Perry Sutton, baroque trumpet, leads a musically diverse life, performing in baroque, orchestral, chamber music, and commercial music settings with equal dexterity. Recent early music credits include: Apollo’s Fire, Washington Bach Consort, Trinity Baroque, Clarion Music Society, and The Portland Bach Experience. Perry has degrees from both Mason Gross School of the Arts: Rutgers University, and Rowan University College of Fine and Performing Arts, having studied with William Fielder, Peter Bond, Kevin Cobb, Bryan Appleby-Wineberg, and Robert Earley.
Perry lives in New Jersey, halfway between New York and Philadelphia. During the times that he leaves the trumpet in the case, Perry enjoys seeking out local craft beer coffee, and tinkering with his golf game.
Baroque: Egger 4 hole long form trumpet with Ehe, Haas, and Bauer bells
Bb trumpet: SE Shires CVLA-ML (Custom Vintage Los Angeles)
C trumpet: SE Shires 4S8 large bore (prototype)
Eb: Schilke E3L
Piccolo: Yamaha YTR-9820
Flugelhorn: Yamaha 731
Cornet: Schilke XA1
I also have a collection of vintage Bach, Benge, and Conn trumpets.
Baroque: Pickett “Hudson 2” similar to an of S7 Egger
Bb/C/Eb: Parke 640-275-24 and Pickett Ingram series
Piccolo: Yamaha 11A4
Flugelhorn: Giardinelli 7F
Cornet: K&G 3B
Interview with trumpeter Perry Sutton
The interviewer is Stanley Curtis
SC: Perry, it’s great to chat with you about your trumpet playing and your career! I wonder if you could tell us about your early interest in music? Why the trumpet?
PS: Hi Stanley! I think like many musicians, my roots in music are principally simple, starting off as just a love of music. I grew up in a house where music was constantly present, either on the radio or listening to my father and/or brother practicing. My father, Frank Sutton, is a four string, plectrum banjo player and my brother, Clay, plays clarinet, saxophones and flute. My father has some of the best ears I’ve ever known and would play everything from Cole Porter and Jerome Kern to Brahms. Clay is also tremendously talented, you give him a little bit of knowledge and five minutes and BANG!, he’s way better at something than you could ever have hoped to be. Decades later, and I still can’t help but be amazed by it. My mother, Peggy, never really played an instrument, but is one of the biggest music lovers and listeners I’ve ever met, her father having been a trumpet player in his younger days. With all of that going on around the house, picking up an instrument was a no-brainer!
I started off playing in the church bell choir around age four or five, and learned to read music before I could actually read English, though the bell choir didn’t last particularly long….
I was always drawn to the trumpet and could not wait to get started as soon as we were allowed to sign up in school.
SC: Who were some of your teachers as you were growing up? How did they motivate you?
PS: Throughout the years, I feel incredibly lucky to have had great teachers both in terms of technique and music, but also the business side of things as well. My very first teacher, with whom I studied for my first ten years of playing the trumpet, was Joe Cataldo, a Philadelphia/Atlantic City freelancer.
Joe was a very special person for me, almost like a second father at times. Anytime I was having chop issues (of which I’ve had plenty over the years), needed advice on anything trumpet, music, or non-trumpet related, he was always the phone call that got me back on track. He was also, like so many of us, a bit of a gear junkie and instilled in me a healthy does of “equipment nerd.” (This would prove very helpful later on in life, both in my trumpet playing career and for my daily work at Dillon Music.) In addition to about a decade’s worth of trumpet lessons, Mr. Cataldo was also my high school band director.
I never really had to be motivated to practice or work hard through school. I would routinely get up at 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning to practice, much to the chagrin of my parents, because I just loved playing so much. I have never really loved school as much as I loved learning, so using my own private time to transcribe and practice etudes was my favorite part of the day! I’m not sure that my brother or I ever had to be told to practice so much as we had to be told to STOP practicing so family members or neighbors could go to sleep.
SC: 4:00 in the morning! Wow! What was your college experience like? Did you feel like this time was transformational for you?
PS: My collegiate experience was probably more complicated than it ought have been. When I left for college, I principally had designs on being a jazz/commercial trumpet player, like all of my heroes growing up. I left home to study with William “Prof” Fielder, got to school at Rutgers University, and happened to show up at the same time as Sean Jones, Lee Hogans, and Melvin Jones. Talk about a reality check! I quickly realized that I was in over my head. That, combined with a “chop” injury and I was left figuring out where to go from there.
The age-old adage of “better to be lucky than good” comes in to play here. I was fortunate to land on my feet in the studio of Peter Bond, of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. Looking back, I must have been endlessly frustrating as a student for Pete, but ultimately, he is one of the first people push me out of my comfort zone and get me to ask myself tough questions about how to improve and teach myself. Goals became more specific intentional endeavors and the means of achieving them became more tangible. It was all up to me and how intelligently I wanted to work and how honest I wanted to be with myself. If I’m being fair, I probably owe Pete more pints and “You told me so”’s than either of us would ever admit.
Upon finishing my Bachelors Degree, I returned home to South Jersey to pursue a Masters Degree at Rowan University to study with Bryan Appleby-Wineberg and Bob Earley (Philadelphia Orchestra). It was a great studio to be in between Bryan, Bob, and George Rabbai. There was a lot of playing to do, between playing principal in the orchestra, the wind ensemble, several chamber groups, the big band, all while working on my own projects and freelancing in Philadelphia, South Jersey and the Jersey Shore…I occasionally made it to my academic classes. Thankfully, there weren’t TOO many of those to miss.
One of the great advantages for me from attending Rowan was learning how to balance and pace all of that playing. The trumpet was basically on my face from 10:30 every morning until 11pm or midnight each night! To this day, it’s still nice to know that a heavy day of playing doesn’t have to wipe you out, and how to be smart about pacing myself on days with two concerts, or the all too common practice of an afternoon soundcheck that turns into a de facto dress rehearsal. Those two years were a lot of work, but gave me the chance to really push myself and become more conscious of my limitations and how to expand them.
SC: How did you get started in jazz? Who are your influences?
PS: My grandfather was my very first influence on the trumpet and I still remember his admiration for Harry James. For me, years later; I still can remember the very first times that I heard Clark Terry, Jack Sheldon, and Maynard Ferguson listening to LP’s in Joe Cataldo’s living room as an eight or nine year old waiting for me trumpet lessons. Still three of my absolute favorites.
Could any trumpet player listen to “Oscar Peterson Trio Plus One” or “Spanish Rice” and NOT want to be a jazz trumpet player? That would have to be impossible! Jack Sheldon’s ballad playing and singing has always really spoken to me, and the Maynard Ferguson “Birdland Dreamband” and “Roulette Years”, what a force of nature!
SC: Tell me about your work at Dillons. How did you get that job? What do you get to do there?
PS: Growing up in New Jersey, Dillion Music was always the Mecca. My teachers always spoke of it with a reverence. It was THE place to go to try gear, meet people, get supplies, and make the hang. I started shopping vicariously through other people probably around the time I was in middle school.
I absolutely ended up there at least once a week in college just to tinker, get custom work done on my horns and mouthpieces, and to geek out a bit while I was in school. Rutgers University was about 15 minute away, luckily for me!
I started working for Steve Dillon in the fall of 2008. September 2, 2008 to be exact. I was teaching approximately 30 private students in Philadelphia and the surrounding suburbs, while attempting to balance that with a freelancing career and was completely burnt out.
Having shopped there for years, I was lucky (again) to have good relationships with a few of the employees at Dillon Music, who would become my colleagues. I had no sales experience, no retail experience, and minimal “people skills” and despite all of that, Steve Dillon took a chance and gave me a job. I can’t ever fully express my gratitude.
Having a father who was both a musician and a machinist and a mother who was a teacher with a great analytical mind, technical specifications and numbers have always made sense to me. Couple that with having a teacher as a child who was, to say the least, a bit of a gear head…I’ve always had a keen knowledge of fitting equipment for players. I still really love solving the puzzle of “what mouthpiece/horn/etc will help this player achieve their goals” regardless of ability level, or application. Nothing at work makes me happier than the A-HA! moment of a player finding something that helps them improve, be it equipment or ideas.
I’d also be lying if I didn’t admit that it is really cool to have so much cool stuff at my finger tips and to be able to try new gear as soon as it comes out. On a similar front, I’ve also been very fortunate to do some R&D work here and play testing for manufacturers and come up with a few horns that really suit me, my needs, and my skill set along the way.
SC: You have made a name for yourself as a baroque trumpeter. How did that come about? What are some of your most memorable gigs in early music?
PS: Back in the first year or two of my bachelors degree, the brass department at Rutgers brought in Kris Kwapis, a fantastic baroque trumpet player, to give a master class and lecture on the baroque trumpet and how to make more informed decisions as a modern player. I was immediately fascinated by tone and timbre of the instrument and wanted to give it a try. The university had just purchased a set of Frank Tomes trumpets, but for whatever the reason, I was not permitted to try one. In one of the few times in my life that discouragement didn’t make me openly defiant and double my efforts, I tabled the idea for close to a decade. But I never lost my love for the instrument, the sound, or the repertoire.
Enter my friend, Phil Baughman, current brand manager for EK Blessing. At the time, Phil was the Sales Manager for Schilke Music/Naumann trumpets. At a few trade shows, Phil noticed me “kicking the tires” on a few of the baroque trumpets during a lull in exhibit traffic and we got to chatting about the baroque trumpet. I knew basically nothing and just starting raining questions at him. Phil was such a pleasure to deal with and before I knew it, I had ordered an Eklund model, 3 hole trumpet with a Haas bell.
Once the horn arrived, I couldn’t put it down! I started playing anything that I could think of, making up exercises, learning excerpts and solos, playing along with recordings, etc. I was hooked! At the time, I had a roommate who is a talented singer, organist, and continuo player, named Ben Berman, who encouraged me to play a recital on his churches concert series, which probably went better than it should have. HA!
Through Ben, I was able to meet a few new early music people and quickly got in over my head playing a BWV 51 and Torelli Sonata with an early music group, La Fiocco in Pennsylvania. Looking back, that was another concert that probably had no business going as well as it did. Being so new to the instrument, but being a competent modern player, it never occurred to me that the program was supposed to be as difficult as I would now view it.
Feeling as though I had scratched the baroque trumpet itch, but too scared to take the next step, I went back to my regularly scheduled modern playing for the next few years until early 2015, where I again found myself restless and somewhat wanting for a change of pace, despite doing some interesting projects and gigs that I thought I “should” be doing. One particular week was a week long gig in NY playing 6 nights with a band where I reached a tipping point. I realized that I couldn’t really go on doing the work that I was doing and maintain a quality of life or sanity. The notion of not enjoying my work, or viewing the trumpet as some kind of chore every time I picked it up was no longer tenable. I spent every night of the gig thinking, on the bandstand, “What would I rather be doing?” “What would make me happy?” Every night, I kept coming back to the baroque trumpet and how I never pursued it to the extent that I should have. I decided that last night that I was done “playing scared” and wanted to jump in with both feet, play for some people, find out what I needed to do to make myself employable, and get to work! It was very empowering.
Over the years, I’ve been blessed to have friends and colleagues that were willing to take chances on me, and this situation is no different. I called a friend who is very involved in the early music community and asked who I should reach out to. She responded almost immediately, “It’s about time. Email John Thiessen.” I set up a lesson with John, who is equally a great trumpet player, teacher, and now, friend and colleague.
In terms of memorable early music gigs, I enjoy the scene so much that there are so many now that I can recall fondly. Some of the more noteworthy experiences would have to be: a New Year’s Ever performance of BWV 248 “Weihnachtsoratorium” in Philadelphia playing section trumpet under John Thiessen and Timothy Will, a very enjoyable semi-staged production of Purcell’s “Fairy Queen” in Pittsburgh playing alongside Steven Marquardt, my first time playing principal trumpet on Handel’s “Occasional Oratorio” with the brilliant trumpet writing in that piece, my first B Minor Mass on baroque trumpet, playing between Caleb Hudson and Chris Coletti, and you and I had a blast playing BWV 248 last December with Josh Cohen for Washington Bach Consort, didn’t we?!?
Like most other things for me personally, the music and the work are beautiful, but it’s the people and the colleagues that make the experiences truly memorable.
SC: It was a lot of fun to play with you and Josh last December! But now I want to talk about a more serious subject–You had a concussion that impacted you for quite a while. Tell us about that. Do you feel that you have gotten past it?
PS: Thanks so much for bringing this up. Back in September 2017, I suffered a Grade 3 concussion following an accident at my apartment. Bar none, this was the most frustrating experience of my life. Over the weeks/months that followed, I experienced memory loss, speech loss, insomnia, was unable to drive my car for a time and had to miss quite a bit of work. Most frustrating of all was having to take approximately four weeks off from playing the trumpet. The silver lining through the first few weeks of recovery was that the weather was gorgeous and I was able to play a lot of golf. Reality began to set in when I had gigs coming up that I wasn’t totally able to prepare for.
I wasn’t medically cleared to begin playing trumpet again until 36 hours before I had to travel to Cleveland for a concert cycle with Apollo’s Fire. Playing the trumpet with a traumatic brain injury is not something I would recommend to anyone. The first few days back on the horn and the start of the rehearsal schedule were incredibly stressful. My chops themselves actually felt fine, but every time I played the trumpet, I would would suffer some memory loss and confusion. As someone who has always had a good memory and generally felt as though I had my faculties about me, this was nothing short of terrifying and depressing, much like the first few days after my accident. I was beyond frustrated, but somehow I didn’t feel beaten. There was a new challenge and hopefully a way to turn the negative into a positive.
My thinking was, if there is a way to remove some physicality and “effort” from my approach and technique, it would take a lot of the pressure off of my head, and help me to be more efficient. I went back to my old lesson notes from my studies with Pete Bond during college that I had saved in my email and realized that a lot of the concepts and thoughts that Pete had been telling me a decade and a half earlier. As it turns out, I just needed to get hit in the head to realize how to get better! I spent 2-3 hours every morning for the rest of the trip working on making a few tweaks to my approach and setup and by the end of the tour, things had never felt better. Keeping up with that after getting home has given me an extra fifth on my range, eliminated my “break” in the upper register and I have much more control over my tone than I did before.
I wish I could say that my recovery has been all golfing and getting better at the trumpet, but that wouldn’t be at all honest. It is, however, what I choose to focus on. I’ve been so incredibly lucky to have such supportive friends, family and colleagues (especially from that first trip back on the horn) to lean on for support over the last few months. My memory spanning from September to late January is foggy at best, and my recovery hasn’t been at all linear. I think as trumpet players and musicians, we can all relate to putting in concerted and thoughtful practice and hard work and seeing progress. The hardest part of this experience has been how much this injury can have its “Ups and Downs.” Good Days and Bad Days.
As of current date, it has been a year, and it’s been within the last five months that I’ve actually started to consistently feel like myself. I still am dealing with some minor hyperacusis (a type of sound sensitivity) and occasional short term memory issues, but nothing like it had been.
SC: What would you like to be doing five years from now?
PS: I’m not entirely sure that I have a good answer for that. Lately, I’ve been in a really good place right now and enjoy what I am doing. I love my job, and am doing more and more gigs that I enjoy all the time. I get to spend time with my friends and family and get to travel to some cool places!
SC: What do you like doing when you’re not playing trumpet?
PS: As I’ve likely mentioned ad nauseam, I love playing golf any chance I get. I love solving the puzzle of what my game looks like every time I go out to play. Golfing is so much like the trumpet, but there is nothing riding on it for me, so the element of stress doesn’t exist! I also enjoy good coffee (to the extent of having an espresso machine in my bedroom and a coffee maker on my nightstand to have a nice cup in bed while I watch SportsCenter every morning and do a crossword puzzle in bed. I’m a huge Philadelphia 76ers fan, as well as the rest of the Philly sports scene.
I enjoy good craft beer and spend time seeking out local craft breweries both at home and when I’m on the road. I also enjoy frequenting art museums. Notable favorites include: Salvador Dali, William Hogarth, Dutch Golden Age, Da Vinci, and Italian Renaissance painting. I am love seeking out great seafood and am in constant search for the best ramen and fried chicken that I can find!
SC: Thanks so much for sitting down to chat about trumpet stuff with me, Perry. I think your story will resonate with a lot of readers!
PS: Thank YOU, my friend; this was a lot of fun. I hope to get to see you and work with you again sooner rather than later!No tags for this post.