player?" Well, here's what I came up with....


  1. Do some form of practice daily (I include score study, critical listening, visualization, and active recovery in with this. Giving your chops a day off every week isn't a bad idea)
  2. Do long tones, overtone work, mouthpiece work, etc EVERY practice session.
  3. Do scales, arpeggios, scale fragments, or patterns and articulation work EVERY practice session.
  4. Sight read as often as possible.
  5. Use a metronome in EVERY practice session.
  6. Use a tuner in EVERY practice session (By tuner I mean a drone or some sort of fixed pitch. You cannot learn to tune with your eyes).
  7. Play with people better than you as often as possible. (This is a big one.)
  8. Perform as often as possible.
  9. Approach the practice room from a place of joy, gratitude, and curiosity. If it feels like a grind, pack up your horn and come back later. Your mindset is wrong.
  10. Learn active recovery techniques. What we do is in fact a physical activity and repetitive use injuries are real and debilitating. You want to be able to do this for the rest of your life, right?
  11. Learn Alexander Technique, body mapping, or some other method of proper alignment and set up to minimize the chance of injury and maximize playing enjoyment.
  12. Record yourself often. Listen later so you can be objective.
  13. Video yourself often. Look for hitches in your alignment, set up, embouchure, etc.
  14. Tell them you want the gig, then SHOW them you want the gig.
  15. Learn to market yourself as a performer not from a place of arrogance but from quiet confidence and professionalism.
  16. ALWAYS be professional on the stage and in rehearsal.
  17. Maintain balance. Find a non musical hobby. We all need a way to 'get away' mentally.
  18. Learn to say 'no' when you need to. 
  19. LISTEN LISTEN LISTEN- Find the best musicians in the world, not necessarily on your instrument, and listen constantly. 
  20. HAVE FUN- If you aren't enjoying it, then why are you doing it?

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