Some thoughts on preparing for state solo festivals

Discussion in 'Orchestra / Solo / Chamber Music' started by tpter1, Nov 15, 2005.

  1. tpter1

    tpter1 Forte User

    Age:
    54
    2,259
    11
    Jan 12, 2005
    Northern New York
    With December rapidly approaching comes the time to begin considerations and planning for solo festivals. I was thinking about how I prepare our soloists for state solos (we call it NYSSMA here in NY), and what it takes to prepare for such an undertaking. I thought it might be helpful for us judges, teachers, and students here to share our thoughts and maybe assist each other with some insights for preparation.

    Please, share your thoughts.

    From a judge’s perspective, I like to hear a soloist who knows their scales and who plays musically with understanding. Dynamics, varying styles of articulations as marked and as appropriate are critical for me when I sit behind the table (or desk, or bench, or whatever I sit behind in the room where I am). I like to see correct posture, hand position, and yes, trumpeters, use of the 3rd slide at least. Especially for students who are more advanced (levels 4-6 out of 6). Please select music which is an appropriate challenge for the student (or yourself); do not have a kid play the Goedicke, for example4, if they cannot double tongue consistently well. Be sure your students (or yourself) are fully aware of all requirements well in advance of the festival. I can’t count the number of times I saw a panic stricken look of horror and shock when I mentioned sight-reading to be followed by “I didn’t know I had to do that!†Be sure also to check the scale requirements for your (or your students’ level). In one instance in particular, I was unable to give a performer a rating because they did not know the necessary number of scales. That really is not an enjoyable experience for anyone.

    As a teacher, I try to be sure of all that, and discuss all of the options available with the students during “the NYSSMA lessonâ€. We cover what scales are required for the level the4 student is considering; we arrive at that level, by the way, through a mutual understanding of where the student is musically. If they performed a solo last year, we discuss it, how it went, what rating they received, what they feel they’d like to improve, where they think they should be; usually they are bang on with what I think. Sometimes, there is a discrepancy, and that must be handled with grace and knowledge of the student’s abilities and personality. Perspective is the all-important element here: what is the student trying to accomplish? Is he/she considering a career in music? Taking lessons privately? How will the experience benefit the student?

    Other things I consider as a teacher: how much time is needed to prepare the solo? A level 1 (out of 6, 6 being the most difficult), takes less time than a level 6. Students performing at level 6, by the way, should demonstrate musical awareness and technical prowess above and beyond the average players in your groups and area. Just because someone can pop or squeak a high C does not mean they should do the Kennan. In my experience, the average high school junior or senior can really dig in and nail a level 4 piece and get something out of it that is more than a number on a sheet. Some are really solid level 5. Level 6 is reserved for those elite kids; those once in a whiles that you just go “wowâ€. (I’ve had 2 over the course of a 15 year span…I may be developing another this year).

    The solo festival is often given too much emphasis by many directors. At fault is the selection process for all-county, all-state, all-everything band or orchestra. This, to me, should be looked upon as a summation of the student’s musical abilities TO THAT POINT.
     
  2. ImprovingTrumpeter

    ImprovingTrumpeter New Friend

    3
    0
    Oct 28, 2005
    Can you list a couple level four, five and six level solos?
     
  3. cornetguy

    cornetguy Mezzo Forte User

    797
    5
    Sep 12, 2005
    Saint Paul, MN
    as an adjudicator several things

    1. dont give the student a solo that they might be able to play on a good day if the full moon is in the constallation xaxuxathuing. give them a piece that will stretch them a bit but not more then they can handle

    2. preperation, preperation, preperation. with a metronome more then a tuner, i hear a lot of students that cant keep pieces stable and the slow downs and spped ups are in obvious place that shouldnt have it.

    3. if using an accompanist to have more then one run through with the pianist.

    4. work with the students on recovery from mistakes the one thing i hate to do is give a iii to a kid i know can play better, they start off really well make a mistake and then nosedive from there. stay in the present time. i was more then happy to overlook a mistake, but not when it dominos on top of each other

    5. attention to details 98% of what i tell kids either verbally or written is on the music if they woudl just do it.

    6. expand the dynamic range i too often hear two dynamics, soft mf and loud mf. but fff does not mean blast the player still has to have control of the sound.

    7. encourage them to listen to other players from other schools, not just their own. often they are playing in an empty room which i dont think is good for the kids.

    8. use smart music if possible. my student teaching supervising teacher used it for his doctoral dissertation, and found it makes a big difference.

    9. get the students to really listen to themselves, even taping themselves.

    10. make sure the students know all the terms and instructions. i have lost track of how many students when i asked them if they knew what something ment didnt,

    11. encourage the students to be themselves not just copy the record

    12. work with the kids on phrasing, flow and line very often the biggest weakness i hear

    hope this helps
     
  4. tpter1

    tpter1 Forte User

    Age:
    54
    2,259
    11
    Jan 12, 2005
    Northern New York
    When I get to school tomorrow, I'll check my manual. Here are a few off the top of my head that I've had kids work on in the past:

    IV: Balay: Petite Piece Concertante; Bozza: Badinage
    V: Clarke: Maid of the Mist; Turrin: Caprice; Latham: Suite for Trumpet
    VI: Kennan: Sonata; Peeters: Sonata (eew, but it does work the articulation and is a good learning piece!)

    The Barat Andante et Scherzo is in there, either level 4 or 5. Not sure which, exactly. Think the three B's: Bozza, Balay and Barat for a good sources in those levels.

    Those are from the NY State listing. Other states will vary (some may list certain pieces on a different level, or not include certain pieces or include others NY does not), so consult with a teacher who has access to the most recent listing available for your state.
     
  5. trumpet blower88

    trumpet blower88 Mezzo Piano User

    Age:
    30
    640
    3
    Jun 15, 2005
    Flagstaff, AZ
    Thanks for all that advise. Its going to help me alot. I'm playing a solo for the first time this year, I tend to get nervous very easily when it comes to solos and auditions, so this should really help me out alot.

    But while we're disscussing levels of music, does anyone know what the Hummel in Eb might be?
     
  6. tpter1

    tpter1 Forte User

    Age:
    54
    2,259
    11
    Jan 12, 2005
    Northern New York
    I would guess a 6. That's what it is here, I think.[/i]
     
  7. bandman

    bandman Forte User

    Age:
    111
    1,061
    53
    Oct 16, 2004
    Lafayette, LA, USA
    As a teacher:

    1) I think that solo festival is the most important event of the year for a middle school student when it comes to individual improvement.

    2) The most important skill a performer can learn is to recover from a mistake -- the concept that one mistake will not be allowed to cause a second mistake.

    As an adjudicator:

    1) I think that 7 out of 10 students come in trying to play something that is too hard, 2 out of 10 something that is too easy, and 1 out of 10 plays a piece that is pretty much on the correct level. I blame this on lazy teachers who di not take enough time in the solo selection process with their students.

    2) Many, if not most, students need more time with their accompanists.

    3) There is a lack of qualified accompanists. A good pianist is not always a good accompanist, and a bad pianist is never a good accompanist. It is a crime to hear students who put in hours to prepare a solo just to have it ruined by a hack who is charging out the tail to accompany students who are more talented than she is.

    4) Tone is the first/top caption on the score sheet for a reason. Students need to understand that playing a hard solo with poor tone and in an unmusical fashion means you accomplished nothing!

    5) No where on the score sheet does it say anything about playing correct notes. It is assumed that all the notes will be correct -- then you start to worry about the captions on the score sheet.
     
  8. dizforprez

    dizforprez Forte User

    1,097
    1
    Nov 2, 2003
    I think saw a list at one time that had Haydn and Hummel at grade 4. :dontknow:
     
  9. tpter1

    tpter1 Forte User

    Age:
    54
    2,259
    11
    Jan 12, 2005
    Northern New York
    In NY, Haydn and Hummel are level 6, choose any 2 movements. (That 4 must be out of 4 levels?)

    Improving: here are a few more 4, 5 and 6 solos (there are actually about 2 pages of each, but these are the ones I would recommend to my students):
    Level 4's
    Balay: Prelude et Ballade (I use that one alot)
    Rachmaninov: Vocalise (pub. International Music)
    Mendez: Czardas, Musetta's Waltz (either, taken from Rafael Mendez Collection)
    Hovahness: Prayer of St. Gregory

    Level 5's
    Arban: Variations Brilliantes
    Beversdorf: Sontata, either 1st or 3rd mvt
    Bloch: Proclamation
    Clarke: Stars in a Velvety Sky
    Shakov: Scherzo

    Level 6's
    Bozza: Caprice #2 or Frigariana
    Clarke: The Debutante, Bride of the Waves, From the Shores of the Mighty Pacific, or Showers of Gold (any one)
    F. Tull: Three Bagatelles

    Hope that helps!
     
  10. dizforprez

    dizforprez Forte User

    1,097
    1
    Nov 2, 2003
    no that was 4 out of 6 levels. I will try to find that list, if i can find it i will post some things from it later.
     

Share This Page