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An Interview with Mark C. Ely

Oxford University Press

Question: What is the primary focus of the Wind Talk books (i.e., Wind Talk: A Practical Guide to Understanding & Teaching Woodwind Instruments and Wind Talk: A Practical Guide to Understanding & Teaching Brass Instruments).
Mark C. Ely: The purpose of these reference books is to provide instrumental music teachers, educators, practitioners, students, and professionals with quick and easy-to-use pedagogical resources for woodwind and brass instruments commonly used in school instrumental music programs: flute/piccolo (alto, bass), oboe (English horn), clarinet (Eb soprano, Bb soprano, alto, bass, contralto, contrabass), saxophone (soprano, alto, tenor, baritone), bassoon (contrabassoon), trumpet (cornet, flugelhorn), horn (single, double), trombone (tenor, bass), euphonium/baritone, and tuba (Eb, BBb, CC, sousaphone)

Question: What kinds of information do these books contain?
Mark C. Ely: The books contain information regarding pedagogical terminology, topics, and concepts associated with each specific instrument along with teaching suggestions that can be applied in the classroom. Every effort has been made to be thorough and to make the information practical, applicable, and easy to understand. Each term, topic, and concept defined and discussed in these books meets at least one of the following three criteria: 1) it is relevant to the physical and/or acoustical characteristics of wind instruments, 2) it is relevant to the technical and/or physiological aspects of playing wind instruments, and 3) it is used to describe an accessory related to one or more wind instruments.

Question: How are the books organized?
Mark C. Ely: Wind Talk begins with a chapter of material common to all woodwind (or brass) instruments and then has a chapter on each woodwind (or brass) instrument. Each chapter contains a wide variety of pedagogical information, including terminology, related topics, concepts, and teaching suggestions. Teaching tips and key questions appear throughout each chapter. Photographs, illustrations, and musical examples also appear throughout each chapter to aid understanding or to illustrate certain concepts.

Within each chapter, the terms and topics appear in alphabetical order. For example, in the flute chapter, the first five entries are: Acoustical Properties,Action, Adjusting Pitch, Air Stream, and Alternate Fingerings/Alternates. Terms are cross-referenced when appropriate at the end of the definition or discussion using the words “See” and “See also.” “See” is used to direct readers to a related term where the information is located (e.g., Instrument Parts: See Parts, Flute, page 138). “See also” is used to direct readers to other terms with additional relevant information that may enhance understanding.

Additional special sections appear as “Practical Tips” at the end of each instrument chapter to provide teachers with additional pedagogical information designed to further enhance teaching, learning, and musical skill development.These include:

  1. Fingering Charts
  2. Common Technical Faults and Corrections
  3. Common Problems, Causes, and Solutions

A special section titled “General Resources for Instrumental Music Teachers” appears near the end of chapter 1. This section identifies additional references/resources for woodwind (or brass) instruments in the following areas:

  1. Acoustics Resources
  2. Woodwind (or Brass) Pedagogy Books
  3. General Pedagogy Internet Web Sites
  4. CD Recordings Available through Internet Web Sites
  5. Reeds, Single (Woodwind Book)
  6. Reeds, Double (Woodwind Book)

Special sections identifying resources specific to each woodwind (or brass) instrument include the following:

  1. Pedagogy Books
  2. Literature Resources
  3. Journals/Magazines
  4. Internet Web Sites

Question: How are the Wind Talk books different than other pedagogy books?
Mark C. Ely: These books are written and organized in an easy-to-understand manner and can be used to enhance or supplement teaching and learning at all levels. In addition, these books fill a gap that exists in the literature because they define and discuss terminology, topics, and concepts in a consistent, detailed manner for all wind instruments commonly used in school instrumental music programs. Although several books are available that address instrumental music pedagogy, we believe that these reference books are unique for the following reasons:

  1. They are written specifically for teachers in the field or for anyone interested in teaching woodwind and/or brass instruments.
  2. The information is presented succinctly; wordiness and “lecturing” have been avoided.
  3. The information is presented practically; teachers can find the information and apply it in the classroom immediately.
  4. The depth and breadth of the information is appropriate, comprehensive, and accurate.
  5. Perhaps most importantly, the general format is very user-friendly. It is the only pedagogy reference book that utilizes an alphabetical format, which enables teachers to locate information almost immediately. In addition, Teaching Tips, Key Questions, pictures, illustrations, musical examples, special sections, and an extensive index all contribute to the book’s effectiveness and functionality.

Question: Who are the Wind Talk books written for?
Mark C. Ely: Although designed with teachers in mind, we believe that these books are an invaluable resource for anyone involved or interested in instrumental music. They are also appropriate for college/university methods and pedagogy courses.

More information on this book can be found by clicking here.