I never ever thought I would utter these words, but here I go...
I’m creating a YouTube channel. *Gasp*
Like most classical musicians, I’m really not one to put my recordings “out there.” Recording takes a lot of time and, like most, I fear my own imperfections and I worry about reactions/comments by others.
However, as an educator, I’ve come to realize that these fears and worries pale in comparison to my own personal growth or that of helping others. If what I am doing can improve my musicianship, or give someone else a leg up, I am totally on board.
Recently, I discovered a void that YouTube can help me fill - limited resources and access to beginner and intermediate bassoon pieces.
Like other states, New York’s NYSSMA (New York State School Music Association) hosts a variety of auditions for middle and high school musicians for the purpose of testing and placing them in a variety of statewide ensembles. It’s a fantastic opportunity for young musicians to learn solo repertoire for their instrument, discover how to practice more efficiently, and perform in an audition setting.
However, unless a band director/private instructor is intimately familiar with and has access to the current NYSSMA manual, understands NYSSMA leveling (1- 6) and is knowledgeable of the individual lower-level pieces, it is difficult to know what piece a student should select to hone their skills.
In my own studio, at “NYSSMA season,” I work to diligently identify the right levels/pieces, but there is little available to assist in this determination. Most pieces in Level 1-4 are simply not available for quick assessment, not even Eastman’s Sibley Music Library offers samples. Therefore, it is difficult to determine what would be appropriate for my students. An online search might net an image or two, but they are, understandably, copyrighted. Next up, recording searches. Should you be lucky enough to find a version of the NYSSMA piece, chances are it’s either played on an instrument other than bassoon or is a recording by a young bassoonist with mistakes/intonation issues/cracks, etc.
So, if I’m having this much difficulty finding adequate resources, I can only imagine how frustrating the process is for a young bassoonist and their school music teacher.
Therefore, this school year, I’m saying “no” to the last minute frantic run at NYSSMA pieces/leveling and and “yes” to a new project –
Purchasing the NYSSMA pieces
Learning each piece
Recording each piece
Offering tips and suggestions, and
Posting them on YouTube
Not only will this familiarization and recording process allow me to more accurately assist and assess my students in their NYSMMA goals, but the recordings can become an educational resource for others that is: 1.) readily available, 2.) performed by a bassoonist 3.) provide a few quick tips on potential pitfalls or issues that may occur when playing the piece.
Now, at this point, a handful of you might being saying, “This is great, Blaire, but I don’t teach younger students and I don’t live/work in New York State, so this isn’t a resource I’m interested in.” Great points! To that, I will say:
First, don’t overlook the possibility that NYSSMA (or some other state leveling system) could pop up in your future. Example: I’ve recently been hired as the new Syracuse University adjunct bassoon professor. In that role, I will be teaching one-on-one lessons to music education majors, focusing on the basics of the bassoon and how to teach the instrument. As a part of my role, you guessed it, I will be selecting level 2 and 3 NYSSMA solo pieces for these college students. Here I am in the midst of this project and, boom, it becomes most relevant.
Even if you don’t live in New York, many states use the same repertoire for their corresponding music education association (i.e. PMEA/TMEA). And, whether you need the specific leveling or not, having access to these types of beginner/intermediate pieces may come in handy… even if it’s just a resource you suggest to a band director friend.
The first video will come out in early September, so keep an eye (and ear) open! Then, fingers crossed, one video will be produced per week, focusing on Levels 1-4. Wish me luck, because, oh boy, there are a lot of pieces…