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Sam Pilafian, a music teacher at Arizona State University, explains a technique to the members of the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing Band here April 14. Pilafian helped instruct the band during a workshop on different breathing, rhythm and hearing techniques April 13 through 15.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Alexandra M. Harris

Marine musicians take next step for better performance

20 Apr 2010 | Lance Cpl. Alexandra M. Harris

From climbing hills to running five miles, breathing techniques are part of many activities in life, and they’re the most important part of every musician’s job – playing their instrument.

The 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing Band members had the chance to work on their breathing techniques and other drills during a workshop here April 13 through 15.

Instructors Sam Pilafian and Patrick Sheridan designed the class to help musicians perform better with less physical strain on their bodies.

“We want to make them more relaxed and more efficient with this training regiment,” said Sheridan.

Both instructors are established musicians who teach at Arizona State University and University of California, Los Angeles. They developed “the Breathing Gym,” which is a routine of exercises they use to help musicians reduce body tension and improve airflow, stamina, breath control and tone. This is the second year that they have come to the air station and worked with the band.

The band has implemented everything the instructors taught last year, explained Staff Sgt. Andres Navarro, a 3rd MAW Band French horn player. Proper breathing, proper stretching and lack of tension all work toward a better performance.

Pilafian and Sheridan began the workshop with warm-up exercises. Part of the exercises involved breathing at different speeds for up to several minutes and stretching different muscles to reduce tension in areas such as their necks.

After finishing warm-ups, the instructors began working with the band on general musical performance. They assisted with both indoor and outdoor performances. In the three parts of instruction, they focused on proper breathing, listening to other players and keeping rhythm.

Better breath control allows the musicians to focus less on the physical mechanics of performing and more on how they sound. Keeping rhythm and listening to the other musicians allows them to synchronize with each other without a conductor. Working on these areas will allow a group of them to sound like one musician, explained Pilafian.

Overall, the band has greatly improved since the last year, explained Sheridan. They sound like a completely different band.

“The greatest thing about the band is their retention of everything we’ve taught them,” said Pilafian. “They have serious dedication and commitment.”

Musicians work hard every day to improve their overall performance and those of the 3rd MAW Band have taken the next step to give audiences emotional music that separates a good band from a great band.