Saturday Smorgasbord: Blog Review and a Poem

Today’s post is a mix of a blog review and I thought I would add on a poem (by me!). 

Because he gave my blog a shout-out, I though I would return the favor and point you in the direction of Ross Wixon’s website, Wixon Music Works. Ross is a trumpeter, but he really is a great composer. Not only that, but he coached me through a lot of thorny spots in my own compositions, so I do owe him a debt of gratitude. 

Composer, blogger and trumpeter Ross Wixon

He has written about Video Game composing, Music Entrepreneurship, Marketing and the masculinity music themes in the movie “The Incredibles.” Ross is a really good writer, in addition to his composing. He even adds an academic flare by citing sources in his endnotes. 


I’ll leave you with a nice quote from Ross:

…Arts marketing is not really about commercializing art. The work you make retains all its value, and you should strive to push yourself to advance your craft and evolve in new, exciting directions, even as you tell people about the great work that you’re doing.

As promised, I will reveal my poetic side now with a little poem:



The shed I inherited

has been dying

for as long as I recall—

slowly crumbling, relenting,

a craze of ambition

and forgotten plans.

More hope than it can hold,

more winters than it can stand,

forgotten poisons ready to spill.


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Friday’s Five Things: Five Compositions Every Trumpeter Should Know for Christmas Season

Are you looking around for your trumpet friends at this time of year and can’t find them? That’s because trumpeters do a LOT of gigs at Christmastime. Here are the five most important gigs to learn:

  1. The Messiah by George Frideric Handel. This immensely-popular oratorio, written in 1741 by one of the 18th-century’s greatest composers, is a nice gig for trumpeters in that there is not a whole lot of playing throughout–only five numbers: “Glory to God,” the chorus “Hallelujah,” the very important trumpet obbligato aria (with bass singer) “The trumpet shall sound,” “Worthy is the Lamb,” and the “Amen.” The main endurance issue is if the conductor wants to do a da capo on “The trumpet shall sound.” This piece calls for two trumpets in D. Here’s a video of British baroque trumpeter Crispian Steele-Perkins playing  with Alistair Miles singing. 

2. The Christmas Oratorio by J. S. Bach. This is really a collection of six cantatas. If performed altogether, it is really long. There’s another obbligato aria in the first cantata that is very famous. But there are many pyrotechnical passages in this piece. For three trumpets in D. In the example video, I present Jean-François Madeuf on the natural baroque trumpet. Video is not great, but it is rare to hear this played this authentically. 

3. The Nutcracker by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. This ballet is performed everywhere each Christmas season. Usually the deal is that it is performed many times, so the lucky trumpeters get to play it over and over. The big solo is the Spanish Dance, or Chocolate. Two trumpets (in A and in B-flat) are needed for this popular work.

4. Magnificat by J.S. Bach. This great piece, much smaller in length than the Christmas Oratorio, is frequently performed during the Christmas season. It was actually first performed on Christmas day in 1723. Here’s Crispian Steele-Perkins again in a 1985 recording of the Monteverdi Choir directed by John Eliot Gardiner. This is the “Fecit potentiam.” It has interesting (and high) writing for three trumpets in D.


5. Sleigh Ride by Leroy Anderson. Hardly a trumpeter has escaped playing the horse whinny in this pops orchestra Christmas-time favorite. Here’s my own band, the U.S. Navy Band, performing this on their 2014 Holiday Concert at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, DC. MUCS (now retired) Bob Couto is the “whinnier” (it happens at 2’39”). 


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Throwback Thursday: National Trumpet Competition Historic Division 2007

Today, I wanted to share a competition that I organized from 2004 to 2009 in conjunction with the National Trumpet Competition: the Historic Division, which mainly focused on baroque trumpet. It was a lot of work, but very satisfying. From those years, a lot of trumpet players started an illustrious career in early music. For this post, I’ll share some photos and some information about the competition. I’m pretty sure the photographer was Vera Hørven Olcott. 

A look back at the NTC Historic Division 2007


Chair, Dr. Stanley Curtis, U. S. Navy Band, George Mason University (that’s me!)
Niklas Eklund, Honorary Chair (Niklas’ presence was made possible by Naumann Trumpets)
Barry Bauguess, Nationally recognized Baroque Trumpet Artist
Ray Burkhart, Claremont Graduate University
Robert Civiletti, Baroque Trumpet Artist
Dr. Thomas Huener, Eastern Carolina University
Dr. Elisa Koehler, Goucher College (who organized the finals in my absence)

Jennifer Cabot, performed with Niklas on his recital.

John O’Brien accompanied not only the competitors on his Klop Baroque Continuo Organ, but also playing on Nik’s recital.

Melissa Coombs sang three different arias with 13 different finalists yesterday. She only had one day notice to rearrange her schedule and prepare for this competition.

Winners of the 2007 Historic Division

Baroque Trumpet Ensemble Award (open age, no monetary award)          

Kentucky Baroque Trumpet Ensemble


Winner: Kentucky Baroque Trumpets


Fray Antoni Martín I Coll Award (named in honor of the prolific Catalan trumpet composer-monk, this award is offered as a new solo category not allowing the use of finger holes, in other words, just as they played the natural trumpet 400 years ago).

1st Prize: Baroque trumpet made by Francisco Pérez of Alicante, Spain

winner: Nathaniel Cox  (who is now an amazing cornetto and lute player)      

2nd Prizes: Free Tuition was offered to the International Natural Trumpet Making Workshop held in Rostock, Germany or in Bloomington, Indiana, and taught by Robert Barclay, Richard Seraphinoff, and Michael Munkwitz. Also offered is one week’s tuition to the Baroque Performance Institute at Oberlin Conservatory. At the time, taught by Barry Bauguess.           

Tie for 2nd:

Chris Campbell 

Justin Bland



Justin Bland (living now in Denmark and making a very fine career playing baroque trumpet)






Shore Award (solo category up to age 18)

1st Prize: The Baroque Trumpet Shop Award–gift certificate from The Baroque Trumpet Shop of Barry Bauguess

Dominic Favia




winner: Dominic Favia (who was 13 years old at the time!)





Fantini Award (ages 19 to 28)

1st Prize: The Baroque Trumpet Shop Award–gift certificate from The Baroque Trumpet Shop       

winner: David Wharton (now teacher at Hartt Music School)

2nd Prize: The Bendinelli Award–anonymous cash gift          

2nd prize: Don Johnson III

Reiche Award (ages 29 and up)

1st Prize: The Naumann Award For Artistry—winner got a Naumann Baroque Trumpet

winner: Nicholas Althouse (now a member of the U.S. Army Field Band)












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100 reasons to be grateful

This is the 100th post on Trumpet Journey. As part of my Trumpet Happiness project, I’d like to shout out 100 things I’m grateful for. I’m not sure why, but being thankful helps me feel happier. 

I’m grateful today for:

  1. A cat that keeps company with me during my 5:00 a.m. warm-ups
  2. Parents who encouraged me and loved me
  3. Trumpet teachers

    Michael Johnson, trumpet teacher at the University of Alabama from 1971 to 2003.

  4. A teacher who enjoyed playing duets with me
  5. A trumpet teacher who knew all about how to play first trumpet in a major symphony orchestra
  6. A trumpet teacher who said funny, quotable things
  7. Band directors who encouraged me
  8. My first orchestra job which opened up a world of strings
  9. My first listen to Richard Strauss’s tone poems on a record I checked out from my public library in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. I was slack-jawed.
  10. A mother who insisted that whatever I did, I had to have lessons
  11. A dad who recommended that I do what I love 
  12. A brother who let me have his old trumpet
  13. Same brother, who taught me how to play my first note
  14. Same brother, who taught me how to free buzz (a little incorrectly, but, still, pretty good)
  15. A bugle, given to me for a Christmas gift when I was probably 10
  16. A shameless inclination to show off when I was young
  17. An unquenchable desire to learn music from my very first memories
  18. A great piano that I could learn how to play on
  19. A grandmother and great aunt who would play piano a lot
  20. A trumpet teacher who inspired
  21. An inquisitive personality
  22. The U.S. Navy Band Brass Quartet

    U.S. Navy Band Brass Quartet performing National Anthem at Orioles Baseball Game

  23. A great junior high school band director 
  24. A great junior high school jazz band
  25. A diverse high school marching band
  26. Good competition at all levels
  27. Mentors
  28. A chance to study with two legendary orchestral players
  29. A chance to study with a legendary baroque trumpet soloist
  30. Two summers at National Repertory Orchestra, which gave me so much experience
  31. A long drive to Colorado on my own, on the back roads, where I got a chance to jam with a blue grass fiddler
  32. A principal trumpet job
  33. The U.S. Navy Band
  34. The Navy Band for letting me audition when there wasn’t an audition
  35. Listening to the Cleveland Orchestra every weekend
  36. The opportunity to study in The Netherlands
  37. The nearly four year long honey moon in Europe
  38. Galicia, Spain
  39. Sitting next to a trumpeter who had perfect pitch
  40. All of those thousands of little conversations trumpeters have during rehearsal
  41. All of those funny conversations waiting for a hearse to show up
  42. The gorgeous beauty of Arlington Cemetery
  43. A family who understood my insane practice schedule
  44. In-laws who understood my insane practice needs
  45. The right woman
  46. An intelligent woman–who is willing to proof my writing
  47. Poetry
  48. Navy medicine
  49. Two boys
  50. Two boys who challenge me every day 
  51. Two boys with big hearts
  52. Two boys with big ears
  53. Two boys with different personalities
  54. A friend who spent his time helping me learn how to play jazz
  55. Friends who have listened to me talk about my crazy ideas
  56. A terrible gig at the Kennedy Center that turned out to be my first composition commission
  57. A music contractor who lived around the corner from me who helped me get my first gigs in Washington
  58. The late J. Reilly Lewis
  59. Coffee
  60. The Navy Band “family”
  61. My lovely, old house–big enough for my family, close enough to work
  62. A housing bubble that helped me slide right into my house
  63. Practice mutes
  64. Trumpeters of the past who took the time to write methods, etudes and solos

    Jean-Baptiste Arban

  65. The baroque trumpet
  66. The cornetto
  67. The cornet (19th-century)
  68. The cornopean


  69. Leaving a party just to check out the Washington Cornett and Sackbutt Ensemble
  70. The Washington Cornett and Sackbutt Ensemble
  71. Long friendships from playing Renaissance music
  72. Running when I was young, walking now
  73. Learning how to keep track of my finances
  74. A friend who has refused to join Facebook, but who sends me emails all the time
  75. Ideas that have come to me when I am bored
  76. Melodies that have come to me out of the blue
  77. A recording device to capture ideas quickly
  78. Trumpeters willing to share their time, advice and stories on this blog
  79. Double record albums with artwork and information about the music and artists
  80. My first record player

    I loved my first record player.

  81. My parents record collection
  82. Duolingo
  83. Movie music
  84. People who have volunteered their time to help me
  85. Those hour long lessons which turned into two hours
  86. The late night trumpet hangs
  87. Suzuki piano accompaniments I got to play
  88. Bach. Oh my God, Bach. 
  89. Haydn, who deigned to write a concerto for the trumpet
  90. Italian trumpeters who redefined the harmonic structure of music because of the limitations of their instruments
  91. Jazz trumpeters who redefined the direction of music
  92. An old professor who let me send Finale files to him across the country so he could give me advice
  93. Invitations to perform which seem to come out of nowhere
  94. Young Suzuki students who are just wonderful
  95. Patient and resourceful Suzuki teachers I have observed
  96. A Swedish woman who decided to start up Suzuki trumpet 
  97. A patient and thorough recording engineer
  98. A church choir that has taught me a little about singing and the choir experience
  99. A singer who was willing to re-text and offer solutions to my untutored vocal writing
  100. Readers from all over the world




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Is a trumpet happiness project worthwhile?

For the last ten days, when I would tell someone that I was doing a “trumpet happiness” project, I got a lot of blank looks and then stammering attempts to alleviate the craziness that has come upon their friend, the trumpet-blogger-trying-to-go-new-age. 

Of course trumpet playing is a narrow discipline with concrete goals, methods and results. Why muddy it up with self-help notions? The extreme competition for a very narrow and low-paying job market, the lack of opportunities of self-actualization, the solitary struggle to master the craft of playing, and the limits of our physical body highlight the need for my happiness project. 

Obviously we can simply practice more than anyone else, win a great job, and then be happy with our reward. Forever and ever. 

But that doesn’t ring completely true. Getting a job is going to give you pretty good bump in your happiness, yes. But for your long-term happiness, I’m going to suggest a few other things. And I will try to explore ways I can do these suggestions over my year-long project.

  1. Improve yourself as a trumpeter and musician in a deep way, right down to the bones. Deliberate practice. Here’s a great article about one musician’s improvement that I think is pretty inspiring. 
  2. Relish listening to music. Think how you can do things like your favorite musicians/trumpeters. 
  3. Gratitude for the people that got you to your trumpet playing level, and gratitude for the opportunities you already have. Playing music (and especially on the trumpet!) is awesome. 
  4. If you have opportunities for trumpet experiences, try to take them. Trumpet equipment–maybe not so important.
  5. Take a moment to enjoy what you are doing right now. Even as you play the most boring rehearsal, or the most miserable gig. What can you focus on, in the present moment, and enjoy?
  6. Develop musician friends. Not just “Facebook friends.” Real friends that you can share your experiences with. 
  7. Give your advice and help pretty generously to the next generation of trumpet players. 

In thinking about this last point, I remember, when I was in undergraduate school at the University of Alabama, how a certain professor–very talented–always seemed so busy. She could hardly take the time to talk about anything. At the time, I was greatly impressed. I figured that to be a really good musician, you must limit access to people who might waste your time. I wanted to emulate her.

But, now I realize I want to do the opposite. I want to be the person to listen. To mentor. To help those who haven’t gotten as high, yet. Because I truly believe that the same patience that you need for yourself (to practice, to learn, to compose), must be practiced at all times of your life, so that when you get to the practice room, you’ll be ready to patiently help yourself. 


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