Articles by Ed Joffe

Scholarly documents that have been written and published or presented by Ed Joffe.

Two Roads Diverged…

Robert Frost’s famous poem The Road Not Taken begins with the line: “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood.” In the Fall of 2017 I interviewed multi-reed virtuoso Eddie Daniels as part of my Woodwind Legacy Series and that line occurred to me as we were conducting the interview. During the course of our conversation, Eddie said that he initially began studying flute so that he could play the flute parts on a Broadway show (Mame) and on studio recordings. However, as he got more involved with the flute, he realized that “I want more on this instrument.” The more proficient he became on the flute, the greater was his desire to sound like a flutist and not just a competent doubler. He then proceeded to study with great flute artists such as Harold Bennett and Tom Nyfenger. (His achievements on the flute can best be heard on his album, A Flower For All Seasons.)

Eddie’s “I want more” statement touched a nerve within me because it brought into perspective something that I have observed throughout my career—the difference between “part players” and those with loftier artistic goals—the two roads in Frost’s poem. While these two different approaches to music-making might seem worlds apart, I believe most players have moved back and forth between these two paths in their musical lives. Continue reading 

Subbing: The Hardest Job in the Music Industry

During the course of a music-performing career, one encounters a variety of jobs that vary in their musical orientation and degree of difficulty. The expectation of performing at a high level on any gig is often enough to cause stress in any musician’s life. However, nothing compares to the stress, anxiety, and nervousness that a concerned, sensitive musician experiences when subbing for a colleague on a job. Whether in a musical theater show, orchestral concert, chamber ensemble performance, cover band gig, recording date, rehearsal, or any other type of musical engagement, the position of the sub is unenviable. I consider it the hardest job in the music industry. Continue reading 

It’s Not Like Riding A Bike

When I began to study music, it was much like other baby boomers—piano lessons during grade school years. Eventually, I chose clarinet, then saxophone, and finally flute as my principal instruments. During the course of studies that I embarked upon, I always worked privately with a variety of excellent teachers. Some of these mentors were associated with the schools that I attended, but most were individuals whose playing I admired and sought out to study with on a private basis. These studies occurred not only while I was a student, but also after I had finished my formal schooling and was working as a full-time player; while I was a professor at a university; and continue presently. In other words, I have never stopped studying. I have always found the help of an accomplished teacher to be inspiring while elevating my performance abilities and understanding of different musical genres. Throughout my years of study, the singular motivation was to improve, to learn more. I never picked a teacher because I thought he or she might “connect” me in the industry. Perhaps I was naïve, but that was the approach that felt right for me. It was verified for me during my college years when one of my woodwind heroes—Phil Woods—told me backstage after one of his performances, “If you’re good enough, they’ll (industry people) find you.” Continue reading 

Creating a Masters Degree in Woodwind Doubling

During my years as a professor, I had the good fortune to create a Masters degree in multiple woodwind performance (woodwind doubling). As someone who has been involved with this part of the music industry for most of my life, establishing this kind of an opportunity for talented students was a labor of love. It also was a pragmatic solution to finding a career path for talented students since the music industry of today offers very few career opportunities for woodwind performers. (By career, I refer to a forty-year period of employment that provides one with a steady livable wage, health benefits and pension.)

Institutions of higher education typically segregate their woodwind performance majors into categories such as “classical, “jazz,” “contemporary,” etc. And if there’s a “commercial” music component offered in a music department, it’s often Continue reading 

The Evolution of Commercial Woodwind Doubling

[This is a brief excerpt from Ed’s book: Woodwind Doubling for Saxophone, Clarinet & Flute. The article appeared in the December, 2016 publication of the Local 802 newspaper— ALLEGRO.]

Multi-tasking has become a staple of modern living and is certainly a requirement for surviving in today’s music industry. The contemporary saxophone doubler represents the greatest example of this characteristic in music. While most people believe that the origins of this discipline occurred with the Paul Whiteman Orchestras of the 1920s, woodwind multiple instrumental performance dates back several centuries.

In 16th century Vienna, consorts of wind instruments were used for ceremonial occasions, processions, and dances. The musicians changed from one instrument to another to avoid monotony of tone color and to accommodate a variety of musical forms. Continue reading 

Instrumental Performing Careers

I recently retired as a professor of music from a NJ state university after 24 years. This ended a 30-year career of institutional teaching that spanned 4th grade through graduate school. Having also been a full-time musician for the past 40 years while completing two Masters degrees and a DMA in music, I have a somewhat unique perspective of having lived inside the music industry as a performer, student and teacher simultaneously. While this blog post might be considered by some as biting the hand that once fed me and a means to vent frustration at a failing and out-of-touch educational system, I hope it will be taken as an honest look at the state of today’s music industry and a prescription for music programs to change in order to help aspiring instrumental music students prepare for the real world.Continue reading 

Seven Days to Reed Heaven

by Ed Joffe

Day 1: Remove the reeds from their container soon after purchasing them and put them in a pouch with a Rico Reed Vitalizer pack with 84% humidity.

Day 2: When you’re ready to begin the process of preparing the reeds to play, remove the reeds from the pouch and lay them on a flat surface, belly up, for one hour. Do not play them or wet them. This will allow the reeds to become acclimated to the temperature and humidity of the room. Put them back in the reed pouch but this time with a 73% humidity pack.
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Remembering Joseph Allard

REMEMBERING JOSEPH ALLARD
(12/31/10—5/3/91)
By Dr. Edward Joffe

The following document on the life and teaching philosophies of clarinet/saxophone legend Joseph Allard was handed out at the International Clarinet Association Conference in Los Angeles on August 6, 2012. The panel discussion that I chaired included Eddie Daniels, Joe Soldo, Gary Bovyer and John Cipolla. Audio and video examples shown below from Mr. Allard’s playing and teaching career were presented.

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Remembering Tom Nyfenger

Remembering Tom Nyfenger
Published April, 2011
The New York Flute Club Newsletter

It has been twenty-one years since we lost Tom Nyfenger. His passing left a void in both the world of performance and in music education. It is not often that a world-class player is also a world-class teacher but Nyfenger was precisely that! He was that rare bird who could play at the highest musical levels possible and could also explain and defend every note in his interpretations based on sound musicological and physiological truths. Blessed with a phenomenal ear for hearing pitch and harmony, great inner rhythmic sense, enormous theoretical knowledge, and a brilliant technique, Nyfenger could detect any weakness in a student’s musicality. In addition, his pianistic ability allowed him to play the keyboard parts to any flute sonata or concerto and he would often demonstrate improvisational skills that would result in accompaniments to a single-line work at lessons. (He would often create piano parts for JeanJean Etudes or Telemann Fantasias on the spot.) In essence, Tom Nyfenger was the equivalent of a world-class jazz player contained within the body of an internationally acclaimed classical musician.

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An Interview with Lew Tabackin

An Interview with Lew Tabackin
by Dr. Edward Joffe
Published November, 2006
The New York Flute Club Newsletter

This interview was conducted on Saturday August 19, 2006 at Lew Tabackin’s upper westside townhouse, which he shares with his wife—pianist/composer/arranger Toshiko Akiyoshi. Mr. Tabackin will be presenting a recital with his jazz trio on Sunday November 19, 2006 at 5:30pm at the Yamaha Piano Salon, 689 5th Avenue.

Lew Tabackin has been a vital part of the New York music scene since 1965. A virtuoso on both the flute and tenor saxophone, he has enjoyed a diverse career as a sideman working with some of the great jazz legends (Elvin Jones, Shelley Manne, Tal Farlow, Donald Byrd, Attila Zoller); a featured soloist in a variety of big bands (Maynard Ferguson, Duke Pearson, Chuck Israels, Cab Calloway, Thad Jones & Mel Lewis, Clark Terry, Joe Henderson, and Toshiko Akiyoshi); a studio musician (Doc Severinsen’s Tonight Show Band and the Dick Cavett Show Orchestra); and as a leader of his own jazz groups. Beginning in the 1980s, he won both the Down Beat critic’s and reader’s poll awards as top jazz flutist. He continues to tour the world extensively as a soloist, performing in both clubs and jazz festivals. His biography, discography, and upcoming performances can be viewed on his website: http://lewtabackin.com/.

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Repairmen Past & Present

Every professional musician owes part of their success to the talents of their repair technicians. The need to have one’s instrument in top performing shape for any job is self-evident but finding the right repairman is akin to finding the right medical doctor. It is more than just their abilities we seek; it’s also their understanding, creativity, flexibility and support that we need. One never knows when a pad or spring will break down at the 11th hour, a support post gets bent, reeds stop sealing on the mouthpiece, or the instrument has been jostled in the carrying case and suddenly doesn’t work as well. THAT’S WHEN WE REALLY NEED OUR REPAIRMEN!

There have always been many capable technicians available but in my career, I’ve experienced a few who went beyond that category who were also ARTISTS and enjoyed sharing their time, knowledge and experience with their customers. They were always there in case of a last minute emergency in addition to their regular appointments. Here are a few who made my life better, in alphabetical order.Continue reading 

America’s Musical Meltdown (2005)

by Professor Edward Joffe

The opening verses to two compositions that were both #1 hits, seventy-five years apart, are shown below. While both sets of lyrics describe unsettled relationships, I believe the difference in the sophistication of the lyrics mirrors the “dumbing down” of America’s musical culture over that span of time. It has been reported that the United States is forty-ninth in the world in literacy.1 This comes as no surprise to anyone who has been involved in education for any length of time. Yet, the plain truth is that we have slid equally far down the music cultural ladder.

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How to Succeed as a Woodwind Multi–Instrumentalist

by Dr. Edward Joffe

  1. Play each instrument because you love that particular instrument!
  2. Aspire to play each instrument as if it were the only one that you play.
  3. Set up a disciplined daily practice routine.
  4. Have a consistent set of warmups including tone, articulation and scale studies for each instrument.
  5. Listen to recordings of an assortment of great artists for each instrument on a daily basis. Focus intensively on one artist each year. Choose their greatest attributes to emphasize—tone, vibrato, articulation, phrasing, technique, etc.
  6. Study each instrument privately with teachers who have a similar philosophy with regard to breathing, phrasing, tone, etc. and are sensitive to a multi-instrumentalist’s role in the music industry.
  7. Study with only one teacher at a time on each instrument.
  8. Try to play in as many varied musical contexts as possible (especially helpful are saxophone quartets, woodwind quintets and jazz combo settings).
  9. Buy the best instruments possible (and all the major ones of each family of instruments).
  10. Buy instrument cases available that provide the best protection for each instrument and are ergonomically sound.
  11. Find an excellent repair technician for each instrument and cultivate that relationship. Make sure that you always have someone to go to in an emergency.
  12. Subscribe to all relevant professional journals and organizations.
  13. Attend concerts, masterclasses, and instrumental conventions as often as possible.
  14. Perform, rehearse and practice great music as often as possible.
  15. Become an excellent sightreader on all of your instruments in all styles of music.
  16. * Developing an excellent sense of rhythm, pitch, stylistic knowledge and collegiality are essential for success in the music industry!

Information for High School Clarinetists

by Dr. Edward Joffe

The following is a brief listing of notable soloists, recordings, and study materials with which a high school clarinetist should become familiar. This information will be particularly useful for those wishing to audition as music majors in college. In all cases, the young clarinetist should be encouraged to study with a professional clarinetist who also has formidable teaching experience. In addition, all clarinetists should become members of the International Clarinet Association.

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Improving High School Jazz Ensemble Rehearsals

by Dr. Edward Joffe

Set Up

While the traditional big band setup is desirable for most rehearsals, it is very useful to occasionally establish alternate seating formations, including a box formation and triangle formation. This allows the players hear the music in a different way and proves beneficial when they are reseated in their usual fashion.

Instrumentation

The standard big band alignment calls for 5 saxophones (2 alto saxes, 2 tenor saxes and a baritone sax), 4 trumpets, 4 trombones (3 tenor trombones and a bass trombone), and a rhythm section (piano, bass, drums, and guitar). An additional trumpet can be added as well as Latin percussion instruments and a vocalist(s) and still maintain the traditional sound. There are also “flexible” arrangements published by Kendor (convertibles) and Smart Music that allow for reduced instrumentations that sound full. A typical reduced big band arrangement might include 4 saxophones, 3 trumpets, 2 trombones and 3 rhythm. Try to avoid doubling parts within the traditional alignment of instruments—i.e. having 2 alto saxophones play the lead part; having 2 bass players playing a bass part together; etc. There are numerous arrangements available from a variety of publishers for quartets—nonets if there are not enough instrumentalists for a full band program.

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