Happy birthday, and the importance of Story, Song and Support

It all started three years ago with a little post about, well, starting this website. And now Trumpet Journey has grown to more than 90 published posts about all kinds of trumpet-related things. There have been many interviews, but also “Top Ten Lists.” There have been posts about jazz, renaissance and baroque music, orchestral playing, the jobs market, and even language learning. 

Of the 117,000 people who have visited Trumpet Journey, I am really happy to receive the occasional comment or question. Especially from places like The Netherlands or Italy. Or even India! (sorry, India, I haven’t gotten around to answering you, yet). 

15th-century manuscript with a bearded figure blowing a trumpet

15th-century manuscript with a bearded figure blowing a trumpet

I haven’t posted much of my own writing in a while, because I have been doing so many interviews. So, I’d like to shake off the dust and talk about the three “S”s. These are what I think are the three key elements that each great trumpet player has: Story, Song, and Support

Each of us has a unique story. That story may be an actual account of some event, or even the story of our life. But we also have our own stories that we keep coming back to, such as “beauty is great,” or “old things are cool” or “technology is what I’m about.” These are our thematic points that our choices point to. Choices about repertoire, style, equipment, venues, and even the clothes we wear when we perform can help create our own story and the story that each generation needs to hear. Many players perform to a story that is going on inside their heads. As listeners, we can sense that something dramatic is happening. 

Trumpeters like Jean-Francois Madeuf, Doc Severinson, and Philip Smith seem to have a really strong story. Their playing seems to spring effortlessly from their personal story. 

Authenticity (played on an authentic natural baroque trumpet–very rarely heard):

Showmanship–notice how Doc adjusts his story to suit the Lawrence Welk Show audience:

And this story telling in the orchestral realm. I remember hearing Philip Smith talking about the way he thought about this opening excerpt from Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. He said he pictured Death (as the shrouded skeleton) reaching out from a dark fog. Closer and closer he comes, until you see his grotesqueness clearly. Sound quality is not quite perfect in this example.

 

Then there is the song. This is how we play what we play. This song can be sung with heart-on-the-sleeve romanticism, laser-beam clarity, or rhetorical interpretation. This is our personal song we sing on the trumpet when we play. Each of our voices are different–and they should be. Our song is the meeting place of our phrasing, our interpretation, our experience and, of course, our tone. I learned a beautiful lesson about tone from a former colleague of mine, the great euphonium player named Roger Behrend. He said it helps him to think about tone in terms of color, texture and taste. So, for instance, if you are thinking about maroon, velvet and chocolate, you get an especially luxurious sound. Or, perhaps you’re thinking golden, rough and with the taste of jambalaya, like I do, when I hear this trumpeter:

Trumpeters that have a great sense of song are many, but for me, some of the most astounding “trumpet singers” have been, besides Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, and Maurice André. 

I found this unusual example of Maurice André playing the Hindemith “Trumpet Sonate.” While this is not normal repertoire for André, nor is it a standard interpretation of the renowned German composer’s piece, it so well shows André’s glowing song-making style.

 

But to keep the song going, which keeps the story fresh, we all need the support of our technique, our fundamentals, our use of air, and our “chops.” For most of us, this comes down to consistent, mindful practice over many years. We are also looking for the right equipment to help us get there. Equipment and practice routines seem to be the subjects of most the trumpet chatter out there on the web and in studios. We all want to be able to play better, faster and higher. I know I do. But I think we all understand the limitations of mouthpieces, technique and high notes without a great singing style. Or without a musical story to tell. Let’s let support be what it is: help for a greater cause. Nevertheless, there are some great examples of technique and equipment.

Wynton Marsalis’ amazing technique and unique equipment do not get in the way of his song or story.

Malcolm McNab is a paragon of fundamentals, and he spins them into the most amazing recordings.

And, or course, there are the high note players like Arturo Sandoval and the late, great Maynard Ferguson. 

Talk about support!!! 

I think all of these examples show exceptional Story, Song and Support, and hopefully will give us some inspiration to communicate with our audiences, too.

In a very meaningful way, Trumpet Journey has been one of my trumpet stories that I have been able to tell over the last three years. 

 

 

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Back from a Long Vacation

First performance of "Night Passages," my concerto for trumpet and orchestra

Premier performance of “Night Passages,” my for trumpet and orchestra (February 9, 2014; photo by Angela Anderson)

Except for four gratifying interviews with some great trumpeters (Tine Thing Helseth, Chris Sala, C.J. Camerieri, and Brant Tilds), I haven’t posted on Trumpet Journey since September of 2013. I did remain busy, however. I composed and performed a concerto for trumpet (doubling on flugelhorn and piccolo trumpet) and orchestra.

 

Bach historian Christoff Wolff and me after a Washington Bach Consort concert at Kenyon College

Bach historian and me after a Washington Bach Consort concert at Kenyon College

 

 

 

 

The Natural Trumpet Making Workshop (with teachers Dr. Robert Barclay and Richard Seraphinoff, standing)

The (with teachers Dr. Robert Barclay and Richard Seraphinoff, standing)

 

 

I also played a lot of baroque trumpet and cornetto, and did things like visiting the Natural Trumpet Making Workshop and the organ making workshop of Taylor and Boody.

George Taylor demonstrating making an organ pipe at the Taylor and Boody workshop in Staunton, Virginia

George Taylor demonstrating making an organ pipe at the workshop in Staunton, Virginia

 

 

 

But my lack of new posts hasn’t stopped readers from visiting my blog. Since September, 2013, there have been more than 46,000 new visitors logging on the Trumpet Journey site. Previously, I had only 16,000 visitors for the first year of Trumpet Journey’s existence. That’s a huge increase! Thanks, thanks, thanks!

 

In the next year or so, I hope to keep my focus on getting and flourishing in trumpet jobs. I will continue to publish my popular but controversial Top 10 lists. Of course, there will be more interviews. And I will finish publishing my dissertation. In addition, I hope to publish some of my compositions on Trumpet Journey (for free of course!). More interviews, more practice tips, more history, more baroque trumpet, cornett, more pleas for authenticity, and some silliness are to come.

Happy Birthday to “Trumpet Journey!”

(apologies to the great Louis Armstrong!)

(apologies to the great Louis Armstrong!)

Trumpet Journey is now one year old!!!!

Both it, and I, have done some growing in that year. On August 2, I made a commitment to post an article everyday until this birthday. I almost made it (but there are a few days missing).

I have reached out to thousands more since that article. In total this past year, nearly 16,000 unique visitors have come to my blog to find out something new about the trumpet. Here’s a map and a top-twenty list of the visitors, by country.

Screen Shot 2013-09-27 at 6.06.24 AMGlobal Map of visitors to Trumpet Journey

 

 

Screen Shot 2013-09-27 at 6.05.13 AMAll Visitors to Trumpet Journey by country, top twenty

By far, the most popular article has been by satirical take on How not to get a trumpet job, which was written at about 1:00 am on September 1 and viewed by around 12,000 visitors. I didn’t have a good image to go with the article, so I just drew the donkey playing the trumpet myself. Also popular were a report I did with trumpet job numbers and trumpet degrees and statistics on studying the trumpet at institutions of higher learning. I was really proud to be able to report these statistics, because it now means that trumpeters wanting to get a performing job have just a little better idea how difficult it is to get one. This hopefully will lead to better job preparation and/or creative entrepreneurship as a trumpeter.

Also popular were my top ten list of jazz players today and my plea for baroque trumpet playing without the use of fingerholes. There were two posts updating the research done on a 1995 ITG Journal article about early cornopean literature which lead to my theory that one of the pieces looked at may have been actually composed by Wagner. I will probably work to get this new research published in the ITG Journal soon.

Of course I am thrilled at the people who come to read my Trumpet Building Blocks PDFs to get practice ideas. Also popular is my Trumpet History Timeline.

Two big projects that I hope to get going in the next year. One is an enlargement of my “This Day in Trumpet History”. This is a little widget that you will sometimes see on my sidebar if there is an entry for that calendar day. It has little tidbits of trumpet history, especially birthdays and death anniversaries. I hope to add more dates to this for a little better sense of our trumpet heritage.

The other really big news is that I have been working with some college students on a new trumpet literature database that will eventually go online. It may not be able to go on the Trumpet Journey site (compatibility with WordPress may be an issue), but it will be a trumpet literature tool that is accessible and “contributable” by anyone with an internet connection. More on this later.

I am looking forward to many new interviews with interesting trumpeters. In November, I will publish a fantastic interview with Latin jazz specialist Brant Tilds, an American who now lives in Great Britain. I hope that reading about his unique career path will inspire many.

I will continue my serialization of my dissertation on Monteverdi’s Symbolic Use of the Cornett, which I think will take me well into October. I just love that any interested scholars will be able to access this in the future.

Thanks for reading. Here’s to another year. Keep journeying.

 

 

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Trumpet Journey Celebrates Herbert L. Clarke’s Birthday!

Happy Birthday, Herbert L. Clarke!

Happy Birthday, Herbert L. Clarke!

Today, I had a enough free time to go down to the Congressional Cemetery in the District of Columbia to pay my respects to Herbert L. Clarke, perhaps the greatest cornet virtuoso to ever live. For me, the connection is personal, because he is my musical grandfather: one of my teachers, Charles Gorham, was a student of Mr. Clarke for a short while back in the 1940s, I believe.

I took my Conn New York Wonder cornet and played a few Clarke pieces: From the Shores of the Mighty Pacific, The Debutante and his Carnival of Venice. “Our” audience was the fifteen or so dog walkers who pass through the cemetery every morning. One of the administrators came out and took some photos of me playing by the grave.

IMG_3981You will want to know that he is buried a mere 20 feet away from the tomb of the great band leader, John Philip Sousa.

As I was walking back to my car, I was thinking that this could become a very nice tradition for future years!

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Blog Sabbatical for Trumpet Concerto Project

On my post, Ambitious New Resolution for Trumpet Journey, I wrote:

I promise to publish one new post per day for the next forty-six days–from today, August 2, 2013, until Friday, September 27, 2013, which is the One-Year Anniversary of Trumpet Journey

 

Now I realize that I need to modify that promise, because I have to finish a trumpet that I have been putting off. I am really excited about this piece, and I cannot wait to have it finished! So I am planning on taking at least a few week’s vacation.

The trumpet piece, a for trumpet and orchestra, is called Night Passages and will premiere in February, 2014 with the Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic under Ulysses James. I have finished sketching the first movement called “Night Fall,” which features the flugelhorn with a lot of pedal notes, and I am currently working on the sketch of the second movement, “Night Walk.” The third movement will be called “Night Club.”

Here’s a midi file “recording” of the first movement sketch, so you can get an idea of this composition. As the “sun” sets musically, listen for the “stars” (bell-like instruments) to start to appear. Shortly after this, you’ll hear a trombone-like instrument, which is the flugel playing in the pedal register. Part of this composition was inspired from a previous piece I wrote for my 13-year-old son, who is a fabulous violinist. Of course, a lot of the orchestration is still unfinished.

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As I look back over the last month, this blog has gone from an average of 8 unique visits a day to about 100 visits a day. My favorite posts have been the ones which triggered thoughtful and heartfelt comments. There are some other exciting projects that I am looking forward to on Trumpet Journey later on: more interviews, some posts written by some of my students, literature review, and other projects.

 

 

 

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