During the summer of 2007 I found myself in a very unique position; newly tenured, launching a new publishing venture, teaching at a school that was making big changes in the marching band, with a controversial topic that certainly needed written about.
My background as a horn teacher and student of horn history came in especially handy in the preparation of the last of the four new books which launched Horn Notes Edition, A Mello Catechism: A Guide to the World of Mellophones and Marching Horns. A slightly irreverent but highly practical tome on all things mellophone. This volume includes information on mellophone history, mouthpiece choices, tone quality, intonation, coping with marching, and much more.
The title is a bit quirky, but it actually fits the content of the book as laid out very well. A catechism is a book for religious study in the form of questions and answers; this publication is a book of questions and answers on the mellophone and mellophone playing. I got the idea for the title from a nineteenth century orchestration text that I referred to working on my dissertation. The roots of this publication are notes prepared for use by students in horn methods classes nearly ten years ago, expanded a great deal.
Some may question my sanity in fact for writing/publishing on this topic, and it may be a bit of a career risk, but certainly the time is right to address the topic of the mellophone. I believe that it could actually be the biggest seller and have the most impact of any of the four new publications. Many horn players don’t like them but reality is that the mellophone is an important element of our mid-range world, especially for horn players at the high school level. This book it is hoped will improve mellophone pedagogy and as a result also improve horn pedagogy and the overall numbers of horn players in the United States.
I have long had an interest in all the various alto range brass instruments and have for many years owned a “classic” mellophone and an alto (tenor) horn. However, after working on this project I did something I really did not expect, I have actually continued to regularly play on my marching mellophone and Mellophonium, both purchased over the summer on EBay. I play mellophone (a King 1120 either with a big Blessing 5 mouthpiece or my normal horn mouthpiece with an adapter) regularly in the praise band at my church, and I will be a Mellophonium soloist on Misty with the Salt River Brass Band in February on their annual jazz concert (on a Conn 16E with a Bach 12 mouthpiece, very similar equipment to what Don Elliott used on his jazz recordings). I will post more details on that concert in particular as it comes closer. Both instruments function for me much like a single high F descant horn, and I had been wanting to improve my fluency with high F fingerings, so it makes more sense than it seems it might. And the mellophone as the lone brass instrument in the group does work well in the praise band.
One of the most visible hornists today, John Ericson has wide-ranging experience as an orchestral player, soloist, and teacher. Co-founder of the online magazine "Horn Matters", Ericson began his professional career with serving for six seasons as Third Horn in the Nashville Symphony. From there, he turned to full time teaching; first at the Crane School of Music (SUNY Potsdam) where he launched one of the first large horn websites: "Horn Articles Online." Since 2001 he has served on the faculty at Arizona State University, where he is Brass Area Coordinator. He has also performed with groups including the Indianapolis Symphony, the Phoenix Symphony, and the Rochester Philharmonic.