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

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

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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

CBC 220: Gabe Katz on switching from music performance to education

Double bassist and orchestra director Gabe Katz

Double bassist and orchestra director Gabe Katz

It is my pleasure to present this interview with Gabe Katz.  Gabe and I have had so many commonalities in our career trajectory, and we have both ended up finding a really satisfying musical niche in the world of secondary school orchestral conducting.  Now, by the time you’re listening to this, I will have moved on from this career, but of the past seven years this is what I did, and this is what Gabe has also started doing these last couple of years.

Prior to his current job teaching orchestra at the high school level in suburban Houston, Gabe held two overseas jobs: one in Durbin, South Africa, and one in Guangzhou Orchestra in China.  He also worked in Singapore and in Macao.  He ended up meeting up with Hal Robinson while in China and ultimately moving back to the US to study in Hal’s private studio and take auditions.

We cover the thought process that took him from the performance world into the education world, going back to school at Duquesne in Pittsburgh and his experience taking music education courses at an older age, and the unexpected joys and satisfactions of teaching in the public schools.

Interview Highlights

  • started college at Oberlin with Scott Haigh
  • transferred in undergrad to SUNY Purchase and studied with Tim Cobb
  • MM Carnegie Mellon with Jeff Turner
  • Summer Festivals:
    • principal bass of NRO
    • Music Academy of the West
    • others
  • Manhattan School of Music for Performers Diploma – worked with Tim Cobb again
  • driving all over the place doing freelance gigs, making it to semi-finals for some auditions, but started scouring the Internet for overseas opportunities
  • got an orchestra job in Durbin, South Africa
  • got a job as principal bass of the Guangzhou Orchestra in China
  • also worked in Singapore and Macao
  • meeting up with Hal Robinson while in China and ultimately coming back to the United States to study privately with him
  • was thinking about going back to school – deciding between doctorate or getting certified to teach – postbox programs
  • ended up doing a post baccalaureate program at Duquesne with Steve Benham, who is President-Elect of the American String Teachers Association
  • Gabe’s goal was to get a high school orchestra teaching job
  • Gabe ended up getting a high school orchestra director job in suburban Houston – a plum gig for sure!
  • the high level of high school students in this area – comparable to an undergrad population at many music schools
  • getting into conducting – the high level of satisfaction that results from studying scores, planning rehearsals, picking repertoire
  • Gabe knows that he’s changing lives every day in this new gig – there’s a positivity and excitement to it which he’s feeling that you’ll pick up on as you listen
  • his 20-year-old self would have thought that he was a “sellout”
  • Orin O’Brein: “You’re never done learning.” – music is a journey, a lifelong learning path
  • conducting is a culmination of everything you’ve ever learned (Gabe says this and I totally feel that as well!)
  • how Duquesne keeps its music education program elite
  • The University of Michigan string teaching legacy – Steve Culver, Bob Gillespie, Bob Phillips, Steve Benham
  • most Bachelors of Music programs train you to:
    • A: Work at Starbucks
    • B: Win an orchestra job
  • Hal: “You’re offering yourself as a product.”

CBC 213: Leon Bosch – the Sherlock Holmes of the double bass 2

double bass virtuoso Leon Bosch

double bass virtuoso Leon Bosch

Leon Bosch is a remarkable figure in the world of the double bass.  From his early years growing up in South Africa to his long tenure with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields and his proliferation of solo projects, Leon has approached each challenge with a focus and determination that are incredibly inspiring. This is a “must listen” episode for any musician eager to realize their greatest potential.

After retiring from the Academy of St Martin in the Fields to devote himself fully to solo, chamber, and conducting projects, Leon has been working to bring undiscovered treasures of the repertoire to light and to encourage new works for the double bass from composers. New composition are being written for Leon from South African composer Péter Louis van Dijk, British composer Paul Patterson, and American jazz icon Wynton Marsalis.

This episode is sponsored by Discover Double Bass, and they have a course on bowing technique with Lauren Pierce that I highly recommend checking out.  This course is divided into 37 HD lessons, and Lauren gives a short video overview of the three categories that these videos cover: the basics, bow control, and real world techniques.  There’s also a free preview lesson on phrasing with the bow—check it out!

We feature excerpts from Leon’s latest album throughout the episode.  Check out Leon’s excellent albums (available both as digital downloads and CDs):

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Study with Ira Gold at Peabody Bass Works this July!

The deadline of May 15 for studying at Peabody Bass Works is fast approaching.  Taking place in late July, this event is designed for bassists of all ages and levels.  This is a great opportunity to work with National Symphony double bassist and Peabody Institute faculty member Ira Gold.   We recently featured Ira on the podcast talking about this camp as well as many other topics.

Here’s the complete faculty list:

Andrea Beyer – MusAid, New World Symphony
Matthew Boggs – Howard County Public Schools
Brittany Bowen – Kennedy Krieger Institute
Paul DeNola – National Symphony
Barbara Fitzgerald – Main Street Music Studio Fairfax
Ira Gold – National Symphony, Peabody Preparatory
Alec Hiller – Peabody Preparatory
Yoshi Horiguchi – BSO Orchkids
Paul Johnson – Peabody Institute
Kim Parillo – Washington Adventist University
Colin O’Bryan – Howard County Public Schools
Tracy Rowell – Oberlin Conservatory
Wesley Thompson – Baltimore County Public Schools, Peabody Preparatory
Jeffrey Weisner – National Symphony, Peabody Preparatory
David Young – LA Opera

Details about the camp from Peabody Bass Works Executive Director Wesley Thompson follow:

Peabody Bass Works

Peabody Bass Works is very excited to announce a unique opportunity for young bass players! We are delighted to welcome bassists of all ages, levels, and abilities to attend this extraordinary program that provides bass students with unique learning, community and performance opportunities on the grounds of Baltimore’s historic Peabody Institute. Now in its fifth year, Peabody Bass Works 2016 will present a diverse array of offerings for attendees in both the Four- and Seven-Day Divisions. All applicants who have taken at least one year of experience will be automatically accepted to either division.

Students will have the opportunity to participate in bass orchestra, chamber music, semi-private lessons, recitals, and more. A range of repertoire and curriculum ensures that students of all ability levels will both have fun and be challenged. Older students who are either already doing pre-professional work or who are considering musical careers will benefit from studio-based private lessons with a PBW staff member, specialized classes with symphony and college faculty as well as seminars and presentations on such topics as practicing, auditions, and careers in music. The week’s activities will culminate on the final afternoon with a thrilling concert that will feature all participants.

Bass Works welcomes students from across the country with one of the only partnerships with a local Double Bass shop providing a wide variety of hybrid and fully carved rental instruments. Don’t let distance prevent you from taking part in this wonderful opportunity.

Bass players of any experience level should apply and seek more information at this website: