I started teaching when I was very young in my native Norway. Already as a teenager, I was giving horn instruction to several young kids through their band programs and at weekend seminars.
I have taught and coached at several festivals such as the International Festival Institute at Round Top (Texas), Siena Summer Music (Siena, Italy), and Bennington Chamber Music Conference (Vermont), from 2005 to 2012 I served as Professor of Horn at Rowan University. Later, I was teaching full time at both University of Tennessee (Knoxville) and University of Akron (Ohio) as a visiting professor.
Over the last decade I have visited several leading programs throughout the U.S.: North Carolina School of the Arts, Northwestern University, University of Georgia (Athens), University of Texas (Austin), University of Wisconsin (Madison) and others.
Abroad, I have given master-classes at Moscow Conservatory, the Norwegian State Academy and at several conservatories in Mexico.
Striving for instrumental excellence is a never-ending quest. Applied instrumental instruction has to be flexible and take into account the skills as well as intellectual and emotional maturity of a student. My approach is individualized and continuously assessed and adjusted as the student progresses. In the following paragraphs, I will discuss some important principles.
1.Teaching “techniques”, not “recipes”.
There are obvious “technical” obstacles that need to be overcome in order to achieve musical expression. These will include breathing, sound-production, range, flexibility, articulation, rhythm, and intonation. All of these elements must be addressed, and a student needs to be given exercises and knowledge needed to diminish and maneuver through these obstacles. Building on knowledge amassed through generations of brass pedagogy, I have designed exercises that will help the student tackle any difficulty he or she is facing. For every perceivable problem, I have a range of appropriate exercises that have been proven effective in my collegiate teaching. “Technical” teaching does, however, extend beyond the purely technical aspects of mastering one’s instrument: The building blocks of music-making – mainly style and phrasing – will be taught conceptually. In other words; I am more interested in teaching concepts of phrasing than how to shape one specific phrase – the process must always have transfer value. For this reason, I use simple etudes by Kopprasch, Maxime-Alphonse, and Gallay in building a vocabulary of style, phrasing, and expression that will facilitate any musical communication.
2. Becoming one’s own teacher.
The student needs to learn how to self-evaluate and individually implement new information and knowledge in his or her own practice. This is achieved through discussion and experimentation. Before one reaches the “practice-stage” where one refines one’s execution, a “research-phase” takes place where one figures out the correct, most efficient approach. During this research-phase, I guide the student gently away from dead-end solutions, while providing the background information for the student to find his or her own ideal solution. Then at the practice-phase, when we apply what has been learned during the research-phase, I will ask the students to critique their own performance and imagine how I would critique them. This technique makes the student take ownership of his or her own progress, and also allows me to continuously bring in new elements or refinements.
3. Creating sounds and music in a context.
I believe in playing with the student. Exercises designed to address the various difficulties necessary to overcome will be done together. I believe this enforces concepts of sound, rhythm and intonation. In addition, I am an experienced pianist, and the ability to accompany my students in all the basic horn repertoire at the piano, allows me to communicate in a purely musical manner. This teaching technique allows for a charged artistic environment; the immediate, non-verbal exchange of ideas interspersed with commentary puts emphasis on our final goal of expressing our humanity through music and gives us the opportunity to move flexibly back and forth from a dry laboratory environment to a simulated concert stage.
4. Preparing students for an ever-changing future.
The successful musician of the future needs to be well-versed in multiple styles. I also encourage my students to try on different roles and see if they are valuable in-and-of-themselves or at least if they can deepen the student’s understanding and appreciation. These roles include: Performer, arranger, composer, conductor, presenter, fund-raiser, entrepreneur. I encourage community engagement – not only as a way to give back, but also as a way to create your own market and workplace. I believe the future musician must be an individual artist with a specific voice who connects with his or her audience.
5. Leading by example.
As an active performer, I expose the students to the discipline and work-ethics required for world-class artistry. I make sure that students have ample opportunity to hear me perform as a way of inspiring and fostering community.
“My time spent studying with Karl Kramer was an invaluable experience to me as a musician. I found that his teaching was at the same high quality level as his playing, which I find to be a rare attribute. To simply state, Karl’s methods work; he is a “big picture” kind of teacher. Instead of teaching a passage, excerpt, or one particular piece, he teaches to the whole musician. He guides the student to gain the skills necessary to teach oneself. Karl enables students to become self-reliable, self-sustaining, and confident horn players. Karl truly is a exceptional horn player and teacher. My only regret is that I could not study with him longer.” Carrie, TN
"Amazing teacher and exceptional horn player, Karl's knowledge of the instrument, and teaching abilities are incredible." Eric, NJ
"Karl was one of the best teachers I have ever had the pleasure of working with! He was the first person who taught me how to practice and helped me understand my playing from both the technical and musical angles." Matt, Scotland
“When I was lucky enough to have Mr. Kramer as a teacher, every day was an inspiration. Whether it was hearing him play, taking a lesson, or just sitting outside the door listening to him practice, I could never have asked for a better teacher in my life.” Joseph, TN
“Karl is an extremely knowledgeable and virtuosic horn player. He pushes his students towards a professional level of excellence.” Jason, OH
“Studying with Karl was one of the best things for my development as a horn player. Karl is extremely knowledgeable about all aspects of the horn and how to help you develop the necessary tools in order to progress in your playing. Karl's preparation for performances was always second to none and it drove me to try and hold myself to those same high standards.” Kyle, OH
“You can definitely quote me on saying that Karl Kramer's methods are incredible. He cares about his students on an individual basis and prescribes individual and unique practice plans to help reach their goals. All the while maintaining a certain standard and insisting on excellence in everything that his students do. One unique aspect of Karl's instruction is that he can play vicariously through his student and give incredibly exact instructions even as to where the tongue is placed in the mouth and how one is to precisely breathe, articulate, and use certain facial muscles. Where other horn teachers may have taught me how to play.. Karl Kramer expanded my abilities and taught me how to think. I approach the horn completely differently now.” Natalie, TN