Sunday, March 20, 2016

Homogenous Ensemble Thoughts

A few weeks ago, we discussed in class the importance of homogeneous ensembles (i.e. trombone choir, horn choir, etc.).  I've been thinking recently about the importance of these ensembles in the the academic world vs. the "real-world" of the music business.  While there is an incredibly rich repertoire for homogeneous brass ensembles and no doubt will be a satisfying performance experience for the musicians, I believe the benefit of such ensembles lies in their ability to isolate the aspects of playing unique to that particular instrument. 

Having played in trombone ensembles of all kinds for many years and taught/conducted trombone ensembles as well, I prefer to think of such ensembles as extensions of the lessons and seminars that are taught weekly in the studio.  These ensembles present a unique opportunity to discuss and implement concepts that might not be addressed in other ensembles, but may (or may not) be vital to a well rounded musician.  These issues may be discussed individually in lessons or lectured through seminars and studio classes, but an ensemble of just one instrument allows students a sort of "lab" experience, where concepts on the instrument are discussed and immediately applied.  I think that this is a critical step in the process for most student musicians. 

All of this of course fails to mention the other benefits of a homogeneous ensemble, such as attention to intonation, uniformity in articulation, extremes in range, chamber music skills, etc.  Although the repertoire is likely not as musically satisfying or significant, by continued isolation of these skills and application to just that particular instrument, students retain much more information than in any larger ensemble. 

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