We’ve all seen social media challenges. The idea is to record yourself doing something which will draw attention somehow. I first one of these I can remember is the Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS and the Movember for prostate cancer. Some of these challenges are for good causes. I was recently nominated to participate in the 10 day challenge on Facebook.
The idea is to show one album cover a day for ten days that influenced me. This may raise awareness of an artist or just remind us to appreciate the music that helped shape us into the people or artists we are today.
As part of my first day in this challenge, I showed the cover to “Chuck Mangione Concert Land of Make Believe“. I remember picking up this album on CD sometime in 1990. Land of Make Believe was a tune my junior high school marching band played and I was still fond of the song at that time. A simple bassline and a singable melody, which would immediately turn into an earworm.
I remember not wanting anyone to know I listened to this album. I guess it doesn’t matter anymore. Perhaps I’ll listen to it tonight.
As a trumpeter within the symphonic musical sphere, I don’t always get to look into the audience and notice the demographics of the patrons. A few years ago I started to take stock of the audiences I get the opportunity to perform in front of in December. I wrote about this in a post called Color and Classical Music In December and thought it was just the nature of where I live (the Pacific Northwest) and the genre of music I’m asked to play.
Little has changed in my pattern of performance. I still get to play chamber music with big and small ensembles and larger works with symphonic orchestras. For example, I had the opportunity to play selections from J.S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, a mass by Palestrina, a few Tchaikovsky Nutcrackers, a brass quintet concert/sing-a-long, Christmas music for large brass ensemble and organ and of course a Messiah to boot.
Diversity is not as often in the audience as I would expect, however, we are coming out in support of these programs. The change for me is in the colleagues I get to perform with. I’m glad to see more Black, Latinx and Asian American soloists singing with the choirs I get to play with. I enjoy looking into the orchestras and chorus and making eye contact with other people of color and receiving a warm smile.
Having grown up on the east coast, I took for granted the diversity I saw at every rehearsal and in every classroom, I sat in. Now in my 40’s, I’m glad to the changes where I now live.
The first quarter involves mouthpiece buzzing of Schlossberg Long Tone exercises 1-3, then played on the trumpet. Numbers 8 and 9 on mouthpiece then on the trumpet and eventually numbers 31 and 32. All of these exercises played with a metronome running at 72 beats per minute.
The second quarter is when players off the bench start to contribute, this is Clarke Studies time. I like to either pick a key and play as many exercises in that key as possible, or I pick one of the studies and work through those exercises and end with the Etudes.
Half time is snack time and rest time.
The third quarter is for Lip Flexibilities. I’m a fan of Vol. 3 for this part of the game. Play and rest are key, these exercises can be taxing.
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
This time of year has traditionally been a time of reflection on the year which had just passed. Sometimes I even look through some old journals just to see what I was on my mind previous years. Recently I had opportunity to participate, prepared and give a TEDx talk. The process of putting it all together offered a level of self-reflection which I was not really ready for. However by the end of this undertaking I felt the message in the talk represented some of my journey as an artist. The self-doubt, the persistence, the tension, and the development.
In the end, I would not have done this with out the help and encouragement of the TEDx coaches, my wife, my family, the other TEDx participants and ultimately the my friends.
The Bloomingdale School Of Music is the place where I took private trumpet lessons, started loving chamber music and starting learning about music composition. It was one of the most important paths set before me.
I had my first moments of personal success at this small neighborhood community music school. Perhaps this is the place that has given me my first opportunities to succeed and fail in a safe place.
“What gives the artist real prestige is his imitators.” Igor Stravinsky
I deal with insomnia often. When this happens I try to do something productive. I’m a teacher, so I try to use this time to think about teaching or projects for my students. But before I was a music teacher I was a freelance musician. As a freelance musician you tend to give yourself project to match your thirst for creativity. At one point I decided to arrange a few pieces of music for a brass quintet. I did this often because I happen to be a member of a few brass quintets and thought, I might get some good traction if this arrangement becomes part of our normal repertoire. However the piece I choose was not working out in the way that I wanted it to work. The version I wanted to use as a scaffold was written for a large ensemble and a vocalist. The piece is by Kenny Wheeler and it’s called “Gentle Piece”.
After several attempts, over a few days, I totally hit the wall. At the time, I was also working on a graduate degree and preparing for a recital. So I had a lot on my plate. However, these sounds which I thought would work so well for the brass quintet and didn’t, felt great coming out of my out of tune piano. In fact when I tried the improvised section of Kenny Wheeler’s piece, I stumbled on to the opening ideas to my piece for trumpet and piano call “Fractured Trance”.
The opening idea lead me to explore more ideas around rhythm and space within that movement. That idea lead to a two more movements and later this became my first piece for trumpet and piano. I followed the same process with the second piece I wrote for trumpet and piano, which were both recorded by a Brian Chin. Finally I used this same process to compose a piece for my middle school students.
Out of that experience I figured out that I can use another source for inspiration, with the full intent on trying to recreate an idea, a vibe or a feeling offer to us by another person. It’s okay to imitate. This kind of imitation can lead to personal breakthroughs.