György Gyivicsan graduated from the University of Szeged – Faculty of Music in 2001. After this he got admitted to the college of Freiburg as one of the pupils of the famous trombonist Branimir Slokar. In 2003 he won the prestigious International competition in Porcia (Italy). In 2004 he received an invitation from prof. Slokar to become a perpetual member of the Slokar Quartet. Till the end of 2019 they have made numerous CD albums and hundreds of concerts all over the world. In 2015 Gyivicsan started teaching at University of Szeged – Faculty of Music as a trombone professor. He has been regularly invited to give concerts and to host master classes in Portugal, Italy, Austria, Germany, Japan, Brazil, Argentina, South Korea, Slovenia, Bulgaria (in 2019 and 2021) and the US. He hosted a master class in Argentina at the spectacular Trombonanza Festival in 2013 and 2015. He earned a DLA at Liszt Ferenc Academy of Music Doctoral School in 2013. Nowadays he is professor at the same Academy in Budapest, Hungary, founder and leading trombonist at the attractive Szeged Trombone Ensemble. We are pleased to welcome prof. Gyivicsan as the first foreign guest in our online project Brass Stories. Enjoy our special interview ...
Thank you for accepting our invitation to make this interview. So, tell us more about the beginning of your adventure with the trombone. When you started, how did you decide to dedicate your career to this glorious instrument?
My first experience with the trombone was at the age of 6 or 7 while being at a concert in a church listening to a brass quintette. I immediately got a liking to the trombone and decided to take it up. Unfortunately, I could not start right with the trombone, because in the first few years I was made to play the tenorhorn. However, after that, my time finally came and could turn the dream into reality. Interestingly enough, my first teacher was the same ideal trombone player I had seen in that concert at the church years before.
Let’s split the different aspects of your trombone life. How would you describe your career as a performing artist?
I started my studies in Hungary, carried them on in Germany and later in Switzerland. I believe that all these experiences strongly contributed to developing my career. During my studies in Switzerland, I won a scholarship at the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra. Later I was offered the opportunity to join the Slokar Trombone Quartet, which was a crucial point in my career because I totally had to change my attitude as a musician; I had become a professional artist after studies.
My impression during both your visits in Sofia was the same: High level of perfection on stage combined with carelessly elegant behaviour of a rock star at the peak of his career. Impressive, successful and incredibly hard combination to achieve.
Thank you for the appreciation, it’s nice to hear such positive and praising feedback. I always pay careful attention to preparation. Before every performance of mine I spend a lot of time practising and also preparing myself for the actual occasion and situation. My main goal is not just to give a perfect performance on stage during a tour, but I would also like to enjoy it myself and that’s probably why I can afford to behave as easy-going as possible, or like a ’rock star’ as you said. I guess, my physical features and appearance also contributes to this, especially my hair; the colour symbolises professional maturity, while the style symbolises being and feeling still young. Another important thing I always try to focus on is to make new connections by meeting as many people as I can during my stay at a place.
How would you describe the most important features of the character of a classical / contemporary music performing artist?
It’s a difficult question. Playing the instrument or performing well on stage is not enough. One should also have a real and original character. You can’t and shouldn’t lie about who you really are as the audience will soon discover it if you’re not original. Also, if you are yourself on stage, you will feel much more confident as well and it will make you able to give a great performance.
Tell us more about your teacher’s career. When you decide to start it and why?
It is an interesting thing because I always wanted to be a musician in an orchestra, however relatively early in my life, at the age of 27, I was offered a teacher/tutor position at Szeged University. I had been planning to teach, but only later in my life. After some time, my old professor retired and I was asked to carry on leading the department. It was a great honour and challenge at the same time. However, I thought if I do not take the chance, there might not be a second one. So I took it and I soon realised that it’s not only me, but my pupils who enjoy the lessons too. I feel great motivation towards this kind of work, as every student and each day is completely different. I always have to do a perfect job and improve continuously, plus I am perpetually amongst the young, which is great.
The contemporary education in classical music especially in brass is a subject deeper than the ocean. What do we need first of all in order to be up-to-date with the tendences of the 21st century music industry?
I don’t think one should be afraid of contemporary music. I must admit, however, that sometimes I am, but proceeding with learning a contemporary piece, I gradually take a liking to it. Usually it is a great challenge as one has to be able to concentrate on many different things at the same time compared to a classical piece. But, according to my experiences, if one gets used to this multi-concentration technique, one will find they are able to learn the classical ones much more easily.
How would you describe the brass music teacher today?
I think what makes a good teacher is their personal aura. Being an original and credible teacher is more important than what they teach. Of course, it can be dangerous when a tutor has a very strong personality, but makes mistakes in his teaching. It’s really a complex matter as many elements must be perfect and fit together.
What are the most important aspects of your educational system in trombone and brass ensembles?
It’s one thing to be able to play a musical instrument well, but quite another to play it with others at the same time in accordance. It is a work of art that has to be performed in perfect harmony, no matter if there are only two or one hundred performers on stage.
The master classes - both national and international. What kind of opportunity for the young musicians are they?
It’s much easier for today’s youngsters than it was 20-30 years ago. There are no borders, everyone can travel to anywhere they want and there is the Internet with unlimited access to information. The important thing is that we are exposed to as many impacts and impulses during our studies as possible. No matter if one hears the same things more (often), they surely will hear different things from different people too. These situations can provide us with inspiration as well. Even more, experiencing the differences in personalities, behaviour and attitude can strongly contribute to the improvement of our own personality, performance and character.
Please share with us your impressions of your visits to Sofia in 2019 and 2021 and especially the second one last November - your master classes trombone and brass ensembles?
In 2019 I visited Sofia with the Slokar Quartet. It was the first time I went to Bulgaria. I was really impressed by how open and curious the audiences were and eager the participants in the master classes to learn were. I felt spoiled with the glowing looks and kind words by the audience. When I’m playing in such an environment, it never feels like tiring labour at all, on the contrary, it’s a great elevating experience to see how many people are interested in my artistic work. Then in 2021 I had the chance to go to Sofia for the second time. I could say I had similarly positive experiences, but in fact, they were even better than at the first time as it was an individual visit from my part drawing all the attention and focus on my personal performance and it gave me some extra motivation. The best thing that time as well was that the young pupils were all keen on learning which I think is an essential and should be the normal way.
In a few days you will be a member of the jury of the International Soloist Competition in Grenchen, Switzerland. Can you tell us more about the competition and about the candidates?
As I know, this will be the first live (non-online) major international competition since the Covid pandemics and it has its effects on the number of candidates wishing to take part as it’s record high. Unfortunately, there are limits concerning how many participants will actually be able to be present, which is due to the great eagerness that trombone players show off their knowledge and skills. I’m also looking forward to discovering how the artists improved and what they did during the two year lockdown. Some may have taken advantage of the situation, while others might not; who knows? I’m really curious about it.
The COVID crisis without any doubt was an absolutely new type of crisis that deeply affected the education in classical and especially in brass music. How would you describe your observations on the educational process?
It is absolutely true that the Covid situation had negative effects on the education of brass music. I used different kinds of methods to try to make my pupils proceed. I preferred that they make video recordings of their activities and then, during an online lesson, we analysed it and corrected the mistakes or weaknesses. I especially made my pupils pay careful attention to the quality of the videos they made as it’s been very important for some pre-auditions and applications for some competitions. Of course, it can prove to be a challenge for some to be able to edit a high quality visual production and those who can, will definitely be in a better position than the ones being less able to do so. I experienced that sometimes even basic things aren’t evident to some pupils because there were some recordings in which the performer’s head or body was moving out of view from time to time, or their clothing was not proper. This kind of work brings out other problems that we could fix. It was very useful.
Do we have any chance to implement some of the crisis educational forms in the future? Do we need to make this kind of implementation?
The world is changing. It’s always been like this. It’s true that it’s changing faster and there are greater changes happening more often nowadays, but the main question is how and how quickly can we react to them. I myself have never been a complainer, rather a conformist or even opportunist using the given situation at my advantage. Consuming the time and the energy for that instead of complaining, one can gain considerable advantage.
The online presence of classical music performing artists today. I remember we share similar points of view on the key importance of quality use of social media and the power of modern PR. Let’s talk about it.
Yes, that’s right. I try to be actively present on social media. Let’s face it, the online world has become part of our lives, and if someone is not there, the younger, growing-up generations may not even hear about them. However, we should pay attention to its proper handling. I never post anything about my private life, for example, but if I happen to do so, it’s only because I want to show I am just as an ordinary person as anyone else. As for online live concerts, many performers chose that way during Covid, but the SzegED TRombone ENsemble and I personally always refused to do so, because we did not want the audiences get used to not having to go to concerts anymore and just watch them online in the comfort of their homes. I don’t think I have to describe the differences of the experience when one is physically sitting and being part of a concert of ours; it’s uncomperable to simply sitting in front of and staring at a screen. That’s why we have always insisted on having real live performances.
The contemporary repertoire for brass music and especially for trombone. Tell us more about your experience.
I play a lot of contemporary pieces. No one can deny that this style is rather divisive. However, today’s world is divisive, too, so it just shows a true picture of it. I believe we should be open and welcoming, not immure ourselves. If we refuse to welcome and perceive new things, we will never have a chance to get to know it. We have to accept that not all pieces will become hits, but what we should really be happy about is the fact that there are more and more compositions for brass or trombone than before.
What is your point of view on the future of trombone and brass music in the next 10 or 30 or even 50 years?
Who knows? But if it improves so much as it did in the past 10-30-50 years, we can be relaxed about the situation, and be sure that there are infinite and unlimited possibilities. Actually it is the past years when brass music and brass instruments have improved the most.
The interview is available in Bulgarian and in Dutch
Translation in Dutch: Ruben Vermeulen
The BRASS STORIES Project is supported by the
National Fund of Culture of Republic of Bulgaria
23 January, 2023
14 December, 2022