Attitude is the first step in the warm-up. It only takes about one second to get in the right frame of mind, but it is important to make this happen.
I didn’t think about brass player’s attitudes until I heard band directors complaining about their trumpets: “This senior class of trumpets is just weak. They won’t play out. My sophomore trumpets are going to be good, but these seniors just aren’t cutting it.”
I was in shock! I didn’t know that some people are trumpet “holders” and others are trumpet “players.” You need confident, fearless musicians throughout your band, but especially in the trumpet section. Who has the melody in marching band most of the time?? If the melody is “wimpy,” the band will not sound good, and there go your contest ratings.
On the other hand, there is a trumpet attitude we don’t want: “I play better than you.” There are trumpeters who think they’re better than everyone else, and they’re not shy about telling you. It is my belief that boastful trumpeters are quite insecure; they know they’re not that great, so they try to inflate their importance by putting others down. Trumpet players need to be cocky, but they need to express their confidence in their playing, not in their talking!
There is a lot of pressure on trumpeters — the instrument is highly directional; everyone in the audience can tell who played really well or who just played horribly. It’s like having a neon arrow above your head that starts blinking every time you play:
So, what should you do? The director sets the band’s attitude – if you get after people when they make mistakes, they will be afraid to play. Your band’s focus will be on avoiding mistakes, which makes them more likely to happen. Seriously, is it really life and death when someone plays a wrong note? Is the music totally ruined? Your students do not to be afraid of the music they’re playing, making mistakes, or of your temper when they do something wrong. (More on this when we get to “Psychology.”)
You want a band that “goes for it,” trying to see how close they can get to perfect. Brag on your students with they get something right and encourage them to be aggressively confidant. And let’s not forget our secret weapon: practice! If something isn’t working, practice until it does.
It’s important to remember that the purpose of music is communicating emotions, and the purpose of performing is sharing emotions with the audience. The goal is NOT perfection! I love Michael J. Fox’s statement:
“I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence I can reach for; perfection is God’s business.”
Be sure your students express the music and themselves – they will sound great and make fewer mistakes because they are wrapped up in the moment. Playing music should let your students release their emotions, which is very necessary in today’s troubled times.