Hello everyone. Today's interviewee is undoubtedly one of the most important and interesting female euphonium players on the European and international music scene. It is an honor and a real pleasure to count on your friendship and sincere collaboration.
Without more, let's get to know her better.
· What instrument / s do you use?
Euphonium only, but I am looking into buying a baritone now as well. Sometimes I also touch other brass tenor instruments with valves. Especially historical instruments used in the military bands in Norway and Sweden, like the “ventilbasun” or an old E-flat tenor horn – I have those at home.
· What manufacturer and model are the instruments you use:
Shires Q41 euphonium. It's phenomenal!
· What manufacturer and model are the mouthpiece / s you use:
I have a lot of mouthpieces, and has been on Bach 4G or 5G my entire career until last fall. Then I wanted to test something new and ended up with two different types from Doug Elliott. I really love them! At the moment I play on a variant of his Euph H-series, but I also have use a model from his Trombone-series. They are great mouthpieces that helps me in the entire register without changing my sound a bit! The response is amazing!
Let us talk about your EDUCATION:
· When and where did you start your Tuba studies?
I started on the euphonium when I was almost 15 years old. I had been playing trumpet in my local school band, and the band needed another euphonium player. I loved the instrument from the first moment, it sort of suited me well – both the register and the sound. It was also the role, or parts, the euphonium has in the band - obligates and melody lines. I didn't have much lessons on euphonium, but in High School I had a horn player and a trumpet player as my teachers. I didn't have a lesson with a real euphonium player before I was 20 years old.
· At what age?
As I said I started on euphonium when I was almost 15 years old. But I had played the trumpet sine I was 10, I was not any good though – did not practice! LOL.
· What reasons or circumstances led you to study this instrument?
I attended a music high school, and it never really occurred to me that I should study anything else than music at college. I didn't really reflect a lot about it, but sort of thought I could always teach on a low level. I did had a hard time getting in to the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo though! But when I did, I was extremely motivated!
· Who were your main teachers?
I basically only have one teacher I would refer to as my main teacher. That’s Sverre Olsrud, the euphonium player of the Staff Band of the Norwegian Armed Forces. He was my teacher almost my entire bachelor’s degree, and my whole Masters.
Regarding your vast PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE:
Please give us an account of your experience as a soloist, member of chamber groups, orchestra, band, etc.
· In Orchestra and / or Band:
When I studied at the Academy, I was lucky to be given the chance to substitute for some of the Military Bands on occasions. I also served as a military soldier at the Staff Band of the Norwegian Armed forces for a year. I sat in a played with the band on almost every production that year and got a 6 months contract as their euphonium soloist after that. I have been substituting in the Staff Band for some weeks every year on and off, except the last 2 – 3 years, when my own solo projects have been taken a lot of time. But I will say I have a good amount of experience from the Military Bands. Back when I was a student, I also wanted to be a military musician, but now I am happy with the way my career has turned out without being in the Army. In Norway we only have five professional Military Bands, so the level is good, and I have learned a lot from playing with them. I have also performed with a couple of professional orchestras and at the National Opera. But that only happens one every second year or so. I have had the chance to play Mahler’s 7th symphony and Bydlo at least, and the Planets with an amateur orchestra – it was great!
· Metal Ensembles:
I have a duo called the Northern Lights Duo with Dr. David Earll, the professor of Tuba and Euphonium at Ithaca College in New York. We try to have 2 – 3 tours a year. I also cooperate a lot with Anders Kregnes Hansen, he is a percussionist. We perform mostly contemporary music and have just released an album « Klangen fra de dype skogen » on LAWO Classics. Please check it out ! As we speak I am also forming a quartet, with two trumpet players and a horn player – it will be a very flexible ensemble, doing a lot of light music and some classical stuff. These three ensembles in total is a great deal of my everyday work – I feel priveliged everyday when I think about that! For a couple of years I was also the 1st euphonium player in the tuba quartet All About That Bass, great experience and hard work!
· Concerts as Soloist:
I try to do at least two projects as a soloist with a piano player each year. I sort of think it`s important to keep my classical skills at a certain level, and try to learn some new repertoire other than the stuff I commission myself 😊
I am hoping to get some more solo gigs with wind band and brass band in the upcoming year. But since the level of the amateur bands in Norway also is high most of the best bands has great local soloists they can use. I have done some solo gigs on occasions, but mostly local bands from the region of the country where I grew up.
Treating OTHER TOPICS OF INTEREST.
Here in Spain, in some centers the Euphonium is considered to be an instrument that should have its own specialization and, on the other hand, some believe that, as an instrumentalist, one should know and master the Tuba and Euphonium.
• Could you give us your opinion on this and how you would approach this topic in the interest of education and training adapted to the necessary specialization that is currently required worldwide?
This is a hard one. Personally, I think it's hard to be a world class performer on more than one instrument, you get to a certain medium level, but a true expert is hard. At the same time, you have some crazy individuals that prove this to be totally wrong! Mostly in jazz though, but I think we have a lot to learn from that genre in general.
In Norway it's common to play both trombone and euphonium at a professional level. I think the Military Bands often want their euphoniumist to play trombone. I studied trombone as a second instrument for two years, but I was not any good. For me, the euphonium is the whole reason I am a musician, I think. The sound and the role. So, I have sort of made it my mission to prove that it`s possible to make a living as a freelance euphoniumist. Creating my own work, projects, and ensembles. For me that is important, and I think it's important for the instrument as well. If we are going to have quality composer write for us, both solo and in the serious orchestra literature, we need to be serious and thinking artist. We must stand up for our instrument and tell that we matter on the same level as other brass players. If not I am afraid we will end up as the same status as the E-flat tenor horn (no affiance, I know fantastic musician on that horn, just talking about how the instrument is accepted in the classical music world).
• How do you see the tuba and euphonium teaching today and with a view to the future?
For me that lives and work the most in Norway I have to look outside the country, or outside my own industry to get impulses. The tuba and euphonium environment is small in Norway, and it's easy to keep track off. But what I sence is that it's a lot of the same thing going on around the tuba/euph world. And for the most part people seems happy with it. I am just not sure that its enough. If you live in a big country, and can attend festivals for only tuba/euph people with 500 participants two times a year I think it's hard to remember that this is not the real life, or the real world where you`re going to make a living. What I want to point out is that our world and socitiy is changing, everything is changing – we live in a world where time, as we knew it before the ipad and internett, sort of doesn't exist anymore and people demands immediate response etc. So, I think we have to change the way we teach to reflect the kind of live we`re living. And make sure the youth is better suited to survive and make a living as creative musicians.
I also feel that the amount of world class players on tuba and euphonium is growing a lot, that is awesome! But I also see people struggeling to survive after they finished school. I think we are lacking some crucial skills in our education system. Like entrepreneurship and creativitiy. Hope to write good applications for funding project, how to get your artistic project to be relevant outside the tuba/euph world etc. I think it is room for everyone, but not as copycat – as true and creative artist!
• Please tell us anything else that you consider of interest on this topic
This is a huge topic, and an interesting debate I think it's important to discuss. Where are we going and why? I think we need to tear down some walls between genres, instruments and subjects in the education. How to make all courses in the education more relevant for each other, and how to cooperate closer between genres and instruments. Basically learn form each other!
· Tell us in which learning centers you have taught classes (visiting teacher, courses, master classes, etc.)
I had masterclasses and recitals in several of the Universities for music in Norway, a few in the US and some in Spain. I have been the euphonium teacher at the University of Oslo and have some high school teaching on regular bases. I also teach one 11-year-old kid once a week and have some private students on weekly bases and some more seldom. I have worked as a conductor in school bands and amateurs wind bands, taught at summer band camps etc. I basically think I teach at absolutely all levels during a school year. Mostly freelance, but some more regular to make sure I can pay my bills! I don't really care so much about the level I teach at, that was one thing I learned when I studied for my educational diploma; to be a really good teacher you need to put yourself away, and focus all your energy to make the person in front of you succeed and develop. Where you start out is not so interesting really. It's where you end out that matters!
· How do you organize your classes and the topic in general?
It depends what people want, and if I know the teachers or students in advanced. Typically, I will introduce my new warm-up routine for euphonium and tuba. I have also a booklet of daily drills I usually present to more advanced performers. I also do lectures on practicing habits and how to make a career as a freelancer. I like to do my lecture before the masterclass, because then I can pick relevant topics from my lecture and remind them how it will affect your daily practice habits or way of thinking, using their performance as an example.
· How long are your classes?
That depends on the time we have available, and the students, both age and level. For private lessons I do everything from 30 – 70 minutes. These days when I do a lot of teaching online using ZOOM one lesson is usually 50 - 60 minutes.
· Do you think it is important for a student to make public presentations during their years of study? If so, how many times do you consider it appropriate and at what age or grade? Elementary, Professional, Superior?
Yes! I think this is important from the first day you pick up the horn as a kid! I think the teachers at all levels have the responsibility to arrange class concert with their students, at least once a year. If you teach kids encourage them to play concert for their families, also with all the preparations: Making a stage, do program and flyers, sell tickets etc. That will help them develop their entrepreneur skills as well – that is almost as important as your skills on the instrument these days. A goal for me as a teacher is that my students will love to perform! To get them there they need to feel safe and secure, my job is to guide them to find that in themselves.
An important part of the course curriculum is standardized and based on the idea that the student masters the repertoire alone, sometimes to the detriment of the large group repertoire (Orchestra and Band), when in fact the majority of Tuba students and Bombardino are going to be teachers and / or members of a band and, to a lesser extent, of an orchestra in the case of the Tubas.
· In your opinion, how should this problem be addressed? How important do you think it is to include learning and mastery of the orchestral repertoire as part of the course curriculum?
I think this is a very important issue, and for me is a part of the same problem I talked about earlier: How is our education and focus mirroring the world of the 21st century? I think we are far behind, and some of the problem is that we are sort of creating borders between different topics in our educations. I experience that students are either in performance, education, theory/writing, conducting or composing/arranging. And my point is, how do I make a living as a freelancer? I do all of this! I am a bit of everything – and unfortunately most of it I have not learned at school... I had to figure it out for my self after I was done with my studies.
The education has to be suitable for the marked, that's a fact. We can like it or not, but it doesn't matter – it's a fact. We have to get out of this “romantic fantasy” about the classical musician reproducing the same repertoire and excerpts over and over, and start to bring more creativity and diversity to the table. While that said I think this is changing in Norway now. Younger teacher with more diverse experience, not only Orchestras or Military Bands are coming in as profesor etc. So I believe and hope I was the last generation who only got the traditional stuff out of my education.
· If I had to choose as a student (in a hypothetical situation), would you have a preference between a Tuba student and a Euphonium student?
I have to answer euphonium student here, off cause. But if I was looking for more easy gigs; definitely a tuba player!
About your DAILY WORK.
· What type of repertoire do you mainly work in?
This varies about what`s on my agenda. This last months with no events coming up I have done a lot of basic. I have some recording session coming up this summer, both solo and with piano, so now I must start digging into that. As major works I am working on Kevin Day`s euphonium concerto, and in September I will premiere a brand-new concerto for euphonium, string quartet and percussion by the Norwegian composer Stig Nordhagen. So, I must start working on that now.
· What warm-up exercises do you use?
I mainly use stuff I have developed myself. I try not to do the exact same exercises every day, but do exercises in the topics of flexibility, tongue, scales, and register every day. I try to be creative and try new variants each day. If I get an hour with that, I feel happy!
I also don't like the term warm up, I see everything from my first note as practicing. For me “warm up” is getting the body ready. When I pick up the horn every note and every second count, no time to waste on warmups😉
I also use Arban a lot – it's so great! Every day I discover some new approaches or way to use this book, and it fascinate me a lot that it`s so old - Respect! I also use “How brass players do it” and some etudes by Bordogni, Blazevitch and Clarke.
TALKING ABOUT TECHNICAL ISSUES:
· Could you give us your opinion on the different concepts of sound and what characteristics define it, the articulation, the types of instruments, the literature, if the influence of language and musical tradition on sound is considered important and how to play?
This is a big topic, with some many opinions, and a lot of them highly personal. For me it's about to figure out what “your sound” is like – not try to sound like others. That's not art to me, that's being a copycat and has nothing unique to it. It's sort of the same thing when you listen to people perform, do you want perfect playing or passionate playing? We off cause want both, but I hear a lot of player with great technical skills but without the real passion or understanding of the music. That makes me sad. It's only notes, or only a game. I remember when I was a student, I could stay 6 hours with no break in a practice room just experimenting with how to phrase this little one-minute Bach menuet.
This might sound silly, but I think music has a deeper impact on us than just fast, high, or low. And reflecting on this topic is crucial to develop a personal and unique sound and artistic profile – if that is your goal. If you want to get a position in a military band you might need to do things different, and adobe the sound and maybe instrument suitable for that purpose.
· Tell us a bit about the manufacture of Tubas and / or Euphoniums and mouthpieces and tell us about your experiences and tastes of a particular manufacturer and why?
It's sort of the same as I answered to the last question. What do you want/need from your horn? Ensemble, traditions and history will often affect your choice, I think. But for me as a freelancer it`s only my personal taste – some will like it, and some will not.
To be specific I like the clear and well-articulated sound with a well centered tone. I like a horn with good response in the way “you get what you give”. Then the horn must have room for you to shape your sound the way you want, so you are able to make different colors. I want to sound like me, not to be forced into the “sound sphere” of a specific brand or model. I am lucky to have found all this in the Shires Q41.
- Please tell us about you experience and about our instruments en your country.
I think I've touched this topic already. As a euphonium player we have a job to do working on our position and status in the world of both contemporary and classical music. I don't think it will help with more people playing variations solos and Brass Band solos. We need to develop new musical contexts, expressions, groups, sounds and repertoire – all with high quality! I see The Opus 333 quartet and Anthony Caillet as great ambassadors for this! And I try to be one too!
· In your experience, do you think that the diversity of interpreters, instruments and the opportunity to train in various specialized schools is being homogenized in the interpretive centers that are already established? (Example: Russian, American, German-Austrian, English, etc.).
I hope we keep our differences! It's not interesting to hear musicians sounding the same and playing the same music over and over. I think the euphonium, and maybe tuba, is in the best position of the brass instrument regarding this. As a trombonist or trumpet player you can study in Norway and get a orchestra job in almost every other country in the world, or the other way around. The sound and art is sort of globalised. But for a euphonium player – still a lot of small military ensembles only have one player, and even if they have preferences of sound and style you can win an audition with any horn and sound (at least I hope) because you will serve as a soloist!
I love the fact I can be a totally free artist in all aspect of it. But I admit I pick up some excerpts and standard repertoire sometimes, to make sure I still got it😉
Bente, it is a big pleasure and an a great honor to count on your experience and collaboration in this series of interviews.
Thank you, very much and best wishes.
A big hug.
Thank you so much for having me on this series! A great honor!