Daniel Louis Duncan, Trumpet

Daniel Louis Duncan, Trumpet

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Life in the pit

This is a video taken in the cramped pit of Newsies.  Just a glimpse of what happens behind the scenes where acoustics aren't the best, temperatures can be a challenge, but you have to make the best music you can without seeing any of the show.  Recorded on my iPhone.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

DEFINING ART THROUGH MY GROWING LENS

Only recently in life have I found that the term “Art” has much more depth of meaning than I ever imagined.  I have been a highly-trained musician for the better part of my life, always knowing, clearly, what was and wasn’t art.  This allowed my world to be confined to music, painters/sculptors, etc., dance, and contemporary photography, etc.  Thus, my world view was small, yet I thought vastly large. What changed?

The epiphany for me was when I discovered history and philosophy, yet in my mind I could compartmentalize this discovery apart from art. I was so very wrong.

“Art is the unceasing effort to compete with the beauty of flowers – and never succeeding”.  Plato

Now, before I lose you completely, I have come to understand that “study”; that which requires expanding knowledge of self, the past, the present, and the possible future; belongs in the Art category. How can it not?

Why?  I love the Plato quote above as it is precise.  When I study history, a direct purpose is begun that rarely resembles the end, if there is an end.  When it transforms into writing, thought on paper, the same passion I have in music is transformed by as deep a passion for expanding that unobtainable flower blossoming. Thank you, Plato!

This leads me to such amazing beauty in historical study.  It challenges my preconceptions of people, time periods, and events leaving me with no definitive answers, but more questions.  Sometimes this is frustrating, but recently I have passed that milestone into joy of discovery and beautiful dialogue.  It’s the same emotional high that I feel while listening to Chopin or Mahler, and when, at its sublime, matches performing a Mahler Symphony. The latter is something musicians feel when the music you are playing, surrounded by other musicians, engulfs your being to a point that you can hardly contain your emotions.  You fight back your tears for elation, because who wants to see everyone on stage stop playing and weep.  The audience doesn’t experience the same performance in this way, nor can a recording duplicate the experience.  There is a purity in truth, be it music or history.

I have now found that same experience when I discover something profound to me in historical context that no one, that I have found, has discovered or thought of in quite the same way. This feeling, during the discovery, is not something you can completely share.   

Why does this matter??  We are struggling, in the United States, to discard the instanced past, see it’s glaring mistakes, and accept the ugly truths of the past which devastate our impressions of American History. Historians, for the most part, are leading the charge into the future, yet they are attacked from every angle, especially from those who want so desperately to hold on to how the collective US history has been taught to us all.  We, as a nation, can no longer remain neutral, thus the tremendous growing pains.  Many proud patriotic Americans want to cherish that feeling of superiority over other nations and “others” in general.  Nationalism, whether US or any other country, is only viable if it’s realistic and true. It can be used so horribly, and has in the past, as to crumple the same society that flaunts their belief in greatness. 

Don’t get me wrong, I love this flawed country, but I do so as a father or sibling, yet not a child, realizing that admiration does not replace fact about the horrors committed by the same country. All nations are inherently flawed.  

Back to “Art”.  The parallels in artistic study and the humanities, which includes historical study in my book, is stunning.  Musicians, painters, sculptors, photographers, etc. all know that the moments of sublime are few and fleeting.  Yet, we work hours upon hours of honing our craft to visit these fleeting, highly addictive moments because our souls cannot endure less.  How is historical or philosophical study and writing any different?  It is not, we are comrades seeking the same thing.  Yet, we divide our worlds. 

Why should we care about this distinction? NOW, like pivotal times in history, more than ever, we need absolute unity where we are pushed to divide. I was disappointed in my music history courses because they did little to correlate the rest of history with music history.  I need not know less about the contents of the Bamberg codex than the Plantagenet dynasty during this same period.  Bach’s dates are used to codify the baroque period, 1685-1750.  There’s a LOT of history happening during this period.  Large German migration to America.  Did this impact Bach in any way?  Did these same German immigrants (many to Pennsylvania) bring German influences, musically, to America? One of the great writers of what color means for the artist was Eugene Delacroix who just so happened to be friends with Frederick Chopin, Franz Lizst, and the fiction author George Sand (the crossdressing woman).  The same can be said for the study of history that does not include what is happening in the Art world.

These sample questions are just a stepping point to get students, and all of us, to think differently about historical context, especially in Art. I believe this makes the study more fascinating, likely to spark more interest, and more ability to absorb how both intertwine beautifully.  Memorization of dates and details become unnecessary as it happens naturally in the bigger understanding of it all.

That’s what hit me today.  Let’s just wait to see which direction I go next!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Passion Outside the Box

We trumpet players, and brass players for that matter, spend so much time focusing on perfecting our brass playing and listening, that we sometimes forget how sublime music unrelated to brass can be.  This is not a criticism, but a reminder.  Find your music passion outside the box!

I will share my personal passion for Chopin, Jacqueline du Pre, and Beethoven Piano Sonatas.  Every musician, especially brass players, should be intimate with Chopin and Beethoven piano works.  Why????  Have you ever tried to find and play the melody line of a Chopin or Beethoven piano work?  You will learn so much about expression within a ever moving tempo.  It's friggin hard!!  We learn to be playful with rhythm and expression through Charlier Etudes, my favorite for teaching this ability in trumpet lessons.  But, to go further outside the box, begin by listening to Chopin Ballades and Beethoven Piano Sonatas, a lot.  Chopin devoted his entire short life to writing only for the piano.  He knew his instrument intimately.  What composers know the trumpet or brass instruments, in general, intimately?  Right now, seek out the music of James Stephenson.  He was a professional trumpet player before finding his true passion of composition.  He is just one example.

In piccolo trumpet playing, listen to baroque oboe and flute concertos.  How do these instruments articulate?  Play duets with oboe and flute players.  Can you sound like an oboe or flute?  Get to know the extensive works of Bach, not jus the ones with trumpet.  Listen and learn to play his Cello Suites.

If you are working on music for a recital, get to know your composers' other works, their history.  It will inform not only your performance, but your understanding of their music if you know their instrument.  Were they pianist, organist, violinist, etc...?  Why did they write for brass?  How many brass works did they write?  Are you playing a transcription?  Listen to the original.

Ok, passion!  ...now Jacqueline du Pre!  It is the anniversary of her death 30 years ago.  Listen to her in any capacity, playing anything!  She exudes passion like no one else.  Can you let go so much that you lose yourself?  That is the goal in performance.  This is what makes live performance magical!!!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Audition Guidance

Do you have an upcoming audition for college entrance, regional, state or other auditions? I can help you improve your audition.

One of the best things you can do as a musician is to play for others.  Add playing for professionals who have tons of experience with auditions, and knowledge of what it takes to succeed and perform at your finest, and you have a recipe for success!

I have auditioned for every major orchestra in the US (and some abroad as well) and have advanced to finals.  Plus, I have coached students and listened to colleagues countless times.   I also have a unique approach to playing.  The combination of my extensive experience and unique approach allows me to, first, determine whether you have an issue, or whether your issue is just "in your head;" second, to "see" an issue (if you have one) that you are unable to solve by yourself because it is invisible to you; and finally, to provide you with steps that will concretely solve the issue.

If you want experienced coaching to help prepare for your audition, call or email me to schedule an appointment to come to my studio (New Haven metro area).  Too far away?  I also offer coaching via SKYPE.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Lesson Scheduling is Now!!

I currently have openings on Saturday!  If you are in the area and can make it to New Haven (Morris Cove) you have an opportunity to study with a teacher who can set you on the path of not only becoming a better player, but one that understands how and why things go wrong and how to fix them, I have space for you!

Monday, July 17, 2017

MY OWN PRIVATE STUDIO!!

I have finally decided to work for myself exclusively at my home studio!  I will be accepting private students for hour lessons only.  Beginners will be on an evaluation level only as I want to focus on more advanced/driven students who want to take their playing to the highest level.  This doesn't mean you have to want to be a professional musician, just that you want to practice, take getting better seriously.
I have the rare ability to communicate real concrete concepts that not only make your playing better, but empower you with the ability to know when things go wrong and how to correct them.
Try a few lessons and see what you think.
If you are a parent and don't know where to go to help your daughter or son find the right teacher, read my blog here.  Look at my teaching philosophy, my performance experience and testimonials.
From the president of one of the best band programs in Massachusetts:

"He is one of the most gifted communicators and teachers I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing. He is a superb technician and has the ability to share his knowledge and expertise with his students in very creative and concrete ways. Not only does he bring out the best possible sound quality in his students, he is boundlessly enthusiastic and encouraging in the process, and just a really terrific person! I would recommend him very highly to anyone looking for an instructor or performer!"

What are you waiting for???