Northwestern Master Classes

Rex Martin working with a tuba student

Rex Martin Master Class

Last week I attended a week of master classes at Northwestern University presented by Rex Martin, Professor of Tuba at NU, and Gene Pokorny, principal tubaist with the Chicago Symphony (you may have heard of them 😉

I arrived with my student Jeremy Crawford Sunday afternoon, after a full day of driving from Cincinnati for ITEC. The first session was led by Rex Martin, and he introduced a fantastic work; the 20-Minute Warm Up Routine, by Michael Davis. Davis, who among other things is the trombonist for the Rolling Stones, has designed a fantastic daily routine to be done along with a CD of synthesized but motivating music. You get so involved in these challenging exercises, you forget you are improving, It’s like Tai-Bo for tuba! I strongly recommend it and will be utilizing it a lot this summer and with my students in the fall.

The view of Chicago from the NU campus

Northwestern has a beautiful campus, nestled along Lake Michigan, it’s gorgeous facilities are close together, and a new multi-million-dollar music building is in the works. Each morning Jeremy and I had one of the dozens of crepes available at the Crepe Bistro at the Norris Student Center, including a Nutella crepe!

Speaking of food, each night we went out to a different pizzaria to try some of Chicago’s (actually Evanston’s) famous pizza. The first night we punched in “pizza” into my TomTom GPS and got lucky on our first try. La Rosa‘s is a hole-in-the-wall type of place that has been around for ever and offers no-frills, but superior-tasting pies. This place had the best pizza I have ever had in my LIFE! The website shows a different location, but we went to the one on Golf Road (map) in Skokie, IL. Next was Giordanos, which had a fantastic deep-dish style. We made the mistake the third night of going to a very average place in Evanston called Gigio’s. Even Iowa City has better pizza. On our last night, we went to Lou Malnati’s in Evanston. It was very good – took a bit longer than it should have, but I’d have to say La Rosa’s on Golf was far superior. Everything about it; the thin crispy crust had a lot of savory flavor, the sauce was flavorful with a hint of wine, and the cheese was perfect, layered on top in thins slices, not grated.

But, back to the master classes. Both Rex and Gene gave solo recitals and the twenty students enjoyed 27 hours of education in the form of master class, public lessons, lectures and informal stories. It was very important to not only learn practical advice, such as tips on alternate fingerings, phrasing, useful tools and texts but to hear much about their personal and professional experiences. Gene Pokorny has a very humble, down-to-earth approach, but his information is highly insightful and his intelligence and artistry shines through. Rex always seemed to get right to the root of the matter, and was never at a loss for words. He emphasised that their advice was only their opinion, and recognized that everyone works differently. Being self-taught, and then studying with Arnold Jacobs, Rex is a wealth of information on all things musical, and just happens to also be just as knowledgeable of the tuba.

Despite their expertise, each frequently recognized their own teachers and mentors, and emphasized the importance of mental will on a musician’s progress. It was a very inspiring week, and I hope that they offer this seminar next year. I took pages of notes, and will sort through them for a more complete essay on this week for the ITEA journal.

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One Response to Northwestern Master Classes

  1. ‘Bout time you got out and learned yourself something!!! Seriously, I’m so jealous! I love Evanston in the summer and I’m sure that the class was terrific. Good for you, John, for doing all you’re doing for you AND your students. You are an inspiration!! (no pun intended)

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