I’m a teacher. You likely are as well. This is a topic we’ve covered at great depth on this blog.

CBC 232: Jory Herman on community engagement, balance, and resonant churches

San Diego Symphony bassist Jory Herman is today's guest!

San Diego Symphony bassist Jory Herman is today’s guest!

Today’s episode features Jory Herman, who is a member of the San Diego Symphony bass section and has just released his second solo album titled Life.  In addition to playing in the San Diego Symphony, Jory is actively involved in community engagement in the San Diego area.  He has recently become Director of Community Engagement with Art of Elan and is an active teacher and clinician.

We talk about his early years in music, studying bass with Paul Ellison at Rice University, and his time playing in the New World Symphony, where he got bitten by the community engagement bug.  We also discuss the recording of both his previous album of Bach Cello Suites and his most recent album, as well as what it’s like to continue to develop as a player and a person after landing an orchestra job.  Enjoy!



Winning the Audition: Preparing for Audition Success

Winning the AuditionWelcome to Winning the Audition – a special series from Contrabass Conversations featuring advice from leaders in the field about preparing and executing auditions successfully.  This series is drawn from interviews conducted with dozens of bassists from orchestras like the Boston Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, National Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, and Houston Symphony, plus some of the most influential pedagogues in the field.

Our sponsor for this episode is Discover Double Bass. This site is run by Geoff Chalmers and provides lessons and step-by-step courses on a variety of double bass areas of study. They’ve got free articles, string reviews and a show called Ask Geoff and Lauren where they answer questions from the double bass community. Geoff does great work and has built this into a tremendous resource for bassists everywhere. Check out over 70 free lessons and much more at!

About Winning the Audition

This series provides actionable advice that you can use to take your auditioning to the next level, and while we’re speaking with bassists for these episodes, the advice can certainly be applied to other instruments and disciplines as well.

This series is divided into four episodes: Preparing for Audition Success, Practicing Techniques for Peak Auditions, Preparation Routines That Work, and Sealing the Deal.  Special thanks goes to John Grillo, who was my co-host for many of these interviews.

Today’s episode includes advice from dozens of major figures in the bass world, including Lawrence Hurst, Michael Hovnanian, Ranaan Meyer, Ian Hallas, Brandon Mclean, Robin Kesselman, Ira Gold, Max Dimoff, Jack Budrow, Andrew Anderson, Rob Kassinger, Peter Tambroni, Greg Sarchet, Andrew Raciti, Marc Ramírez, Gaelen McCormick, Joseph Conyers, Colin Corner, Ju-Fang Liu, Jeffrey Turner, Owen Lee, Brad Opland, Alex Hanna,

Links from the episode:

Rethinking College Degrees: Lessons from Two Maverick Thinkers

Rethinking College

Summer vacation has hit, and I’m finding myself thinking about “big picture topics” with my free time.  I seem to spend at least a few weeks a year relaxing outside while reading interesting books and listening to engaging podcasts.  I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about education in general recently, and I thought I’d share these two interesting nuggets.

#1 – Malcolm Gladwell on Terrifying Young People in College Decisions

I was listening to an episode of the Tim Ferris Show featuring Malcolm Gladwell and the topic of eduction came up.  Tim asks the question “what is the worst advice that is given” about any subject in the United States.  Malcolm says that it’s how we terrify young people about their college choices.  Check out this link to listen to the excerpt—it’s fascinating.

I identified so strongly with this advice that I felt compelled to transcribe a portion.

Tim Ferriss episode with Malcolm Gladwell

(warning: language)

MG: You should not try to go to the best college you can, particularly if best is defined by U.S News and World Report. 

The sole test of what a good college is: is it a place where I find myself late at night having deeply interesting conversations with people that I like and find interesting?  If you go where you can do that, that’s all that matters.  Am I so inspired by what I learned during the day that I want to be talking about it at one in the morning?  And do I have someone who will have that conversation with me and will challenge me?  That’s it. 

Everything else is nonsense.

So you tell me what that place is.  That place could be any of 1000 places in the world.  

Listen to the rest of the interview here.

#2 – My Conversation with Arnold Schnitzer

I had a great conversation with double bass luthier Arnold Schnitzer about this subject.  Here’s a link to the excerpt where we start discussing this subject.

Contrabass Conversations episode with Arnold Schnitzer

JH: Working with your hands and actually doing something physical, that’s just something that I think  so much or our world has lost touch with.  It’s got to be just an incredibly satisfying thing.  As a luthier you’re creating something, you’re bringing something into this world, it’s got to be a uniquely satisfying thing.  It’s got to be interesting for you,spending all those years in the corporate world too, coming back to that.  

AS:  Totally, and I’m going to go off on a tangent here, and you might be familiar with Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs.  So he’s got a whole blog thing going now about training people for the jobs that actually exist.  So I’m gonna go way off base here and talk about for a minute how everyone is taught nowadays: do really well in high school, do great on your SATs, go to college, which by the way is going to put you into insurmountable debt, but let’s not go there, and then get a posh office job somewhere or a supervisor job somewhere or sales or whatever.  

The problem is that as technology usurps so many types of occupations, we’re training people—and this is right from Mike Rowe—we’re training people for jobs that are going away and are not coming back.  But the jobs that will always be there are the “in between” jobs like, for example, being an electrician, a plumber, an instrument repair person, an air conditioning service person, etc… and Mike is all about training people for jobs that have gone out of vogue but, in reality now, are the only sensible place to work where you’ll have some sense of ability to go on no matter what the economy does.

Our politicians talk about bringing manufacturing back to the United States.  Well, that’s not going to do anything.  And the reason it’s not going to do anything is because, in the 1960s, if you wanted to run an automobile manufacturing plant, you needed 20,000 people.  Now you need 200.  You need people to just maintain the machinery and a few people to put the dashboards in and stuff like that.  Manufacturing has become automated, accounting has become automated—you can do your taxes now for next to nothing online, even the reading of x-rays and things like that have become either automated or off shored,  so I’m all into Mike Rowe’s whole attitude about where we’re going in our country.

There are literally in the United States hundreds of thousands of jobs going begging because we’re too good for them.  Meanwhile, these people make a decent living.  

Now, you talked about working with your hands, and the only thing I want to say about that is yes, we use our hands in instrument work, but we’re really just using our brains, because the brain is the command center and unless you’re thinking about what you’re doing, your hands will just destroy things.  I really feel like it’s an integrated thing to do this kind of work, because you use your hands, your brain, and your experience.

Listen to our entire conversation here, and subscribe to the podcast or download the app to check out more episodes like this.

Automation and a Jobless Future

This conversation reminds me of a great book I read recently called Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future.  It put forth some sobering statistics about how automation is relaxing not only blue collar jobs but a large portion of other jobs—pretty much any job that can be automated can be replaced with a non-human solution.  It’s a heavy topic and worth some consideration, and both Malcolm and Arnold offer valuable perspective on this in the above excerpts.

CBC 224: Peter Tambroni on Student-Centered Teaching and Life Planning

Double bassist and music educator is today's podcast guest

Double bassist and music educator is today’s podcast guest

Today’s podcast features an in-depth conversation with Peter Tambroni.  This is a “round two” conversation that builds upon the topics that we covered in our previous talk on episode 204.  Today we dig into fallacies surrounding public school teaching, instrument setup, life planning, instrument insurance, practicing ideas, teaching philosophies, and much more.  This episode is a gold mine for anyone interested in taking their teaching game to the next level!

Pete is the author of An Introduction to Bass Playing, which is now in its seventh edition, and is an active bass performer, teacher, and author.  You can learn more about Pete on his website

Be sure to subscribe to the podcast or download our free app to get these episodes delivered to you automatically!

Interview Highlights
Fallacies Surrounding Public School Teaching
    • you don’t want to get too well-educated or you won’t be hired
      • Pete has never found that to be true in the various districts in which he has worked
      • everyone wants the best person for the position
      • most districts will do what they can to give you credit for your past experience
    • the right person for the job is the right person or the department philosophy-wise and personality-wise
      • people tend to focus too much on the nitty-gritty skills – it’s more about fit than anything
      • you should be interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you
  • replacing people that are:
    • good and well-liked
    • good and not well-liked
    • not good and well-liked
    • not good and not well-liked
  • Skills are easy to teach – personality and philosophy are not
  • people tend to not ask enough questions in job interviews
  • Pete always want to be somewhere where the administration supported fine arts performers practicing their craft – this was a question he posed in his interviews
  • look at the distribution of music teacher positions – are people full-time orchestra, part orchestra and part general music, etc?
  • what degree does fundraising play in the school?  this can turn into a nightmare
  • learning the other instruments as a music teacher
    • Pete took two extra semesters of violin and viola
    • music ed programs are not all requiring bass for music ed majors
Instrument Setup
  • the condition that many school basses are in – so easy to totally neglect them
    • a bass with action that is too high is a catastrophically worse situation for a young player than a violin with action too high
  • setup considerations for school instruments
    • fingerboard
    • bridge shaping
    • the need for a proper luthier
  • the extreme difficulty created for younger bass students by basses that are poorly set up
  • the advances that D’Addario has made in strings recently for students
Life Planning
  • investing vs. saving
  • index funds
  • Apps and programs
    • Betterment
    • Wealthfront
    • Robin Hood
  • IRAs
  • Roth IRAs
  • 403b investment programs for educators
Instrument Insurance
  • get a separate policy apart from your homeowners or renters insurance – these may not cover your instrument at a paying gig
  • Clairon
  • Merz-Huber
Practicing Ideas
  • teaching replacement fingerings
  • the challenge for bass players of heterogeneous string teaching (starting in D major, for example)
  • nothing beats Simandl for mapping out the fingerboard
  • Thomas Gale’s book Practical Studies for Double Bass is great for younger students
    • starts in 1st and 4th positions – allows for physical anchor point of thumb against the neck block
    • helps eliminate the “old-school bass vertigo”
  • teaching shifting
    • finding the goal note should not be a fishing expedition!
    • Mathias Wexler article about shifting in American String Teacher journal: “Throwing The Dart and Other Reflections on Intonation” from the November 2004 issue of American String Teacher.
    • this is a link to the shifting exercise Pete describes
    • shifting practice
      • play
      • stop
      • evaluate
      • play correct note if not in tune
      • repeat above procedure until shift lands right on
General Teaching Philosophies
  • try to teach for 10 years down the road
  • try to teach for the student’s next teacher
  • set people up so that things don’t need to be fixed in the future
  • having students nail a simpler piece versus struggle through a more difficult piece
  • empathizing with your students
  • don’t ask questions to “put students in their place”
  • it’s never strings versus band versus choir – though there are doubles, there are “string kids,” “choir kids,” and “band kids” – offering all programs brings music to a larger portion of the student body
  • we remember the emotion of experiences – emotion drives attention drives learning
How Gigging Helps You to be a Better Teacher
  • helps with empathy
  • opportunity to observe other players
  • opportunity to observe conductors
  • being respectful of the student’s time
Listener Feedback Links:

Guest Post: Stairway to Learnin’

Hi readers, Peter Tambroni here doing a guest post for I will be doing a semi-regular column from my perspective as a long time public school string teacher and bassist.


Learning does not follow a straight line or linear trajectory but rather a continuous series of plateaus. Acquiring new skills is like climbing an awkward staircase with long stairs.

It can be very frustrating! But being aware of this can help both you and your students.


Acquiring a new skill reminds me of video games with their ‘Achievements’. You don’t ‘level up’ every time you do something – it takes a while to build up the skills before you level up and get the ‘Achievement Unlocked’ badge.

Learning does not happen in a nice straight line.  🙁

Not Linear

Early on in learning students learn new topics at a fast rate and quickly move from one plateau to the next.

As we progress, it takes more time and practice to move to the next step.

Plateau Learning

Don’t quit, you’re about to level up!


The points labeled X are where frustration occurs. This is when students are most likely to quit. But we are so close to the next level! Don’t give up!

Students may be frustrated or want to quit but they don’t realize how close they are to leveling up.

We are all subject to frustration and wanting to give up. One of the reasons I feel learning an instrument is so important is that it instills perseverance and grit. These are traits everyone can use regardless of their educational or career path.

Thank you and keep practicin’!

Peter Tambroni