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  • Lars Karlin: Swedish trombone vibes with yoga chic 

    Kristina Dencheva
    21 April, 2024

    The trombone guest-teachers in the international masterclasses, organised by the Brass  Perspectives Association BG, are an impressive constellation of performing artists with a strong personality: from the visit of Branimir Slokar and Slokar Quartet in 2019 through the events feat. György Gyivicsan in 2021 and 2023, Remko de Jager in 2022  to Lars Karlin, whose masterclass was held at the end of March in Sofia. As we all saw, Lars Karlin is also a fascinating high level music ambassador of both Swedish and Danish culture with attractive yoga accents, inspired by the ancient magic of India. I’m pleased to welcome him in the “Brass stories” online project world…  

    Welcome to our online brass word, Lars. Please introduce yourself to our audience tempted  by brass music.
    I am a Sweden born тrombonist and аrranger, living in Copenhagen, Denmark. I currently work  at the Danish National Symphony Orchestra where I hold the position as solo-trombonist since January 2020. Next to that I write arrangements for Brass and Trombone Ensembles while also  spending a lot of time teaching which is a passion of mine.  

    How did the trombone come into your life?  
    I started playing the Trombone at the age of twelve. My father took my younger brother and me  to a demonstration of instruments organised by the local music school. The trombonist played  a long and loud glissando from 1st to 6th position and back again! I decided within a second that the trombone was my instrument! It was just so raw, exciting and satisfying! 

    Can you tell us more about an interesting detail of your education profile: the private courses you studied in "Performance Mastery under Peak Performance" by Psychologist Ph.D. Don Greene.
    I contacted Don Greene through an internet portal called “Winning on Stage” which included a  private online coaching program for musicians wanting to win an orchestral audition. The  program included reading, writing and working with your thoughts and pre-programmed  behaviours. Don Greene acted as a coach on this path which took my self belief and self  confidence to a better place. I found myself in a better state of mind after the coaching than  before. It also showed me that if you really work at programming your mind with positive  thoughts and good experiences your reality can alter to the better. It was a somewhat surreal  but amazing result.  

    Hugo Alfvén - The Mountain King Suite, Op. 37: IV. Shepherd Girl's Dance, arranged by L. Karlin, performed by Lars Karlin (trombone), Katarzyna Wieczorek (piano)

    The first steps in your professional career as a trombone player? 
    I was going to substitute in the professional orchestra in my home region in Sweden in 2002. But  days before that I got a call from the Stockholm Opera Orchestra that they needed a substitute 2nd trombone for only one rehearsal of the Opera "Tristan and Isolde" by R.Wagner. It was too early for me to substitute at that level but for sure I learned from it.  
    My first real job came years later in 2008 at the Deutsche Oper In Berlin and in 2009 at the Hannover State Opera in Germany, which was when I started to get experience playing in an orchestra.

    The most important aspects of your work as a performing artist (daily routine, physical and  psychical training etc.)
    Daily routine is very important if you want to improve at almost anything and to reach a high level. I would even say that one “strict daily routine” is necessary. I continuously and  repeatedly practise my instrument, eat, do my workout at the same time every day which coordinates mind and muscles - when to be alert and when to relax during the day. You can say it is like creating an inner clock as much as possible. After following a strict routine or schedule for some time I noticed that my focus has improved and that my body responds much better. Starting the practice on the instrument early and at the same time every morning is a key for great development. Results can be seen as fast as within a week but if one were to keep on to it over a year or two, the results are stunning. So, a strict schedule 5-6 days a week and one day rest a week is how I see the best results. 
    Physical training: Two times physical activity each day (rest day not included). It keeps my  concentration, breathing, well being and body in better shape. It also prevents long term or short  term injuries or pain in shoulders or lower back that can come through practising an instrument.  It can be as simple as walking one time in the morning and in the afternoon to doing more  challenging work-outs. Most important is moving and being active. I walk 35-45 min every  morning, followed by a 40 min Yoga session which is followed by a 45-60 min warm up/practise  session on the trombone. In the afternoon I go to the gym. 
    Mental training: There is plenty of material to read and there are many good ways to start doing this. It does not need to be a lot of time spent and 5-10 minutes a day can work wonders.  It totally depends on the needs and wants of each individual.  

    The beginning of your career as an arranger?
    I got inspired by the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble and listened to many of their albums. Many of  the ensemble members in the PJBE arranged music for the ensemble and I wanted some day  to do the same. Listening to the PJBE inspired me greatly in this manner and it also inspired me  to make chamber music. I started arranging at the age of 15 and since then I have arranged  music for every ensemble that I have been part of such as The Trombone Unit Hannover or the “Sliding through the Opera” project. I guess it’s all learning by doing.  

    Three Swedish songs arranged by Lars Karlin, performed by Tomer Maschkowski (bass trombone) and The Brass Ensemble of DSO Berlin, conducted by prof. Jonas Bylind

    The opera and symphony orchestra you was working in - what they gave you and what you gave them as a professional? 
    Being part of great orchestras and being part of different ensembles creating different kinds of  music has given me a lot of experience. Learning new repertoire and working with musicians from all over the world. I always try to give and show the best of myself at all times even when that sometimes can be a challenge.  

    The most important features of the perfect brass section in the symphony orchestra? 
    It’s almost like what type of soccer teams you like the most. It’s a preference. I prefer brass sections which have a full, centred and well balanced sound. I like brass sections which do not hesitate standing out from the collective orchestral sound when needed but also can blend into  the strings and woodwinds when the repertoire demands it. In soccer that would perhaps be  similar to good tactics, flexibility and organisation. That is very important when working as a  team. Secondly I prefer hearing activity and individual participation from each player as if they were playing a solo when just playing a simple chord. In football terms that would perhaps be that even if you do not have the ball at the given time - you are still active, moving around to  show yourself for your teammates to be able to make the move. The game is always in motion  even if you are not in the spotlight.  

    How you see the role of the brass teacher after all crises we went through, the influence of digital platforms etc.  
    I believe in general that people will always love to hear brass music. It’s something about it that  speaks for itself once you hear it.  Also people will always want to hear music performed in a live format. I believe it will not disappear. I even believe that it might get more popular in the future. Lastly I believe that people love hearing real people creating real music and that hearing it live is what it is all about in the end.  

    The yoga aspect of your masterclass in Sofia was very impressive. Tell us how you began to use the technique. 
    I started doing Yoga in 2006 when I was studying at the University of Music and Theater in Hannover, Germany, under prof. Jonas Bylund. I was a “shallow breather” - an expression I did not know by that time and it was also not mentioned to me until much later. It means that I did  not use my full lung capacity when breathing. It is a very common thing that some people  breathe naturally very well but some people need some extra training before they can get their breathing active and going. Yoga helped me with this and I have done it ever since. 

    International Masterclass for trombone and brass ensembles feat. Lars Karlin - day 1 (28.03.2024), photo courtesy of Vessela Ilkova (@vessy_ilkova_photography)

    The impressions you will keep from our truly international masterclass in March 2024?
    I can just say that it was a true pleasure for me to be in Sofia, Bulgaria. It was and is an  experience that I will keep with me for my life. So many promising young players as well as  more experienced players that I am thankful to have met. I also hope that through this  Masterclass in Bulgaria I was able to inspire and also to shine light onto a few different  approaches for the participants for their future development and life in music.  

    The same about the Balkans? 
    It was fantastic! Love the place! 😉 

    At the end of this interview let's announce our next joint project: Your concert on 4th of July 2025 in Bulgaria Hall in Sofia with the Symphony orchestra of the Bulgarian National Radio.
    Yes. I´ll be back! 😀 

    Anders Hillborg - "Skin Trombone", performed by Lars Karlin

    This interview is available in Bulgarian and in Dutch

    The BRASS STORIES Project is supported by the
    National Culture Fund of Republic of Bulgaria

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    Atanas Karafezliev

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