Study with Tim Pitts at the Montecito Summer Music Festival

Cool info just sent out from the International Society of Bassists. For more information go to

The Montecito Summer Music Festival, July 15 – August 3, 2013, is open to outstanding string, clarinet, flute, and piano students, ages 13 and up (with possible exceptions for highly gifted students). Participants will experience three weeks of intensive focus on technique and musicianship. Each student will receive two one-hour private lessons and two coached chamber music sessions per week. Selected students will also participate in master classes, studio classes, recitals, concertos with chamber orchestra, and chamber ensembles with our esteemed faculty. World-class pianists will accompany master classes, lessons and student concerts.

Our mission combines mentoring a new generation of musicians with honoring great masters who have inspired us. We pay homage to today’s masters every summer, inviting magnificent musicians from around the globe. This year, we will have world-renowned artists Shmuel Ashkenasi, Roberto Diaz, Lynn Harrell, John Perry, and Alice Schoenfeld joining us in our sixth season. These special guest artists bestow their venerable talents on festival students in several master classes as well as private instruction.

On our faculty is also Tim Pitts, double bass professor from Rice University. He has distinguished himself as one of the most versatile double bassists of his generation. As a soloist, chamber and orchestral musician, he has been heard in many of the world’s greatest concert halls.

Full-scholarship Westmont Fellowships will be offered, two each for violin, viola, cello and piano, along with one full scholarship for bass. Junior Fellowships will also be awarded, providing a $1,000 scholarship to a Junior or High School student in each instrument group. Additionally, Junior Fellowship students will perform in a special Junior Fellowship Concert. Scholarship application deadline is March 1st.

Go to for more information.

How to Reduce Anxiety Before a Concert

The following article was contributed by Ryan Rivera, who has had five years of experience helping people with anxiety and related issues.  These tips should prove to be valuable for people preparing for auditions and performances.  Enjoy!

How to Reduce Anxiety Before a Concert

by Ryan Rivera

Playing an instrument on stage is a lot like public speaking. You’re using your instrument as a method of communicating and as you play, all eyes are on you and your performance. Even the best bass players with years of experience feel a little nervous before a big event, knowing that they need to perform at their best.

But when your anxiety is actually affecting your ability to play – when the anxiety is so strong that you experience physical and mental stress – it can be a serious problem. Playing every note correctly requires confidence, and the ability to trust in your fingers and your experience.
Reducing Anxiety Before a Concert

Whether you’re on stage with an entire orchestra or playing by with a few of your college buddies at your first gig, you need to find a way to reduce that anxiety. The stronger it is the harder the process, which is why you will need to not only try to reduce your anxiety before you go on stage, but also work on reducing your anxiety afterward.
Long Before You Go On Stage

Practice Often

Playing the bass is not just about rhythm and skill. It’s also about the connection between your mind and your body. Your fingers start to create their own memories on the chords and know the next note long before you can think of it. The more you practice, the less pressure you’ll put on your mind and the more you can trust that you know exactly what’s coming next.

Cut Out Unhealthy Behaviors

Anxiety is cumulative, so before you go on stage you need to make sure you’re avoiding any behaviors that will add to your anxiety. Get a full night’s sleep, eat healthier food, avoid drinking – you should even avoid watching horror films or going on amusement park rides. If it increases your anxiety naturally, it has the potential to increase your anxiety on stage.

Deep Breathing
Deep breathing is one of many different types of relaxation strategies that can help you keep calm. You sit on a chair or lie on your back, keeping your body relaxed. You then breathe in very slowly through your nose, starting at your stomach and then filling up your chest. Hold, then release slowly out your mouth. Repeat this 10 to 20 times and it should be able to calm you down when you feel your anxiety building.
On the Day of the Concert

Before you set foot on stage, make sure everything you need is ready. Concerns over whether you have everything you need can be distracting, and make contribute to additional levels of anxiety. By ensuring that you’re completely prepared, you can rest your mind and focus on additional relaxation strategies while calming your mind and body. If you have your own method of relaxing – like skipping stones at a park or jogging – don’t forget to do them. Any method of keeping your mind and body calm is a useful one.

After the Concert
Reducing your stage fright is not just about preparing before an event. It’s also about performing the right behaviors after the event is over. After you’re done, even if you believe you did a terrible job, always remember to do the following:
Write Down Positives
Write down all of the things you did well. Try to come up with as long a list as possible, and avoid anything negative. You need your mind to remember all of the things that went right on stage, not dwell on all the mistakes you may or may not have made. Writing it down helps you do that, because it forces you to focus on the positives.
Relaxation Exercises

Once again, now would be a good time to perform relaxation exercises. A lot of bass players like to dwell on the adrenaline as a way of congratulating themselves on a job well done. But when you’re living with too much anxiety before a concert, you need to find a way to stop associating the concert with anxiety, which means relaxing after you’re done playing as well. You can try deep breathing, or any number of relaxation strategies that are effective.
Work on Your Own Anxiety

Finally, always remember to work on your own anxiety and depression issues. Anxiety builds on itself, so the calmer you are regularly, the less debilitating the anxiety you experience before a concert will be.
Maintaining Your Love of the Music

For many people, anxiety doesn’t stop them from playing well on stage. But it does take away the joy they experience bringing that music to others and that alone is tragic – both as a potential loss to you and as a loss to those that would love to listen to you. Learn to manage your anxiety so that you can continue to enjoy bringing music to everyone and live more comfortably every day.
About the Author: Ryan Rivera had a considerable amount of stage fright before big events, but worked on his anxiety with tips he shares at

Auditioning Advice for High School Students

I have spent the last decade plus preparing high school double bass students to audition for youth orchestras, competitions, All-State Orchestra, and college. A lot of my students have done very well in their auditions for these events, and I have always tried, through observing how my students do in these competitive situations, to refine my approach as a teacher.

The best piece of advice that i can give to any young auditioner is that your outcome is almost solely based on how much time you sound thoughtfully (that’s the key word!) preparing your materials. When a student doesn’t play well in an audition, they may mistakenly assume that they are not a good auditioned or that some outside force intervened to sabotage their efforts, when the reality is that they simply didn’t put in the time, or they put in the wrong kind of time. To me, the most frustrating kind of student is one who doesn’t prepare, doesn’t play well as a result, then offers up a litany of excuses for themselves rather than taking responsibility for their preparation and musical growth.

As a teacher, I can offer advice on how to prepare, take students through the process of effective practicing, show them how to be analytical, and demonstrate quality playing of specific techniques and repertoire. I cannot, however, magically appear and play all the notes for them. It’s on them to do that, and while I will always try my best to guide students through this process, it’s ultimately in their hands.

Here, then, are a few assorted nuggets of advice from an old guy on how to effectively prepare for an audition:

  • Practice early and often – With rare exceptions, you cannot start preparing audition music too soon. People worry about burnout on a specific piece, and this may occur from time to time, but 95% of the time a student has under practiced rather than over practiced.
  • Listen to recordings of what you are playing – A bass teacher once told me that listening to one or two recordings of a piece was just screwing around, but three or more recordings constituted research. Whether or not this is actually true, I do believe that the more interpretations you can find and absorb, the better. If you don’t like a recording, then you at least know what you don’t want to do, but don’t be too quick to write off a particular performer or performance. As students develop the skill of being able to discriminate quality, they frequently become overly quick to judge. Listen with open ears to everything you hear–you’ll be surprised what you’ll learn.
  • Sectionalize your music and write down a plan – I always smile when I see a student come into a lesson with a practice log and a written practice plan–these people usually end up doing very well at whatever it is that they’re trying to prepare. It’s amazing to me just how powerful a written plan really is to the practice process, and I’m amazed that more people don’t do it. Perhaps one in ten students to whom I suggest that they do this actually does it.
  • Get a three-ring binder and some protective sheet covers – This may seem like a strange suggestion, but vie found that the best way to prepare for an audition is to photocopy all the materials and put them in a three-ring binder using plastic sheet covers. You can also use this system to hold your practice journal sheets, mock audition comment sheets, info from the college or group for which you are auditioning, and even selected inspirational articles and quotes (if that floats your boat).
  • Create technique exercises out of the repertoire… and write them down! – Again, setting pen to paper and getting this kind of material out of your head and into your practice binder makes a massive difference.
  • Practice performing the music – Make sure that you practice playing the entire repertoire list for your audition in front of other people. Both musicians and non-musicians (i.e. your mom) will help. Do this frequently, but be sure to take note of what doesn’t go well and focus on that in your practice sessions.
  • Use a variety of practice techniques – Explaining these is much easier in a lesson setting, and my shorthand may not make sense to everybody, but I encourage students to use methods like acceleration, non-vibrato equal note practice, vibrato equal note practice, rhythmic patterns, shift isolation, building from the back, adding a note, isolating problem moments and fanning out, and sets/reps on isolated small sections.

Any additional suggestions for auditioning high schoolers? Feel free to leave them in the comments.