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SOM students learn tools for success from composer and trumpet player Anthony Plog

Mon, Apr 22, 2013

How long should I practice? What should I practice? Above all, how should I prepare for a successful career?

Ask esteemed trumpet player and composer Anthony Plog.

Anthony is the former principal trumpet of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and San Antonio Symphony Orchestra, and was an active studio musician in Los Angeles for several years. In 1990, he moved to Europe to play Solo Trumpet with the Malmo Symphony in Sweden. He has numerous solo recordings to his credit, and has recorded for labels as diverse as BIS, Crystal, Centaur and Summit.

As a composer, he is the recipient of numerous grants and commissions from ensembles such as the Utah Symphony, the Summit Brass, Malmo Symphony (Sweden), the Chicago Chamber Musicians and the St. Louis Brass Quintet.

Anthony shared stories about his performance experiences and gave practical tips and career advice to School of Music students on April 2.  Here are some of the best takeaways:

Composition tips:

  • For musicians who don't consider themselves composers: don’t be afraid to experiment with composition. It’s an excellent way to exercise creativity.
  • Be specific with your markings: do not assume that everyone hears the music the way you do.
  • When you start composing, know the large arch of what the piece means to you. Then, start writing down what’s important.
  • Eliminate details that disrupt the structure of your piece. This is similar to a screenwriter deleting a scene that interrupts the arch of the story.

How to practice:

Anthony says,

“I think that the basic way to prepare to enter the professional music world is to develop one's talent to the highest degree possible.  There are several aspects to this process.  The first is to have a fantastic work ethic.  The experts now talk about the ‘10,000-hour rule’, which means that to be really good at anything you have to put in a minimum of 10,000 hours of work (this comes to about 20 hours per week of work for 10 years). When I was a student I practiced trumpet about 6 hours per day, but it wasn't work; it was fun.  The second aspect of this process is called ‘deep practice’, which means really digging into the work that is being done.  I love the idea of simple things understood deeply, because if one can delve into the easier aspects of practice and always seek a deeper understanding, then the more difficult and technical aspects of performance will be easier.”

Building your own career:

“But along with developing one's talent, I feel that (as opposed to when I was a student) the student of today also has to be a bit of an entrepreneur.  There are many books, youtube videos, etc. that can help with this, but if a student can increase his/her knowledge of the business aspects of music then there will always be more opportunities.”