Classic Post: Advice for Aspiring Music Performance Majors

music and bowOne of my more popular posts from over the years…

I have a B.M. and M.M. in Double Bass Performance from Northwestern University. Although I had a good financial package for my undergraduate degree and had a full-tuition fellowship or my graduate degree, I still owe tens of thousands of dollars in student loans for these degrees. I am glad that I did both of these programs, but if I would have one single piece of advice for an aspiring music performance major it would be to realize this…

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Milt Hinton Institute for Studio Bass at Oberlin June 8-14, 2014

Milt Hinton and Cab Calloway
Milt Hinton and Cab Calloway

In tribute to bassist Milt Hinton and his enduring legacy as a performer and mentor, Oberlin Conservatory is proud to present the inaugural Milt Hinton Institute for Studio Bass.

Designed for college and pre-college bass students, the institute consists of master classes, performances, films, bass ensembles, and studio sessions for students age 13-22.

Styles covered include classical, early music, solo, jazz, slap, Latin, and electric bass.

Instruction features some of the nation’s finest teachers and performers including Oberlin faculty and guests: Peter Dominguez (Director), Philip Alejo, John Clayton, Richard Davis, Diana Gannett, Jerry Jemmott, John Kennedy, Rufus Reid, Tracy Rowell, Donovan Stokes and Sue Yelanjian.

Double basses available for rent. Scholarships available for pre-college students.

APPLICATION DEADLINE: MAY 1, 2014. If space allows, applicants after the May 1 deadline may still be accepted.

Click here to learn more.

Classic Post – Hal Robinson plays orchestral excerpts

This video has been floating around for a long time in the libraries of bass students, and it looks like someone finally posted it on YouTube.  It really is a must-see if you haven’t checked it out before.  It features Philadelphia Orchestra Principal Bass Hal Robinson in a lecture-performance playing and talking about major double bass excerpts.  This is like excerpt school, folks–there’s a huge amount to learn from this video.  The actual video quality is fairly rough (looks like it’s a videotape copy of a copy of a copy that was finally transferred digitized).

Sit back (for a while–it’s 70 minutes just for part 1) and get ready for a remarkable experience:

Part 2 of the Hal Robinson excerpt video (51 minutes)–part 1 can be found here:

Music to my ears: Foundation grant breathes new life into GBN classroom

This article originally appeared at in 2013. I am re-posting it here for archival purposes (you never know what will happen to old content on school websites).

Jason Heath points to one of the gyroscopes student Michael Gershuny is composing with as his classmates Callum McLaughlan and Johnny Bear listen in.
Jason Heath points to one of the gyroscopes student Michael Gershuny is composing with as his classmates Callum McLaughlan and Johnny Bear listen in.

For many students enrolled in Jason Heath’s electronic music production classes, they have never played an instrument, read music or sang in any of the school’s many musical groups.

However, they are musicians — talented ones at that.

“A lot of it is just going with the flow. The creative process can’t be too rigid,” explained sophomore Michael Gershuny over the sounds of his latest production. “We listen to the sounds of other artists and start thinking of ways to put our own spin on their music.”

On a recent spring day, Gershuny crowded around a table with fellow student Callum McLaughlan to tinker with their latest composition. Their workstation was a symphony of music and color as the two manipulated different machines and meticulously evaluated each sound.

Technology is a key component to creating any new musical arrangement in Heath’s classes. And thanks to a recent grant from the District 225 Foundation, students now have access to a new tool meant to make the creative process much easier and more innovative.

This school year, Heath was awarded a $2,000 Innovation Grant to purchase Gyroscopic Music Controllers, a three dimensional tool that, through the use of LED lights, helps students remix music.

The Glenbrook High School Foundation seeks resources to enhance, enrich, and expand access to programs in Glenbrook High School District 225. Each year, the foundation reviews proposals by District 225 faculty and staff members for the Innovation Grants, which are meant to provide support for the development of projects, activities or initiatives.

The devices, which have a similar look and feel to that of a video game controller, plug into a computer and allow users to assign each button a specific color and sound.  By memorizing what each color symbolizes (i.e. red means kick drum), students can create complex compositions literally with the click of a button.

“This technology enables students to rethink what it means to improvise, compose and program music; uniting music, digital media, computer programming and live performance in a bold, multidisciplinary fashion,” Heath said.

In addition to the actual technology, he explained one of the benefits of having the gyroscopes is how easy they are to use. Some of the equipment and software in his classroom can often be overwhelming, particularly for a first year student. With the gyroscopes, essentially anyone with video gaming experience can understand how to use the devices.

They also offer another visual element to a student’s performance. The lights can be programmed to move whenever the gyroscopes are moved or to the actual beats in the music. With many inspiring DJs enrolled in Heath’s classes, this effect is something they are seeing many main stream artists incorporate into their performances (just Google Deadmau5).

“We went from producing music on Garage Band to having the best software in the industry,” said sophomore Johnny Bear. “Having access to these tools is extremely important to us.”