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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A trumpet dialogue in the spirit of Plato

Ancient Greek plate depicting salpinx player

Two trumpeters, Herodoros of Megara and Tortoise, having finished their morning trumpet routine, are in the lounge at the Athenian conservatory of trumpeting, sipping their coffee and tea.

Herodoros: Well, did you have a good warmup today, Tortoise?

Tortoise: (taking a sip of tea) Yes I did, Herodoros! I played through all of my Clarke “Technical Studies” slowly and with the metronome.

Herodoros: I did nothing of the kind. After eating a gigantic breakfast of eggs and a side of mutton, I did all of the important trumpet playing stuff. First I played loud, then I did a bunch of lip slurs to my highest notes. After that I played two trumpets and the same time, because that always gets them at the Olympics.

Tortoise: You know, Herodoros, they don’t have trumpet playing at the Olympics anymore. Trumpeters play with valves and are kind of refined.

Herodoros: I don’t really care for refined. When you say “refined” it reminds me of those overly-sensitive aulos players! (guzzles some coffee)

Tortoise: But Herodoros, the world is changing. If trumpeters want to keep up, we have to change. For instance, I just bought a new baroque trumpet. It plays great. It cannot miss notes, because, unlike those baroque trumpets, which, up to now, only have three or four fingerholes, this new one has seven. You can show up to rehearsal and play as pretty and smooth as the recorder player! The conductor never gives you a mean look. Those looks make me want to tuck my head in my shell.

Herodoros: Tortoise, my little friend, you’ll never be a 10-time Olympic winner like me if you’re afraid of the conductor. You have to blow the salpinx–uh, what you call the trumpet–without fear!

Tortoise: But the audience won’t stand for those out-of-tune notes that you get on that barbaric trumpet of yours. Those rude partials–the 7th, 11th, and the 13th–are just so out of tune!

Herodoros: Out of tune with what, Tortoise? The Olympic gods–probably Triton himself!–made the salpinx, or trumpet, as you like to call it. It is a perfect instrument, making notes that are mathematically pure with each other. Those other instruments that I hear: the lyre, the harpsichord, the most-unnatural piano that I hear being played in those practice rooms!

Ancient Greek plate with lyre player. Notice the body of the lyre is a tortoise shell.

Tortoise: Actually, some of my ancestors were lyres! But Herodoros, can I ask you some questions?

Herodoros: Of course!

Tortoise: How do you get to be a professional musician?

Herodoros: By getting paid.

Tortoise: Very good. And who pays you your wage as a musician?

Herodoros: The people that would hear you play. If they like you.

Tortoise: That is completely correct. And what sorts of things do these people like?

Herodoros: Well. What they’re used to, I think.

Tortoise: What are these people used to?

Herodoros: The music that they grew up listening to, I would guess.

Tortoise: I wonder, my dear Herodoros, what these gentle audience members grew up listening to?

Herodoros: The music that was on hand. They probably listened to music from a so-called stereo or radio.

Tortoise: You are right again. And do you think these stereos and radios played music with recordings of Greek salpinx players. Or natural trumpet players?

Herodoros: Well, I should hope so! But I don’t remember every making one of these recordings.

Tortoise: You’re right. There just aren’t many recordings of natural trumpet–or, uh, salpinx–being played. But there are a lot of recordings with guitar, harpsichord, and really a lot with the piano. A great instrument, by the way. It is tuned equally from one note to the next, so that you can play in all the keys! So, if they grew up listening to the equal-tempered piano, they probably love the equal temperament of the piano, right?

Herodoros: Uhhh. I’m getting hungry.

Tortoise: “Right!” The answer is “right!” Good. Then, if they love this temperament, will they give their good money to listen to the un-equal temperament of the natural trumpet?

Herodoros: You mean the salpinx? Well, they may not.

Tortoise: Then, can you become a professional musician if you play the natural trumpet?

Herodoros: Uhh. Maybe it’s not likely.

Tortoise: “Not likely”! It’s impossible, my friend! So, do you agree that, if you want to be a professional trumpet player, you cannot play the natural trumpet? You have to put fingerholes into the instrument!

Herodoros: But, Tortoise. Why don’t you just play the trumpet parts on the piano? Or, even better, on one of those machines I saw–I think they call them the synthesizer or sequencer or something like that.

Tortoise: Well, Mr. H., I think they want to see a trumpet in someone’s hand in a performance. Otherwise, what’s the purpose?

Herodoros: Ah. Okay. Well, Mr. Tortoise, we are talking about a so-called period instrument group, right?

Tortoise: Precisely.

Herodoros: Great, T. Then, what does “period” stand for?

Tortoise: Well, uh, the instruments that were used in the “period” in which the music was written.

Herodoros: Why do the people like “period instrument” performances, I wonder?

Tortoise: Well, because it gives them a good idea of the way the music sounded when it was written.

Herodoros: And what was the trumpet like in the day of, say, Bach or Handel?

Tortoise: Well, I wasn’t there, but I believe they were long trumpets, usually with decorated parts on them. Sometimes a banner hung from them, even!

Herodoros: What about these fingerholes? Did they have these?

Tortoise: Well, no. They were invented later.

Herodoros: You mean a few years after the composers made these pieces?

Tortoise: Uh, no. I mean hundreds of years later. When we had a revival of interest in this music in the 20th Century.

Herodoros: So, if the point of playing period instrument music is to play on the instruments of the time, and if the trumpet of the time did not have fingerholes, why would we do this?

Tortoise: Well, because everyone else does! And it is much safer. Safe is good!

Herodoros: So, “period instrument” performance means to play the music like it was originally played, unless everyone else is doing something else nowadays?

Tortoise: Herodoros! You’re impossible! Go, and play your vulgar notes on the natural trumpet and leave me alone.

Herodoros: Fine! I will, after a little lunch. See you tomorrow, Tortoise! Enjoy your new 10-holed fancy trumpet! By the way, you don’t have any money for food do you, T.?

Tortoise: I do have a few dollars, H. They’re left over from my last gig. You can take some–be my guest! Oh, and my trumpet only has seven holes!

Herodoros: Are you sure? I mean, about me borrowing the money? Thanks, Tortoise!

Tortoise: You’re welcome, H. See you later!


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Music review: J.F. Madeuf, Musica Fiorita playing Molter

Karlsruhe Palace, where Molter worked at the end of his life

Yesterday, I wrote about the power of music review. Today, I am writing a review about some powerful music: Jean François Madeuf’s new album featuring music by Johann Melchior Molter. James Miller has already written an excellent review for the Historic Brass Society Journal.

This new recording is a wonderful addition to the growing audio library we have of natural baroque trumpet playing. Jean François is joined on trumpet by Henry Moderlak and Tomohiro Sugimara on Molter’s Concerto No. 3 in D Major for three trumpets (MWV 4:11).

But the best part of this concerto is the third movement with its sweeping lines so wonderfully done by natural trumpets:

Jean François shows his artistic and trumpetistic abilities in the very demanding Concerto No. 1 for Trumpet in D Major (MWV 4:12):

But I really loved the whole album. Jean François and Olivier Picon play horn on the Divertimento in F Major (with tasty bassoon and  chalumeau also playing):

And I’ll leave you with this trumpet-less beauty:




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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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