The five students you meet in hell

After visiting the five teachers in the Underworld, you’re in heaven, trying to get some good practice, but you’re just not feeling it. Gabriel drops by to play duets, but you just can’t keep up. You say, “I don’t know if I need to play these duets, Gabriel–they probably won’t get me a job up here in the clouds.”

“You know,” Gabriel says, “we should take another trip down to lava land–you know, the Underworld. There are five more trumpeters I want you to meet. Each has an interesting and tragic story. They’re the five students that you’ll meet in hell. I think it’s good to get this out of the way on the last day of 2017”

So, down you fly to that terrible place, where bad trumpeters have to live for the rest of eternity, and we met the five trumpet students of hell.

  1. Teddy. Teddy practiced his songs that he liked. Always from the beginning. Always the same speed (although he couldn’t be sure, since he never used a metronome). Once he could play his tunes, he stayed at that same level and never got better. But Teddy kept at it–even during his whole career as a car salesman, where he would play “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” on his coffee break in the back room.
  2. Morris. This student was pretty smart, and he was sure he was always right about the way to play. He never really agreed with his teachers, and this made him feel a little important. Interestingly, Morris could never arrive on time to his lessons. This made his teachers frustrated. Realizing he could no longer be satisfied in the world of trumpets or even music, Morris went on to be an excellent lawyer. As a lawyer, he always could to prove his point.
  3. Buddy. This trumpeter tried to get everyone’s attention with his little excerpts and licks. He also loved to take things up an octave when he could get away with it. Poor Buddy just wanted some attention. At least every five minutes. But no one could give him that kind of attention. Even his mom stopped taking his calls, and then he grew depressed about the whole trumpet thing. Buddy went on to be a personal trainer, where he got lots of superficial compliments every day.
  4. Chet. This guy somehow had enough money to buy all of the really great trumpets, mouthpieces, and other cool equipment. He also collected tens of thousands of recordings–even vinyl records that he played on his fancy sound system with vacuum tubes. He was so busy with his equipment, he never really got a chance to focus on his playing, so that he could get better. Chet went bankrupt and had to sell a lot of his equipment at a big loss, but he knew so much about equipment at that point, he got a job at a music store selling trumpets. For the rest of his mortal life, Chet sold a lot of trumpets to those other guys that reminded him of himself.
  5. Joseph. Joseph was really a good guy, but he spent all of his time hanging with his friends to the detriment of his playing. He craved belonging to a group, so much so, that he joined a social fraternity on campus. With all of the initiation obligations, the parties and the completely un-musical set of friends he made at his fraternity, he started to drift away from music. He became a business man, but always thought there was something missing deep inside.

Gabriel looks at you after visiting the five trumpet students in hell, and asks, “What did you think?” You say, it seems like these guys just never really grew up. They never overcame some sort of immaturity. It was this lack of growth that has kept them in trumpet hell. If they had listened to their teachers, worked on their problem areas, approached the trumpet as a musical instrument, rather than a physical challenge and stuck with it, they would have gotten better. I don’t know if they would have gotten a job playing trumpet, but they would have gotten better and been better people for their growth.”

Gabriel smiles, grabs you by the hand and up you both go, back to the land of clouds and eternal music. Once there, you say, “Hey, Gabe! Do you still want to play duets?” He nods, gets his trumpet out, and you both start playing that duet, keeping at it into 2018. (Happy New Year!)

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The five teachers you meet in hell

Unfortunately, while trying to save the conductor from falling off his podium, you (a mediocre trumpeter who has never been able to enjoy a performing career) have, yourself, fallen into the pit on your head and died. Too bad. Gabriel has mercy on you and decides to let you in heaven, if you promise to practice very diligently every day. But before going to heaven, you are led on a brief visit to trumpet hell. There, you get to meet the trumpet teachers who held you back from being a good trumpeter. They are the five trumpet teachers you meet in hell. (Author’s note: these are fictional characters, and any resemblance to real trumpet teachers is unintentional.)¬†

  1. Mitch. Mitch was a good member of academia, earning many accolades for his research and his service to the music school. In his hell-room, he has framed pictures of all the people he worked with in his career. He had so many stories, and he told them all of the time. When you asked him for help, he pointed you to the Charlier book and said, “Take two Charliers and call me in the morning!” This he said as he left your lesson early, because he had a golf game to play with the director of the school of music.
  2. Albom. Albom stopped practicing a decade before you took lessons with him. But, because he still needed to make some money, he kept on teaching. Since he could never demonstrate any of the music you bring to him, you couldn’t ever get an idea of how you were supposed to sound. He recommended resting a lot so as to always be fresh.
  3. Eddie. He was the nicest teacher you ever had. In fact, he was so nice, he never said anything bad about your playing. He always said “Great job!” When you asked what should you work on for the next lesson, he said, “Whatever you’d like!” He never knew deadlines for competition applications or when district auditions were, so you never did these sorts of things.
  4. The Captain. A retired military musician, who was the meanest teacher you ever knew. He never let you speak in lessons, and he never taught a minute past the end of the scheduled lesson. He always criticized your preparation–“Well, that’s because you didn’t practice like I told you!” He called you names–“Only an idiot would play this passages the way you just did!” You were so humiliated, that you didn’t have any interest in practicing between lessons. He had some interesting stories about how, when he was young, his teacher always made him cry.
  5. Mickey. When you started taking lessons from Mickey, you remembered that there was a girl trumpeter who had a lesson ¬†right before yours. She always left the lesson, which was behind a closed door with no window, without a smile. She looked down to the floor. She quit not too long after you started. Mickey borrowed your trumpet once to “test it out.” He returned it with different valve slides. When you asked him about it, he sounded surprised and said he had made a mistake. It turned out that the slides were on his trumpet, and he switched the slides back right then, while he laughed a weird kind of laugh.

Thankfully, Gabriel leads you back out of hell, gives you trumpet, a metronome, a tuner and a digital recorder. He says, “Tomorrow, I’ll wake you off of your cloud bed at 7:00 a.m. to help you learn a great warm-up. In the meantime, see if you can record this Brandt etude for me to listen to tomorrow. We’re really glad you’re here with us. Now, let’s get some practicing done!” Gabriel flies off, playing one of the lost fanfares of Gottfried Reiche.

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