Trumpet teaching, new ideas

This blog is, if nothing else, a sounding board. So, I will sound out some of my more extreme ideas on what trumpet teaching could be for this blog post.

  1. What if trumpet teaching were done only as a group?
  2. What if students had to learn their repertoire only by listening?
  3. What if students had to submit a recording of their own efforts before their lessons?
  4. What if students directed their own study and their teacher adjusted exercises and advice to suit the student’s inclinations?
  5. What if teamwork were emphasized?
  6. What if teachers had an open-door policy for students to come at any time?
  7. What if students had to produce a professional-quality recorded track each semester?
  8. What if students had to write their own exercises?
  9. What if students had to earn $30 in a day by busking to pass their jury?
  10. What if students had to compose or improvise an original piece each semester?
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Five Things Friday: Teamwork in the Trumpet Studio

Trumpet Hang at the German court of Swerin (18th C.)

There is a trend that I am noticing in my life–there are fewer opportunities to hang out with trumpeters. Fewer opportunities to play together and chat about trumpet things. Nevertheless, there are big benefits to working together with other trumpeters, especially in a studio at a school of music. If you are looking for ways to get better, try getting together. Here is some motivation:

  1. Data points to significant health benefits to belonging to a group.
  2. When you combine group class, trumpet hangs, workshops and conferences to your lessons, you will learn more and be more motivated.
  3. When you’re hanging with other trumpeters, not even talking about the trumpet, you are building strong social bonds that help prevent burnout.
  4. You are a team with your teacher. Although online instruction is better and more accessible these days, you should put more importance into lessons with a real person.
  5. More experienced members of a trumpet studio help to mentor the less experienced–they get experience to help them become successful teachers. Less experienced members of the trumpet studio learn faster, because they get extra mentoring, and because they see the kind of workflow that goes with purposeful practice.
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On tour with the WCSE

Last Sunday marked the final performance of a small tour that I have been on with the Washington Cornett and Sackbutt Ensemble (WCSE). We played twice in Chattanooga and twice in Knoxville (both in Tennessee).

We got a chance to play many times within the span of a few days, which helped us grow as a group.


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Black History Month: Francis B. Johnson

Born in 1792, black trumpeter Francis (Frank) Johnson led an amazing career centered in Philadelphia. With more than 300 compositions to his credit, most of them published, he was the most popular black composer before the Civil War. His band was in great demand for cotillion balls and marches. In fact, just about everything he did was very successful. When he wasn’t playing the keyed bugle, the band leader was playing the violin.

Johnson’s band frequently had to deal with racial issues, such as, when on tour in Missouri, a new state that supported slavery, they were all arrested and fined. A particularly violent incident occurred near Pittsburgh:

At the close of the concert the mob followed Mr. Johnson and his company shouting “n____” and other opprobrious epithets, and hurling brick-bats, stones and rotten eggs in great profusion upon the unfortunate performers. One poor fellow was severely, it is feared dangerously, wounded in the head, and others were more or less hurt. No thanks to the mobocrats that life was not taken, for they hurled their missiles with murderous recklessness if not with murderous intention.

——The Tribune [NY], May 23, 1843.

Here’s Ralph Dudgeon talking about Frank Johnson’s instrument, the keyed bugle, and toward the end of this short video, he demonstrates a piece written by Johnson.

Johnson wrote  “Honor To The Brave: Gen. Lafayette’s Grand March,” which became a popular tribute to the French military leader who helped the United States win its freedom from Great Britain. He performed this march and other music to support an American tour for General Lafayette in 1824.

In 1837, Johnson and some members of his band became the first African American musicians to travel to Europe to perform.  Returning in 1838, the band soared in popularity, performing much in-demand outdoor “Promenade Concerts” throughout the Northeast.

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Black History Month: a Tudor African trumpeter

John Blanke, a successful black trumpeter under Henry VII and VII

February is Black History Month, and I wanted to feature black trumpeters this month. Black trumpeters are particularly under-represented in bands and orchestras, so I would like to start with a historic African trumpeter, who was successful in Tudor England.

Henry VII and VIII employed a black trumpeter named John Blanke. The speculation is that he came to England as one of the African attendants of Catherine of Aragon in 1501. He was paid 20 shillings a month and successfully petitioned Henry VIII for a raise with a confidently-penned letter. Henry VIII even sent John a wedding present when he later married.

Black trumpeters and drummers are recorded in other cities of the time. For instance, there was a black trumpeter on the royal ship Barcha in Naples in 1470, and a black trumpeter recorded as galley slave of Cosimo de’ Medici in 1555.



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