vrijdag 28 oktober 2011

Making a living

Many people told me that it is impossible to make a living out of playing chamber music on saxophone. Now I know it is hard, but certainly not impossible!

The road is long and difficult, I admit. At least, it was for me. But I am doing it. And loving it. I make a living out of playing classical saxophone and more specifically, chamber music on the saxophone. I play with my quartet and do solo gigs, recitals with my pianist, Hans Eijsackers and solo performances with Bach and stuff with electronics. I worked hard to get here. But it does take sacrifice. Hard work, not only on the saxophone, but also communicating and creativity (in that order in practice, yes!). We are saxophone players and our goal to astonish people and show that this is music as well. Our instrument does not know boundaries and this is how we should approach our practice. We are no violins, clarinets, there are no orchestras waiting for us. Thank God we get to do our own thing! Develop repertoire, arrangements, even compose and improvise ourselves. That is saxophone today.
When people tell you it is not possible to live off chamber music it is only partly true. It does take some adaptations in life style. Maybe not such a big house in not such a top location, reduce your expenses to a minimum while maximizing them for taxes. It's a fine line. But the reward could be making music for a living. If the circumstances are right. What circumstances? If I knew that I wouldn't be writing this blog and working out factors to create those circumstances….

Amstel Quartet finishes diverse recording sessions: their own CD, Amstel Tracks II and Ruud van Eeten's debute CD on which they play his 'Punctus Einz'.

Great learning session with Erik Bosgraaf

Today Erik Bosgraaf enlightened my about how to play van Eyck's 'Floten Lusthof', a recorder standard repertoire colleciton of pieces.

It was a very inspriing session. Time after time I come to the conclusion that in spite of all the knowledge one has, it is the musical intuition that plays the biggest part. Perhaps the frame is the knwloedge, but the actual picture itself is the way the player wants to convey the composer's message. Which is sometimes as prozaic as showing off technique!

A lomo photo to close off :-)

My view on a masters study

I have been teaching conservatory level saxophone level now for about 6 years. About once every so many years I write down my current vision on teaching and especially, learning to play the saxophone.

I have had some experience with master students in the last three years. This is what I worked on with them.
When they the students came to me, they knew very well how they played, what they had to learn and they had ears. They did not need me to tell them how to play, but rather to find their own way with the technique they already possessed. It can be relatively easy to tell someone how to play, but the challenge for me was to help my students find their own way.
Of course this is not black and white. I did have to 'correct' them every now and then. And share my own views on a certain passage or 'correct' their technique. Intonation, finger technique are quite absolute for me…
In the first couple of months I like them work on technique, technique and technique. I want them to really dive into the saxophone, like there's nothing else. As a master student this is your last chance to do so. After the master studies, they will start teaching, gigging, start a family, etcetera. Which is all great of course. But studying for hours and hours will become harder. This is their last chance to perfect their basis.
In the mean time we will work on repertoire, and if the technique is already very good, there's no need to focus on technique. But in my experience, also remembering my own studies, it is a good idea to work on etudes, long tones and scales. And do them in the lesson, with me, and work out the last flaws that might be in the way.
The focus on technique lasts for a couple of months, then we continue with etudes and scales, etc, but the focus becomes repertoire, and more general artisticity. I found that my students usually have a hard time realizing that it is them who should do the work and make the decisions. I can tell them what works (for me…), but they should do the work. I find it very important that my students know how to take their own decisions after they leave school and trust their choices.
Which is hard. I do realize that students are looking for my opinion. And when it concerns intonation, rhythm, I can help them clearly, but when it comes to interpretation, or even choosing repertoire, I think it really important that they find out what it is to look for possibilities, and, more importantly, also make mistakes!
In all cases, I felt my masters students developed their own artisticity, their own opinion, and went on their journey. A journey that will last the rest of their lives. It is my mission to put them on the train.