Monday, January 20, 2014

Eating my Horn Vegetables

A few months ago, I started a new horn student.  She's a sophomore in high school, and very talented. We started lessons in the midst of district and state band auditions (which she made!), and a concerto competition.  Now that some of these events are over with, I told her it was time to go back to more regular etude work.  We're starting with the basics: Kopprasch book 1, Maxime-Alphonse book 2, and the Pottag Preparatory Melodies.  

When I was explaining Kopprasch to my student, I told her that this book was not necessarily for fun, but it's important to her development as a horn player.  I used the conventional analogy of eating that one vegetable that doesn't taste great but you eat it anyway because you know it's good for you.  Then I started thinking about the role of vegetables in my life (this is not a weird sentence if you know me). When I was a kid, I hardly ate any vegetables at all.  Now I'm vegan.  I love vegetables of all kinds!  At the age of 20, I went from cringing at vegetables to eating a diet that consists entirely of plants.  It was a tough transition, but now I can't imagine living any other way.

Like every good American, I also enjoy frying vegetables.  This is a scene from when I lived with 2 veggie friends a few years ago.

For me, the metaphor of Kopprasch to vegetables is significant.  And yes, I'm certainly the only person ever to utter that sentence.  It's my blog and I'll write what I want :)

As I assigned these etudes to my student, and thought about vegetables, I realized that I've never really worked through any of these books myself.  I started tinkering with M-A and Pottag a few months ago, but other than an etude or two, I've never done Kopprasch.  That's right.  I'm an ABD doctoral candidate at a major conservatory, and I've never made it through Kopprasch.

That's pretty silly.

It's not through lack of my teachers' effort that I didn't do Kopprasch.  My undergraduate professor started me with the book, but I found the etudes boring and didn't understand the importance of them at the time, so I just stopped bringing the book to lessons.

Immediately after I assigned my student these etudes, I realized the fault of doing so.  How could I properly teach her if I hadn't done them myself?  As soon as the lesson ended, I opened all three of the books and started from the beginning.  Now, as I play through each Kopprasch etude I think, "I wish I would have done these sooner!"  Sure, maybe I don't have a ton of fun while I'm playing them, but as an educated hornist, I now know exactly the skills that each etude builds, and I'm so grateful to be playing each one.

Perhaps it's faulty to wish I'd done them sooner.  Clearly I didn't have the appreciation for them at the time like I do now, so maybe this is exactly the right time for me to begin.  I'm learning more and more each day that, whether it's eating your greens or practicing your lip trills, it's never too late to get back to the basics of life.  No matter when you start, you'll be better and healthier for it.

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