Baylor Trumpet Professor Earns Award for Research into Musical Team Practice

April 29, 2010

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Talent and practice, practice, practice are musts for successful musicians.

But what about team work?

Wiff Rudd, professor of trumpet at Baylor University, has taken a hard look at that question. He learned this week that his research into collaborative warm-ups and practice has been chosen for the 2010 Baylor Centennial Professor award, which supports faculty development. An endowment for the award was established by the Baylor Class of 1945, Baylor's centennial year.

Most published methods and technical studies for trumpet are designed for solitary practice, said Rudd, who also is coordinator of the brass area. But while individual practice is vital, it does not necessarily train one to work with others well.

"This could be compared to practicing tennis alone by continually hitting the ball against a wall and volleying with one's self, instead of actually playing with or against a partner," Rudd said. But collaboration is "the essence of music-making -- more like the real game," he said.

Rudd encourages students to meet in groups of two or more to practice. And twice a week, for eight years, he has met with trumpet students for early-morning "call and response" warm-ups, which are played without written music.

"I attempt to model a concept in a short musical phrase, and they (students) respond," he said. "The exercises become more complex as the school year progresses. However, the main goal is for us all to be able to do simple things very well.

"We do the same thing with written music during a part of each private lesson," he said. "This has been key to establishing fundamental tonal, production and musical concepts."

Contemporary research shows that a skill, such as playing a musical instrument, can be "mastered" after 10,000 hours of hard work. That means about a decade of practicing three hours daily for at least 50 weeks of the year, he said.

"Many students plateau or have difficulty finding motivation and inspiration if they practice alone exclusively," Rudd said. "The students I teach will make most of their money teaching and leading groups or performing in concert with others."

Combining group exercises with the standard individual ones has worked well for developing healthy competition, social skills, confidence and speed in learning, he said.

Several visiting artists to Baylor have observed Rudd's techniques and encouraged him to document and publish examples of collaborative warm-ups and practice sessions, he said.

Rudd said he will use the $3,000 award to pay for software, sound editing and recording sessions as the first phase in producing educational publications and CDs of his methods.

His proposal was the unanimous choice of the five-member Centennial Faculty Development Review Committee, said Dr. Joe Cox, committee chair and a professor management at Baylor.

The class of 1945 -- the Baylor Centennial Class -- established the endowment fund to support faculty development. Each year, a tenured faculty member is designated as the Baylor Centennial Professor and given funds for a project to further develop the professor's role and contribute to academic life.

"It was a pleasure to award this," he said. "You always think, 'Would the Centennial Class be pleased with what we've done?' We thought the Centennial Class would be happy for the money to go to this."

Contact: Terry Goodrich, Assistant Director of Media Communications, (254) 710-3321

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