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AMPA - SAXOPHONE TIES MELLEMA
VISION ON TEACHING - GENERAL
The basis of my teaching methods at AMPA are aimed at discovering the uniqueness in each individual student. Every musician has his or her own personal way of expressing themselves through music. It is my job as a teacher to create the circumstances in which this search for individuality can take place as freely as possible. I will help you develop the musical artist within yourself.
TEACHING AT AMPA
I teach at the Academy of Music and Performing Arts Tilburg. AMPA distinguishes itself from other conservatories in the Netherlands by not only offering high artistic quality, but also focusing on the following six key skills:
These key skills are reflected in the way I teach.
A. Craft – top-level artistic quality
A good technique is essential if you are to function as a musician. Making music is a craft, just as carpentry is. And a craft must be learned. Technique must never get in the way when making music, either alone or with others.
This is why you are given many etudes and scales to study in your first year. These scales basically cover all the material for your future repertoire. In the first year I use the etude books by Klosé. The scales start at B-flat and its parallel, G-minor. The scales are studied in seconds and thirds, the triads are broken long and short.
In the second year you move on to Etudes d’après Terschack & Berbiguier. You repeat the scales if needed and proceed with the chromatic scale. You study it in small seconds, large seconds (challenging!), small thirds, etc., right up and until the octave.
In the third and fourth year you continue with the Ferling etudes & 'Messiaen' études by Guy Lacour. With these etudes the musician no longer has the security of a tonal centre, leaving him or her with no other guidance than the line. It is around this time that we will also begin to study the beautiful caprices by Karg-Elert and we will additionally search for etudes that you require at that moment. Christian Lauba, for example, has a number of avant-garde etudes that help you study circular breathing, multiphonics, slap tongue, and so forth.
In practice the Ferling etudes are most often started too soon. Added to which these etudes always come in pairs: a slow one and a fast one. The fast ones are often skipped. It is however the combination of the two that makes this etude book so good. The slow etudes train several aspects including playing long lines in a free manner, in addition of course to playing sostenuto and uniformity; the fast ones are highly virtuoso and each have their own specific difficulties.
My view on embouchure is very straightforward: relaxed, whereby only a small number of muscles are used to ensure the air travels into the mouthpiece. Most students do too much!
The corners of the mouth move forward, the lower jaw comes down and the lower lip fills the space between the reed and the teeth. The back of the tongue is held high and is located between the molars. It is just like when you whistle; you use your tongue to intonate. It works in the same way on a saxophone.
3. Repertoire – technique & performance / solo & ensemble
Besides the technical pieces we will also play performance pieces suited to your needs at that particular moment in your development. Examples are: Aria by Bozza, Fantaisie-Impromptu by Jolivet, Histories by Ibert and La Malinconia by Badings.
I believe that you must at least have tried all the ‘regular’ styles within the world of saxophone. This gives you a broad and solid foundation in technique, musical taste and possibilities. The further you advance in your studies, the more you will develop your own taste and artistic preference. We will venture on this exploration trail together, always working towards the practical side of things. And naturally we will give much thought to how you can express your artistic preferences on the national and international stage.
We shall also explore the ensemble repertoire. There is a broad and varied repertoire for saxophone quartets, but also for various other combinations with strings, other brass players, piano and percussion. AMPA offers extensive opportunities for ensemble.
B. Master classes & Projects
1. Master classes
My colleague, Andreas van Zoelen, and I try to offer our master classes as wide- ranging as possible. We do not exclude any styles, but besides saxophonists we also invite experts on other instruments. There’s always something to be learned from everyone!
Similarly in the projects we try to work with other instruments as much as we can, but the AMPA also stimulates collaboration with other disciplines of art. We have so much to learn from each other, such as the way in which dancers move, or how horn players breathe. And so you learn to make music in versatile ways, enabling you to use your music in many different ways and in an interdisciplinary work field.
C. Independence – self-management
Two vital things I want to teach you are to be self-starting and independent. I want you to be able to fend for yourself once you have graduated and to be confident enough to set out your own artistic and practical line. And the seeds for that are sowed during your time at AMPA.
My teaching style can sometimes be difficult, as I demand great independence of you. I want you to start deciding for yourself early on. We will work on making rehearsal and study schedules and every week we will check and see how you got on with studying and rehearsing to then decide where and how you can improve (further) on that. Your motivation to do this must be intrinsic. I am your coach, trying to help you reach your full potential.
There is an opportunity, for example, to study abroad for a term through the Erasmus exchange programme.
D. Final exam
The final exam consists of two parts: midway through your final year you play a recital in which you demonstrate how you have progressed and developed as a saxophonist both technically and musically. It is your calling card regarding your technical and musical abilities and preferences. In the second half of the fourth year you also work on an interdisciplinary production, entirely your own. During your training you will have been confronted with other music genres and artistic disciplines. The production is centred around ‘musical interaction’; playing together with other musicians, but first and foremost, with other artists.