by Brian Kauth
Mentors have a way of motivating students through self-reflection, personal growth, and stretching one’s perceived limits. Without these crucial elements, a student’s musicianship would not be cultivated, and they would never realize their full potential. A true mentor has ways of motivating their students to become their own best teachers and to continue growing outside of the formal academic setting.
Dr. Lawrence Gwozdz, Professor of Saxophone at The University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg is one such mentor. Over the years he has built and cultivated a world-class studio of saxophonists from all over the world, in addition to making several recordings as both a soloist and conductor, played with many of the world’s great orchestras, and inspired several composers to contribute to the saxophone repertoire. His tireless pursuit of excellence in artistry is only matched by his dedication to his students and assisting them in achieving their own artistic goals.
KAUTH: How did you get involved in music?
GWOZDZ: My earliest music lessons were on the accordion at age 5. Those only lasted a few short weeks. I did not study another instrument until 1966, when I had my first saxophone lesson on July 6th. I was placed in the junior high school band in the fall. A few months later Mr. Jack Lis, a BME candidate at SUNY Fredonia, was student teaching in my district in western New York and guided my saxophone instruction all through my public school training. During the same year, Sigurd Raschèr came to our school to play a recital I will never forget.
KAUTH: How and when did you first become acquainted with Sigurd Raschèr and could you describe that experience?
GWOZDZ: In the recital mentioned above Mr. Raschèr performed among several works, the Variations on ‘Kojo no Tsuki’(Moonlight on the Ruins of a Castle) by Sasamori. It was unforgettable and motivated me to ask during his clinic afterward why he used his ligature upside down and what type of reed he used. Two years later I was ‘reintroduced’ to him by one of our district teachers, a horn player in the Niagara Falls Philharmonic, following Mr. Raschèr’s performance of Ibert’s Concertino da camera. I clearly recall Mr. Raschèr asking me what piece(s) I had been playing. I mentioned the sonatas of Creston and Heiden and Bozza’s Pulcinellato which he responded, “Aha! A serious one!”
KAUTH: You had the opportunity to study with Jean-Marie Londeix after you started your teaching career. How did you come by this opportunity and could you describe those sessions?
GWOZDZ: My earliest experiences with Mssr. Londeix occurred during my studies at SUNY Fredonia and the University of Nebraska. In 1975 he offered a masterclass at the Brodie School of Music and Dance in Toronto. I attended this with a friend from the studio and got to play the Prelude, Cadence et Finale of Desenclos for his comments. The following year I heard him play and teach in Hastings, Nebraska, and unbelievably, he remembered my name from the previous year. Almost twenty years passed before the lessons in Bordeaux in his studio apartment, where I had instruction on Schmitt’s Légende, Husa’s Élégie et Rondeau, and Denisov’s Sonate.I also got to meet several of his students from the Conservatoire. I was very grateful for that experience.
KAUTH: What role do transcriptions play in your teaching?
GWOZDZ: Every freshman and sophomore studies and/or performs one transcription in any given year. Upperclassmen and graduate students are expected to include a transcription in any degree-required recital program. Saxophonists should be able to play music from any period in a stylistically appropriate manner.
KAUTH: Please describe how you approach studying and performing contemporary music versus traditional repertoire and transcriptions.
GWOZDZ: My students are expected to be detectives in their repertoire study regardless of style. They are normally asked what the predominant musical element(s) are according to what they hear. They are asked about the tonal center (if one is present), harmonic language, form, rhythmic interest, activity in the accompanying part, etc., much as they would need to know these things in the older repertoire.
KAUTH: As I recall, when I was a student at USM you had a very detailed recital preparation checklist for your students. Would you mind sharing it? [What follows is a recital checklist given to students preparing for their degree recitals]
GWOZDZ: RECITAL PREPARATION REQUIREMENTS
The following steps are required to be followed in advance of your anticipated recital date. Failure to do so by the fifth month will result in a postponement of your recital.
8 Months in advance
Choose repertoire in tandem with the teacher and purchase all of it.
Consult and contract a pianist and any other assistants. Be certain of their availability, pertinent fees, and put it all in writing.
Graduate students should contact your committee regarding availability.
Register your recital & dress rehearsal dates, times, and hall in SOM Office.
6 Months in advance
At this time you should be reading through your part(s) to each work. If you still do not own all the music, consider another semester for the recital.
Study each score for structure, interaction of lines (piano or other instrument & saxophone), modulations, harmonies, rhythms, etc. Try to play at least a line of the piano score slowly to hear it before rehearsal. Write in cues immediately before your entrances, so that your first rehearsal is not drudgery. Conductors learn all parts, and so should you, to prevent insecurity in rehearsals. No pianist enjoys teaching the other performer.
5 Months in advance
Distribute parts/scores to all assisting performers. This is especially crucial to pianists who are very busy, accompanying others. This makes them aware that you are conscientious, efficient, professional and courteous of their needs. In turn, you will be returned the favor of efficient rehearsals, pleasant collaboration. It would be wise to make copies of all distributed parts, especially of chamber works, as people have the knack of being people, i.e. losing music.
Your weekly lessons are now to be focused on the repertoire, movement-by-movement. Research your composers in Grove’s, Baker’s, Thompson, Oxford, etc. This will help in your assembly of program notes, which will be due for inspection one month before your recital.
2 Months in advance
Contact your pianist to schedule rehearsals and begin to rehearse at the earliest possible date from this time. If rehearsals begin now, one weekly session will suffice until the last two weeks. These rehearsals are independent of the teacher.
If you plan to record your recital, arrange for this now.
If at all possible, the pianist should come to this lesson, even if it has to be shifted to a more convenient time. Take the shifting process upon yourself to work out with someone else in the studio. It is understood that others’ schedules do not always coincide with yours.
Do not count your lesson as a rehearsal. Continue weekly sessions outside the lesson. Your teacher should be the coach and not be assembling the parts. If no rehearsals occur outside the lesson, it will be canceled.
Using past programs as a reference, type out program and program notes, proofread it, and bring to the next lesson. Keep practicing!
If your program involves other performers (not a pianist), rehearsals with them should begin during this week.
Your teacher should hear any chamber works with other performers at this time, in addition to your music with piano.
Two sessions per week begin with your assistants. At least one of these should be in the performance hall.
Contact piano tuner regarding tuning the piano to be used so that he knows well in advance your performance date.
Pianist should know if a page-turner will be needed and arrange for this.
Arrange your payments for your assistants (be sure you have the $$).
The Last Week
Maintain the pattern already established. The final rehearsal, however, is your dress rehearsal in the hall, which was scheduled at the beginning of this itinerary. It should be done completely in order with stage etiquette (see below). All performers and teacher are to be present.
Print your programs and post them on bulletin boards.
Arrange for a stage crew, if needed, and a friend to pass out the programs at the door, about 15 minutes before curtain time.
Notify any graduate committee faculty (graduate students only) with a copy of the program in their mailboxes.
The Big Day/Night
Be backstage at least 4 minutes in advance. Do not eat a heavy meal before the program. Consider eating your last meal 4 hours prior to the program.
Warm up slowly – long tones, overtones, scales, etc. Your stage crew should arrive 30 minutes in advance to set the stage and lights. You should not be doing this yourself. Get reliable people to do this. Then return the favor to them at another time.
Think pleasant thoughts, whatever they may be. If you cannot because of nervousness, remember: If all the previous steps were taken, you are well prepared, and only sheer human error can cause something odd to happen. Enjoy the moment.
Attire: After dark – formal wear (men: tuxedo/women: formal dress or very formal outfit. For solo performance with an ensemble – tuxedo with tails, white tie for men. Before dark – semiformal (men: full suit/women: short dress). Color choices are conservative. Your music, not your wardrobe, is to get the attention. Plan ahead by having attire in order the week before the concert.
If the saxophonist is a female, she always enters and exits the stage first. If the saxophonist is a male, choices are at hand. If assisted by a male pianist, the saxophonist precedes. If assisted by a female pianist, it is proper to ask her to enter and leave the stage first. This is how I was taught. If you disagree, take it up with my teachers. (Some traditions are nice to maintain.) Bow together upon entry and at the end of each entire work. If the work is a sonata (or a work with clearly equal parts), both performers bow together at its completion. Otherwise, the saxophonist may first bow, then look to the pianist who then rises for a duo bow. If the applause continues for several seconds after your exit from stage, return quickly to acknowledge the appreciation with another bow.
Tuning: DO NOT TURN YOUR BACK TO THE AUDIENCE. This is rude. Simply turn to the side and tune.
End: Smile, but do not mouth “Thank you” to the audience.
At the end of your performance, remain backstage to acknowledge well-wishers. Be certain that all your assistants have been paid their fees. There is nothing more disconcerting than for someone who has served up a performance for you to be delayed remuneration. Bottom line: Paid gig = payment the night of the gig. Our studio has developed a good reputation for honoring this expectation over the years. Don’t break the chain.
KAUTH: How important is it for young players to be fluent in both jazz and classical styles? Do you see a shift in pedagogical trends and/or job marketability?
GWOZDZ: For almost a century, jazz has been an integral style for the saxophone to be heard. Young players need to have this fact firmly implanted as they grow. If they choose to shun this during their studies, it is to their detriment. To that end, I cannot recall a time in my 50+ years of playing when it was not made clear to me that I needed to include this style as well as doubling skills in my arsenal for an additional means of survival.
KAUTH: How important is it for your students to gain experience on all sizes of the saxophone?
GWOZDZ: The valuable experience of playing the various members of the saxophone family should not be discounted. In the very least, it can be addressed in ensembles (bands, orchestra, etc.) as well as chamber music. Occasionally a student has requested the opportunity to play one work on a recital that is composed for a saxophone other than their principal, and of course, I usually approve.
KAUTH: You have made several recordings from the 1990s to the present. Could you describe how you came up with the ideas for your CD recording projects?
GWOZDZ: Three of the solo recordings include works that were influenced by Sigurd Raschèr. I decided that there were far too many of these pieces that were unfamiliar to colleagues and students and needed to be heard. The CD "Simply Gifts" came about as a result of a growing stack of scores that were generously composed by friends as gifts to me. The solo recording of the Concertos of Glazunov and Koch came about as an idea from the conductor, Nayden Todorov, who was collaborating with Music Minus One. The "Special Hand'ling" CD was a project that was too good to pass up after occasional performances of Baroque works with harpsichord and cello. The two SCO [Sax-Chamber Orchestra] CDs were born out of our enjoyment of American music and the great transcriptions of Bach.
KAUTH: One of the highlights of my studies at Southern Miss was playing in the Sax-Chamber Orchestra [SCO] and recording the Parabolically Bach CD. Could you describe how the SCO came to be?
GWOZDZ: The Sax-Chamber Orchestra is an outgrowth of the 8-member Sax-Chamber Music Society that was formed at this university in 1984. The unifying factor (the Sax-Chamber mouthpiece that we favor) identifies the ensemble.
KAUTH: As I recall, when I was a student at USM, each graduate student seemed to have their own individualized program. Do you allow student input in terms of what repertoire they'd like to study, or do you essentially guide them to what is necessary for their musical development at that point?
GWOZDZ: This has not changed. The graduate student and I collaborate with our own values, likes and dislikes, needs, etc. I view the graduate student as a respectable human being who has likely voted for two presidents, has taught and performed to some extent already, and deserves to have a vote on what they will do on their instrument. My suggestions are simply one ingredient in the recipe.
KAUTH: Do you have a basic repertoire list that all students must follow? Is it different for graduate students vs. undergraduates? [What follows is the standard repertoire list given to students in the saxophone studio]
UNDERGRADUATE COURSE OUTLINE:
1) All major and minor scales. Arpeggio work in Raschèr, 158 Exercises for the Saxophone.
2) Assignments in the following:
Raschèr. Top Tones for the Saxophone, pub. Carl Fischer
Voxman. Selected Studies for the Saxophone
Ferling. Ed. Caravan Forty-Eight Famous Studies
Raschèr. Twenty-Four Intermezzi
Karg-Elert. Twenty-Four Caprices and Atonal Sonata
3) Repertoire selected freely from the following:
a) Concerti of Erickson, Glazunov, Hartley, Ibert, von Koch, Larsson, Martin, Maurice, Milhaud, and others.
b) Sonatas of Creston, Dubois, Genzmer, Hartley, Heiden, Jacobi, von Knorr, Lunde, Osterc, Tcherepnine, Wilder.
c) Shorter works of Badings, Benson, Cowell, Dressel, Hartley, Husa, Russell, Still, Welander, Wirth, Worley, and others
d) Transcriptions of Bach, Eccles, Händel, Leclair, Mozart, Purcell, Rameau, Schubert, Schumann, Vivaldi, Weber, etc
GRADUATE COURSE OUTLINE: Technical study in: Raschèr, Top Tones for the Saxophone, Bozza,12 Caprices, Caravan, Paradigms I & II, Lacour, 28 Etudes on Modes of Messaien, Massis, 6 Etudes/Caprices, Mule,24 Etudes apres Samie, Raschèr, Do You Listen?
Solo Repertoire: Concerti of Benson, Dahl, Hartley, Heiden, Husa, Martino, Schmitt, et al
Sonatas of Decruck, Del Borgo, van Delden, Diamond, Karkoff, Muczynski, Schulhoff, Snyder, Worley, and others
Other recital works of Adler, Bassett, Bozza, Hartley, Kox, Markovitch, Ornstein, Russell, Takacs, Tower, Tull, Vogel, Wuorinen, and others.
Duos: Caravan, Genzmer, Hartley, Hindemith, von Koch, Lamb, Lauba, etc.
Trios: Cowell, von Knorr, Lamb, Taggart, Worley, etc.
Mixed Duos: Busch, Creston, Genzmer, Grainger, Hartley, Nosse, Schware, Tull, Yuyama, etc.
Mixed Trios: Cunningham, Hartley, Hindemith, Jacobi, Koechlin, Loeffler, Myers, Roters, Russell, Sherman, Stein, Stradomski, Vehar, Vogel, Wirth
Mixed Quartets: David, Glaser, Hartley, Moeschinger, Noon, Vellones, Webern, Wolpe, etc.
Quintets: Benson, Bentzon, Busch, Caravan, Desportes, Hartley, Heiden
Sextets: Bassett, Hartley, Heiden, Tull, Villa-Lobos, Vogel, Zaninelli
KAUTH: This is the inaugural year of the Southern Saxophone Workshop. Could you describe how this event came to be and what your goals are for it?
GWOZDZ: This is a project largely conceived by my current doctoral assistant, Jeff Humphrey. The goals are simple: help any saxophone players who want to spend a week in Hattiesburg playing in an orchestra, quartets and have masterclass lessons.
KAUTH: What are some of your more memorable experiences?
GWOZDZ: I will be forever grateful for all my international performance experiences and masterclasses as well as the opportunities to record that I have had. I am also thankful to all the composers who were thoughtful enough to write new pieces at my suggestion.
KAUTH: You are also known for your translation of Jaap Kool’s Das Saxophon. This incredible resource is currently out of print. Are there plans to make it available again?
GWOZDZ: I am not aware of any such plans.
KAUTH: Is there anything else you would like to accomplish professionally?
GWOZDZ: I have not thought about this recently.
KAUTH: You have built a world-class studio at USM (The University of Southern Mississippi). What advice would you give someone just beginning their teaching/performing career?
GWOZDZ: Be very patient, be willing to work diligently, and listen to great music by great composers.
In addition to the above interview, several of Dr. Gwozdz’s current and former students were asked about what they think is his biggest contribution to saxophone pedagogy, as well as what they believe his legacy will be. It is the general consensus among them that Dr. Gwozdz’s questioning techniques and the autonomy he instills in his students to be their own best teachers is very important to them. His devotion to a historical approach to the saxophone, coupled with the fact that he is one of the last active teachers to have studied with Sigurd Raschèr, is also noteworthy from a pedagogical standpoint. Finally, the performing and teaching careers of his students, both in the United States and in Europe, seems to be the legacy of Dr. Gwozdz’s teaching.
Dr. Lawrence Gwozdz Discography
Parabolically Bach(The Sax-Chamber Orchestra; Lawrence Gwozdz, conductor), Roméo Records 7251, 2006.
America Remembers (The Sax-Chamber Orchestra; Lawrence Gwozdz, conductor), Roméo Records 7216, 2002.
Special Hand’ling (Lawrence Gwozdz, saxophone; John Paul, harpsichord; Dieter Wulfhorst, violoncello), Roméo Records 7215, 2002.
Hurricane! (Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra; Klauspeter Seibel, conductor; Lawrence Gwozdz, alto saxophone), Albany Records Troy 429, 2001.
Simple Gifts (Lawrence Gwozdz, alto saxophone; Lois Leventhal, piano; Stephen Redfield, violin), Albany Records Troy 378, 2000.
Alexander Glazunov & Erland von Koch: Concertos for Saxophone and Orchestra(Lawrence Gwozdz, alto saxophone; Plovdiv Philharmonic, Nayden Todorov, conductor), Music Minus One 4132, 2000.
An American Concerto Tribute to Sigurd Raschèr. (Lawrence Gwozdz, alto saxophone; Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic, Kirk Trevor, conductor) Albany Records Troy 331, 1999.
Raschèr International(Lawrence Gwozdz, alto saxophone; Lois Leventhal, piano; Steffen Hass, alto saxophone), Albany Records Troy 269, 1998.
An American Tribute to Sigurd Raschèr(Lawrence Gwozdz, alto saxophone; David Evenson and Lois Leventhal, piano; Michael Reimer, soprano saxophone), Crystal Records CD652, 1994.
The Southerly Winds Play Music of Luigi Zaninelli(Sharon Lebsack, flute; Patricia Malone, oboe; Wilbur Moreland, clarinet; John Bivins, bassoon; Lawrence Gwozdz, saxophone), Shawnee Press Recordings, 1986.
The Saxophone Sinfonia Plays Selections from its Lincoln Center Program. Golden Crest, 1982.
The Rascher Saxophone Ensemble. Coronet CD 401-0, 1971-75 (re-released on CD, 1996).