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: 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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Summer study on the trumpet

This post was inspired by a recent post from the blog of Chris Carillo, trumpet professor at James Madison University. I thought it was so useful, I decided to ask him if I could steal adapt it for my blog! Thankfully Chris said “yes!” Credit also goes to his doctoral trumpet student John Nye. Thanks, Chris and John!

Summer Festival List for Trumpeters


Aspen Music Festival: Aspen, Colorado

Application Deadline: Tuesday January 8, 2018

Festival Dates: June 20 – August 19

Faculty: Karen Bliznik, Kevin Cobb, Louis Hanzlik, Raymond Mase, Thomas Hooten


Atlantic Music Festival: Waterville, ME

Festival Dates: July 1- July 29


Bayview Music Festival: Petosky, MI

Faculty: Brian Buerkle, Scott Thornburg


Brevard Music Center Institute: Brevard, North Carolina

Application: February 16, 2018

Festival Dates: June 17 – August 5

Faculty: Neal Berntsen. Robert Sullivan, Mark Schubert


Chautauqua Institution: Chautauqua, New York

Application: February 1, 2018

Festival Dates: June 23 – August 14

Faculty: Charles Berginc


Colorado College Summer Music Festival: Colorado Springs, Colorado

Application: February 15, 2018

Festival Dates: June 3 – June 23

Faculty: Kevin Cobb


Disney All-American College Band: Anaheim, California

Information on website


Eastern Music Festival:  Greensboro, North Carolina

Application Deadline: February 21, 2018

Festival Dates: June 23 – July 28

Faculty: Chris Gekker, Jeffrey Kaye, Judith Saxton


Festival Napa Valley:  Napa, CA

Application: Early January 15, 2018. Final March 1, 2018

Festival Dates: July 13 – July 29

Faculty: Billy Hunter, Adam Luftman


Hot Springs Music Festival:  Hot Springs, Arkansas

Application: February 15, 2018

Festival Dates: June 2 – June 16

Faculty: Scott Moore


Lake George Music Festival:  Queensbury, New York

Application: January 31, 2018

Festival Dates: August 12 – August 24

Faculty: NA


Marrowstone Music Festival: Bellingham, Washington

Application: March 23, 2018

Festival Dates: July 22 – August 5

Faculty: Roy Poper


Miami Summer Music Festival:  Miami, Florida

Application: Live January 15, 2018. Video Audition March 1, 2018

Festival Dates: June 27 – July 19

Faculty: Vincent Penzarella


Music Academy of the West: Summer School and Festival:  Santa Barbara, California

Application: Live Audition Request January 15, 2018. Video February 8, 2018

Festival Dates: June 18 – August 12

Faculty: Barbara Butler, Charles Geyer, Paul Merkelo


National Music Festival:  Chestertown, Maryland

Application: February 10, 2018 (rolling)

Festival Dates: June 3 – June 16

Faculty: Paul Neebe


National Repertory Orchestra:  Breckenridge, Colorado

Application Deadline: December 31st (Rolling deadline)

Festival Dates: June 4 – July 29


National Symphony Orchestra: Summer Music Institute:  Washington, D.C.

Application: January 22, 2018

Festival Dates: July 2 – July 30

Faculty: William Gerlach, Steven Hendrickson


The Philadelphia International Music Festival: Music House:  Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Application: February 28, 2018

Festival Dates: June 13 – June 29

Faculty: Anthony Prisk


The Pierre Monteux School:  Hancock, Maine

Application: February 15, 2018

Festival Dates: June 25 – July 30

Faculty: NA


Round Top Music Festival Institute:  Round Top, Texas

Application: Video February 19, 2018

Festival Dates: June 3 – July 15

Faculty: Matthew Ernst, Marie Speziale, Micah Wilkinson


Sewanee Summer Music Festival:  Sewannee, Tennessee

Application: Scholarship February 15, 2018. Final March 15, 2018

Festival Dates: June 23 – July 22

Faculty: Peter Bond


Spoletto Festival USA: 

Application: January 1, 2018 (but might accept late applications)

Auditions: from December 10, 2017 to February 23, 2018 in various locations

Festival Dates: May 25-June 10, 2018, Charleston, SC


Tanglewood Music Center: Lenox, Massachusetts

Application: January 22, 2018

Festival Dates: June 17 – August 11

Faculty: Thomas Rolfs


Texas Music Festival:  Houston, Texas

Application: Live January 19, 2018. Recorded February 23, 2018

Festival Dates: June 1 – June 30

Faculty: Mark Hughes. Thomas Siders


Brass/Trumpet Specific Programs


Boston Brass Summer Intensive: Laramie, WY

Tuition Payment Deadline of June 1

Festival Dates: June 18 – 24

Faculty: Jose Sibaja, Jeff Connor


Chosen Vale:  Hanover, New Hampshire

Application: No deadlines. First 40 accepted applicants taken.

Festival Dates: June 18 – June 30

Faculty: Edward Carroll, Jeroen Berwaerts, Marco Blaauw. Pacho Flores, Stephanie Richards, Clement Saunier, Tom Hooten


Le Domaine Forget: Brass Session Saint Irenee, Quebec

Application: February 15, 2018

Festival Dates: June 10 – June 17

Faculty: Philip Smith, Manon Lafrance


Raphael Mendez Brass Institute:  Denver, Colorado

Application: Rolling deadline

Festival Dates: July 8 – 14

Faculty: David Hickman, Alan Hood, John Marchiando, Ronald Romm, Joe Burgstaller


Spectrum Brass Seminar at the Bay View Music Festival: Bayview, MI

Application: Final April 1, 2018 (lower rates for earlier applications)

Festival Dates: June 16 – August 13

Faculty: Scott Thornburg, Brian Buerkle


University of Kentucky Summer Trumpet Institute: Lexington, KY

Festival Dates: June 11-14

Faculty: Numerous listed on website


Historic (Baroque Trumpet or Cornett) Brass Festivals

American Bach Soloists Academy: San Francisco, CA

Application Deadline: February 15

Festival Dates: July 30 – August 12

Faculty: John Thiessen

Baroque Performance Institute: Oberlin, OH

Application Deadline: May 1

Festival Dates: June 17 – 30

Faculty: John Thiessen

Brass Antiqua Workshop: Winchester, VA

Information to be posted soon

SFEMS Baroque Workshop: Sonoma State, CA

Workshop Dates: June 10-16

Faculty: Bruce Dickey (cornett)

Madison Early Music Festival:  Festival theme is “A Cabinet of Curiosities: Journey to Lübeck”  Music of Northern Germany will be the focus. All-Festival Concert will be “Journey to Lubeck: The Musical Legacy of the Reformation”

Dates: July 7-14

Faculty: Kiri Tollaksen

Amherst Early Music Festival:  Music of France and the Low Countries. All-Festival Concert:  “Hapsburg Choirbooks – Lambert de Sayve Mass” led by Wim Becu
Dates; July 15-22
Faculty: Kiri Tollaksen



Jazz Workshops

Jamey Aebersold’s Summer Jazz Workshops: Univ. of Kentucky

Workshop Dates: June 30-July 13


International Music Festivals


American Institute of Music Studies (AIMS): Graz, Austria

Application: March 10, 2018

Festival Dates: July 2 – August 12

Faculty: NA


Pacific Music Festival:  Sapporo, Japan

Application: January 17, 2018

Festival Dates: July 2 – August 2

Faculty: Tamas Valenczei, Mark Inouye

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Recital this Friday: Windows and more

Tia Wortham and me, Stan Curtis

This Friday at 8:00 p.m., EST, at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Arlington, Virginia, I will present a recital with some friends–Tia Wortham, a fabulous soprano, Dr. Ben Keseley, the music director of St. George’s, and Dr. Ina Mirtcheva Blevins, an amazing pianist who is my colleague at George Mason University.

In addition to some unaccompanied pieces for trumpet–“Where are the rests!?!”–and an aria for soprano by Paul Hindemith, we will play three of my own compositions.

For more than 10 years now, I have been composing pieces based on stained-glass windows at my church, St. George’s Episcopal Church in Arlington, Virginia. This summer, my efforts have culminated with a recording project in the nave of St. George’s, where I have been collaborating with some of my close music colleagues to record five of these compositions, each of which relate to the themes and artwork of the windows. The particular themes for these five are the stories of creation, Daniel, Epiphany, the Crucifixion, and Judgement Day. Sunlight, streaming through St. George’s windows, breaks into a prismatic rainbow, and for this reason, I call this group of compositions “Refracted Light.” Refraction, referring to the bending of light, such as in a prism, also speaks of my spiritual path, which has bent, and changed directions, finding me where I have been when I came to St. George’s and leading me to truer, more spiritual directions.

Creation Window

The short piece for soprano, trumpet and piano, called “Without Form,” is the musical setting for the Creation Window, and is my earliest of these window compositions. But the music started with a different text from a poem by T.S. Eliot called Little Gidding. After reaching out to the T.S. Eliot estate for permission, I was told that they do not want his poems set to music, so I was left with a song that needed new words. I turned to the creation story from Genesis, loosely paraphrasing with an eye to making a piece that musically depicted the Creation Window at St. George’s. Some of the music had to be changed, but I think the overall result was effective. Soprano, Tia Wortham, sang both versions of this piece and has continually helped me to better understand the craft of setting words to music. Indeed, many refinements of the text setting come directly from her not only for this piece, but for the other two vocal pieces in this album.

Epiphany Window

My Epiphany Window composition is derived from a concerto for trumpet and orchestra called Night Passages, which was my first multi-movement work for soloist and orchestra. This current version has only piano accompaniment. I play three instruments: flugelhorn for the first movement, B-flat trumpet for the second and third, and piccolo trumpet at the end of the third movement. It presents three different perspectives from the Epiphany window, which is depicted at night. The first movement of my composition is called “Night Fall: What the Stars and Camels Say” which musically represents the beginning of the evening, as the sun goes down and then the stars come out; “Night Walk” presents a frightening nighttime sojourn, and is subtitled, “The Magi Journey by Night”; and, finally, a Latin setting transports us in “Night Club; Dancing with Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.”

“Night Fall” begins with overlapping melodies and some shimmering figuration, depicting a spectacular sunset. The introductory lyrical theme, played on flugelhorn, features the downward melodic interval of a third. This opening theme gets lower and the accompaniment gets darker until “stars” begin to appear. Then the main theme of this movement appears, which originally began as a melody written for my son, who plays violin, as a kind of lullaby. The cadenza, normally an unaccompanied part of a solo composition, here is accompanied by piano. This effect is intended to evoke an ancient poet punctuating his verse with the strumming of a hand-held harp. Although I did not directly borrow from his work, Vaughan William’s Lark Ascending was an inspiration for this movement. In addition, much of the material is derived from Dizzy Gillespie’s “Night in Tunisia” and J. S. Bach’s “Gute Nacht, o Wesen,” the eighth part of his Cantata 64. And actually, the melodic material from these two pieces, as well as the opening theme of this movement, gets reused throughout the other two movements.

The next movement, “Night Walk” opens with a short and frightening motive that frames the repetitive and initially-relaxed bass line, over which I play long phrases, often interrupted by unpredictable outbursts. The bass line becomes more and more unstable until rhythmic and melodic chaos breaks out, representing a run from terror—possibly the fear that the Magi surely had of King Herod, or the panic Herod had when he heard of the prophecy of Jesus’ future as king of the Jews. After the framing motive returns, relative peace is restored to the end of the movement. Structurally, this movement traces the root structure of one chorus plus the interlude of Gillespie’s “Night in Tunisia.” In general, each chord change in the original jazz standard is spun out over ten bars in my piece. Melodically, much of the melodic material is drawn from the bridge of Gillespie’s composition, while incorporating Bach’s “Gute Nacht, o Wesen” from time to time. The movement finishes with the overlapping melodic sweeps that lead directly into the third movement.

After a short outburst from the piano, the trumpet introduces the melody, drawn from the main theme of “Night in Tunisia.” I used traditional Latin figurations, such as the “montuno,” derived from Cuban music, to make this movement feel like a salsa tune. The middle of the movement takes a brief look backwards to the opening melody of the first movement before launching into a small baroque-like counterpoint section. At the end of this short movement, I switch to piccolo trumpet with a variation of the main melody played in harmony with the pianist’s right hand.


Crucifixion Window

In 2012, I began to compose Advent, which, despite its name, is the piece I wrote to go with St. George’s Crucifixion Window. I was greatly moved by a poem of the same name by the American Poet Laureate Donald Hall. My intention was to provide a “Trinity” of variations for each of the three stanzas (three flexible interpretations based on the concepts of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost). Each stanza, therefore, has a set of three variations, making a total of nine iterations of the melody first sung at the beginning by the soprano. Regarding the text, “rood” in the first stanza is a cross; “Tenebrae” in the second stanza refers to a Christian religious service celebrated during Holy Week marked by the gradual extinguishing of candles; “Horror vacui” in the third stanza literally means “fear of empty space” and usually describes artwork which fills the entire space with visual detail. The original version of this extended aria featured an extremely unsettling phase-shifting mixed-meter melody between trumpet and piano with soprano singing in the rests, in an effort to imitate the artistic meaning of “horror vacui”, but an alternative, lyric, ending proved more effective in the long run.



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Social Sunday: Indiegogo improvisation app campaign

I just did something new: I backed a crowdsourcing campaign. Hosted by Indiegogo, this campaign is to help develop an app that will help Renaissance and early Baroque musicians practice their ornamentation and improvisation. It’s called Passaggi.

I elected to fund at a premium level, so that I get some sort of rewards, but you can fund these types of projects at any level.

I’m really excited about this project, because it seems to promise something that is really difficult to teach. It teaches you how to improvise in the style of late-16th Century and early-17th Century music. One of the big incentives is that fact that it will provide a continuo for you to play with, and you can alter its pitch and temperament to suit your needs. Here’s a little video about it.

I’d love to know what you’re backing in the crowdsourcing world! Send a comment about it!

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