Canadian National Brass Project 2015

Last week was a blast. Playing and teaching with such a group of great musicians and great friends was always going to be a treat, but it's always refreshing how much of a boost it can be to how you think about your practicing and performing. 

The CNBP was in residence at the National Youth Orchestra of Canada during part of their session at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo. There was so much teaching going on that it was impossible for me to soak it all up: multiple masterclasses, lessons, and rehearsals running concurrently. I attended the daily trumpet masterclasses my colleagues were teaching, but I wish I could have heard everyone else's ideas too. I taught some lessons (not just to trumpet players) and took part in a few panel discussions on topics ranging from what constitutes professional conduct in the workplace, to what it's like to get a job and start working full-time in an orchestra. 

After a few intense days of rehearsal it was time for our first show, at the Toronto Summer Music Festival. We lifted the roof off of Walter Hall at the University of Toronto, the audience responded amazingly to what we were doing. Since I grew up and went to school in the Toronto area I saw lots of familiar faces, which is always a treat. 

The next night we were playing opening night of the Ottawa Chamber Music Festival. We had done a slightly reduced programme the night before, as we were followed by another scheduled concert, so this was the first real go through everything. It was a good show, and as is usual we celebrated accordingly. 

Back to Waterloo we went the next day for a joint concert with the NYOC brass and percussion. The percussionists played some Varèse, the NYO brass played some standards, we played some of our tunes, and we finished with some pieces together, NYO players sitting in the section with the pros. I recall my own experiences doing that sort of thing, the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra sitting in with the Toronto Symphony and such, so I can only hope that the students got something similar out of this experience. 

The next morning we recorded a few pieces for grant applications promotional purposes. All through the week the pressure had been on to play my best for my colleagues, but recordings are something else entirely. When playing music that's as difficult and high-risk as some of what we were up against, a recording session is a real crucible. I'm really looking forward to hearing how it turned out.

Up to Parry Sound we went, and got a much-needed recharge before our final concert the next day at the Festival of the Sound. I had never been to Parry Sound before, and while the town was much as I had imagined, I was delighted to see such a wonderful performing space as the Stockey Centre. I had the pleasant surprise of seeing some unexpected friends at intermission too, making a good day even better. 

As soon as the show was done people were off in a hurry to catch flights for far-flung rehearsals the next morning. The week felt like a whirlwind, but I've got memories, notes, and inspiration to last a good long while. If you've got a chance to hear or take a lesson from anyone involved in the project, I'd absolutely recommend to do it. Though nothing is certain, hopefully we'll all be back together again next summer for another great session!