Considered one of the elite brass soloists in the world, Adam Frey travels the globe invigorating the international music scene with his virtuoso talent, sensitive lyricism, and connection with audiences.
(This interview was conducted in June 2010)
What inspired you?
There is so much to do for the euphonium. We need to commission more pieces, and educate brass and wind players and audiences about how well the euphonium can be played, and that it is not just a ’band’ instrument, but a MUSIC instrument capable of great things. Incredible teachers at school, Dr David Randolph and Steven Mead, together with my fans and concert audiences continue to keep me inspired.
Who do you consider as major influences to your playing career?
My teachers of course, as mentioned above. Listening to music also makes you constantly want and strive for greater goals. I remember spending hours just listening to brass bands, euphonium cello and vocalist recordings. Anne Muffo is an incredible soprano; Yo Yo Ma and Jacqueline de Pre on cello, Pavarotti, Art Lehman, Brian Bowman, Steven Mead, Joe Alessi, Allen Vizzutti, and many more…. makes one have a higher level of what CAN be accomplished on the instrument and thus make you work harder to achieve more.
What kind of daily practice regime and structure do you adhere to?
I try to address the fundamentals each day. Breathing exercises, buzzing helps focus the tone, long tones, lip slurs, and single tonguing… and SCALES, SCALES, SCALES! I like to play beautiful melodies, such as opera arias, traditional songs and church hymns. When I practice new music, I try to be very focused and only work on the problem measures. If there is a problem that I can’t fix quickly, I’ll try to find out the simple fundamental which could be the problem (ie, intervals, tonguing, buzz in the lips, scales) and work on that first. The time varies as sometimes I have 30 minutes, other days 3 hours.
How does performing with different orchestras feel like?
Orchestras are different. The sound is not the same as bands and orchestras can play softer dynamics easier. A lot of times with an orchestra, I can ’float’ the sound of the music more easily. I also don’t have to play as loud with orchestras because the euphonium sound is more unique with the instruments.
In the bands where I play, the players get VERY excited about making music so they play with a lot of energy. Thus, the sound of the euphonium can mix with the saxophones and horns easily. I have to give a little extra to make the solo euphonium sound over to the top of the band. I must admit I totally LOVE playing with wind bands, brass bands, orchestras and piano.
How do you feel about your achievements in the last 10 years?
When I updated my website and looked at all my photos, I could not believe it had been 10 years. It has been a TRULY amazing time and I have made so many friends and students. As I look to the future, I hope that the experience I have gained helps me be better and accomplish even more in the next 10.
What do you consider as master works for the instrument given the repertoire that now exists?
Everyone has different styles of music that they like. Some like contemporary music and do not like as much music that is ‘audience friendly’. I love audience friendly music and I want the audience to be moved by the music, whether it be by tapping their foot to a happy song or great tension from a lovely melody.
I love the Concertos by Cosma, Ellerby and Feinstein. I also enjoy Ito’s Fantasy Variations and Sparke’s Pantomime along with Peter Graham’s Brillante. What I think ties these works together is a number of facets… there are challenges for the player, fun for the ensemble, and have great audience appeal. Some other works that I think are exceptionally close are the Linkola and Brusick Concerto along with the Horovitz, the Curnow Rhapsody for young players, Gillingham’s Vintage, Boccalari’s Fantasia di Concerto… I could name a lot more, but will stop there for now.
Would you consider composing any pieces for the Euphonium?
I did a composition when I was a student; it was fun and I was happy with what I did, but I realize I have many things to focus with my time and energy. To excel, you need to focus, and having many things to manage is crazy. I play, arrange, publish, manage my travel, oversee the euphonium.com website and forum, teach at two universities, edit and record my CDs, plan and manage the IEI Festival, oh, and I have a wife that is VERY loving and patient, along with being a great supporter of the Euphonium. I am trying to reduce the things I do to be more focused, so composition is off the table. I’ll say, leave it to the professionals and that helps me make more things happen. I started the Euphonium Foundation Consortium recently that puts together people from around the globe to contribute small amounts of money so that we can commission larger works. It has been a really successful example of me trying to involve the community at large as well as moving forward.
Do you still have any remaining ambitions to fulfill?
Absolutely! The euphonium still has a long way to go in getting out there. I still play in concerts where people do not know the euphonium, especially with orchestras and community recitals. For band concerts, not so much of course, but one of the important things is that we need to spread the name and sound of the euphonium to people that do NOT know it already.
Visit euphonium.com to learn about Adam Frey. You can listen to CD samples, browse euphonium sheet music titles with PDF samples, check out his events page, and learn about the inspiring IEI Festival held June 20-27, 2010.