• B&S Donates Trumpet at Band of Angels Heart Strings Gala

    Mike Lawson | April 20, 2015

    A new B&S 3137 Challenger I trumpet was presented to Morgan Cravens at the Band of Angels 4th Annual Heart Strings Gala.

  • XO Professional Brass 1632RGL-LT Lead Trombone

    Mike Lawson | January 3, 2015This free blowing lead bore trombone is the result of years of development with the assistance of artist, composer, and arranger John Fedchock. The new XO 1632 features a handcrafted 7.5” custom-annealed bell — which is available in yellow or rose brass — with a soldered bell flare wire, a custom mouthpiece, a lightweight nickel […] Read More...
  • Performance: Embouchure

    Mike Lawson | September 17, 2014

    Insights on Dealing with Braces


    When I was in the second grade, I had an accident that knocked out a top front tooth and chipped the corner of the tooth beside it. Over the years, the gap closed up somewhat, shifting inward, but it was still quite noticeable. I also had a tooth on the lower set that protruded out in front of the other teeth. This may have been my biggest obstacle to playing trombone.

  • Sean Jones Named Berklee Brass Chair

    Mike Lawson | July 31, 2014

    Trumpeter Sean Jones Named Chair of Berklee College of Music’s Brass Department


    Berklee College of Music has named noted trumpeter Sean Jones chair of the college’s Brass Department. Jones will build on the legacy of the department and ensure that graduates have the skills to thrive in a music industry that is ever-changing. He succeeds trombonist Tom Plsek, who served as chair for 25 years. Jones is an internationally acclaimed composer and trumpeter who just released his seventh album as a leader, im•pro•vise = never before seen, on Mack Avenue Records.

    “Sean Jones brings an amazing portfolio to Berklee – performances at the highest level with the greatest musicians of his and prior generations, successful teaching experience, personal commitment and integrity as an artist, and a desire to help foster future great contemporary musicians,” said Berklee president Roger H. Brown.  “We are very excited to welcome Sean to our musical family.”

  • Escaping the Pyramid Trap: Reconstructing Conceptions of Balance

    Mike Lawson | November 5, 2010

    One of the most common strategies for creating what is typically referred to as a "band sound" is framed around the concept of pyramid balance. The premise of this model is readily explained in detail in the text Effective Performance of Band Music, one of several important contributions by composer and teacher Francis McBeth.

    Through the course of numerous conversations and observations, I have found that many conductors around the world adhere closely to concepts presented by McBeth, but often with what I would consider a limited application. To say that the band sound is a pyramid, simply functioning from low to high through the ensemble, does not fully consider the original ideas about balance presented by McBeth. Even writing in 1972, McBeth began to differentiate band sound by types of repertoire in this case, contemporary repertoire and the inherent balance required in order to achieve the composer's specific intent. This is actually quite progressive for McBeth, especially considering that today, he might be viewed as musically conservative.

    When we discuss balance, and thus band sound, we must realize it is inextricably tied to the specific repertoire we intend to perform. The traditional application of the pyramid balance system in many ways may not be as efficient a vehicle for teaching ensemble sound as it once was, and hopefully the following discussion will offer a different perspective on how we might apply the principles of pyramid balance into a more modern and repertoire relevant model.

  • Remembering Harvey Phillips

    Mike Lawson | November 5, 2010

    There are scant few people who come along in the music world and become bigger than life, whose accomplishments transcend what could be imagined of only one human being. One of those rare individuals is Harvey Phillips, a man who probably did more for the tuba than nearly anyone in the history of the instrument. He was a big man with a big heart and a big instrument, and he brought the world a tremendous amount of joy and friendship, as well as a very clear understanding that the tuba can do far more than "Oom Pah." He was called the Heifetz and Paganini of the Tuba by many highly regarded sources. Harvey died on Wednesday, October 20 at the age of 80, but his legacy in the tuba world and beyond will only become greater as time goes on.

    Many non-musicians and musicians had a pre-conceived notion of the capabilities of the tuba, until they heard Harvey play. Pieces that were unimaginable on such a large and "low" instrument he could play with great facility, delicacy, intensity, and musicality. According to the Indiana University Newsroom Nov. 27, 2007, "Harvey Phillips changed the way the world sees the tuba and revolutionized the brass idiom," said Daniel Perantoni, who succeeded Phillips as tuba professor at the Jacobs School of Music. "Through his tireless efforts, he is responsible for the vast expansion of the tuba literature and increased awareness of the tuba as a musical instrument."

    Marketing is not a word that is normally associated with musicians and educators, but Harvey was a great marketer of the tuba. His promotion of the instrument was global, especially with his development of the OcTubafest and Tuba Christmas. These events, featuring hundreds of tuba players dressed up in Santa Claus suits playing Jingle Bells or some other uplifting holiday tunes, could often be seen on many morning news shows from Rockefeller Center. People who may have played tuba at one time or another during their lives would pull out their big horns, polish them up, and make their way to these annual gatherings. It didn't matter how good a player you were, it just mattered that you would be willing to join with other folks who enjoy some time together playing music.

  • Whose Show is it, Anyway?

    Mike Lawson | October 13, 2010

    During the past few months of examining the performance literature for instrumental groups, we have debated the trends and specific attributes of new material being composed for school music groups and, in particular, programming for outdoor performance ensembles. Reader reactions have been plentiful, and in some cases impassioned. One particularly interesting and noteworthy response comes from Tim Hinton. Tim is an accomplished freelance composer/designer/fitness consultant who can be found at As a professional who both writes musical scores and designs visual programs, his is a significant and considered perspective. Enjoy his thoughts on the conversation!

    "Who are we writing the show for, the judges or the audience?" Whenever I ask this question, every single client always says, "Both," because we all want our audiences to love our shows, while also ensuring our groups do well at contests. And my goal as a designer is always to make the show effective and to move the audience in some way. That's how all great shows should be. Or so I always thought•

    I am disturbed by many of the recent trends in our marching activities that seem to move away from these basic tenets of show design. These include choosing music that seems to be a "means to an end," rather than a moving experience, and trends in the visual show feature a "glut of complexity" that I find exhausting. All of this seems calculated for scores rather than moving audiences. Let's explore these concerns in terms of both the musical and visual elements.

  • Saving Your Chops

    Mike Lawson | October 9, 2009

    Through both my 25 years as a professional trumpet player and in my consultations with other experts during the creation of the ChopSaver lip balm, I have learned a great deal about the lips and lip maintenance. Much of what I have learned came through simple trial and error. My hope is to help you avoid some of those errors.

    For starters, let's take a crash course in anatomy. Our lips and the muscles that make up our embouchure are a complex arrangement of muscle and tissue. The skin covering our lips is much thinner than the skin covering the rest of our body which is why your lips are red and very sensitive. It's also why they're capable of creating beautiful sounds when buzzed properly.

    In the same way you don't need to be a mechanic to drive a car, you don't need to know a lot more about how the lips function in order to play well. But knowing how to care for your lips and avoid accidents can help you play longer and with less discomfort. After all, "lip care" isn't something you should think about only after you play or when you have a problem, any more than auto maintenance is something you should think about only after a long trip or a crash.

  • Growing Great Horns

    Mike Lawson | July 6, 2009

    Developing a good horn section seems to be one of the great hurdles that many band and orchestra directors have a hard time clearing. My visits to various band and orchestra programs around the country often reveal a lack of understanding for this beautiful but challenging instrument. I have observed many school ensembles that have weak horn sections, if there is one at all, or horn sections that are not playing up to their potential. Horn definitely can be treacherous, but giving attention to a few simple aspects of the instrument can make your horn players better equipped for success.

  • June 2007

    Mike Lawson | June 21, 2007Conn-Selmer Announces 2007 “Kings of the Field” Seven leading drum corps from DCI and one corps from Drum Corp Europe have chosen the King “Ultimate” Marching Brass from Conn-Selmer as their exclusive brass line. Read More...
  • Helping the Student Guitarist Excel in Jazz Band

    Mike Lawson | October 22, 2006

    By Chris DeRose

    As a jazz ensemble director, have you ever wondered how on earth to communicate with your guitar player, who usually comes into the band completely unprepared for the ensemble experience?

    Many young guitarists are self-taught, or if they have taken lessons, it is usually from someone at a local music store, where they may learn how to play licks, favorite tunes, and manipulate hot guitar effects rather than becoming familiar with basic skills that will be needed to function in an ensemble setting. Nothing in their pedagogical background has really prepared them to function in a school jazz ensemble, where so often the lack of basic skills such as sight-reading, scales, and even ensemble etiquette, can prove to be a challenge for even the most patient of band directors.

    Ensemble experiences are practically non-existent for most young guitarists, and electric guitar pedagogy is by no means an established thing. There are good classical guitar teachers out there, and although I strongly recommend that every guitarist study classical at some point, the approach to the instrument is quite different and usually won't provide the electric guitarist with the necessary ensemble skills.

The Latest News and Gear in Your Inbox - Sign Up Today!