Interview with Julian Zimmermann, natural baroque trumpet soloist

Julian Zimmermann

Baroque trumpeter Julian Zimmermann grew up in Kriens, Switzerland (near Lucerne). After receiving a trumpet teaching diploma from Bern University of the Arts (studying modern trumpet with Marc Ullrich and Markus Würsch), he went on to study the natural baroque trumpet (without vent-holes) at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis with Jean-François Madeuf, where he earned a master’s degree in Early Music Performance.

In groups like Capriccio Basel, De Swaen, Berlin Baroque, Neue Hofkapelle Graz, Jeune Orchestre d`Atlantique, Das kleine Konzert, and Trondheim Baroque, Julian has worked with such renowned directors as Philipp Herreweghe, Hervé Niquet, Jos van Immersel, Herrman Max und Sigiswald Kuijken.

Instruments:
17th-century repertoire (Fantini, Schütz, Lully, Torelli, Biber):

Natural trumpet in C, A=466 (or, D, A=415), made by Aron Vajna (after Michael Nagel)
Mouthpiece: Egger-Renaissance trumpet mouthpiece with short 17th-century back-bore, altered slightly by Nathaniel Wood

18th-century continental repertoire (Bach, Telemann, Fux, early Mozart, Haydn)

Natural trumpet In D, made by Graham Nicholson (after Wolf Wilhelm Haas, 1730; since the Engraving says 1730 the maker would have been Wolf Wilhelm Haas)
Mouthpiece: Graham Nicholson, after Leichnamschneider (Graham Nicholson can be contacted at graham.nicholson “at” inter.NL.net) 

Museum trumpet by Wolf Wilhelm Haas (Basel Music Instrument Museum)

Natural trumpet in C, made by Aron Vajna (after Friedrich Ehe, ca. 1700)
Mouthpiece: Egger, MZ-Prototype (mouthpieces developed by Egger with input from Jean-François Madeuf and Julian Zimmermann: this line has a longer back-bore than the standard Egger Bull model. Note: this line of mouthpieces is not advertised on the Egger website at this moment; it is necessary to ask for it by contacting them directly)

Tirarsi (slide trumpet) in Eb, body made by Graham Nicholson (after Ehe with altered bellform) and slide made by Egger
Mouthpiece: MZ-Prototype, Egger

18th-century English repertoire (Handel, Arne)

Natural trumpet in Eb, made in collaboration with Nathaniel Wood (after Nicholas Wingkings, English maker, mid. 18th Century)
Mouthpiece: Bull 1/3 (original Bull) known from the article on early British mouthpieces by Eric Halfpenny, Graham Nicholson. (for more information, see this scholarly article)

Nathaniel Wood and Julian Zimmermann after finishing the Wingkings trumpet.

 

Early 19th Century “Classical” repertoire (Beethoven, Mendelsohn)

“Inventions-trumpet” with original bell dimensions made by Aron Vajna (after Michael Sauerle)
Mouthpiece: Egger KSB-4, KSE-4 and KFG-3

Interview with Julian Zimmermann, natural baroque trumpet soloist

The interviewer is Stanley Curtis


SC: Thanks for agreeing to do this interview, Julian! I have really enjoyed seeing some of your videos that you have recently posted!

JZ: My pleasure, I am very happy for the positive resonance of those videos and I hope they give motivation to trumpet players discovering real historical instruments, because, as you know yourself, playing them is fun, it brings us back to the core: singing with our instrument.

SC: Tell me about your childhood—how did you get interested in music and in the trumpet?

JZ: I grew up in Kriens which is a small city, near Lucerne, in the center of Switzerland. My mother was very supportive when it came to arts, and she listened to a lot of classical music. When I was quite young, I enjoyed listening to CDs of Glenn Miller and Louis Armstrong, while building Lego-Castles.

At age seven, I went to a presentation of musical instruments at a local music school, where I met my first teacher. A year later, Ying Nie, a Chinese student of renowned British trumpeter, Philipp Jones, started teaching me. He introduced me to recordings of trumpeters like Maurice André, Timofei Dokschitzer, and Rafael Méndez.

SC: When and how did you get interested in Baroque trumpet and, specifically, the natural trumpet?

JZ: My first exposure to the baroque trumpet was when I were about 16 years old in what Teacher-training College. I got the Vol. 4 of Niklas Eklund’s “The Art of the Baroque Trumpet,” and I was just thrilled. At that time, I didn’t know about the difference between a baroque and a natural trumpet.

SC: Which of your teachers do you think influenced you the most?

JZ: Maybe the stongest influence in my professional formation was Marc Ullrich. I think the most amazing thing about him was that he could play more or less in every style and genre. For more than 30 (or even 40) years he was principal trumpet in Basel (Switzerland). Nevertheless, he really liked to play jazz. He introduced me to the recordings of Clifford Brown (“Clifford Brown with Strings” is still inspiring me when it comes to control of sound color and articulation). And, of course, he was one of the very early students of Ed Tarr. He was basically one of the pioneers with the baroque trumpet.

Marc had this amazing patience and seemed to believe in every student without hesitation. For example, I decided unilaterally during one summer holiday to totally change my embouchure. Imagine a student, who comes to his first lesson in the new semester and is basically not able to play a straight note anymore! Marc just said “Okay, then let’s do it.” So, he guided me through the mental hell that I had chosen (without asking his permission). The embouchure approach and psychological resiliency, which I got through this embouchure change, turned out to be very helpful, when I was able to adapt them later to the natural trumpet. He was a big help, as well, in overcoming parts of my stage anxiety, which was really strong at the time I was studying modern trumpet.

Marc knew both Niklas Eklund and Jean-François Madeuf quite well and strongly suggested that I go to Basel and study with Jean-François.

SC: Tell me about Jean-Francois Madeuf.

JZ: My first “one-on-one” exposure to the natural trumpet (without vent-holes) was in the trumpet room of the Schola Cantorum with Jean-François. I had heard an older recording of him, which left me quite critical about the whole thing. But when I heard him in person about ten years after that recording was made, he sounded so much better! I understood at that moment, how much potential and space for development the natural trumpet still had!

Few people know so much about the natural trumpet, its music and surviving original instruments like Jean-François Madeuf. Since I am a person who likes to question authority, and he has a strong character, I think we were a good challenge to each other, and it really helped me to find my own voice. Today I am happy to call him a colleague and friend.

Schola Cantorum trumpet studio reunion

The Schola offers a diverse curriculum for students from all over the world. It is a place where a lot of different ideas can be pursued and discussed. I spent a lot of time in the cafeteria, hanging around and discussing these ideas with colleagues.

SC: Tell me about some of these colleagues that you met at the Schola.

JZ: I met my wife Daniela, who is the voice of reason to my stubborn trumpet mind. She reminds me that things which are important to me, are not necessarily important to the rest of the world. We played a lot of organ and natural trumpet together. More and more, we realized how a good continuo player is able to mask the intonation clashes: it is all about good voicing.

My colleague, Mike Diprose, is the one who got me interested in reading primary sources and to have a closer look at other instruments than only the trumpet. His big interest were tuning systems and how they fit into the bigger picture.

The last person I would like to mention is Nathaniel Wood. He gave me the incredible opportunity to build instruments together.

SC: What makes you so sure that the natural trumpet was the instrument they played in performances during the 17th and 18th Centuries?

JZ: Of course, I could just say look at all the museum examples of instruments from the time when clarino playing was in its hey-day. They are all natural trumpets. But I think to answer that question it is also good to show examples where iconography, written music and historical figures interlink.

At the court of Schwerin we have the court conductor and composer, Johann Wilhelm Hertel  (1727-1789). He was born in Eisenach into a musical family. Being court composer in Schwering, he wrote three very difficult concertos for trumpet and a double concerto for trumpet and oboe.  He demanded the same, if not higher, level of difficulty from his chief-trumpeter as J.S. Bach did from his trumpeter. Hertel’s trumpeter was Johann Georg Hoese (1727-1801). He was born in Leipzig, so he was seven when Gottfried Reiche (Bach’s trumpeter) died. I am pretty sure Hoese was familiar with Reiche’s performances of Bach, and I am even more sure he heard the trumpeter Ulrich Heinrich Ruhe, Reiche’s succesor. The great thing about Hoese is that we have a picture of him (done in 1770 by painter G.D. Matthieu) playing the natural trumpet in concert.

1770 painting by G.D. Matthieu of musical performance at court of Schwering

He holds his trumpet in one hand and the sheet music in the other hand (if you look closely enough, “clarino 1” is marked on the paper). Note that there is no music stand for him. So how could he operate any finger system on his instrument? That looks like a Haas-made trumpet to me (and in that time it would be the grandson of J.W.Haas, Ernst Conrad Haas).

Also, there is a second picture from Schwerin with three trumpets in concert.

Painting of music concert at court of Schwering (18th C.)

Considering that Hoese was right at the end of the Golden Age of the natural trumpet, I assume it can be viewed as the general way of doing things for that period—that is, playing without fingerholes. Also, we have the iconic pictures of Gottfried Reiche (Bach’s trumpeter).

Portrait, oil on canvas of Gottfried Reiche (1667–1734) by Elias Gottlob Haussmann (1695–1774), 1727

And another of Valentine Snow (Handel’s trumpeter), which show the same evidence of playing the trumpet one hand.

Portrait of Valentine Snow (1700-1770), c. 1753
Artist: Unknown
Location: Fenton House, England

Having said all that, recently a great thing happened. In a phone call with Graham Nicholson (a British trumpet maker and natural trumpet pioneer living in the Netherlands) discussing Reiche and his instrument, Graham said to me “You know Julian, there actually is a picture of Reiche in concert, playing that instrument”. And it is true: Reiche was in Leipzig much earlier than Bach, and there is a picture of Bach’s predecessor Johann Kuhnau (1660-1722) conducting a cantata. We can see Reiche with his round Instrument and two colleagues with long trumpets.

Frontispiece of Leipzig Gesangbuch, Johann Kuhnau, 1710

 

SC: Those are some fantastic images, Julian! I think there is a general ignorance in the early music world about authentic baroque natural trumpets. We have had decades of “period instrument” performances by trumpeters who use fingerholes. I use them, too, for most of my performances, but I have misgivings. Talking with conductors, I usually find a lack of interest in authenticity, and I think conductors mainly want to hear clean, “in tune” trumpet playing. What are your thoughts on this?

JZ: The divine creator obviously had a misunderstanding with Signor Vallotti when defining the laws of nature! (Interviewer’s note: the “Vallotti” system of tuning, named after Francesco Antonio Vallotti, was used in the 18th Century. It is used frequently in baroque music groups today, but its intonation does not line up ideally with the harmonic series of the natural trumpet. In a mathematic sense, the only interval that lines up between the natural trumpet and the Vallotti tuning system are the octaves, because Vallotti gave more emphasis to the 5th than the  3rd in general)

I think the natural trumpet can serve as an instrument to challenge the approach we have with historically informed performance practice (or “HIP”) today. In music, all is interconnected!

But Intonation is a good topic to discuss, what does “in tune” mean? Here is a quote from Tosi in his book on singing:

“… If one were continually to sing only with the above-mentioned Instruments (keyboards), this knowledge might be unnecessary, but since the time that composers introduced the custom of crowding the operas with a vast number of songs accompanied by bowed instruments, it becomes so necessary, that if a soprano was to sing D-sharp like E-flat, a nice ear will find he is out of tune. Whoever is not satisfied in this, let him read those authors who treat of it, and let him consult the best performers on the violin. …”

–Tosi, Introduction to the Art of Singing (Bologna, 1723), page 21 in the English Translation of 1743

To make it short: why do so many schools of the baroque era make a difference between sharps and flats, big semitones and small ones and where is that fact reflected in our current performance practice using keyboard temperaments as a judge of what is right and wrong? The amount of correction to the 11th and 13th partial becomes much smaller when using a “relative,” or “just” system like Tosi describes, where notes change their position with their harmonic function – as opposed to a “fixed” system like Vallotti’s keyboard temperament.

On the other side of the coin, there is a lack of accepting the character and nature of historic trumpets and horns, and this character gives them their identity! This would be as absurd as a conductor talking to a cembalo player: “in this bar, I would like to have a real pianissimo and you are too loud, so please push the key down softer.” After repeating that bar five times, the conductor finally says “it’s getting better!”

SC: What is the way forward to develop an interest in the baroque natural trumpet? Is there some “marketing” type of strategy we need to embrace?

JZ: As a marketing strategy, it is very important to show people historic iconography to our performances, pictures are a lot of times stronger than words. But, as well, we should be able to talk about what we do in context, that shows we have a deep interest in the time where the music we perform comes from. We should expand our knowledge in all possible aspects.

SC: If a trumpeter wants to learn how to play the natural baroque trumpet well, what are some suggestions that you might have for him or her?

JZ: Having a good instrument, with a fitting mouthpiece from the start, helps a lot. Then, you should take separate time from your daily practice, with a rest time of at least three to four hours (so that the different mouthpiece rims don’t confuse the embouchure). And don’t over do it. You should make, for exemple, two 15-minute sessions with a rest in the middle. 

To play with big mouthpieces, it is important to start in the middle register (middle C, 8th partial) with the aperture not too wide open. This is why I don’t use the Tarr method anymore, since it has an approach which is more from bottom to the top. About four years ago, I developed my own routine (something comparable to James Stamp and Vincent Cichowicz). It is on my website www.naturtrompete.ch. I use it today to get well-centered on an instrument. For example, if I have to play in C, which is a low and somewhat clumsy key, compared to D, or if I have to get used to a 17th-century instrument in a short amount of time.

When it comes to music, I think the repertoire from Purcell and Handel are good to start with. Especially because Handel wrote some very good second and third voices, which create a stable low and middle register.

Swiss historic natural trumpet ensemble, Trummet

The third trumpet part is, in a lot of cases, not getting enough attention in our practice. I think it is essential to work on military signals, which we find in Fantini, Mersenne, Philidor, Altenburg and Dauverne. If you carefully consider, for example, Bach’s low trumpet parts, you will not only find the style of military signals, but also the actual signals everywhere in his works with trumpet, as for example, in BWV 119. Another very important aspect is practicing to hear difference-tones as a trumpet section (a good place to start is with Ed Tarr’s second book). The first thing that will convince people is a trumpet team that sounds good as a unit. That was the reason that gave birth to the trumpet ensemble “Trummet” (www.trummet.com).

 

Another thing I would like to mention is that it is very important to get stage experience without holes. To build up the confidence on stage, it is good to increase the stress gradually. I was lucky to meet players, that were supportive with me! Although they usually play with holes, they provided me the opportunity to play third and second parts without holes in the actual concert. That took a leap of faith for them, and I offer my sincere thanks to Henry Moderlak, Frans Berglund, Andy Hammersley, Roland Callmar and Giuseppe Frau.

For (an) interested young students that means: question what your teachers do! Go to the museums! Get a faithful copy of a historic instrument! Practice it with an open mind! Read primary sources! Discuss them with colleagues! Try them out seriously!–Julian Zimmermann

SC: Tell me about the trumpets and mouthpieces you play. Why do you think they are effective for what you are doing?

JZ: I think an important thing to know is that a natural trumpet of fixed length changes its playing characteristics with time according to the player. After playing an instrument for some time, it gets easier to place and vibrate the Fs and As in tune. What is really interesting to me is the experience of playing on some original instrument (one that is found in a museum), and sometimes I can still feel how the original player played on it.

To find out if an instrument is good, I check first to see if the basic notes, the frames, are purely in tune (the tonic and dominant notes). It is also important to say that natural trumpets played with a modern approach are going to sound flat in the low register. But this doesn’t mean the instrument is bad. So, if possible, get a player with real experience to choose an instrument for the beginner!

Today, for 18th-century repertoire, I play a cup with a diameter of 19.5to 20 mm. I have also started to play with larger mouthpiece throats in recent years (up to 5mm in diameter). Those provide more space to move notes, but it’s not for beginners!

Close up of original baroque natural trumpet mouthpiece (made by Jacob Steiger)

SC: What kind of trumpeters and other musicians do you like to work with?

JZ: First of all, I like musicians with an open mind. If someone approaches early music with concepts and sound pictures rooted in the 20th Century, I find it very difficult. I enjoy when people are able to take original information and authentic copies of instruments, and create something aesthetic and beautiful with those ingredients.

Personally, I like an emphasis on a strong, driving bass, and I love, in general, the sound of string instruments strung all in gut—making equal tension on all the strings!  That authentic way of stringing instruments seems to have been predominant throughout the 17th and 18th Centuries. L. Mozart still describes it in paragraph 4 on page 5 of his Violin-School (1756). I find violinists like Oliver Webber amazing to hear!

SC: Tell me about some of your favorite performances.

JZ: I had two performances that really changed me! Both with Bach cantatas, the trumpet parts of which were written for Reiche. The first was during the 2013 Bach Festival Leipzig, where I played Cantata 77 in the Michaeliskirche with students from the Hochschule in Leipzig. I had a lot of discussions with colleagues about which instrument to use to perform it. The first movement is basically a “no brainer.” It says “Tromba da Tirarsi” and it is playable on a single-slide instrument like I have, even though it goes up to high C. The alto aria (“Ach, es bleibt in meiner Liebe,” (no. 5), is the big question. The original part just says “Tromba,” but it has a lot of notes outside the harmonics. Although they are possible to bend, it is quite difficult to play in tune, because Bach voices the 13th partial very often as a perfect fifth and as octave to the bass. This is a harmonic voicing that you can’t really get in tune on a natural instrument, because the 13th partial is so flat. When I went to Egger to get my tirarsi, I talked about it with Gerd Friedel and he asked “what does the text say.” And with this question, he really got to the right point…. It says “Ach es bleibt in meiner Liebe lauter Unvollkommenheit! Hab ich oftmals gleich den Willen, was Gott saget zu erfüllen, fehlt mirs doch an Möglichkeit.” roughly translated: “in my love (to God) there is so much imperfection! Even though I often have the will to do what God tells me, I don’t have the ability.” So, it is about being an imperfect human being that tries so hard and still struggles to get it right. In the end, I decided to do the aria on natural trumpet. It felt very special while performing it, and I had an inner peace which stayed with me the whole aria.

Julian Zimmermann

The other time was the performance of Cantata 66 on Easter 2016. I played it twice that day, in the morning for a church service and in the evening for a concert. In the morning service, there was a moment when the sun was shining into the church, and I was so inspired that it felt like I wasn’t playing it under my own power, but that the music played itself.

SC: Wow, that’s an inspiring story. Julian, what do you think is the future of early music?

JZ: Hopefully, young explorers will enter the field of early music and revive it’s core values. History repeats itself, and early music was born because people felt that authenticity was absent in the traditional way of performance. Today we are there again, because early music is now a huge market, and it is too big and inflexible to deal with new (old) ideas! 

SC: So what can we do?

I think a new subculture will arise. The internet links musicians that are really interested! The great thing is that there are a lot of original texts, schools and iconography already online. This means you can live anywhere and have access to the important information, and that is a game changer.

For interested young students that means: question what your teachers do! Go to the museums! Get a faithful copy of a historic instrument! Practice it with an open mind! Read primary sources! Discuss them with colleagues! Try them out seriously!

SC: What do you like to do when you are not playing trumpet?

JZ: I really like to do Tai-Chi Chuan.

SC: So, what do you want to be doing in five or in 20 years?

JZ: Hopefully still being happy with my family! And playing the natural trumpet, of course, and I would love to get the opportunity to teach interested students.

SC: Julian, thanks again for sharing all of your really great insights into playing early music on the natural trumpet!

JZ: As I said in the beginning, my pleasure!

 

 

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Five strategies to beat practice procrastination

Pop-psych writer Malcolm Gladwell famously pointed out that mastery comes from 10,000 hours of practice in his book, Outliers: The Story of Success (2008). Although there is much debate over this claim, most of us understand that there is a correlation between practicing lots of hours and musical success. Scaled down to the span of a week, a day, or even a single practice session, practice time and effort enables us to learn our repertoire and helps us achieve the kind of muscle fitness we need for good tone and stamina. If you cannot spend two to four hours practicing every day for a span of at least ten years, then you will probably not get a place at the table of working trumpet players. But knowing that practice is important does not necessarily inspire you to practice. 

Some trumpet students, who have great potential in their talent and personality, have a hard time getting around to their practice. There may be a few different issues going on: I want to step back and offer some “work-arounds” that everyone can use. I offer five ideas to beat practice procrastination:

The first thing is to: Embrace your big goals (e.g., “I want to play in an orchestra one day” or, “I want to play jazz in clubs in New York City”) by making a firm commitment to a minimum quota of work every day. Some authors set a good example. For example, Stephen King, who has written 56 novels and 200 short stories, makes a habit of writing 2000 words every day. Every day. He normally sets the morning aside for this effort. For a trumpeter, it is harder to quantify your work-load (we don’t count notes like authors count words), but you can measure how long you practice: play your basic exercises (long tones, lip flexes, scales, technical studies) for two hours every morning. You will want to rest a few minutes between exercises. Pro tip: use these rest times to do short tasks like making breakfast, checking your computer (very briefly!), getting dressed. In the evening, practice your literature for at least an hour. That is the minimum quota you should set.

Why does this strategy work? Because it feels psychologically easier to work hard for just one day (and repeat this day 3,630 times, which equals the 10 years or 10,000 hours you need for mastery), than it does to work hard for a whole decade.

The second thing is to: Create a behavior chain. Instead of telling yourself, “I need to practice to get good,” try telling yourself, “When I make my coffee, I will practice my long tones.” Or, “When I have finished supper, I will practice my solo.”

Why does this work? Because you have created a sequence of activities that eliminates the need for you to tell yourself to practice (there is no self-nagging).

The third thing is to: Eliminate unnecessary options. Instead of practicing whatever impulsively comes to you, have set themes that you stick to. For instance, in the morning, I only practice on the B-flat trumpet. I always start with long tones, move on to lip flexibilities, and then finish with technical studies. It is a routine I can take to the bank, and there is no lost time or focus or motivation by figuring out other options.

Why does this work? Because, by keeping the number of your decisions low, a quicker, more organic flow is possible.

The fourth thing is to: Fantasize about the process, not the end result. Although it is nice to fantasize how cool you will be when you win a chair in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the way you will achieve this goal is to fantasize about what your daily practice session will be like.

Why does this work? Because this takes our mind off of impossible scenarios (having a job without practice) and focuses our mind on what is important (practice).

The fifth thing to consider: Eliminate easy excuses to not practice. Where is the “Oh forget about it!” in your process to get ready to practice? For instance, if your practice room is always cluttered and you cannot find your materials, then you might say, “Forget it! I’ll practice later.” Instead, take the time to clean up your space, so that this objection will not interfere. Try to use an “if-then” way of thinking if you have found some other stumbling block. Here are some other examples: “If I am too hungry to practice well in the afternoon, then I will eat a snack to make sure I have enough energy.” Or, “If I am too sleepy to practice after lunch, then I will take a short nap, so that I will feel up to a good practice session.” Or, “If I am too loud in my apartment to practice now, then I will get a practice mute that plays in tune, so that I can get my practice done.”

Why does this work? Because this invites you to respond to the excuse and fix it, so that you can practice as you intended.

If you have any good strategies to beat practice procrastination, let me know!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Interview with Christopher Still, Second Trumpet in the Los Angeles Philharmonic

CHRISTOPHER STILL joined the Los Angeles Philharmonic as Second Trumpet in 2007.  Before coming to California, he was the Principal Trumpet of the Colorado Symphony. He has also held the positions of Associate Principal Trumpet of the Dallas Symphony and Principal Trumpet of the Charleston (SC) Symphony. Additionally, Christopher has served as Assistant Principal Trumpet with the Grant Park Festival Orchestra in Chicago’s Millennium Park and Guest Principal with the St. Louis Symphony.

Christopher Still, Second Trumpet, Los Angeles Philharmonic

Christopher has recorded extensively with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Grant Park, Dallas, and Albany symphony orchestras.  Active in the Hollywood recording studios, he can be heard on major motion picture and television soundtracks.  He is a Yamaha Artist, a dedicated educator, and an active clinician.

Having grown up in a musical household, Christopher originally intended to become a band director and earned a Bachelor of Music Education degree from the Crane School of Music (SUNY-Potsdam). Switching to performance, he received his Master of Music Performance degree from the New England Conservatory in Boston. He was a Tanglewood Music Center Fellow in 1995 and 1996.

Christopher’s favorite aspect of his job is the orchestra’s frequent performance of contemporary music, especially the Green Umbrella concert series.

Christopher lives in Altadena, CA with his wife Amanda McIntosh, and two children. He enjoys distance running, skiing, brewing beer, and hiking in the trails behind his house.

 

Equipment

Yamaha C Chicago, model YTR9445CHII (Bach 1 ¼ 24/24)
Yamaha B-flat Chicago, model YTR9335CHII (Bach 1 ¼ 24/24)
Yamaha B-flat/A Custom Piccolo trumpet, model YTR9830 (Warburton 5MD/10*)
Yamaha C Cornet, YCR-9435 (Bach 1 ¼ 24/24)
Getzen C Cornet, model Eterna (GR Sparx 2B Soloist)
Yamaha E-flat/D, model YTR9636 (Yamaha 14B4)
Yamaha Flugel Horn YFH8315G (Yamaha 16F4)
Yamaha Rotary B-flat Trumpet, YTR938FFMS (Breslmair G2)
Weimann Rotary C Trumpet, Passion model (Breslmair G2)

Interview with Christopher Still, Second Trumpet in the Los Angeles Philharmonic

The interviewer is Stanley Curtis


SC: Chris, I’m really excited to finally do this interview that we’ve been talking about for a while!

CS: Thanks again for asking me to chat.

 

SC: What’s it like playing with the LA Phil? It seems like a dream job!

Walt Disney Concert Hall

 

 

 

CS: I feel like I have the greatest job in the world, and I get to play in two of the greatest venues—Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Hollywood Bowl. 

The Hollywood Bowl

It doesn’t get much better than that. 

It’s invigorating to be part of such a dynamic organization, in such a vibrant, creative city. Our management has put the orchestra at the forefront of LA’s cultural life. How many orchestra musicians get to participate in world-class, avant-garde projects on a regular basis?

 

The Trumpet Section of the Los Angeles Philharmonic: (l.-r.) Thomas Hooten (principal), James Wilt (associate principal), Christopher Still, Stéphane Beaulac

I feel very fortunate.  Each season we perform roughly 350 different pieces, including chamber music, subscription concerts, educational offerings, new music, and so on.  Actually, over the past 5 years we’ve commissioned close to 50 completely new works.   This kind of schedule can be rough, but it helps to have a very strong and supportive section. We all carry our weight and we work well together. My section is a big part of why I love my job. 

 

SC: How do you prepare for this challenging schedule of rehearsals and concerts?

CS: You look at the rep weeks (sometimes months) ahead, prepare at home, and work on an ongoing basis to keep up your overall playing skills. Different orchestras and sections have different standards, but my section expects you to do what needs to be done to show up at the first rehearsal prepared to play well.

If you’re in a crunch, the most important thing is to know the piece, which can help you “manage” no matter what else is happening.  Be familiar with transitions and likely tempos.

Over the years, experience has shown me what types of mistakes I’m likely to make in rehearsal or performance that I might not make at home. It’s my job to recognize these pitfalls ahead of time and sidestep them with strategic practice. The more confidence and preparation you have when you walk on stage, the more you’re able to listen and hear what’s going on, which allows you to be a more responsive musician.

 

SC: What was your audition like for the Los Angeles Philharmonic?

CS: My audition was pretty typical of a major orchestra.  It was well-run and fair, but it was also grueling—the committee had to find one person from over a hundred participants. I had to play almost every one of the seven trumpets I brought with me, and the lists jumped from low material to high, soft to loud, and fast to slow.

“Auditions require a certain type of mental stamina and toughness.” –Chris Still

 

 

I didn’t play a perfect audition, but I stayed focused on communicating the heart of every excerpt or piece, which requires a certain type of mental stamina and toughness. The committee later told me that I played very musically, with a great sound and character throughout each round.  

 

 

 

 

SC: How would you advise a young trumpeter to prepare for an audition in today’s competitive environment?

A master class on lead-pipe buzzing at the Crane School of Music

Auditioning is a long-term project for most of us.  Playing well and auditioning well are two different, but related, skill sets.  And you can’t audition well unless you play well. 

Most trumpet players I hear don’t have a strong enough technical foundation to win a major orchestra audition. I see a lot of willful ignorance among trumpet players—ignoring the parts of their playing that they’re not good at. Learning how to identify and correct your playing weaknesses is the crux of the learning process, so I’m not saying this is easy.  But a lot of advanced players, who should know better, only work on the things they’re good at, and pretend that everything else isn’t important. I think that what’s happening is that there are a lot of trumpet players who practice, but very few who practice with a real ear for improvement.

“I see a lot of willful ignorance among trumpet players—ignoring the parts of their playing that they’re not good at.”

SC: So, how do you practice to really improve?

CS: You have to be willing to delve into the things that aren’t comfortable. And the best way to do this is to record yourself every day and listen immediately, before you forget how it felt. Record yourself without warming up. Record yourself playing the things you don’t like, the things you’re not good at. Record yourself playing the audition list in the least comfortable order. Record yourself playing when you’re tired. And most importantly, record yourself when you’re playing for other people. 

Talking about swallowing the honesty pill at ITG 2016

I like to call practicing this way “swallowing the honesty pill.” It’s really easy to talk about your goals, but when the rubber hits the road, I find most people back down pretty fast. They don’t even realize they’re giving up. The excuses for the lack of success flood their minds, and they never consider taking a hard look in the mirror to see what they could do to improve for next time. It’s more comfortable to keep practicing the same way, and to keep thinking thoughts like, “The audition was rigged.”

 

SC: Can you talk about your musical influences?

Chris playing in the fire department band with his father, c.1985

CS: My father was an amateur trumpet player and he used to take me along to his fire department band rehearsals and let me sit in the section.

His Phillip Jones Brass Ensemble and Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass records were constantly playing in our house. 

 

 

 

 

Recording off-stage parts at Walt Disney Concert Hall for John Williams’ single movement piece,”Soundings”

 

 

Of course the music of John Williams had a huge impact on me too­­—I think every kid in my band wanted to play the theme to Star Wars.

Getting in the Star Wars spirit at the Hollywood Bowl

 

 

 

 

 

 

We took many trips into New York City to see Broadway shows and New York Philharmonic concerts, so all of these sounds were in my head. Also, I had a really strong high school band program, so the musical foundation was pretty much set before I went to college. Incidentally, I originally planned on becoming a band teacher, and did my undergrad in music education and performance at the Crane School of Music. It wasn’t until my junior year that I became inspired to go for a job in an orchestra, which led to a master’s degree at the New England Conservatory. 

 

SC: Who/what do you like to listen to?

CS: To keep my head clear, I do a lot of running up in the canyons behind my house; I’m not listening to Brahms 4 on the trails. It’s usually something energizing that gets my adrenaline going—mostly some type of electronic, upbeat music.  I listen to a pretty wide variety of genres, but I have some go-to records—jazz artists like Clifford Brown and Ella Fitzgerald, and some classic rock like Steely Dan’s Aja.  One of my favorites is a Lotte Lenya recording of Kurt Weill’s cabaret music from the twenties—so much character!

SC: What do you do when you’re not playing trumpet?

CS: I hang out with my kids. I go trail running. I help my wife with her new business.  Basically, stuff that keeps me mentally balanced. Playing the trumpet is fun, but the people in your life are what really matter.  I’ve been a pretty serious home brewer for decades, so I’m doing my part to reinforce the “beer drinking brass player” stereotype!    

 

SC: I understand you are launching an online course some time this fall. Tell me about it.

CS: Every time a national audition is announced in the International Musician, I get a panicked flurry of phone calls and emails from trumpet players asking if they can come play their excerpts for me. 

I support the concept of playing your excerpts for a helpful set of ears before an audition, but often these requests come only a week before the first round. 

In almost every case, I hear basic deficiencies in sound concept or technique that are guaranteed to get the person bounced out of the prelims. Making impactful change in a handful of days is nearly impossible, especially the type of change that can hold up to the stress of an audition. There is not much I can do to help these players in such a short time, and it can be a frustrating situation. 

My online course (www.honestypill.com) is designed to help players identify and address the things that are holding them back. Understanding and working on your shortcomings is much harder than most people think, which is why most musicians (and human beings in general) just avoid thinking about them. When my course launches in the fall, I’ll offer a set of diagnostic tools to help each participant hone in on what needs the most work, and then I’ll offer a series of lessons and strategies to “get under the hood.” It’s basically a distillation of the same things I discovered on my own path from being an “also-ran” to winning an awesome job in the LA Phil. 

“You have to be willing to delve into the things that aren’t comfortable.”

SC: Well, it’s been awesome to interview you, Chris, and get your insights. Thank you so much for your time!

CS: You’re welcome! It was a pleasure!

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Tell a Story on the Trumpet: The Cadence

When I play trumpet, I want to communicate with the listener. I want to tell a musical story. If my fundamentals are working on the trumpet (breathing, articulation, fingers, lips, tongue placement, etc.), then I can shape and pace notes in ways that help deliver this story, from the details up to the big picture. Perhaps the smallest detail of the story that we musicians can tell is the cadence, which is that part of a phrase that harmonically resolves, usually with a dominant chord leading to a tonic chord.

The melody, which cannot fully convey the harmonic movement, nevertheless can support the underlying cadence. From the Sixteenth Century until today, a very good rule of thumb with cadences is to give more intensity throughout the dominant and relaxing this intensity on the tonic. The reason for this is that the dominant chord is harmonically “far” from the tonic. The dominant has tension, dissonance, or “drama.” Will the dominant resolve? Maybe yes, or maybe no–that is the drama that the listener is confronted with. Imagine a movie where the camera follows the protagonist down a dark hallway. Something will happen. Will it resolve peacefully or will there be a shock? Watching the scene, your anxiety increases, and your heartbeat quickens. This is drama. In a very similar way, the dominant chord sets up expectations which can be fulfilled or denied.

A good movie director underpins the dramatic hallway scene with lighting, music and pacing that helps the audience feel the anxiety more. In the same way, a good musician can highlight the drama of the movement from dominant to tonic with more intensity. This intensity usually means more volume, but it could also be a change of vibrato, timbre (tone color), pacing or articulation. This helps the listener hear the harmonic framework of the music better. It helps to draw him into the “rhetoric” of the music. 

To me, nothing is more “rhetorical” than Renaissance music, so, as an example, I offer this cued-up YouTube video of cornettist Bruce Dickey playing Josquin des Prez’s Mille Regretz. Notice the intensity swelling and then releasing as the dominant resolves to the tonic (this happens twice at 1:24 and 1:29). 

Let’s look at another example from the second movement of Joseph Haydn’s Concerto for Trumpet. I want to contrast two great performances with the small difference of this device. In the eleventh bar, we hear a line descending by steps with the longer notes on dominant harmony and the shorter notes on the relative tonic of each successive dominant. In the first (cued up) example, a young Wynton Marsalis, teamed up with John Williams and the Boston Pops, performs this passage smoothly.

But listen to the contrast in rhetorical delivery with more emphasis on these dominant-underpinned notes in a performance by French trumpeter, David Guerrier (who plays a historically-accurate keyed trumpet). This video is also cued up to the same musical passage (it is pitched lower, at A = 430). 

For me, the subtle difference of “leaning” on the dominant notes that Guerrier does in his example helps us hear the harmony more vividly. 

One more example comes from the end of the first movement of G. P. Telemann’s Concerto in D (the “first” concerto). In the first example, listen to the great Maurice André play this last phrase. He has a gorgeous tone, he has chosen a very luxurious tempo (very slow), but his shaping of the inner dynamics from the dominant to the tonic (where he is playing a trill) is pretty straight. There is not much contrast. 

Another example (on baroque trumpet) by Niklas Eklund, shows the dynamic tension on the trill followed by a slight release on the last note, which coincides with the dominant-to-tonic harmony. Notice, in both examples, that the trill starts slow and speeds up, which also helps the drama of the line. This cued-up video is pitched at A = 415, which is lower than the example by André.

 

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Suzuki Trumpet, Part II: An Interview with Natalie DeJong

Natalie DeJong

Natalie DeJong

Natalie DeJong holds a Master of Music degree from Rutgers University. She began her studies at the University of Calgary and the Vancouver Academy of Music. She has attended trumpet and brass workshops in Alberta, Quebec, Chicago, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, and Sweden.

Ms. DeJong now teaches trumpet at Mount Royal University Conservatory in Calgary. She has performed with a variety of ensembles, including Altius BrassThe Calgary Creative Arts Ensemble big band, the Prime Time Big Band, and the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra.  She has performed with the Rodney Marsalis Philadelphia Big Brass in Pennsylvania and China, and has played the natural “baroque” trumpet with early music groups Musica Raritana (New Jersey), Concert Royale (New York City), the Swedish Baroque Orchestra (Stockholm), and Per Sonatori (Regina). Natalie also performed as principal trumpet with the Philadelphia Camerata National Symphony on a month-long tour throughout China. 

Ms. DeJong developed a class called Funfare TM  for young children to learn the trumpet and went on to train as a Suzuki Trumpet Teacher in Sweden in 2013.  She returned to Canada to launch the first Suzuki trumpet program in the Americas at Mount Royal Conservatory in 2014.  She is a member of the International Suzuki Trumpet Committee and thrilled to be promoting and sharing the concepts with other trumpet and brass players throughout Canada, the U.S. and beyond. Natalie is also a “Suzuki Parent “ as her son studies in the Suzuki piano program at Mount Royal.

Trumpet equipment(for Ms. DeJong to play):
Bb-Bach Stradivarius 37 ML (mouthpiece: Stork 5C or B)
C-Bach Stradivarius 329 G, 25H leadpipe (mouthpiece: Stork 5C or B)
Picc-Yamaha Custom (mouthpiece: Stork Vacchianno 3P)
Baroque Trumpet-Tomes 4-hole Ehe 1746 (mouthpiece: Naumann 5B and one given to me by Niklas Eklund!)
Flugelhorn-Conn Vintage One (Variety of mouthpieces)
Cornet-York “Preference 3027” (mouthpiece: Breslmair Wien AH2-F3)
Pocket Trumpet-Jupiter model 416 (mouthpiece: anything on hand!)
(French Horn-Conn single F horn)
 
Trumpet equipment for Suzuki students: 
-Most kids are using a pocket trumpet (the older Jupiter model 416 with the smaller bell, as well as the new Jupiter pocket trumpet model 516.  
-Older children use a cornet or standard sized trumpet when they have grown big enough
-Students a generally using a standard 5C or 7C mouthpiece, also other sizes as needed.
-Various “buzzing devices” are fun, but the favourite is the “shortcut” (made by JoRal).  This can also be made out of simple household materials.
 
Some Toys Ms. DeJong uses for teaching children (in her words):
I can’t possibly list all the toys I have collected over the years, but I can say that I walk through toy stores with entirely new eyes; looking at toys for ways they might apply in my teaching. 
Rafael

Rafael

Some of favourites in my toy box include:
 
 
Rafael (My Mexican Trumpet playing string puppet) who reminds my students about good posture
 
Pinwheels

pinwheels

-Any toys that get the kids breathing in full and blowing out in various ways or thinking in various ways:  
Little mouse holding a "shortcut"

Little mouse holding a “shortcut”

  We use anything from ping pong ball games, pinwheels, toy cars, trains, and airplanes to miniature animals
  
 
hospital breathing machine

hospital breathing machine

–and breathing aids found at hospitals.  
 
 
  
 
breathing device from Arnold Jacob

breathing device from Arnold Jacob

 
 
 
Arnold Jacobs gave me one of his ping pong ball breathing machines when I was a student…and I now use it with my students too!
 
 
-There’s a great invention out there called “Staccator” which should become a staple in any wind player’s studio!  
-There are MANY great children’s books out there with little life lessons in them.  I like the Harold B. Wigglebottom books. And kids always like Franklin 🙂
 
magnetic dartboard

magnetic dartboard

 
 -I carry my magnetic dart board to everywhere I teach (no, not with regular darts-safe MAGNET darts!)
-Music theory materials, such as MusicMindGames products by Michiko Yurko, and simple flashcards are a nice way to take a “chops break”
 
Rolling, decorated box, used to carry teaching aids and "toys" for Suzuki trumpet class.

Rolling, decorated box, used to carry teaching aids and “toys” for Suzuki trumpet class.

 
 
 
 
 
-I carry it all around in my toy box on wheels
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Interview with Natalie DeJong, expert Suzuki trumpet teacher
The interviewer is Stanley Curtis

SC: Tell us about your background as a musician and trumpet player—who have been your big influences?

ND: I grew up in Calgary with my earliest musical influences being all the classical records that my grandparents played for me in their living room.  They loved listening to everything from Bach, Handel, Mozart, and Beethoven to Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky, and anything that might get played on CBC radio!  I started learning to play the trumpet at age 12 when there was a chance to join the school band, and eventually private lessons led to post-secondary music school (University of Calgary, Vancouver Academy of Music, Rutgers University).  I’ve enjoyed opportunities to play in orchestras, in chamber ensembles, in brass ensembles and brass bands, and in big bands… and one of my favorite things to do is to play baroque trumpet in period music ensembles.

My biggest influences start from age 12; my earliest private teacher, Linda Brown played 3rd trumpet in the Calgary Philharmonic and not only set up amazing opportunities for me (such as attending masterclasses in Chicago with Vincent Cichowicz), but she also set an incredible example of hard work and diligence in striving for the highest playing standards for her role in the orchestra…and an example of really beautiful trumpet tone too!  I was also fortunate to have the sound of Jens Lindemann’s playing in my ear from that age, as the first trumpet player I ever heard live! 

 

SC: What got you interested in teaching—especially early childhood trumpet teaching?

ND: I’ve always admired all of my teachers and their creative and musical ways of tackling the ‘little mysteries’ of trumpet playing.  I find it exciting to gain some new ability on the instrument.  It’s also fun to be able to explain it to someone else.  I find that once I can explain it…and be understood, that I also learn even more from it.  And the fun part is that communicating is not always via direct language, but sometimes through imagery.  It’s fascinating to always learn something new about playing a brass instrument, and helping others do the same is fun.

I became interested in early childhood trumpet teaching when I had started Doctoral studies at Rutgers University with Dr. Scott Whitener (author of Complete Guide to Brass).  I was working on a project about ‘Tension in Brass Playing’ and began thinking about instrument size (I’m a small person). It occurred to me that brass playing tends to be delayed until we’re “big enough” to hold the heavy brass instruments… but it also occurred to me that children are missing the opportunity to start very young on the trumpet like their friends who play piano or violin. When I propped my two-year-old son up with my big B-flat trumpet, he could create quite a beautiful tone…he just couldn’t hold the horn by himself.  So, I put a pocket trumpet in his hands…and from that point, realized that small children really CAN learn to play the trumpet from a very young age-if we give them the right equipment and the opportunity!

SC: When did you take the Suzuki teacher training for trumpet? What was that experience like? 

Ms. DeJong's Funfare class

Ms. DeJong’s Funfare™ class

 

 

 

ND: I had already started a pilot project called FunfareTM which was a trumpet class for younger children, aged 5-7 or so, in 2011.  I was very excited when I found out the first-ever Suzuki Trumpet Teacher training course would be held in Sweden starting in the fall of 2013.  I had been looking for Suzuki activity in trumpet land for a number of years, because I knew it was such a wonderful way to teach a musical instrument to young children.  At last I had found a trumpeter who had begun developing the method for Suzuki trumpet.  How could I not jump on board?!  There was so much to learn, (and there still is)! I was lucky enough to find a way to get myself to Sweden to take part in this first teacher training event.  We were a group of four student teachers from all over: Poland, Spain, Ireland, and Canada, and we later joined a group of Swedish trumpet teachers who were also training to teach Suzuki trumpet.  As you know, it was wonderful to work with Ann-Marie Sundberg, the world’s first official Suzuki Trumpet Teacher Trainer. It was a very collaborative atmosphere and everyone brought fun and creativity to the studio… I’m sure I wasn’t the only one feeling the joy of being like a kid again… approaching the trumpet with fun, games, and good music!  Combining that with gaining a deeper understanding of the Suzuki Method and philosophy, made for a life changing experience.  It added to my reasons for teaching and even to my own reasons for playing music.

SC: How would you describe the Suzuki philosophy in general and how the trumpet teaching fits into the world-wide movement? How is the trumpet school different from the other disciplines, in your opinion?

ND: The Suzuki philosophy encompasses ideas that are much deeper and farther-reaching than mere ways in which to teach a musical instrument; Dr. Suzuki had the goal of creating a better world.  He devoted his life’s work to fostering a sense of happiness in children, and felt that he could use music as a tool to do so.  If children could learn to play music from a young age, they would be raised to have good hearts: they would know the value and satisfaction of hard work, sharing, empathy, perseverance, team-work, and a host of other noble qualities.  In essence, it is an educational philosophy that can be applied to the teaching of any skill or subject… to students of any age.  The notion that “Any Child Can” is a belief that every child—every person—can be nurtured to learn something toward these goals.

Suzuki trumpet teaching is simply the newest voice in the world of teaching instrumental music in the Suzuki Method way.  The Suzuki Method began with the violin, but has been applied to many instruments since Dr. Suzuki first brought his ideas to the world.  There is much crossover from the activities used in other Suzuki studios.  I believe there is much for Suzuki trumpet teachers to learn from Suzuki teachers of other instruments, and I believe that the trumpet method, as we are developing it now, will also give ideas back to those same teachers.  What will be exciting to watch is how the Suzuki Trumpet Method impacts the larger world of brass playing in general.

The Suzuki “trumpet school” is different from other Suzuki instrument schools, in that much time MUST be spent in the beginning getting students to actually CREATE a sound, let alone a beautiful one!  It’s not impossible to create a good sound from day one or two…but it’s also possible that it can take weeks for a small child (or any new beginner for that matter) to even create a sound.  In the meantime, there are many musical and physical activities that are introduced that lead toward the creation of sound and eventually toward beautiful tone.

SC: Can you describe the process of getting one of your beginning students to play the trumpet for the first time? What are some common hurdles in this process that you have to overcome with the student to get them to be successful in this very important beginning step?

ND: I always aim to have students begin creating trumpet sound for the first time in the most natural, tension-free way possible.  This all starts with a strong concept of tone quality and musical concepts:  listening and watching is key to young students.  Any beginner needs an image of how it’s supposed to look and sound.

We always start by forming an easy posture and natural breathing habits.  I like to “coax” the lip vibration to start, using simple blowing exercises rather than “forcing” a lip “buzz” to happen.  A common hurdles for many beginners is getting over the idea of “trying too hard,” which only creates tension and back pressure when blowing into the instrument.  Beginner students often hit tones that are in between proper pitches on the instrument, so finding the “resonating” spots of each pitch can be a challenge.  Because this can all take time—to simply get a centered and beautiful note on the trumpet—it is a challenge to keep students musically engaged in the meantime. This is especially true for the very young aspiring trumpet players who really want to press all the buttons and make songs come out!  We do a LOT of singing and moving, and playing just on mouthpieces.

SC: What have been some of your success stories in your Suzuki teaching?

Ms. DeJong with three young students at the Grand Opening of the Bella Concert Hall in the Taylor Centre for Performing  Arts, Calgary

Ms. DeJong with three young students at the Grand Opening of the Bella Concert Hall in the Taylor Centre for Performing
Arts, Calgary

ND: So far, I see every child as a success story.  Each child who has been a part of the program has learned SOMETHING valuable—which is the whole point!  Musically speaking though, I will have my first student graduating soon from Suzuki Trumpet School Book One.  He is a sensitive, expressive player, with a beautiful and naturally produced tone on the trumpet!  There are several children within the studio who have taken it upon themselves to perform (all by memory, I might add) at school or community events by their own initiative. There are several more who have struggled with this or that, be it trumpet playing or behavioral issues, but each has grown in some way through the process of practicing regularly and persevering.  The biggest success I can see, when I look at the program as a whole, has been the little nurturing trumpet community that has formed between parents, children, and even other trumpet teachers.

SC: What did you learn about teaching young children during your teacher training with Ms. Sundberg?

ND: Besides all the things that you learn from the children themselves—some having nothing to do with trumpet playing or abilities, but to do with things like their attention span or confidence levels—I learned that the parent’s role plays a huge part in the success of the child and the method.  Ms. Sundberg’s ideas and materials are wonderful and support the Suzuki Method beautifully, but it is the relationship between teacher, parent, and child that determines the ultimate outcomes.  Everyone is a partner in learning…and everyone is learning.  So that’s been exciting!

SC: How is your studio different from other Suzuki studios in the world?

ND: I can’t imagine that my studio is all that different from other Suzuki studios in the world.  We might have a different set of instruments, equipment, toys, and songs to work with, but our goals and methods are all based on the same ideas.  What IS truly different at this point in time, is that the method for trumpet is new.  It is new within the Suzuki community and certainly new within the trumpet and brass community as a whole.  It is still in the beginning stages of development and will be for a very long time.  We are not in a rush to find the perfect ways to teach very young children.  I envision that, like a growing child, the Suzuki Trumpet Method will grow and mature alongside the young children who are enrolled in these first Suzuki trumpet programs.

SC: Has your Suzuki teaching experience shaped your teaching of older students?

ND: Absolutely!  Basically all of the same concepts in the Suzuki method and philosophy can be applied to older students.  Listening is key.  Playing without sheet music is key.  As are the ideas of taking one small step at a time, repetition, and providing loving encouragement.  Two days after returning to Canada after my first trip to Sweden, I began applying the ideas to junior high and high school trumpet classes, hour after hour at a festival where I was teaching.  Without putting any music in front of these multi-level trumpeters, we set about learning the exposition to Haydn’s trumpet concerto (all on Bb trumpets).  I didn’t tell them how high or fast the notes would go…we simply listened, watched, played and repeated until pretty much every player was capable of playing most or all of the passages with the exception of a few younger players missing high notes.   But no one stopped playing the SONG. The key thing I noticed was how naturally relaxed everyone was.  Compared to the results of putting printed music in front of students first thing—revealing to them the range of pitches and rhythms and causing a whole bunch of tension and doubt—this method was more successful by leaps and bounds.

There are many ways you can use the concepts with older and/or more experienced students.

SC: What do you like to do in your spare time?

ND: I love to get outside and be in nature, whether it’s hiking up mountains, camping, or cross-country and downhill skiing.  I love to draw and paint, and I’m starting to dabble in writing short stories.  Mmmm, and if I really have spare time I like to cook good food!

SC: What are your aspirations for the future of your Suzuki studio and your teaching career?

ND: I would love to see the students in my Suzuki trumpet studio grow and develop into fine people and skilled, musically sensitive players.  As the studio is still young, I am looking forward to eventually having a wide range of ages within the studio to see how the older Suzuki trumpeters will influence and guide the younger students.  This is already beginning to happen, as I have enough students to begin to separate them by age and ability, and bring them all together periodically.  I would like for my students to continue to perform in public and become confident in their performing abilities.

I’m always aspiring to learn more as a player myself so that I continually have more to share.  Teaching can become stale if the teacher isn’t also continuing to grow.  Ultimately, I love to teach people of all ages; my oldest student is now 83. I also love to connect with players and teachers of all levels.  I want to continue learning from my new Suzuki colleagues and students, and ultimately begin to teach other teachers to teach Suzuki for trumpet…and all of the the brass instruments!

SC: Thanks so much, Natalie, for your time! 

 

 

 

 

 

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