Clark Media Productions

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Back Home band

Ahhh, nice long drive today from Lawton, Oklahoma back into Texas.... Great!  I think my colleagues get a little tired from all the Texas-love that all us Texas Natives express on these tours! :) Poor people, they'll just never know the feeling!  We have had (and always have) a great reception in my home state. Friday night, the people of Commerce turned out in force (and skipped Friday night football, no less!) to hear the band at Ferguson Hall on the campus of Texas A&M University - Commerce. We had a fantastic crowd, and it was great to either see old friends, or to know they were in the audience. 

Interestingly, as a child, my grandfather saw John Philip Sousa conduct his world famous Sousa Band in the same hall.  Since Sousa served as the Marine Band's director from 1880-1892, that was a pretty special connection.  Granddad had a funny story about talking to the tuba players in the band, and them showing the kids that they had made fake shirt sleeve cuffs that stuck out of the sleeves of their uniform coats. It kept them from being so hot on stage, and they told the kids they better not tell Mr. Sousa! In addition to my parents, cousin, and aunts and uncles, my good friend Nancy Jo Humfeld drove up for the concert. It was great to see my Humfeld family at the concert, I love them all so much. 

We had a chance to bring a number of musicians out to the music building in the afternoon before the concert to teach some master classes for their students. It's great to see not only excellent playing and teaching going on, and a world class facility, but the PEOPLE are amazing.  I have written in this blog before about the impression you get the moment you arrive at a place of higher learning. TAMU-Commerce has a faculty and student body full of quality people. I was truly impressed, once again. Of course, I'm sure that I'm a tad biased! Our trombone section played and talked to the students about our jobs in the Marine Band, and we then coached some excellent players through music they are currently preparing. 

   Onward to West Texas and home on Friday! Tour has been great, and I am ready to get home to my family!

Cheers,

Chris

Great visit with the Baylor Trombone Studio

  Well, we are rolling out of Waco and had a fantastic time visiting Baylor University and the trombone studio of Brent Phillips. I was joined by my colleagues in the Marine Band,  Sam Barlow, Chris Reaves, and Daniel Brady, for a master class with the Baylor students prior to our concert last night. We got to hear some excellent playing from various sized trombone ensembles and chatted with the students about our work in the Marine Band. Brent is, of course, a former member of the Band, having served 8 years from 1996-2004, and it's always great to catch up with him!  Check out the Baylor Trombone studio site here:

Baylor Trombone Studio We finished up the evening with a large and enthusiastic crowd in Jones Hall at the Baylor campus. 

Thanks for having us!

A day in the life of a touring musician

  As many of you know, I'm currently out on the road with the U.S. Marine Band on our annual month long tour.  We left Washington, DC on September 15 and will play 29 concerts over the course of the 31 day period.  A number of people have asked, or been curious, about various logistical issues that being on the road brings, so I thought I'd share a bit about what goes in to a typical day on our tour!

First of all, my single biggest challenge is to play at the highest level possible over the course of the entire tour. This includes the period of rehearsals that we had prior to departing. I spent a good amount of time this year getting in strong playing shape for the rehearsal period. As I get older, one of the worst positions to be in is to start tour not quite in shape. The days of being able to "rehearse myself in to shape" are largely over. Also, after witnessing a number of colleagues and aquaintances undergo sometimes career-ending injury as brass players, I have become much more careful and thoughtful in regards to my own playing health. 

The number one thing I do every day is to warm up. Period. My warmup on tour is super easy.  I start the day with soft, easy Remington long tones, and I don't play louder than mezzo-piano for the first few minutes of the warmup. I then progress through my regular warmup routine, still keeping the volume low. I spend an extra amount of time on articulation and response exercises.  I have found that repeated hard playing, and the fatigue that causes, can make articulation and flexibility difficult. This is also a good habit the day after ANY difficult playing situation.  Many days, after long playing commitments or playing outside in extreme weather, I need the same approach to keep things healthy. 

So, after the warmup and playing maintenance, comes the regular tour routine of finding food (not getting loaded up on sodium is difficult!), bus rides every afternoon, then checking in to a new hotel every day.  I usually try to get some exercise in either first thing in the morning, or following the afternoon bus ride.  If there's a good place to run in either location, I'll take advantage of the better scenery to schedule my exercise.

Following exercise, bus rides, and warming up, I have a routine before the evening concerts as well. I usually make a good cup of coffee about an hour before the bus leaves for the concert, iron dress clothes, maybe play a little more, then get on the bus. I try to take advantage of the hard work done by our awesome audio engineers, and take a listen to recent concert recordings on the way to the show.  Jeff Higgs is our engineer out on the road this year, and we are incredibly fortunate to have every rehearsal and concert recorded, mastered, and posted on line for us to listen to as needed. 

The marines of our stage crew and audio lab work amazingly hard on the road every day, loading all our gear in and out of each concert site, recording, running live sound, and archiving all that audio and video. 

I hope that gives you a little bit of insight into the things that make tour work for me! If you have any questions, leave them in the comments.  Thanks for reading, and I hope to see or hear from you soon!

Yours virtually,

Chris

Back to school, back on tour

Ahhhhh, August... The end of summer, kids headed back to school.... And, some years, Marine Band tour rehearsals beginning soon (tomorrow!).... Summer has been great, and we've had a very mild one here in the Washington, DC area.  That has meant less suffering than normal out in the heat and my regular job.  Kyle and I began his new vlog, "Beaches with Kyle" this summer, inspired by a tour of NPR back in May, and I've gained a lot of practice learning some new software for both video and music production.

Another tried and true tradition this time of year is the marine band fall tour. Sousa began the tour during his tenure as the bands director from 1880-1892.  We will head out mid-September for 30 days and will play about 28 concerts while we're on the road.

I've been working hard to get in shape to start rehearsals tomorrow.... We will have 9 rehearsals on 3 complete programs before leaving town September 15.  This year, I've been spending a lot of time doing easy long tones, working on keeping the pitch center down, and on fundamental articulation via Arban and some other stuff.  I find that hyper focus on fundamentals serves me well when the fatigue of travel and being away from home start to grind on me, not to mention the physical stress of playing a 2 hour band concert every night!

Tour is just one more thing this time of year that makes the end of August feel like back-to-school. Getting the kids ready for their new year and starting fall sports for our oldest son also contribute.  This also kind of feels like New Years for me, creatively. I start to look forward to things I have planned or will participate in this year. Valor Brass has some recitals in the DC area coming up this winter, and I'm going to continue some fun projects in the home recording studio. Virtual Trombonist podcasts will surface from time to time as I'm able to interview some more folks I want my listeners to meet.

Many of you have heard me sing the praises of it before, but I just subscribed to the Berlin Philharmonic's Digital Concert Hall, and I plan to make good use of my upcoming bus travel time to watch plenty of concerts. I am especially interested in some of the many interviews and films that are available as well.  Last night, I watched a fantastic concert from the Waldbuhne in June of this year, with Lang Lang playing the Grieg Piano Concerto... just fantastic...

OK, while I'm on tour, I plan to keep you posted through this blog, but also at Instagram with the tag #chrisontour...

Thanks for reading and have a great fall!

Yours virtually,

Chris

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