When I was a freshman in college, I was surprised to find myself as a music major, no longer on the path to some sort of medical degree. Looking back, I don't regret a thing about this change of plans. Maybe you too have experienced this, or maybe music was your intention all along. Regardless of your journey, you more than likely have that one teacher that changed everything for you. I was late to the game of practically everything, and I was in a place that didn't have what I needed around me to really be able to move up. While it wasn't a bad place to be, I knew I would need to transfer and be around a larger group of horn players. Midway through my first semester, it was recommended to me to study with this amazing horn player from the Minnesota Orchestra, his name was Kendall Betts. The name was familiar to me, but was still sort of in the background of my fumbling around trying to figure out what I needed to do to succeed. I was very excited about the things horn related. So I connected up with Kendall, scheduled my first lesson, and proceeded to drive the 3 hours roundtrip to his house for biweekly lessons. This was possibly my first big step forward, and getting out of my comfort zone of my home town.
My first impression of Kendall was that he was way shorter than I expected. Who thinks of these things? Wide-eyed 19 year olds, of course! I was incredibly nervous, we went in for the lesson, and he introduced me to Kopprasch, and his special KBHC version of it. I was immediately intimidated by him, instantly never ever wanted to mess up, and was too afraid to ask him to not smoke during lessons... but considering all of that, I valued all of my lessons, I got brave and he stopped smoking after a couple of lessons, and decided to face the work I needed to become a rockstar horn player under his guidance. And thinking back, I'm quite surprised he only made me cry twice, once in the lesson, the other time I managed to get back to my car before the tears rolled. I think for that first 3 months, I only got through 3-4 etudes. He was tough on me, a couple of times maybe a bit too harsh, but having been a trumpet player since 6th grade, I needed a lot of work. When it came to improving my technique, changing my embouchure, and overall horn playing, he was always spot on. Even if I didn't always want to admit it. At the time I needed the toughness, the constant reality checks, I was 19, as hard as I tried to not get lazy... I got lazy. But he was always ready to correct me, to fix, to help.
He never gave up on me, which is why I accepted his stubbornness to not let me play anything poorly. He was my game changer. He helped me get to another level of playing and education that helped lead me to transfer to Boston University. I took his lessons with me everywhere I went. The pickiness he had about how to play Kopprasch bled into playing and learning other pieces and etudes and excerpts. I kept some of the stubbornness and toughness for myself in my own playing, but also in my teaching. While I may have a different approach, more suited to my personality, I still show the students the expectations I have for them to help them get to where they need to to succeed.
The lessons I learned from him will never be forgotten. Seeing the posts that people have been posting about their own memories, I can see that he has touched so many lives, and his teachings will continue. I had always hoped to attend his camp, but unfortunately I could never take a week or two off whatever job I had during the summers to participate, I had been thinking this next year would be it. While it will continue, I had hoped to get to play for him one more time and show him the hornist I have become with his training. He will live on through all that he reached.
Kendall was my game changer. Who was yours?
You are maybe wondering when I would be getting to the yoga part of this post, and here it is. Yoga is used for many therapies, one being grief. The one thing I find the hardest to do when I am grieving, is to open my heart up. It can be physically challenging to find a heart-opening backbend in yoga, when all you feel like doing is bringing your shoulders forward and down. This is a sort of protective measure our body takes to hide the heart, it doesn't want to feel too exposed. Hiding your heart behind this barrier makes it easier to hold in the tears, to get through the day, and feel safe. Yoga helps to break down the barrier, opens up your heart, which is why you can feel vulnerable after a yoga class, and sometimes find Hallmark commercials, or a sad news story, harder to handle without a box of tissues. This is a good thing, it is good to open up and let yourself be vulnerable, but it is always best to find a comfortable place where you feel safe and no judgement when embracing a heart-opening practice. Practicing yoga to help process grief is done through physical postures that encourages your nervous system to relax, and your body to surrender to the shape of the pose. I do not personally have a video of me showing you postures that can help you work through grief, but I can share a couple of links that will provide descriptions and pictures that can get you started. I will eventually be making videos, but it's a slow process for me. Here is one from Yoga Journal: www.yogajournal.com/slideshow/yoga-sequence-healing-heart/#8
If you are interested more in a meditation practice to work through your grief, here is a video on YogaJournal.com: www.yogajournal.com/meditation/meditation-grief/
Thank you for reading my memories of Kendall, and I hope that the links I've shared today will help you. Please stay tuned for the next blog post, and watch for an announcement about videos to come on my new Youtube channel.
Please let me know if you have any questions! Thank you for reading!