Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Alexander Shuhan's Early Impressions of BE

Alexander Shuhan purchased The Balanced Embouchure January 25th, 2012.  One month later I received this from him in an email:

Valerie, Greetings!  Starting to wade into BE and pushing my studio along on the cart ahead of me.  Thanks!  More sharing will follow soon... 

A few days later, Alex emailed again to order BE books for all his students:

I just had a freshman in for a lesson who had never played below a low F# on the F horn--she was just now getting pedal B's to speak a fifth lower!  Unbelievable!  :-)  . . . .

Looking forward to sharing my experiences w/ you as my students have a little more time to soak all of this in.  A couple of them have already shown significant changes in their playing.  My own playing improvements are blowing my mind.  I'm trying to keep track of everything I'm thinking about and how BE is informing change/growth, but it is seriously almost overwhelming in a positive way.  All I know is that just about everything I've ever heard said about how to play NOW makes sense...and at least for me, it's all nearly completely opposite of what I thought I understood.  I'd call that somewhat significant!!! :-)  More later...and thanks again!


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

BE for Horn, Dreams Realized

I started BE in the spring of 2006.   At that time, my dream was to acquire the ability to play the full range of the horn with ease.  I believed if I could do that, everything else would eventually fall into place with enough practice.  I remember writing to Jeff Smiley, "If this works for me, I'm going to tell my old  horn professor about it," because nothing he and I tried helped me improve my range and endurance.  After my sophomore year, I dropped out of university music school in 1973 feeling defeated.  Some 30+ years later, I decided to give horn playing another try.

Now, after nearly six years of studying BE, my dream of having command of the full range of the instrument has been realized.  I have the range to  play any note in the literature and any horn part for a very long time before tiring.  (That's not to say I can play any part, just the range needed for any note of any part!)  For example, after performing 1st horn on Beethoven's 7th, my chops still felt "fresh."  Having good range and endurance frees me to focus on the many other aspects of horn playing such as tone, phrasing, technique, etc.

Ten months after I began studying The Balanced Embouchure, seeing that BE really "worked" I had another dream, to share BE with the horn world.  I wanted all horn players with a desire to improve their embouchures to know that there's a simple method available that not only promises, but delivers results. (See Christain Hansen's testimonial here.)  I wanted to tell them that this method works without the drudgery of slaving away for hours a day on strength building exercises.  This method is technique driven and is mastered by practicing a few exercises that are so simple, kids can do them.  

I especially wanted to share this message with college students who may be struggling with embouchure issues like I did.  I am very happy to see my dream come true as college level horn students and instructors from all over the globe are now studying BE.  In addition, there are now high school and middle school band directors teaching BE as part of their brass instruction.

What I never dreamed of in my BEginnings was to see professional horn players embrace BE for their own use.  That was a complete surprise to me.  I naively assumed that all professional horn players had perfectly balanced chops so had no need for BE.  I was wrong and have enjoyed seeing a substantial number of pro's embrace BE for their own benefit.  I've even had the pleasure of seeing a couple who had thrown in the towel on professional performing due to embouchure issues, but return to it joyfully!  (Search my blog for testimonials of professional horn players who use BE:  Andrew Joy, Dave Stoller, Steve Park, Sandra Clarke, John Ericson, Julia Rose, Hans Christian, Alex Shuhan....)

This gives me a great feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment to have my dreams come true.

Valerie Wells