Setting up a practice space


For my students, September means back to school, lessons, and a brand new schedule. Finding the time to practice can be challenging for everyone (myself included!), and though the quantity of our practice matters, the quality is even more important. So how do we set ourselves up for success?

The picture above is from my practice space – it’s in an unfinished basement, but it has the perfect corner that I’ve personalized. Having a dedicated place to practice keeps me motivated and focused. It inspires me, even when I might not feel like practicing in that moment. I’ve displayed thank you cards from students, running medals – anything that cheers me up, and makes my practice space a desirable destination.

Even if it’s not an entire room, having a dedicated practice space helps to focus our mental energy on creativity, and music-making. It’s also a great way to invest directly in our own success, and works for everyone from youngest beginners through adults.

An ideal practice space:

  • is relatively free of distractions (TV, computer, siblings, pets, etc.)
  • has a good chair and music stand
  • has all the tools we need (notebook, music, metronome, tuner, recording device, etc.)
  • allows us to play as loud as we want without disturbing our family and neighbors🙂
  • is personalized in a way that is motivational and inspiring. Whatever works for you: pictures of concert halls, famous musicians or athletes, cute animals, inspirational quotes… the sky’s the limit.

Have fun creating your space, and happy practicing!


WCMS Woodwind and Brass Festival

I’m excited to be on faculty for the WCMS inaugural summer festival for brass and winds! A week-long program designed for students ages 9-12, there are two levels available: beginner/1 year of experience, and two years of experience or more. It’s a great opportunity to try a new instrument, or build existing skills. On Tuesday June 28th I’ll be giving a presentation all about the horn, and breathing – don’t miss out!

Woodwind and Brass Summer 2016 flyer



“I love playing horn in school… now what?”

I’ve been approached by several students and parents this spring asking about extra-curricular ensemble opportunities. In Greater Boston we’re lucky to have an abundance of programs for intermediate to advanced students, and while this is not a comprehensive list, here a few of the highlights:

MMEA Festival Ensembles

The Massachusetts Music Educators Association runs three sets of 3 day festivals every year – Junior Districts, Senior Districts, and All-State. Students audition for placement into these honors ensembles based on their grade, and where they live. The state is broken down into 5 different districts; for example, students in Wellesley are in the Eastern District, and students in Winchester are in the Northeastern District. Junior Districts are for students in grades 7-9, and Senior Districts are for grades 9-12. If a Senior District student receives a score above a certain threshold, they are eligible to audition for All-State.

Senior District Auditions take place in mid-November, with the festival in mid-January. All-State Auditions are held in the third week of January, with the festival in mid-March. Junior District Auditions take place in late January, with the festival in late March.

Audition requirements vary according to district and level, and are released several months before the auditions:

All-State participants can also be considered for All-Eastern and All-National ensembles, run by the National Association for Music Educators. In addition to any audition materials, students must be recommended by their band or orchestra teacher to be considered.

New England Conservatory Preparatory School

NEC Prep has eight large ensembles for students in grade 7 and up: 4 orchestras (Youth Philharmonic Orchestra, Youth Symphony Orchestra, Youth Repertory Orchestra, and Junior Repertory Orchestra), 3 wind ensembles (Senior Massachusetts Youth Wind Ensemble, Massachusetts Youth Wind Ensemble Concert Band, and Junior Massachusetts Youth Wind Ensemble), and a Youth Brass Ensemble. Rehearsals generally take place on Saturday, and are held in the downtown area between Symphony Hall and NEC.

Registration begins in March, with auditions taking place in mid-May. The requirements are:

  • Two contrasting pieces or movements: grades 6-10 at the Junior District Level, grades 10-12 at All-State Level
  • Scales – requirements differ depending on the ensemble being auditioned for
  • Sight-reading

Note that auditions for orchestra, wind ensemble, and brass ensemble are scheduled separately. Chamber music is also available either separately, or in addition to large ensembles.

Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras (formerly known as GBYSO)

BYSO has four large ensembles to choose from for middle and high school students: 3 orchestras (Boston Youth Orchestra, Repertory Orchestra, and Junior Repertory Orchestra), and a preparatory wind/brass group. Rehearsals take place on Sundays at the Boston University West campus College of Fine Arts.

Registration begins in mid-March, with auditions taking place during the last two weeks in May. The requirements are:

  • Two contrasting pieces or movements
  • Scales from memory. See page 6 of this year’s audition brochure for details.
  • Selected orchestral excerpts. Here are this year’s selections.
  • Sight reading

Chamber music is also available either separately, or in addition to large ensembles.

The Rivers School Conservatory

Rivers has two ensembles for high school students: the Rivers Youth Orchestra, and the Rivers Youth Wind Ensemble. Orchestra rehearsals are Fridays from 4-5:30pm, and Wind Ensemble rehearsals are Mondays from 7-9pm, both at The Rivers School in Weston.

Auditions take place from mid-May to mid-June. The requirements are:

  • Two contrasting pieces or movements of a larger work at the Senior District Level
  • Full range chromatic scale and 2 octave major scales up to 4 sharps and 4 flats
  • Sight-reading

Tufts University Community Music Program

The Tufts Youth Philharmonic is a relatively new ensemble, open to students aged 13 and up. Rehearsals are Fridays from 4-6:30pm at the Granoff Music Center on Tufts’ Medford/Somerville campus.

Auditions are held in mid-May, but are also accepted via YouTube link or DVD. The requirements are:

  • Two contrasting solo pieces of your choice that demonstrate musical and technical ability
  • 2 octave scales, up to four sharps and four flats

Powers Music School

Powers is home to the Massachusetts Youth Symphony Project, a chamber orchestra for students aged 12-18. Rehearsals are on Saturdays from 3-5pm at the music school in Belmont.

Auditions are held in late May. The requirements are:

  • 2 octave major scale through 4 sharps and 4 flats
  • 3 octave minor scale of your choice
  • 2 contrasting pieces or movements
  • Sight-reading

Winchester Community Music School

WCMS offers an excellent chamber music program for students of all ages. Rehearsal dates and times are arranged according to the schedules of participants and coaches, and are held at the music school.

Placement auditions are generally held in the spring and fall. The requirements are:

  • Two contrasting works (or one larger work with contrasting sections
  • Sight reading


WCMS Concert with Dan Teager

This Sunday I have the pleasure of playing a short recital with fellow WCMS faculty member and jazz trumpeter Dan Teager. We’ll be exploring solo and duet music for trumpet and horn. Highlights include the music of Bozza, Persichetti, and some of Dan’s original music. Jazz, classical… there will be something for everyone! Hope to see you there.

Back to Back January 10 2016 flyer-page-001

WCMS Masterclass – Breathing & Posture

Our instruments are extensions of our bodies, so we make music more beautifully when we’re standing tall, and breathing well. Join me at Winchester Community Music School on Saturday October 24th at 3:30pm for a 90 minute session dedicated to breathing and posture. Free for current WCMS students, admission is just $10 for the general public. Hope to see you there!

Breathing & Posture Workshop 2015

Red Hedgehog EP Now Available on Bandcamp!

Curious to hear what we’ve been up to? Now you can.

Hedgehogs sounds are now in orbit!

postcard draft-red

Go to the Red Hedgehog Trio Bandcamp site to enjoy the music of 10 wonderful composers from all over the world. You can stream the music for free, or you can download CD-quality of audio of individual tracks ($1 each) or the entire album ($10). We hope you enjoy it!  – Marina, Marji, & Dan

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A view from the top of Lyon Mountain, near where we stayed in Saranac.

Hedgehog Summer in a Nutshell!

Here’s a taste of Red Hedgehog Trio’s summer adventures.

Late summer greetings from your doting horn trio!

We wanted to share a quick update about what we’ve been up to this summer.

This June, we spent a wonderful two weeks in Saranac, NY, as guests of Hill and Hollow Music. We were fed, entertained, and housed like royalty; we got to hunker down and rehearse daily with a beautiful concert grand piano in a magical space with the perfect acoustic for our ensemble, and then perform there; we were taken on hikes and swims and provided firewood for a solstice fire in our very own fire pit.

As soloist, duo, and then full-on horn trio, we rehearsed and performed Bach’s First Partita in B-flat, Brahms’ Sonata for Piano and Violin in A Major, Op. 100, John Harbison’s Twilight Music, and our 10X10 set. Here is a wonderful, in-depth article about our ensemble and our concert program by Ben Pomerance…

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WCMS Recital Rescheduled – Apr. 9th

Spring is just around the corner, and so is my rescheduled recital! I’m grateful that we were able to find an alternate date – no small feat given busy musicians’ time constraints, and the full schedule of performances at WCMS.

Looking forward to sharing the stage with my wonderful colleagues and bringing these pieces to life!

Apr. 9th Poster

Recital Cancelled

Feb. 9th Storm ImpactMy recital tomorrow has been cancelled, courtesy of the cruel weather gods of New England. As the helpful map above indicates, the Greater Boston area is about to get hammered with yet another snowstorm. That’s 3 in 3 weeks, in case you’ve been counting – third time’s the charm? Hopefully we can find a date to reschedule – I’ll keep you posted. You can read more about the storm here.

Stay safe and warm, everyone!

Call of the Wild – WCMS Faculty Recital

Call of the WildA fundamental element of my instrument is its deep connection to nature. Please join me and my wonderful colleagues on a musical exploration of the woods and streams of Europe from 1828 through the early 20th century. Repertoire includes: La Chasse de St. Hubert by Busser, Schubert’s Auf dem Strom, Im Tiefsten Walde by Schmid, and Brahms’ Trio for Horn, Violin, and Piano. Hope to see you there!