Thursday, January 28, 2016

Listen and Learn

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

Music is my addiction. My role as Head of Brass and Percussion at RWCMD provides many opportunities to listen to live music every day, either in concert or in an exam situation. In addition, my children are all choristers. This means that my life is punctuated with the joy of live music, covering a massive range of styles and genres. This luxurious situation means that my iPod remains mostly unused.

Imagine what it must have been like before recorded music, when live concerts, military occasions and church services were the main ways of hearing an orchestra, choir or band. It must have been like eating Christmas dinner after weeks of living on bread and water. In many ways I imagine that this must have heightened the senses and created permanent musical memories for audiences and for performers. In many ways, this has been lost in our age of recorded sound and online resources. Music has become almost “disposable” and we tend to “snack” on the array of musical treats that are constantly available to us, rather than to “feast” on a rare and wonderful live concert.

A surprising side-effect of our unlimited supply of recorded sound is also emerging; musical hallucinations. I have a colleague called Dr. Victor Aziz, a psychiatrist at St. Cadoc's Hospital in Wales. He belongs to a group of psychiatrists and neurologists who investigate this area. They suspect that over-exposure to recorded sound can result in malfunctioning brain networks that normally allow us to perceive music. Put simply; our brains start to filter the sound as “unwanted noise”. We are all familiar with shopping or eating out whilst “piped” music is being played. Before long, we stop “hearing” the music. This is bad for musicians in exactly the same way that constantly snacking on junk food is bad for your physical health.

Before you throw away your iPod and recycle your headphones in horror, consider trying to balance “recorded” and “live” musical experiences instead. For the price of a CD, you can hear a great orchestra, choir or band. What’s more, you will see real human beings dealing with real nerves, making real mistakes and producing real excitement which cannot be repeated. In addition, it is sociable and a lot of fun.

Concert halls, cathedrals and some churches provide this unique experience which is collective and yet still private. Our interpretation and response to music is totally dependent upon the subjective experience of the listener, coupled with the spontaneity (and sometimes luck!) of the performers. Few experiences in modern society are shared in this way.

Sadly, music is so easily consumed in the privacy of our homes and headphones that it is becoming increasingly difficult to lure an audience to the concert hall. As musicians, we need to safeguard the future, by getting out there and hearing music “for real”. It’s also good for your mental and emotional health. The next time that you are considering buying a CD or downloading a recording, have a little think about the price of a concert ticket and the permanent lessons and memories that will be gained from seeing and hearing real people in a real concert hall. Stop snacking… feasting is a lot more fun!


A useful article on

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Jess Gillam's World

Part 6

“Down to earth, funny and cool...what was not to like?”
– Gramophone Magazine

As the new year begins, I am looking ahead to a busy and exciting 2016 - Happy New Year to everybody! 
I spent most of December preparing for several auditions, so this is just a short blog update. December always seems to be busy with auditions for me! I find that preparing for auditions is a very similar process for preparing for a concert because my end goal is the same - to be able to give the best performance I'm capable of. When I am actually in front of a panel however, I find the experience very different to performing to an audience in a concert. I find the performance so much more intimate and this makes me more nervous in a way. I even find playing in a small concert venue extremely different. I try to forget where I am as soon as I play the opening note and I attempt to totally immerse myself in the music and focus as much as possible and this nearly always helps me.

BBC Young Musician of the Year 2016

One of my auditions in December was for BBC Young Musician of the Year 2016. In 2014, I was a woodwind finalist in the competition and the recipient of the BBC Walter Todds Bursary for showing exceptional promise. I am delighted to have reached the Woodwind Category Finals again and I will be one of five woodwind finalists competing at the Royal Welsh College of Music in Drama in Cardiff. The competition takes place in early March so the coming months will be spent preparing and practising my programme as much as possible. I will also search the repertoire and find out as much as I can about its origins to help me to put the music into context.

'Out of the Cool' by Dave Heath

I am also preparing to perform "Out of the Cool" by Dave Heath with the Junior Royal Northern College of Music Symphony Orchestra in early February so this means that lots of music is stuck on my bedroom wall to be memorised - I will let you know how it goes in my February blog!


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Friday, January 1, 2016

Special Offer

Special Offer - 20% Discount 

during January & February 2016

More Graded Studies for Flute Books 1 & 2
by Sally Adams & Paul Harris
More Graded Studies for Clarinet Books 1 & 2
by Paul Harris

More Graded Studies for Flute & Clarinet brings together study repertoire in four unique collections. Featuring core works from established composers alongside exciting new material not seen before, plus specially composed studies by Paul Harris, Sally Adams and others. Each study lists its key ingredients and invites players to consider additional key elements as well. This enables teachers and students to link the studies to their current repertoire and technical work in a truly Simultaneous Learning way.

This offer is exclusive to June Emerson Wind Music!
Click on the images below to get your copies:

Flute Book 1
Flute Book 2
Clarinet Book 1
Clarinet Book 2