Thursday, October 1, 2015

Preparing for Music College Auditions

First Impressions:

Audition Tips

by Kevin Price
(Head of Brass and Percussion,
Royal Welsh College of Music Drama)

Travel Well

Avoid travelling on the day of the audition. A night in cheap hotel or B&B is a good investment and easily outweighs the embarrassment and cost of a missed audition due to transport problems. Be careful to pack copies of your music to give to the panel and to read all audition requirements with great care, packing a copy for last-minute reference during your journey. Aim to arrive at least one hour before your allocated time in order to acclimatise and feel relaxed. Avoid excessive caffeine and sugar in the days leading up to the audition and take plenty of long walks or light exercise before the big day.

Dress well

Make sure that you dress in a way which reflects your professionalism and dedication. Wear smart clothes that you have worn before (new clothes or shoes can often feel uncomfortable and make you a little uncertain). Suits and ties for men always look good and long smart casual for ladies works well too. Low or medium heels are also recommended, as it is common to see high heels undermine efficient posture and breathing strategies on the day of a performance or audition.

Perform well

Remember that the panel wants to discover what you know, rather than what you don’t know. They will ask you questions which are always intended to relax you and to discover what you are like as a person and as a musician. Try to be open, to smile and to take time to answer questions thoughtfully. Prepare your own questions too, as the panel want to see your enthusiasm and to gain an understanding of your aims and long-term goals.

Audition requirements vary greatly between colleges, with some asking for “set works” and others offering a “free choice” of repertoire. Choose from the “set works”, selecting pieces that you are comfortable with. It is important to offer two pieces which contrast in style and that are of at least Grade 8 standard. You do not necessarily need to choose pieces which are technically demanding. It is best to select repertoire which you can play comfortably and which shows off your musicality.

Remember that the 10-15 minutes of your audition potentially represents the first stage of your College course, therefore the panel generally views the audition as part of the “learning process” and as an opportunity to provide you with constructive feedback and advice. We are looking for “learning people” who respond to advice and constructive criticism, as opposed to a “perfect” performance on the day.

The 'S' words

Scales are the “alphabet” of music. They build brain patterns and physical reflexes that enable us to respond instinctively to the written suggestions of composers. Not all colleges ask for scales in auditions, but a working knowledge of the Grade 8 scale requirements will do you no harm. The confidence that scale preparation gives you will also help to develop a better ability to deal with the other “S” word: sight-reading. When looking at sight-reading, take your time and pay attention to details of tempo (candidates usually play too fast when under pressure) and musical moods. Details of articulation and note-lengths are commonly overlooked, along with dynamics. Try not to focus solely upon “the notes”, but always aim to convey the emotion and moods of the music. My peripatetic teacher at school always said “You are allowed to make mistakes, but you are not allowed to be boring!”

(Grant Jameson, winner of the BBC Young Brass Award 2015)

Although brief, I sincerely hope that this advice will help you to feel more relaxed 
on the big day. Remember - we want you to do well and we are here to help,
rather than to judge you.

If you are organised and work hard, you can achieve anything.
Good luck!


Monday, September 28, 2015

Birmingham Saxophone Day

Sunday 18th October 2015

9.30am to 6.30pm

at Birmingham Conservatoire

The ever evolving Saxophone Department at Birmingham Conservatoire is one of the most vibrant and creative in the UK.

We throw open our doors and invite saxophone students, teachers and enthusiasts to take part in workshops, improvisation classes, ensemble coaching, quartet side-by-side sessions and much more.

Improve your ensemble skills, learn rehearsal techniques, pick up playing tips, check out new gear and discover new music, sharing the pleasure of playing the saxophone with like-minded enthusiasts. The day is open to saxophonists of all abilities, however an approximate level of grade 3 and above is advisable to get the most out of the day.

Your saxophone experts for the day will be the Conservatoire's Saxophone Department head, Naomi Sullivan alongside Conservatoire tutors Andy Tweed and Anna Brooks.

Special guest is Kyle Horch, visiting saxophone consultant, who will present a lunchtime performance with his critically acclaimed ensemble, Flotilla.

There will also be a good selection of trade stands at the event, including June Emerson Wind Music. We'll be taking all our saxophone music and books (approx. 48 boxes!) for you to browse through and buy. Card and cash payments accepted on the day.


£20 (£15 CASS members/U18)

Birmingham Conservatoire

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Launchpad Prize Winner's Profile No.4: Hestia Saxophone Quartet


Lucinda Dunne - soprano sax

Alžbeta Klásova - alto sax

Hannah Washer - tenor sax

Claire Shaw - baritone sax


Hestia Saxophone Quartet formed at the Royal College of Music in September 2013 and comprises of undergraduate students from the UK and Slovakia. The ensemble rehearses and performs together on a regular basis and is coached by Kyle Horch.
Enjoying a diverse range of music, Hestia have already given a variety of performances from a masterclass taken by saxophonists Frank Timpe and Nacho Gascon, to several concerts held at venues including the Royal College of Music’s Recital Hall, Regent's Hall Piccadilly, Holy Innocents Church, London and BAFTA. The group recently won the June Emerson Wind Music Launchpad Prize 2015 at the RCM Woodwind Ensemble Competition and is looking forward to performing as part of a Chamber Essentials concert at the RCM.

Lucinda Dunne previously studied at Chetham's School of Music and has performed with orchestras such as National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain and Piccadilly Symphony Orchestra in notable venues including The Sage Gateshead and Royal Festival Hall.

Alžbeta Klásova is a graduate of the Košice Conservatoire (Slovakia), and is currently an RCM Foundation Scholar supported by a Dr Michael West Award.

Hannah Washer studies alongside her fellow quartet members at the Royal College of Music under the tuition of Kyle Horch. She is also currently principle saxophonist with the National Youth Wind Orchestra of Wales which has seen her perform world premieres and take part in international tours.

Claire Shaw is a second year undergraduate student at the RCM and is currently enjoying her studies with Martin Robertson, as well as ensemble coaching from Kyle Horch.


June Emerson Wind Music would like to thank Simon Channing for organising the 
awarding of the Launchpad Prize at the Royal College of Music.


Royal College of Music

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Learning Scales - Overcoming the Psychological Roadblocks

Learning Scales -

Overcoming the Psychological Roadblocks

by Helen Paskins
Freelance clarinettist and teacher

"I hate scales"

In my experience, this sentiment is one shared by the majority of students. This may be because it is thought that the average person may retain only about 4 different units in their short-term memory, which means that unless the scale is divided into two halves, it constitutes overload for the brain. (If this is true for you, then thinking of your scale in two halves can be a really helpful way to tackle them.)
Add to this the fact that when you play a scale incorrectly, because of the logic of the pattern, it is excruciatingly obvious that it is wrong. We hate to be wrong! 
Fundamentally, scales are deemed to lack the magic ingredient - fun - although in my experience this viewpoint begins to alter once the scales are mastered, which would rather suggest that it is the feeling of failure which is the most de-motivating factor.  How 'fun' they are is ultimately up to the person playing them. With a few dynamics or rhythms they can become much more creative and interesting.
Scales can be awkward on the clarinet. You can't 'see' them in the way that you can on the piano and there is no logic to the movement of fingers in many of them. Once you start to move beyond C major (in which the notes follow neatly, finger lift by finger lift), there can sometimes be a three-finger lift in order to move from one note to the next, which can seem confusing - until it is repeated enough times to become habitual and familiar. A difficult scale on the clarinet is not simply a question of one with many sharps or flats. In fact, some of these supposedly more complex scales actually lie quite well. It also has to do with how easily the transition from note to note works for the fingers in that key.
However, I think the main problem with scales is in the way that they are learned. Because they are annoying rather than fun. Because they are a chore and only done because they have to be - if they are practiced at all - and then people tend to adopt what I call the 'hope for the best' scales method. The steps of which are:
1. Start                                     
2. Hope the right notes come out
3. Noodle around until they do
There are many problems with this. The brain isn't actually actively involved, so even if the scale is performed correctly this does not necessarily mean that the why or the how has been understood, and therefore that it could be replicated. Normally, the scale isn't performed correctly and, unfortunately, this then means that the fingers become programmed with wrong turnings and for some reason - probably connected with Murphy's Law - the brain seems to be much better at remembering wrong turnings than right ones!
However, there is another way. I teach this to my students and encourage them to learn to recite it because it is a way to re-programme how they think about and approach scales. Do not be put off by the simplicity. My experience has been that it is the most obvious things that can be the most useful!

1. Scales are easy and fun.
2. All you have to do is play the right notes.
3. To play the right notes, you need to know what they are!

If these steps are followed, the scale will be performed correctly. Every time. It really does work. But only if you do it. In order to do it, you need to GO SLOWLY ENOUGH TO THINK. The desire to get them over with makes playing too fast to be able to do this properly a common pitfall. If you don't know what the right notes are, find out first.  Check the key signature. Look at your fingering chart. How on earth do you expect to play them otherwise?!
This provides you with a correct scale once. However, the scale then needs to be memorised. CORRECT REPETITION is the key here. It may take ten times. It may take twenty times, but if you continue to work that scale correctly into your fingers then it will be learned and learned well and then you will find that it becomes enjoyable! It is playing scales wrongly, not playing scales, that is the real cause of the hatred!

To play a scale correctly you will need to know:
1. What it sounds like (aural memory)
2. Where your fingers go (kinaesthetic memory) - make sure you take care to use the correct alternate fingerings. Practice makes permanent. It is so much simpler to get it right from the start than to learn it wrong and so have to put it right later.
3. What the scale looks like on the page (so as to recognise it at speed) and what the key signature is so as to develop a sense of key (visual/intellectual memory)
This involves a lot of different types of 'knowing' simultaneously, but they all come as a result of following the steps given above.

So how can we make the repetition fun? The brain actually enjoys a certain amount of repetition, and while the brain is enjoying itself then you will be focused and productive. However, after a while the brain might start to make silly mistakes and this is a signal that it has switched off and stopped concentrating. How can we deal with this? This is when I like to bring in 'Scales Eye Spy'! On a long car journey we might look out for things to keep our attention off the fact that we are actually starting to feel a bit bored. We can do the same with scales. Five rounds of Scales Eye Spy could include:
1. piano
2. forte
3. dotted rhythms
4. staccato
5. legato and crescendo up/diminuendo down
The options are numerous and limited only by your creativity. The key is to decide on your goal in advance and stick to it. It might take you three goes to achieve your Scales Eye Spy task, but that's three more times you've played the scale without feeling annoyed and is very likely to have helped another area of your technique too!

This brings us to why we're doing all this in the first place. Scales are fundamentally really useful. They're not just some sadistic creation of the ABRSM to make learning an instrument more annoying. A colleague of mine describes them brilliantly as a language. Phrases or sentences which, once learnt, enable musical communication. Scales help enormously with sightreading and all the technical aspects of playing an instrument. They are a great way of working on tone and intonation and once learned become a fantastic way of warming up and checking the whole range of the instrument is working well and ready to go.

I'm not going to pretend that learning them won't take time and care but I do believe that if we make it fun and easy for ourselves then the process will be much more enjoyable.

Often, there is almost a moment of embarrassment when I spell it out like this because as soon as you think of scales in this way, it seems ridiculous to do anything else. But that is the beauty of it. It is almost as if the brain is loaded with an earlier version of the software we need. Our instinctive sense of how to learn a scale isn't perhaps the right one, but once we upgrade to the new method then we start to progress and as we begin to reap the rewards there is no looking back.

However, to my mind the psychological roadblocks extend much deeper than this. Take the Grade 7 or 8 scales requirement - ALL OF THEM! This sounds dreadful. Mount Everest. The fact that this isn't that many more than than for Grade 6 once you work it out, doesn't seem believable. The idea of getting them all learned feels insurmountable, so how can we go about it?

Firstly, it only actually takes five minutes to play every single major and melodic minor scale at the tempo 2 quavers = 120 or 4 semiquavers = 60. As soon as we know this, the psychological hurdle is greatly reduced. I suggest my students time their scales in order that they can see for themselves just how quick to play they actually are. It becomes harder to resent playing something when you realise it only lasts 30 seconds!

And for the other golden rule: ALWAYS USE A METRONOME. There are many advantages to practising scales with a metronome. The metronome doesn't lie. If you can't play the scale at that speed yet, it will tell you! This is actually really good to know. Always go at a comfortable tempo. The speed will come, as if by magic, once the scale is familiar and you will find it much more enjoyable to be beautifully in time and even. The satisfaction of doing something well is a great feeling and once you learn to achieve it as you practise your scales, you will find it a much more fulfilling and rewarding process.

So the final challenge is really one of goal setting. You need to be realistic. If you set a massive goal and fail it feels much worse than setting a reasonable goal and achieving it. Every time you feel successful, you will feel like doing more and this will then feed into more and more good results. With my students I have found that setting a challenge like 'all the majors chromatically E-Eb' is an enjoyable goal because it feels like a lot has been achieved, and there is a good feeling associated with doing all of something. Take care to go onto the minors though, because we are often tempted to stick doing what we know rather than branching out into what we don't know.

Are you serious about learning your scales? Then read all this again. Several times. It is not actually that complicated but there is a lot to take in. Each idea is important and they feed together to build a whole. I have been using these concepts with my students for a while now and they find them helpful. They're still human beings. It hasn't magically imparted the scales to them without any work on their part, but bit by bit they are getting there and when they are there, they relish the achievement - it's what the joy of learning is all about. Ultimately, we human beings are a funny breed: if it was too easy, it wouldn't be so much fun!


Helen's new edition of 'Syrinx' by Debussy for bass clarinet is now published 
by Emerson Edition (E700) and available from June Emerson Wind Music here.

More information about Helen Paskins can be found here

Monday, September 14, 2015

British Trombone Society


30th Anniversary National Trombone Day (North)

Sunday 4th October 2015

Clothworker’s Centenary Concert Hall

University of Leeds LS2 9JT



Legendary soloist and bandleader
& Mark Francis Jazz Trio
supported by Conn-Selmer

Principal Trombone, Royal Scottish National Orchestra
supported by Courtois/Buffet Group

Principal Bass Trombone, Ulster Orchestra
supported by Courtois/Buffet Group

Blair Sinclair, Robert Burtenshaw & Christian Jones
performing newly commissioned trios by Dan Jenkins, and Ben Ellin,
in celebration of 30 years of the BTS.

with Rebecca Pope of Warwick Music
supported by Warwick Music

PLUS recitals, raffle, trade stands, improvisation classes, Q&A and massed blow for all!


£10 BTS members
£15 non-members
£5 students with NUS/under 18
(Members may pay in advance via their GoCardless account)

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Launchpad Prize Winner's Profile No.3: The Risatina Quintet


Alexandra Boeree - flute

Khemi Shabazz - oboe

Livia Frankish - clarinet

Deanna Greenwood - bassoon

Derryck Nasib - horn


The Risatina Quintet, based in Greenwich, London, originally formed in 2012 from a group of students studying together at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. 
Quickly moving on from standard wind quintet repertoire, the Risatina Quintet became rapidly interested in alternative music for wind quintet across multiple genres from pop and jazz to Afro-Cuban music and film arrangements. 
The Quintet has performed at a variety of functions and events and in 2015 undertook a tour of the UK performing concerts around the country over a week.
"Risatina" means "giggle" in Italian, a very apt name for our group who believe in the fun of a performance, and a performance that makes people smile.




June Emerson Wind Music would like to thank Anna Noakes for organising the 
awarding of the Launchpad Prize at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. 


Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music & Dance

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Jess Gillam's World

Part 2

“The future of our industry” 
- Nikki Neave (manager of Courtney Pine)

To start August, I travelled to Glasgow to watch my younger sister, Patsy, perform with the National Children’s Orchestra with special guests Nicola Benedetti and Wynton Marsalis. Their performance of Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony was incredible and to watch an orchestra consisting of people all aged 13 or under who had such a deep understanding of the music was quite inspirational!
Nicola Benedetti gave a beautiful performance of The Lark Ascending by Vaughan Williams and I learned so much from this performance. I sometimes struggle to focus solely on the actual music in a piece rather than being hung up on technicalities or changing the musical line to suit the instrument. Watching a virtuoso violinist made me appreciate even more how important the musical line is in a piece – you can see every movement with their bow and all movements are external, it is often difficult to work out what saxophonists are doing as the hard work is internalised! As a saxophone player, I find myself listening to many other saxophonists and to music that involves saxophone but this concert proved to me that listening to music that predates the saxophone can often be more useful – there is so much to learn by listening to musicians and appreciating music as a whole.

National Children's Orchestra with Nicola Benedetti

After watching this concert and hearing the pure tone and sheer musicality of Wynton Marsalis and Nicola Benedetti, I really wanted to apply this as much as possible to my playing. A couple of days after the concert I went to the Windstruments Saxophone Summer School with Rob Buckland, Sally MacTaggart and Carl Raven in Harrogate. I have been attending this summer school since the age of 12 and every year, I learn so much about the saxophone and music. Rob Buckland was the perfect person to help me understand how to change both physically in my playing as well as the psychological processes involved. Rob knows so much about the saxophone and is also a fantastic general musician and listening to him talk throughout the week about sound production has helped me greatly!

Harrogate massed saxophones

There was also a chance to form quartets ( and work as a massed saxophone ensemble and working with other saxophone players to create a huge sound was something I enjoyed very much!

This month, I have also finalised all of the details for the next concert in the concert series I organise in my home town of Ulverston, in the Lake District. I am very excited to announce that John Harle – a master of saxophone – will be performing in November. I will also perform as a special guest. Tickets are now available and are selling quickly!


John Harle Concert - Friday 13th November @ 7.30pm

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Yanagisawa Saxophones UK

Vandoren UK