In the seventh grade, I was all about playing the drums. I would carry my sticks with me everywhere I went, tapping out beats on my notebook and/or playing along with one of my favorite songs on my Walkman. On the day of our first band class of the year, my buddy came to me upset, specifically because he had left his drumsticks at home. He too, was “all about the drums”. In fact, most ALL of my friends were all about the drums as well. Yet, as we walked into our music class, I handed over my sticks to my buddy. I then walked over to the shelf in the room and picked up a trumpet. It was as simple as that. I now played the trumpet. Seeing and reading the Harry Potter movies/books over the last decade, where Harry chooses, yet at the same time is chosen by, the hat from the House of Griffindor, sometimes has made me wonder if we choose the instrument, or if the instrument chooses us…
I attended the performing arts high school in New York City. There I met a teacher who changed my life. He was my jazz band teacher. “Time, time, time is fine…” is something he would shout out above the rhythm section, clapping along, swaying back and forth. One of the most valuable lessons I learned from him, has stayed with me as a student, a teacher, and a musician: According to Justin DiCioccio , if we wanted to succeed as professional musicians, it wasn’t enough to simply, solely, play our instruments; each of us needed to become a four-leaf clover musician. This meant becoming a master of our craft in four major areas:
1. Performing on an instrument
Throughout the remainder of my time as a student of the trumpet, I always heard the familiar voice of, and message from, Justin DiCioccio in my head. His lesson and direction has shaped me profoundly into the trumpeter, composer, arranger, conductor, teacher and overall musician that I am today.
I describe this at such length because this has become my teaching and my own philosophy when approaching music. I currently make a living by teaching 5-8th grade band and music at an independent school, combined with regular performances in local brass quintets, in addition to working as a freelance trumpeter. The kids at my school are all required to take an instrument, but it doesn’t start and end there. The instrument they use is really just a pathway to exploring the world of music. My lesson plans focus on the basics of rhythm, pitches, style, meter, etc., but they also tie into something bigger; I do have an advantage of teaching at an IB school, where I am able to integrate my lesson plans with what is going on month per month in the other classrooms and subject areas, let alone with what is going on in today’s world. Music history comes in to play, often as the school works on various periods of history, as well as current events, in that we examine what role music has in our society, media and everyday lives. I enjoy arranging and producing specific charts for my band, often writing in parts to feature students that I know are ready to take on a solo or the next challenge within their range. I conduct and produce several concerts and competitions with my band, and I also teach private lessons.
In addition to my teaching at an independent school, I teach private trumpet lessons to students who are just starting out to students at the university level. I appreciate this as a teacher because I get to really dive in further with trumpet and brass techniques and help them discover their overall musical potential and interests. I value the commitment in working with students one-on-one. Private students are encouraged to become their own four-leaf clover musician. I tell them about my own personal experiences of teaching, composing, arranging, and playing the trumpet, and that with all of these experiences and skills utilized, I am making a living in the field of music. I want to set the example that while it is a great thing to be an instrumentalist, it is an even greater thing, in my opinion, to be an educated, well rounded, musical individual who is capable of expressing themselves through an instrument, through a song they’ve written or sung, a chart they’ve arranged, or through a choir that they have just conducted.
My ultimate goal as a musician and educator is to finely “round out my clover”; finding the pristine balance through music, juggling all of the aspects that I have described above. My agenda is to contribute to the overall musical education of people who would be challenged by the world of music.