I spent time texting back and forth with a friend about some of my summers in drum and bugle corps. This got me to thinking about my time with the last corp I marched. It was a transformative summer in many ways for me.
Summer of 1996 I marched The Cadets of Bergen County and injured my chops. By the middle of the summer I was really unable to play at the level I was accustom. My confidence was shattered. When I went back to school, I couldn’t play. I tried to hide my performance problems but I was exposed (at least I thought I was).
I had a conversation with my grandfather which kept me a music student. Because I was definitely going to leave school and figure something else out, cause this conservatory thing was not working out. So I took his advice and I learned to listen the rest of that year. I learned to listen to music, listen to myself, and listen to others. Most likely the point in my life where I started to think about the ways in which I could keep music in my life.
I marched one more season with the Cadets, but that marked the end of my drum-corp career as a marching member. I didn’t do my age out season. Instead, I spent the summer of 1998 playing chamber music at the Aspen Music Festival. Where I met up with a trumpeter I marched with in 1996. We were placed into a brass quintet together and I had a great time learning music along side of old and new friends.
I recently celebrated my 14th wedding anniversary. This led me to think about all the things that led up to meeting my wife and some of the humbling experiences along the journey.
I remember sending off many applications thinking one of these school would accept me, because of my playing. Later I was humbled to learn that every city and state has its own versions of motivated musicians who are passionate about performance and happen to be good students too. So luckily I was accepted to a conservatory in New York City called the Manhattan School of Music. My choices at the time were MSM or the Army.
It was my luck to be accepted there because that is where I learned about becoming a student of what I love to do. I also met my first Thought Entrepreneur. He later became best man at my wedding, to the woman who I fell in love with at MSM.
I was not as strong a performer as my colleagues. The result was not being placed into an orchestra (humbled again). However, this gave me the opportunity of play in the Jazz Lab Band, and play with the percussion ensemble/ modern music ensemble and a brass quintet. I found myself again, feeling lucky.
When I was first setting up my Twitter account, I was stumped by my title. At first, I thought, I should just use what’s on my business card… The only problem was which one should I use. At the time I was a freelance trumpeter, with about 498 cards from Vista Print and a music teacher at an independent private school in Lynnwood.
Okay…now for the next problem. I can’t just be a trumpeter, I want to stand out as more than an instrumentalist. I am a musician who plays the trumpet. Right, so don’t use trumpeter go with “musician”. Now for the other business card. I could go with teacher or instructor…time to pull out the thesaurus…EDUCATOR in big bold letters was the first word I saw. So I went with “teacher” for a while (probably because I had a narrow view of what I did at the time) however I recently changed it to Educator. (and I like that decision)
I had another problem…which comes first. Am I, a musician who educates or an educator who is a musician? The answer to this part of my online identity was very similar to my own personal struggle with personal and cultural identity. My parents are from the Dominican Republic, so I am Dominican. When I’m with them, my brother, and all of my aunts, uncles, and cousins (lots of cousins) I am Dominican. But I was born in the United States, In the Bronx to be exact. So I’m American! I am both, 100% American and 100% Dominican. So I’m 200%. (I’m not sure that’s how that works, but remember I’m a musician, not a mathematician).
Eventually, I settled with musician first, because I feel that is the seed for all that I do in a professional capacity. I can’t teach music unless I am a musician. I certainly can’t perform music on the trumpet without being a musician first. At least that’s how I feel.
But the truth, (like my personal and cultural identity issue) is that I can do both and am both at the same time. I can’t divorce one from the other because “that’s who I am”.
Sometimes multitasking can go to far. For me lately, my practice habits have been lead by the NBA playoffs. I settle in to watch a game but feeling guilty about not practicing my trumpet. So I decided to create a practice routine around the game.
I tend to think of this kind of practice as maintenance. More like stretching or breaking a sweat, and not a full blown workout on the horn. This should be be done with exercises you are familiar with, not exercises which are new to you.
The routine is centered around Herbert L. Clarke’s Technical Studies. I keep the volume low on my T.V. and practice with a practice mute sometimes. Some of the game go late into the evening.
I practice the first study in the first quarter of the game, then play Etude 1 during the coaches interview between the 1st and 2nd quarter. Then do the same with the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th studies and quarters.
I have used other books as well. That said these other books are related to the Clarke Studies, like the Vizzutti’s Trumpet Methods or Robert Nagel’s Speed Studies.
I love having time to just listen to something new to me. I also love checking out familiar groups with new projects. One of the groups I like to follow is The Westerlies. I came across their NPR Tiny Desk Concerts performance from 2016. And I loved it! It’s a refreshing and inventive program, with great brass playing. Hope you agree.
The Westerlies have a bunch of other video’s to check out, just look them up
I can’t say I usually cry at movies, however with the recent loss of my father I’m finding it difficult to sit through certain scenes in movies. This morning I fell victim to one of these moments while scrolling through things on Facebook. It reminded me of my relationship with my dad, and I appreciate him for it.
To say the James Earl Jone and Courtney B. Vance are brilliant actors, would be an understatement. However for some reason this scene from the play version of Fences took me down. Since the movie version of Fences has been such a success, it’s nice to see versions of the stage version as well.