Dale: I’ve read that you are the Music Director of the recently formed Nicholas Chamber Orchestra. Can you tell me about the orchestra and why you have chosen to take on this role?
Eric: I was asked by two members of the Eltham Concert Band (which I left in 2010), Felicity Hardiman and Matthew Barker, if I was interested in helping them form a chamber group and being the Music Director. After much discussion we decided to target the Yarra Ranges as there didn’t seem to be any large chamber groups performing there.
The Nicholas Chamber Orchestra was named after Alfred Nicholas of Aspro fame. The Nicholas family is synonymous with the ‘hills’ and he was one of Victoria’s most generous benefactors in his lifetime. We asked the family if we could honour this by naming the chamber group after him.
At the time of taking on this leadership role, I wanted to further develop my conducting so that when I finally stop playing the trombone I would remain active in music in some way.
Dale: As a member of the Melbourne Brass Ensemble for many years, chamber music must have played a large role in your career. How has chamber music influenced your work as an orchestral musician?
Eric: Playing chamber music as a brass musician is particularly important to help learn the art of listening, blending and playing together. Recently I heard the Concertgebouw Orchestra in Melbourne and I thought that is how they approached the music – as chamber musicians. It had a powerful effect, the blend and balance were beautiful – no egos there.
Dale: Your published book Daily Exercises for Bb/F Trombone has a strong focus on the development of the lower register as well as extreme dynamics which might be considered unique to your approach. Why did these particular aspects of playing become a key part of your playing and teaching method?
Eric: Without a strong low register you lose the fundamental foundation from which to build your range with a consistent sound. It’s the concrete slab on which you then build your house.
The ability to play extremely softly helps me to focus my sound. Likewise, practising loudly helps to develop your range – my suggestion to your readers is to play as loud as you can until the sound becomes ugly and then back off 5%, and try to play as consistently as possible throughout ALL your registers.
When I practise soft playing I try to get to the point where my heart’s pulse interrupts the sound with a slight waver – that’s really soft playing!