• Interview with Dr. Paul Droste

    Nowicke: When you first started studying with Max Denmark, what did you do in your lessons?

    Droste: As I look back, he was a very good fundamental-type teacher. We did our lip slurs,we did our tonguing drills. You've got to remember in the late 40's and early 50's when you went to solo and ensemble contests, you probably took something like a Clay Smith solo that had lots of triple tonguing in it. So we worked the triple tongue. I've probably have never triple tongued better in my life than I did when I was working on those solos. Max Denmark was an old-style cornet player, I'm sure he grew up on those pieces as well. In fact, he apologized (this is a very interesting pedagogical thing) when the single tongue was in pretty good order, he said, "OK, we are going to do triple tongue next, and then we'll do double tongue later."

    I found out later that most people do it the other way, they'll teach the double tongue first, and then they'll teach the triple tongue. I'm not sure what his reasoning was, except, when it came to the type of literature I was playing there was a lot more triple tonguing involved than double tonguing. The double tongue is kind of a throw-in, if you can triple tongue, you can figure out double tongue. We worked very hard. He threw in some theory/cadential things, you know, you're playing an unaccompanied etude, what key are we in? What kind of a cadence do you think this is? Is this the dominant cadence? Is this tonic? Where is that?

    The one thing where I won't say he let me down, but didn't get addressed, when I went to Ohio State, I had a pretty bad tongue cut-off, stopping both the short notes and some of the long notes with the tongue, and nobody ever told me that was wrong. People who know Jack Evans, he gets on the warpath with tongue cut-offs. I mean, somebody comes in and clips one off, and you get the ten minute lecture, and exercises to boot! So, when I went to Ohio State, I think my reading skills were quite good. Technically, average to a little bit above average, pretty good concept of tone quality, a decent ear for intonation, but this tongue cut-off took me probably most of the autumn quarter that first year to go back to half notes and whole notes and breath releases, and some breath attacks, and then kind of recycle my technique. I think it's beaten out of me, I don't think I've had this trouble ever again. When my students come in with the tongue cut-off, I just grab them that first day and say, "This is not the right way to end the note, and we have to deal with this almost before we deal with anything else."

    Also, I was in a high school band that was in the Cleveland area, and we weren't big at that time, it was a small suburb, but we did Elsa's Procession to the Cathedral, and we did some Kenneth Alford and Sousa marches. I was fairly well grounded in some of the literature. The Lakewood, Ohio, Elks Club had a band that was a little bit more like a show band, but played concert band instrumentation, and I was a part of that. We had a youth symphony orchestra for students on the west side of Cleveland that was student-conducted, and I suppose in maybe my last two years of high school we might have done a concert or two a year. That got me involved both as a trombone and a tuba player in some of the orchestra repertoire. Before we leave high school, I need to mention at the beginning of my junior year (like an idiot), I went out for the football team, because we had a new coach, and spirits were up. I didn't want to be the first one to quit the team, but the minute the first guy left, I was right behind him with my stuff. My band director met me at the locker room door and said, "Band practice starts on Monday." I said, "Good." He said, "Come on down to the music room, I'm going to give you an instrument." I was a little curious about that - did he buy a new baritone for me or something? He handed me a Sousaphone and said, "The fingerings are an octave lower than the euphonium, go learn it this weekend, and come in Monday ready to be the one and only Sousaphone in the high school marching band. So I did! As a result of that I played in this youth symphony orchestra, I think I played tuba on one concert because we couldn't get anybody else. From time to time, I get out it and play a few notes on it. I would never consider myself a tuba player, but I would say at least at the high school level I have played the tuba and the Sousaphone.

    Nowicke: But it didn't "speak" to you.

    Droste: No, no, not like the euphonium did. I have been in two military bands, the 122nd Army National Guard Band (which at that time was based in Cleveland, now in Columbus) and the 338th Army Reserve Band (based in Columbus) and in both of those groups I did some Sousaphone playing because we would occasionally show up for a parade or some sort of a gig, and somebody wasn't there, or couldn't march, or was needed someplace else, so I filled in there. So I guess I did do a little bit of tuba playing in college years.

    Nowicke: In talking about trying to fix your tongue cut-off problem, you were saying you were using breath attacks and breath releases. Where did you get that concept from?

    Droste: Mostly from Jack Evans. Now, the breath releases directly came from him. Later on, in studying with Donald Reinhardt in Philadelphia, he introduced me to the "no-tongue" attacks, which he used as a part of his regular routine. I found not only for me it was very helpful, but I found when I was teaching the brass pedagogy classes at Ohio State (where I had the woodwind players, piano players, the percussionists, the vocalists who'd never had a brass instrument or sometimes even a wind instrument in their hand before) that this was a very good way to get them started correctly. We just didn't even mention the word tongue at all, "Just buzz your lips and blow." After a while we added the tongue, of course, to the attack, and by that time we were releasing correctly with the air, so we didn't have to fight that. I made darned sure that my brass pedagogy classes knew what a tongue cut-off was, and a way or two, or three, at least to remedy it!

    Nowicke: Was Jack Evans your private teacher in college?

    Droste: He was at the undergraduate level, yes. He was a trombone player, but very knowledgeable about technique building and musical style.

    Today I look at a pretty big gulf between, say a professional euphonium player, and a professional trombonist. Back in the mid-50's there was crossover all the time. Every trombone player was advised to learn a little valves, and to the euphonium players, said, "Yeah, you can play euphonium, but you had better learn trombone or tuba so you can play in an orchestra or play in a brass quintet or something." So a lot of people were switching around at that time. Now it's a pretty specialized thing. I suppose if there's one thing that's really changed over the last 40 or 50 years, we have people who are legitimate euphonium players, who make their living playing, and/or teaching the euphonium. Maybe like a Brian Bowman they'll do a doctorate in trombone, but they're primarily euphonium players, and maybe not as many euphonium players now using the euphonium as a second instrument.
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