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The Best Takeaways from the SFCM Masterclass by Canadian Brass

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The Opus 3 artists share their advice for young musicians on pushing boundaries, finding flow, and most importantly, letting go.

March 8, 2023 by Alex Heigl

By Alex Heigl

SFCM hosted the world-famous Canadian Brass for a February residency that that featured a masterclass and a side-by-side performance with some of the Conservatory's brass students February 23. The group is represented by Opus 3 Artists, the management company acquired by SFCM in 2020. 

The Canadian Brass consists of Chuck Daellenbach (tuba), Caleb Hudson and Fabio Brum (trumpets), Jeff Nelsen (horn) and SFCM alumnus Achilles Liarmakopoulos (trombone). Here are their top takeaways for musicians:


On an ensemble's sound:

“I can listen to music in two different mindsets. One is 'Wow, they’re executing this piece so efficiently on the instrument' and then there are other players that I listen to and I forget I’m listening to trumpet or brass in general. I think that’s your goal as a brass quintet: for the audience to forget that they’re listening to five individual players.”


On working together:

“It sounds like your priorities as players are to make sure that you’re nailing your parts instead of to come together to create something that’s greater than any individual in the group.”


On pushing boundaries:

“The greatest advice I ever got from a pianist was when she got angry and said 'be hard to follow.' Push each other around and as soon as that happens your colleagues will move with you.” 


On finding your flow: 

“You are fantastic players, but your priorities were being together and being in time instead of conveying a character. Being together becomes a byproduct of having great flow and great group chemistry. Don’t let the desire to be together compromise your group flow.” 


On letting go:

“Right now it sounds very polished and beautiful, but the tempos didn’t really fluctuate. This has to be full-on intense. Way out of your comfort zone. I see eight musicians, in their comfort zones, very controlled. You have to let go of the control.”


Stepping outside your comfort zone:

“There’s a graphic I love that has these three circles. The first song is comfort zone. Get out of your comfort zone and you have a learning zone. And then outside of that is your panic zone. We forget when we’re uncomfortable, we skip the learning and go straight for panic.” 

Learn more about studying brass at SFCM.