Interview with trumpeter Neil Brown

Neil Brown playing with the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra

Neil Brown (left) playing with the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra. (right: Paul Johnson)

Trumpeter Neil Brown enjoys a multi-faceted career as a performer, educator, composer, arranger, and bandleader. Currently a member of the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra, he is also the founder, principal composer, and trumpeter of the classical, jazz, and rock influenced group Phonic Wrinkle. Neil can frequently be heard playing with many Washington D.C. and Baltimore area ensembles including the National Philharmonic, Apollo Chamber Orchestra, Maryland Symphony, Peacherine Ragtime Orchestra, Concert Artists of Baltimore, and Tryos Ensemble.

Originally from Guilford, Connecticut, Neil earned his Bachelor and Master of Music degrees from the University of Maryland and was a member of the United States in Washington D.C. from 2009-2013. He attended the National Orchestral Institute, Colorado College Summer Music Festival, Las Vegas Music Festival, and Boston University Tanglewood Institute. As an educator, he has performed numerous educational concerts, presented masterclasses at both the university and high school levels, served on the faculty of the Suitland Performing Arts High School and the Sheridan School, and leads a private studio. Neil’s teachers include Chris Gekker, Steven Hendrickson, and Allan Dean.




Bb trumpet: Bach Stradivarius 180ML 43
C trumpet: Yamaha YTR-9445CHS Chicago
Eb/D: Schilke E3L
Piccolo: Kanstul Custom Class
Rotary: Ricco Kühn T053/C
Flugelhorn: Yamaha 631G

Bb/C/Eb: Bach 1 ½ C with 24 throat
Cornet: Laskey 75SB
Piccolo: Laskey P50
Rotary: Yamaha 16E4


Interview with trumpeter Neil Brown

The Interviewer is Stanley Curtis


Trumpeter Neil Brown playing with Phonic Wrinkle

Trumpeter Neil Brown playing with Phonic Wrinkle

SC: How did you get interested in music? Who were some of your initial influences and teachers? What other things were you interested in when you were young?


NB: I was extremely fortunate to grow up in a school system in Guilford, Connecticut that required all students to either sing in choir or play in the band or orchestra when they entered 5th grade. I have an older brother and had attended several of his middle school band concerts, so by the time I reached 5th grade, I was very excited at the prospect of playing in the band. Though my initial first choice for an instrument was the drums, I settled on the trumpet after the band director gently redirected my interests. My classmates had an overwhelming demand to play drums and in an act of balancing the band I was fortuitously assigned to the trumpet section. Looking back, this ended up being one of the most important choices of my life as it is hard for me to imagine playing a different instrument other than the trumpet.


SC: When did you get really interested in the trumpet? Who were your most important teachers? What sorts of experiences were critical to you becoming a professional trumpeter?

NB: I led a fairly normal childhood with a strong interest in sports, particularly basketball and baseball. I enjoyed playing the trumpet, though not as much as sports, and I practiced regularly, but sometimes only because it was a valid reason for putting off homework. Gradually in late middle school or early high school I began to take the trumpet much more seriously. I really enjoyed the process of improving on the instrument and started listening to many kinds of music in addition to the popular music on the radio, particularly classical and jazz. I had an especially influential middle school band director, Eric Gerhardt, who happened to be a trumpet player and former student of Chris Gekker. He had been a freelance trumpeter in New York before arriving in my town in Connecticut and really expanded my perspective of excellent music and fine trumpet playing. Together with inspiration from listening to great musicians, terrific guidance from my music teachers, and a great group of friends that I played music with, I began to strongly feel that a career in music was what I wanted.

In college, I studied with Chris Gekker and Steven Hendrickson at the University of Maryland. I cannot even begin to express the level of gratitude I feel towards them for all of the knowledge and inspiration they bestowed upon me during lessons, not to mention the fine examples of musicianship and professionalism each demonstrated through his active performance career.


MU1 Neil Brown playing "Taps" at Arlington National Cemetery

MU1 Neil Brown playing “Taps” at Arlington National Cemetery

SC: You served in the U.S. Navy Band for one enlistment. What did you like about the band? Why did you leave?

NB: The Navy Band was a great job and I was truly fortunate to play amongst so many fine musicians. One of the most important and meaningful aspects of the job was to play Taps for funerals at Arlington National Cemetery. Each performance meant so much to the families of the service member and it was a great honor to play for people who had often sacrificed so much in their service. Though there were many other aspects of the job—playing concerts for the public, performing at important Navy ceremonies, formally welcoming foreign dignitaries with our music, even playing for the President on occasion—rendering Taps for service members, for me, was the most important part of being a trumpet player in the Navy Band.

Playing "Taps" at Ft. McHenry (Maryland) at anniversary of the battle with the British Navy when Francis Scott Key penned the "Star Spangled Banner"

Playing “Taps” at Ft. McHenry (Maryland) at anniversary of the battle with the British Navy when Francis Scott Key penned the “Star Spangled Banner”

The decision to leave the Navy Band was very difficult and only made after considerable thought. Ultimately, though, I had aspirations for my musical career that I had to pursue. I wanted to spend more time performing in orchestras, playing chamber music, and teaching. Most of all, I wanted the opportunity to lead my own group. A group for which I could compose music, provide the musical direction, and feel a sense of ownership. I left my nice steady job with the Navy Band and jumped off the cliff into independence, an uncertain future, and full pursuit of my dreams.



SC: You have an interest in fitness and nutrition. What are your views on staying in shape and eating right. Does this regimen help your trumpet playing?

NB: I have an interest in living a healthy lifestyle both for the long-term benefits and the present day advantage of feeling better throughout day to day activities, but I am not a doctor and wouldn’t try to play one, even on a trumpet blog! I know of many fantastic trumpet players that don’t put a strong emphasis on nutrition, so I would not say that it is a particularly impactful aspect of trumpet playing. I will just mention briefly, and this is nothing revelatory, that I think it can be beneficial to minimize heavily processed foods, particularly heavily processed carbohydrates, and increase the intake of foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids such as fish or avocado. These diet choices may have a small impact on trumpet playing as processed carbohydrates are often linked to elevated levels of inflammation throughout the body, which for trumpet players can mean slower healing from a heavy day of playing or more swollen chops. Of course the greater factors are taking care to not overdo your practicing and managing the demands of a tough rehearsal or concert intelligently, but when you do those to the best of your ability perhaps diet would be one more tool to add.



Phonic Wrikle: L to R, Kyle Augustine, Paul Keesling, Neil Brown, Nick Montopoli, Natalie Spehar

Phonic Wrikle: L to R, Kyle Augustine, Paul Keesling, Neil Brown, Nick Montopoli, Natalie Spehar

SC: Tell me about your most recent project(s).

NB: Phonic Wrinkle has been a really fun and interesting project. I started the group about a year ago and we made our debut on a recital at University of Maryland. I compose or arrange most of the music we play, and I play trumpet in the group. Phonic Wrinkle consists of five musicians: trumpet, violin, cello, electric bass, and drums. I think we have crafted a unique sound both from our unusual instrumentation and by combining elements of classical, jazz, and rock music, but we are not so progressive that our music is esoteric. We want to connect with listeners on an emotional level, and we hope people can really enjoy our music and be moved. I am fortunate to work with four other fantastic musicians and friends in the group, and I think collectively Phonic Wrinkle has tremendous potential. My vision is that we will continue to grow our audience, do more recording, and hopefully some touring in the future.

Tryos Ensemble: L to R, Kevin Businsky, Neil Brown, Kevin McKee, Hyojin Ahn

Tryos Ensemble: L to R, Kevin Businsky, Neil Brown, Kevin McKee, Hyojin Ahn

I also play in a chamber group with a great group of friends called the Tryos Ensemble. The group takes form in a few different instrumentations, one of which consists of three trumpets and piano and another as a trumpet and cello duo. We have been playing recitals, weddings and other events. There is not a large repertoire for these instrumentations so I have done quite a bit of arranging, which has been time consuming but rewarding. Some of the real classic wedding pieces, despite being overplayed, are really beautiful pieces of music and as a trumpet player it is a real joy to get to play them.

[audio:|titles=Tryos Ensemble: Pachelbel Canon, arr. Neil Brown] [audio:|titles=Tryos Ensemble: Telemann Concerto for 3 trumpets, arr. Neil Brown]


Trio illumino: L to R, Neil Brown, Virginia Lum, Stephen Czarkowski. Photo credit: Bruce Vartan Boyajian

Trio illumino: L to R, Neil Brown, Virginia Lum, Stephen Czarkowski. Photo credit: Bruce Vartan Boyajian



Recently I have also begun performing with a group called Trio illumino, consisting of trumpet, cello, and piano. There are a few fantastic pieces written for this instrumentation including substantial works by Eric Ewazen and Carson Cooman, and I have also done some arrangements ranging from the Bartok violin duos to music from the Brazilian composer Pixinguinha.





SC: What do you see yourself doing in 5 years?

NB: The unpredictability of a career in music is both curse and a blessing. Though stability can be in short supply, every day brings a new exciting project or group to play with and life rarely gets boring. I don’t know what twists and turns my career will take, but I do have some definite goals to pursue. I would like Phonic Wrinkle to continue to grow. I would like to write more music for the group and I hope our music can really connect with our audience. I also really enjoy working with my good friends in the Tryos Ensemble and Trio illumino and hope these groups continue to be increasingly active. I will continue playing orchestral music and always cherish any opportunity to play with any of the fine orchestras in the Washington D.C. area. Lastly, I have really begun to enjoy teaching trumpet. I may pursue teaching at the college level some day, but for now I am getting great satisfaction and am learning a tremendous amount from my students.


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Interview with Michael Blutman, New York City freelance trumpeter

Trumpet section with Sting, New York City, 2009. l-r: Chris Gekker, Chris Botti, and Mike Blutman

section with Sting, New York City, 2009. l-r: Chris Gekker, Chris Botti, and Mike Blutman

Michael Blutman enjoys a diverse career as a trumpeter, music educator, and music publisher. A graduate of The Juilliard School and University of Maryland, his performing and recording credits include: Sting, National Symphony Orchestra, American Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, American Ballet Theater, Paragon Ragtime Orchestra, David Parsons Dance Company, Jonathan Batiste Jazz Band, Westminster Choir, Broadway’s Phantom of the Opera, and many others. Michael’s trumpet instructors include: Chris Gekker, Mark Gould, Steven Hendrickson and William Vacchiano.

Also an educator, Michael’s music teaching credits include: East Meadow’s Fusing Culture and Curriculum program (coordinator and teaching artist), Nassau Suffolk Performing Arts (artist in residence), Usdan Center for the Arts (trumpet and chamber music instructor), and the American Symphony Orchestra (former education manager). He is also a clinician for colleges, primary and secondary schools, maintains a private trumpet studio, and is a published music education author (featured articles in NYSSMA’s School Music News, the ’s Youth website, and co-author of the Festival Sight Reading series, published by Pinnacle Music Press, Inc.).

Recordings / Websites:
Pinnacle Music Press:
Not many recordings (mostly a concert player or record for commercial entities), but there are clips from the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra’s “Minding the Score Album”:
Bb Trumpet: Shires (Model A-W) and Bach 37
C Trumpet: Bach 229H
D/Eb: Blackburn MD-19
Piccolo: Schilke P5-4
Bb/A Cornet: Conn Victor Quick-Change Cornet (ca. 1924)
Orchestral Playing: Bach 1.5 C (25 throat, S backbore) for C trumpet, stock 1.5C for Bb, sometimes Curry TF for chamber orchestra
Commercial Playing: Warburton 5S (Greg Black #5 Backbore) or Curry 50S
Cornet: Conn Levy Model #6 (ca. 1910’s)
On heavy teaching days, or long brass ensemble shows: Bach 5C (with Wayne Tanabe’s magic touch) or 10.5C (with Josh Landress’ magic touch)

Interview with Michael Blutman, New York City freelance trumpeter

The interviewer is Stanley Curtis


SC: Tell us about your early interest in music.
MB: My early musical interest came mostly through listening to jazz with my father.  Though not a musician, he has amazing taste!  Basie’s Chairman of the Board album was a favorite – I was being introduced to arguably the greatest big band album of all time and early Thad Jones arrangements.  My dad regularly made jazz mix tapes that included Oscar Peterson, Stan Getz, Ella Fitzgerald, and many others.  Sinatra was also a favorite, especially the Capital Records years.
Mike with the Leon Petruzzi Jazz Orchestra at Whoville Bar and Grill on Long Island.

Mike with the Leon Petruzzi Jazz Orchestra at Whoville Bar and Grill on Long Island. Two of Mike’s band directors from East Meadow School District are in the sax section (Joel Levy on the left and Dave Fletcher on the right). Leon Petruzzi is to the left of Mike in the trumpet section.

When I really started showing an interest in music and willingness to practice in middle school, my parents bought me a subscription to the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, led by Jon Faddis. The trumpeters I got to hear with that band included Lew Soloff, Earl Gardner, Byron Stripling, Randy Brecker and others … absolutely amazing! My parents also started taking me regularly to the Leon Petruzzi Jazz Orchestra; an excellent local big band that continues to play twice per month on Long Island. That band consists of terrific musicians who are mostly music educators from Long Island.

Most of my early interest in music was rooted around big bands. Although I primarily play classical music for a living now, big bands have always been my hobby and first love. I play as often as I am able with the Leon Petruzzi Jazz Orchestra.
SC: Who have been your most influential teachers and mentors?
MB: At every stage of my development, I have been lucky enough to have excellent teachers and mentors who have encouraged and challenged me.
My public school teachers from the East Meadow School District had a tremendous influence on me. Besides being terrific musicians, they are master teachers and were always generous with their time during the school day as well as before and after school. They are incredibly dedicated teachers. In addition to my in-school teachers, Mike Klein and Leon Petruzzi were private teachers who helped encourage solid fundamentals and excitement about performing music.
In my final two years of high school, I also took about one lesson per month from William Vacchiano. It was amazing to play for him, and I taped almost every lesson. The teaching took place then, but I’m learning at least as much from him now and am sure that will continue forever. He was 88 and 89 years old when I studied with him. I’m really glad to have gotten to know him.
I went to the University of Maryland for my undergrad, where I got to study with Chris Gekker and Steve Hendrickson. I first heard Chris as a member of the American Brass when I was in middle school. His and Ray Mase’s playing had such an impact on me that I really wanted to study with him in college. An added benefit to studying at University of Maryland was also getting to work with Steve Hendrickson, who had a tremendous influence on me as well. Just trying to keep up with him on orchestral rep was lesson enough to try to thicken out my tone! During my senior year at Maryland, Steve invited me to play extra a few times with the National Symphony, a tremendous opportunity and thrill!
After studying at the University of Maryland, I was lucky enough to study with Mark Gould at Juilliard, where I also worked with Ray Mase as a chamber coach.  Both were great mentors and very generous with me.
One of the greatest things about playing in a major metropolitan area is getting to hear terrific musicians regularly (not just trumpeters). I have been fortunate to get to perform with Carl Albach, Lou Hanzlik and John Dent a fair amount; after hearing them, my practicing always gets better for a few weeks trying to emulate aspects of their playing.
SC: Describe the free-lance scene in NYC.
MB: I met with Lou Hanzlik just as I was graduating from Juilliard hoping for some advice on establishing a freelance career in NYC.  The gist of his advice was something to the effect of, “find ways to stay busy, even if it doesn’t earn you much money at first.”  The more I’ve talked with freelancers about their work, I’ve found it to be individual without too many consistent patterns other than figuring out ways to “stay busy.”
SC: How have you “stayed busy” working in NYC? 
MB: Ray Mase asked me a tough question sometime when I was at Juilliard, something like, “what do you need in your professional musical life that you are not willing to let go?”  The answer I came up with was, “I need to play with excellent musicians regularly and I need to teach.”  My version of staying busy includes subbing with several orchestras and other groups, teaching, running an arts-in-education program and running a music publishing company with my brother.  It pieces together into a “way-too-busy-all-of-the-time” schedule!
Besides having great teachers, I also had great mentors just a few years older than me at every stage of my development, including today.  In turn, I always liked encouraging people a few years younger than me.  Upon graduating from Juilliard, establishing a teaching studio in my parents’ basement was a quick way for me to earn money doing something I loved doing.  I continue that studio today and have great, hard-working students.
Other teaching includes running an arts-in-education program in my hometown school district, teaching trumpet at Usdan (a terrific arts day camp on Long Island) and coaching at Nassau Suffolk Performing Arts (a Long Island youth concert band and jazz band program).  As you can tell, my teaching tends to be Long Island-centric.  It’s nice to contribute in that way to the community that helped encourage me to pursue my passions as a career.
Mike warming up at intermission of an Orchestra of St. Luke's performances at Carnegie Hall

Mike warming up at intermission of an Orchestra of St. Luke’s performance at Carnegie Hall

Over the first eight seasons of my career, I’ve been fortunate to sub with several of the freelance orchestras in, and around, NYC, including the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, American Symphony, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Northeastern PA Philharmonic, Stamford Symphony, and others. Between all of them, I end up performing about a half-year orchestra season.  In addition, I’ve enjoyed playing chamber music, with big bands, and as a substitute on Broadway shows.

SC: What are some of your most memorable musical projects?  
MB: I am more of a “gun for hire” on trumpet, rather than one who cultivates my own creative playing projects. My creative energies really come out in my teaching.
Mike with Chris Gekkeer in Avatar Studios recording world premieres with the Manhattan Contemporary Music Ensemble (2014)

Mike with Chris Gekkeer in Avatar Studios recording world premieres with the Manhattan Contemporary Music Ensemble (2014)

Some of my most memorable musical opportunities have been with Chris Gekker over the past few years.  We performed together with Sting in 2009 and more recently with Richard Alden Clark’s Manhattan Contemporary Chamber Ensemble, where we performed world premieres at Carnegie Hall and recorded at Avatar Studios for a week after.  Getting to spend time in the recording studio with Chris was a special treat for me.

Two recent interdisciplinary Stravinsky programs really stand out, both with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s.  First was Soldier’s Tale performed in collaboration with The Puppet Kitchen for thousands of NYC school kids; 8 performances in one week. Another was a collaboration with Basil Twist (a puppetry company described as “ballet without dancers”) on a program that included Fireworks, Pulcinella Suite, and Jonathan McPhee’s reduced orchestration of Rite of Spring. I’ve always loved interdisciplinary performances.
Mike Blutman with Jon Batiste

Mike Blutman with Jon Batiste


Jon Batiste was a colleague at Juilliard and has since done amazing things with his Stay Human Band. I performed with him in his “Little Big Band” at the Blue Note, Dizzy’s Club, KC Jazz Club, Rubin Museum, for an NPR national broadcast, Central Park’s Summerstage jazz series with Esperanza Spalding, and recorded at Pyramid Studios. Jon and I also did a few educational recitals based around music by Duke Ellington and William Grant Still.  Jon brings intimacy and excitement to every performance, which continues to inspire me.

Mike's Conn Victor 1924 Bb/A "quick change" cornet in front of the George Washington Bridge and Hudson River before a Paragon Ragtime Orchestra recording session.

Mike’s Conn Victor 1924 Bb/A “quick change” cornet in front of the George Washington Bridge and Hudson River before a Paragon Ragtime Orchestra recording session.


Recently, I have performed and recorded a bit with the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra (on my Conn Victor 1924 Bb/A quick-change cornet). This group performs ragtime, theater music and accompanies “silent” movies. The first CD I performed on featured music arranged by Harry Alford (listen to clips of this CD here).  The forthcoming CD features early cinema music from the “silent movie” era.

There are other really great programs and performances I’ve been lucky enough to play like Elliott Carter’s opera What Next?, an all Kurt Weill / Hans Eisler program at Carnegie with H.K. Gruber, and many others … I have been very lucky so far to have some very cool playing opportunities and hope to continue that into the future.
SC: What are some things that you do other than play the trumpet?
MB: My brother and I started Pinnacle Music Press, a publishing company looking to fill gaps in music education.  Part of this series is Festival Sight Reading, which my brother and I co-authored.  This is the first “job” I’ve had that doesn’t really involve a trumpet up to my face.  I often have to do long tones or lip slurs while I’m doing Pinnacle work just to feel normal!
Outside of music, I’m somewhat “normal”: sports fan (particularly baseball), enjoy following/discussing politics and current events, read (mostly history), long walks around the city, etc.
SC: What would you like to be doing in 5 or 10 years?
MB: My hope is that over the next several years, Pinnacle Music Press develops into a strong business. I believe that our products have a great potential for wide distribution. This is my first business venture outside my playing and teaching and I think it has a great potential.
I want to be a really good musician and teacher, so I need to continually improve my trumpet playing and deepen my musical knowledge and experiences. In these areas, my immediate goals are similar to what they have been to this point. I believe that if I focus on improving the quality of my trumpet playing and musicianship, other good things will follow.
SC: What do you do when you’re not working?
SC: Michael, thanks so much for your time!


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Beer and Brass music

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Note: this article is intended for readers 21 years of age and older. The surgeon general of the United States has determined that drinking beer while playing trumpet can cause adverse results in performances, lessons, and auditions. 

If you look at a map of the alcoholic beverages of Europe, you may notice that the beer-drinking areas are the ones that contributed mostly to the development of brass instrument playing (whereas the wine producing areas became famous for string instruments). Hurray for beer! Perhaps we trumpeters and other brass players owe beer our greatest debt of gratitude for our livelihood. Yes we find good brass music at times in Italy. We all admire ’s brass music, but don’t forget that learned his trade under the renowned Orlando de Lassus at the court of Duke Albert V in Munich. Aha! He must have learned about beer while in Munich, and of course this is what inspired him to write so well for the brass instruments of his time.

Brass groups that record and perform today offer listeners different choices in flavors and styles in just the same way different beers do. Unfortunately, many of us are not aligned with our true preferences. For example, one day not too long ago, I came upon a tuba-playing friend of mine listening to the Empire Brass on his car stereo. I thought that was strange, since this friend is a beer connoisseur, brews his own beer and loves intense, creative, original, craft beer. I pointed out that for him to be listening to the Empire Brass was like drinking Sam Adams: a little too conservative and over-commercialized for his personality and drinking style. Instead, he should be listening to something like the –famous their original repertoire, serious demeanor and uncompromising originality. Flustered and incredulous, he eventually saw my point, of course. Satisfied with creating a balance between my friend’s beer choices and his brass group listening preferences, I resolved to create a list of brass groups and their corresponding beer counterparts. In this way brass players all over the world can achieve equilibrium between their beverage and their brass ensemble of choice.

Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 4.55.26 PM1. Dallas Brass. A great show with pizzaz, and choreography. Percussion and drum set added most of the time. Pretty darn fun. My beer pairings: a spicy chili pale ale, such as Pale Ale with Serrano.



Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 4.55.46 PM2. Boston Brass. For nearly three decades, the Boston Brass has set a great standard of entertainment and artistry. Trumpeter Jose Sibaja, from Costa Rica, is really amazing in his Latin jazz injections. Also, my friend Andy Hitz plays tuba in this group.  My beer pairings: a Mexican style lager like Negro Modelo.



Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 4.46.07 PM3. Center City Brass Quintet. Cleveland-based brass quintet with Anthony DiLorenzo and Geoffrey Hardcastle (and, previously Ryan Anthony) on trumpet. Many nice original arrangements and compositions, especially by DiLorenzo. They don’t perform all that much, but they’re worth it. My beer pairings: might I offer a rich Czech Pilsner, like Sierra Nevada Summerfest Lager?



Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 4.57.52 PM4. The Empire Brass Quintet. As I mentioned before, Rolf Smedvig’s brass quintet, started in 1971, has showcased the amazing talents of brass players such as Eric Ruske, Jeffrey Curnow, Marty Hackleman and Sam Pilafian. The go-to group for great brass conservatory style. They entertain really well. Christmas albums galore. And they have Rolf Smedvig! My beer pairings: amber lager, like Sam Adams Boston Lager.



Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 4.46.38 PM5. London Brass (used to be called Philip Jones Brass Ensemble). Since 1951, this amazing quintet or large brass ensemble from Great Britain has always been great. Some of the trumpeters: Philip Jones, John Wilbraham, Michael Laird, John Wallace, Maurice Murphy, and Crispian Steele Perkins. Entertaining, original, and technically brilliant. My beer pairings: an intense, robust porter, like London Porter.



Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 4.47.00 PM6. Canadian Brass. The most famous brass ensemble in the world. Mass-marketed, fun-loving, talented mix of veterans and some new players (some of the performers have been Ryan Anthony, Jens Lindemann, Fred Mills, Ronald Romm, Marty Hackleman, Joe Burgstaller). Since 1970, this quintet has had no real aspirations for authenticity or originality but really entertains and amazes. White tennis shoes. My beer pairings: a session-strength IPA, such as Boulevard Pop-Up Session IPA.



Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 4.47.21 PM7. The American Brass Quintet. Promoting the idea of a brass quintet as a serious chamber music ensemble for more than 50 years. Top notch craft and originality and based in NYC. Commissioned dozens of new pieces by contemporary composers. My beer pairings: a rich, strong barley wine, such as Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine.




Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 4.47.48 PM8. Meridian Arts Ensemble. I remember when I first saw this NYC-based group play in 1994 (in Amsterdam, no less). They were jaw-droppingly amazing and original. The sweat they had shed in the hours they had spent in rehearsals was virtually soaking this group. Five brass players (and now a drummer). No compromises. My beer pairings: an interesting Gueuze, like Drie Fonteinen Oude Geuze Golden Blend.



Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 4.48.19 PM9. Eminence Brass Quartet. Have you heard of this new conical bore quartet from Great Britain? Cornetists Philip Cobb (principal trumpet of LSO) and Richard Marshall (principal cornet of the Grimethorpe Colliery Band) are truly amazing along with euphoniumist David Childs and tenor hornist Owen Farr. How about a pint of chocolate stout, like Young’s Double Chocolate Stout?



Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 4.48.46 PM10. Mnozil Brass. Talk about a beer connection. This group, made up originally of graduates from the Vienna College of Music, met at the Mnozil pub in Vienna’s first inner city district. Founded in 1992, this septet is based on equal parts of technical brilliance, lovely Germanic sound and Austrian humor. Their arrangements and routines are truly original. I suggest pairing this group with a complex and smokey rauchbier or grodziskie (Polish style heavily hopped wheat ale), such as Rauchbier Marzen.

This video is a great example of their routines. Music doesn’t actually start until about the fourth minute.



Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 4.49.08 PM11. German Brass. A collection of some of the most brilliant and quintessential players. Virtuosic as soloists and amazingly homogenous as a group, they personify in music the “Reinheitsgebot” (German Beer Purity Law), but with a definite modern appeal. I recommend slowly sipping a rich Eisbock, like Schneider Aventinus Weizen-Eisbock, while enjoying this magnificent ensemble.



Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 4.49.30 PM12. Concerto Palatino. I love this groups increasing focus on authentic approaches to brass music of the 16th and 17th centuries. Some of the most technically gifted practitioners of cornett (Bruce Dickey and Doron Sherwin) and trombone (Wim Becu, Charles Toet, and Simen Van Mechelen). If this group makes any compromises, I don’t know what they might be. I suggest the ancient Roggenbier, which might be a little hard to find. One example is the (or Rogue Chatoe) Roguenbier Rye Ale.



Disclaimer: Trumpet Journey in no way is affiliated with any of these brass groups or beers. (Not saying that I don’t want to be….) Much thanks to Tony Halloin, special beer researcher to Trumpet Journey. 

Interview with International Trumpet Soloist Tine Thing Helseth


Tine Thing Helseth (pronounced TEE-nah TING HELL-sett), 26, started to play the at the age of 7, and is one of the leading soloists of her generation.
Performing highlights of the 2012/2013 season included orchestral debuts with the Zurich Chamber, , , Munich Symphony, and Sioux City orchestras. Tine made her BBC Proms concerto debut at the Royal Albert Hall in the London premiere of Matthias Pintscher’s Chute d’Étoiles for two trumpets and orchestra with the . With her all-female brass ensemble, tenThing, she also made her BBC Chamber Proms debut at Cadogan Hall. In addition, she returned to the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and Ulster orchestras for the third time, as well as enjoying re-invitations from the Stavanger Symphony and Kristiansand Symphony orchestras; and she premiered a new concerto by Britta Byström with the Nordic Chamber Orchestra. As a recitalist, Tine toured the UK, Norway, France and Finland with the renowned British pianist Kathryn Stott, culminating in her acclaimed debut at London’s Wigmore Hall.
In celebration of the 150th anniversary of the birth of fellow Norwegian, Edvard Munch, Tine launched Tine@Munch in June 2013: a three day festival in Oslo’s Edvard Munch Museum, featuring performances from such instrumentalists as Leif Ove Andsnes, Nicola Benedetti and Truls Mork.
This season, Tine has given the world premiere performances of Bent Sørensen’s Trumpet Concerto with the Bergen Philharmonic, Gothenburg Symphony and Copenhagen Philharmonic orchestras. She has made debut performances with SWR Stuttgart and BBC National Orchestra of Wales, and will perform further debuts with Orchestre Philharmonique de Luxembourg, and Gürzenich and Bremen Philharmonic orchestras, as well as her recital debut at Baltimore’s Shriver Hall. Tine will return to the Oslo Philharmonic and Kristiansand Symphony orchestras, as well as to the Musikkollegium Winterthur. With tenThing, she will debut at Moscow’s renowned International House of Music, and will tour such prestigious festivals as the MDR Musiksommer, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Rheingau and Schleswig-Holstein festivals in Germany.
In recognition of her outstanding performing abilities, Tine has been the recipient of various awards including “Newcomer of the Year” at the 2013 Echo Klassik Awards, the 2009 Borletti-Buitoni Trust Fellowship, “Newcomer of the Year” at the 2007 Norwegian Grammy Awards (the first classical artist ever to be nominated), and second prize in the 2006 Eurovision Young Musicians Competition.
In early 2012, Tine released her debut discs on EMI Classics: a solo disc with RLPO, Storyteller, and a collaborative album with tenThing, 10. Tine released a further CD in March 2013 – aptly titled Tine, the disc presents a personal selection of original and transcribed works, accompanied by Kathryn Stott.

NOTE: Tine will be performing at (le) Poisson Rouge on April 3rd at 7:30PM.  The concert, which will be hosted by Sirius XM Classical radio, will feature music from Tine’s two Warner Classics albums Storyteller and TINE, with piano accompaniment by Bretton Brown, and is her first NYC performance since her Carnegie Hall debut in 2011. 

EVEN BIGGER NOTE (!): You can attend this concert at the Poisson Rouge at a discount by entering the following code (must be entered in all caps): TINEATLPR


B-flat Trumpet: Bach 37
C Trumpet: Yamaha, Chicago model
E-flat Trumpet: Schilke
Piccolo Trumpet: Schagerl A/Bb; Yamaha custom A/Bb
Mouthpieces: Bach 1 1/4 for all trumpets except piccolo (Bach 7D)


Interview with

The interviewer is Stanley Curtis

SC: Usually, I like to start an interview with a trumpeter’s beginnings. So, how did you get your start in music? Who were some of your most important influences and teachers?

TTH: I don’t come from a classical music home – but definitely a home filled with music. I’m the first professional musician in the family, but my mum plays the trumpet as a hobby. That’s how it started, I wanted to be like her. I also played the piano when I was younger, but trumpet was my voice.

SC: What do you want to bring to the world stage as a Norwegian? Do you feel that your nationality shapes your music making?

TTH: That’s a hard question. I definitely try to take Norwegian music with me on tour, and many people talk about a special Scandinavian sound and musicality. But I feel more like me. I think the most important thing is to give your own voice and have something you want to say. The world is getting smaller and smaller, so differences become more and more individual.


SC: What impact have you made, and hope to make with your brass ensemble, TenThing—an all-female group? Do you hope to inspire other young women who play brass instruments?

TTH: The reason for us being only girls was a bit of a random gimmick in the beginning. But now of course it’s one of our trademarks. I think it’s important for both girls and boys to see this – that it doesn’t matter if you are a boy or a girl, you can play any instrument you like. Most importantly we have fun and want to play as well as possible. It’s all about the music anyway. It’s so much fun for us – we have four tours a year. It’s like a very intense playing holiday with nine friends!


SC: How do you maintain your technique with such a busy schedule?

TTH: I practise wherever I am. Hotel rooms, airport lounges… Ha! Sorry to all my neighbors…


SC: Do you enjoy the touring life?

TTH: I do! I am so lucky to be able to see the world and get to play for and with so many amazing and inspiring people. Of course it’s a bit stressful and tiring at times, but what isn’t!


Tine Thing Helselth

Tine Thing Helselth

SC: You have a very vibrant image as a musician. Do you work at cultivating this image?

TTH: I just try to be myself.


SC: How would you describe your ideal trumpet sound?

TTH: For every musician the sound is your voice. I just try and develop that constantly. Find new colors and timbres. But it’s always my voice.


SC: How do you prepare for a difficult concert—a month before, a week before, and on the day of, for instance.

TTH: The most important thing is to feel that I know the piece well enough. The process is different every time. But I always focus on shaping it, feeling comfortable and telling people a story.

SC: What kind of repertoire do you most enjoy playing?

TTH: Everything. My perfect day of music would be a mix of whatever I like.

SC: Tell me about the repertoire and music-making of your mixed , TTHQ?

TTH: I call it my rock band! Ha. We have one vision – we only play music we like. And that’s it. In a concert with us you’ll hear Piazzolla, Brubeck, Bach, Joni Mitchell, Irish-inspired Balkan folk music and so much more.


SC: What are some pieces that you have commissioned or premiered that you are particularly proud of?

TTH: The Danish composer Bent Sørensen just wrote a concerto for me that I absolutely love.


SC: What are some of the most interesting venues in which you have played?

TTH: I am so lucky to play at great and very interesting venues. Of course Carnegie Hall and Royal Albert Hall have been amazing experiences. But also playing at the top of a mountain in Norway, the roof of the city hall and rock clubs are things I’ll never forget.


Tine Thing Helseth

Tine Thing Helseth

SC: In my blog, I have listed you as one of the greatest trumpet soloists living and playing today. Do you feel that is a fair assessment? What do you feel are your strongest assets as a musician?

TTH: Oh wow – thank you for that. It makes me so humble. I just play and do what I love. I’m honoured to be allowed to do what I do.






SC: What are some of your musical goals for the future?

TTH: Just to be able to do what I do now. Continue to play amazing music with inspiring musicians all around the world.


SC: What do you like to do when you are not playing trumpet?

TTH: Reading, movies – but most importantly being with friends and family!



Interview with Navy Band Trumpeter Chris Sala

Chris Sala

Chris Sala

Christopher M. Sala grew up in Clifton Park, N.Y. and Wilbraham, Mass. In 1994 he earned a Bachelor of Music from the School of Music in music education and performance and in 1996, a Master of Music from The Florida State University in performance, where he was a member of the faculty brass quintet. He is the first place winner of the 1996 Solo Competition, the 1997 Mock Orchestra Competition, and the second place winner of the 1997 National Trumpet Competition. He has also been a semi-finalist in the Brandt Competition in Russia and the Competition in Paris. He toured the United States and Costa Rica with Atlantic Brass and Epic Brass, playing recitals and as featured guest artists with symphony orchestras. Currently, he is assistant principal trumpet in the United States Navy Band.  He is a frequent soloist with the concert band, and is the leader of the Navy Band Brass Quintet.  In addition he was recently appointed principal trumpet in the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra, where he has been a member since 2002.



B-flat Trumpet: Bach 37 ML (Gold Brass Bell)
C Trumpet: Bach 25H 229
Piccolo: Yamaha YTR 9830 (Resonance Enhanced by Osmun Brass)
E-flat Trumpet: Lawler Custom
Flugelhorn: Kanstul 1525
Mouthpieces: Hammond Design 3MLX/5 backbore, 5S (for commercial playing), 7SP (Piccolo), 3ML (E-flat); Kanstul 7FL (Flugel)


Interview with Chris Sala, Assistant Principal Trumpet with the U.S. Navy Band and Principal Trumpet with the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra

The interviewer is Stanley Curtis

SC:  How did you get started in music, and who were your first big musical influences?

CS: I was in 5th grade when I started on the cornet in my school band program in New York State. My church music director had me playing in services starting in 6th grade. There were some fantastic high school trumpeters at my church that I learned a lot from on the spot — ensemble playing, descant improvising, and transposition. Those trumpeters also encouraged me to try out for youth orchestra when I was in high school and that was when my love for orchestral playing took off. I also made the switch from cornet to trumpet at that time, since my cornet didn’t blend well with the section.


SC: Who did you study trumpet with and what did you learn from them?

CS: My first teacher was Doug Underwood who was a saxophone player. He wasn’t familiar with trumpet repertoire, so he would unknowingly give me advanced solos and etudes to work on. He brought me music every week from the local music store; it always seemed to be the hardest-looking material he could find. I couldn’t play most of what he gave me, but I was always striving to play bits and pieces of the most challenging passages.

My first “trumpet” teacher was Paul Orsini, with whom I studied for only a year before my family moved. Paul was a stickler for technique; he introduced me to Clarke and Arban and stressed basic fundamentals. When my family moved in my 10th grade year, I studied with Steve Schiller, who was principal trumpet in the Springfield (Massachusetts) Symphony. Steve noticed that my sound was small with lots of vibrato (I was way into vibrato at that time) and he put me on a summer regimen of Maggio System for Brass to help me with power and straighten out my vibrato. With Steve I primarily worked on orchestral excerpts. He had a homemade excerpt book he had made when he was a student at New England Conservatory. He used to check out scores from the library and write out the parts in a manuscript book. It had great stuff like “The Planets” and Bartók’s “Concerto for Orchestra;” things you didn’t see in the published books.

With Charlie Geyer 1992

With 1992

At Eastman, I studied with Charlie Geyer. Charlie was quick to identify gaps in my knowledge and technique. He is a huge proponent of performing for others as much as you possibly can. We had weekly solo class, weekly excerpt class and often were asked to play in less than ideal circumstances. Sometimes we had “lesson roulette” in solo class, which involved handing your lesson assignments to Charlie at the beginning of class and he would call you up in front of the class to perform an etude (always transposed) of his choosing. It didn’t matter if your lesson was two days before this or an hour before, you got up there and did it. As professionals, we don’t always have ideal conditions to perform in, so it is essential to be prepared to handle any situation. Charlie would say that your plane could be late for an audition and you get no warm-up, or the hall is freezing cold, or you are sick. No matter what, you need to find a way to make it happen.

With Bryan Goff 1997

With Bryan Goff 1997

Bryan Goff wrote to me at Eastman to come and audition for him at Florida State. It was a great move for me. As the long-time treasurer of the International Trumpet Guild, Bryan knew “everybody” in the trumpet world. Bryan encouraged me to enter into competitions; and he helped me to hone my solo skills.


SC: Tell me about your brass quintet experiences–at Florida State, in the Atlantic Brass and the Epic Brass.

With Florida State Brass Quintet in Koblenz, Germany 1995

With Florida State Brass Quintet in Koblenz, Germany 1995

CS: I absolutely love playing chamber music. I have been in a brass quintet for as long as I can remember. In high school, I played in a professional quintet with four local band directors. At Eastman, I was in a quintet every year and was coached by horn professor Peter Kurau. When I went to Florida State, my assistantship duties were primarily to play second trumpet in the faculty brass quintet. That was a rich experience: we did statewide recruitment tours, recordings, conferences, and a concert tour of Germany. I learned a lot from my faculty colleagues and my playing matured as a result.

With Epic Brass 1998

With Epic Brass 1998

I left FSU mid-doctorate when I won a position with the Boston-based quintet Epic Brass. Epic Brass was already involved with the Columbia Arts Management-based “Community Concerts.” The group would go out to a region of the country for 4-5 weeks and play pops concerts in small towns and big cities. I moved to Boston with my wife and two weeks later I was on the road. We played concerts every night and drove all day. It was fantastic and exhausting at the same time. The sheer amount of performing I did in my first year was unlike any amount I experienced before. I had to learn how to take care of my chops and my body on the road. I also played a lot of different horns during the show: piccolo, flugelhorn, B-flat, and C –it was a workout! I played with Atlantic Brass in my fourth and final year in Boston. At the time, both groups were sharing players and I was excited to work with Atlantic, which specialized in more serious contemporary repertoire.

Here is an audio clip of Chris playing the Carl Höhne’s “Slavonic Fantasy” accompanied by the U. S. Navy Band 

[audio:|titles=Carl Höhne, “Slavonic Fantasy” played by Chris Sala]

SC: You won the 1996 ITG Solo Competition and the 1997 ITG Mock Orchestral Audition Competition. What did you play? How did you prepare for these competitions?


With Armando Ghitalla in Gothenburg, Sweden 1997

With Armando Ghitalla in Gothenburg, Sweden 1997

CS: For the ITG Solo Competition, the required piece was Enesco’s Legende and for the second piece I picked The Avatar by Steve Rouse. I don’t remember the repertoire from the mock orchestral audition. The competition was in magnificent Gothenburg, Sweden, and the finalists got to work with Armando Ghitalla in a special masterclass on the excerpts –that was a treat. To prepare for competitions, I made time every day for my routine practice sessions in order to keep my fundamentals solid. At the time I was using Ray Mase’s 10-week routine. As much as possible, I also would play the pieces for anybody who would listen.


SC: What were your experiences from the Maurice Andre Competition and the Brandt Competition?

With Kathryn Fouse in Saratov, Russia 1996

With Kathryn Fouse in Saratov, Russia 1996

CS: My participation in the 1996 Brandt International Trumpet Competition in Saratov, Russia, was a unique opportunity. After the competition organizers advertised for the event, they only had applicants from Russia. In order to be an international competition, they had to have competitors from other countries as well. Joyce Davis, who was ITG president at the time, asked me if I’d like to represent the United States since I had just won the ITG Solo Competition. I had a very short time to learn a lot of pieces that I had never played before: Brandt Concertpiece, Tamberg Concerto, and a slew of Russian orchestral excerpts from operas and ballets, some of which were rarely played in America. The first round went great and then I got really sick (probably food poisoning) and was confined to my hotel bathroom and bed. I actually resigned from the second round which involved playing in the trumpet section of the Saratov Philharmonic on a throne-like chair set on a riser in the middle of the orchestra. After the round had started, I gathered my strength and decided to give it a go anyway. The judges let me play at the end of the round. I ended up getting through the round, but that was the end of the road for me in that competition.

With Maurice Andre and Nicholas Andre in Paris, France 2000

With Maurice Andre and Nicholas Andre in Paris, France 2000

The Andre Competition was also a fantastic experience. The first round was: Telemann Concerto in D Major, movement I (required), and a choice of two other works: I played Tomasi Concerto, movement I, and Jolivet Concertino, movement I. The first round was a true test of endurance and nerves and I was fortunate enough to pass on to the second round. Round 2 was performed with organ at a Paris church where César Franck was once the organist. Böhme Concerto in F minor was required and I chose Peter Eben’s Okna as my second piece. That was again as far as I went. I got to receive comments in person from Maurice André, Roger Voisin, Reinhold Freidrich, Konrad Groth, and Juoko Harjanne.


SC: Who are some of your favorite trumpet players?      

CS: Wynton Marsalis was my idol growing up. I was given one of his albums when I was in 7th grade. After that, I was glued to every album that he put out. When his Haydn/Hummel/L. Mozart album came out, I got ahold of the sheet music for Haydn and Hummel and used to play along on my cornet. I also got to meet Wynton in ninth grade when he came to Albany. After the show, I went backstage to meet him. He was so cool and genuine to me. He focused his attention on me and asked me what pieces I was working on, and I was so star-struck to finally meet my idol. I also have always loved Maurice André’s playing. He was another idol from early on. My favorites also include: Håkan Hardenberger, Phil Smith, Bud Herseph, Allen Vizzutti, Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis.


SC: What are some of your favorite recordings? 

Program from 1986 with autograph from Wynton Marsalis, dedicated to Chris Sala

Program from 1986 with autograph from , dedicated to Chris Sala

CS: Wynton Marsalis: Haydn/Hummel/L. Mozart was the first classical trumpet recording that I ever heard and definitely was my inspiration for becoming a professional trumpet player. Also, his Carnaval album with the Eastman Wind Ensemble was revealing to me on what is possible on our instrument. It was also what made me first want to attend the Eastman School of Music. Other recordings that I love are: Håkan Hardenberger –The Virtuoso Trumpet, Philip Smith –New York Legends, Timofei Dokshitser –Concertpieces, Eric Aubier- Four Great French Concertos, Maurice André and Claude Bolling –Toot Suite.


SC: Now you are in the Navy Band and you are the leader of the brass quintet there. What are some of the experiences you have had with this group? What are some other notable experiences that you have had with the Navy Band in general? 

Chris Sala with some other members of the U.S. Navy Band trumpet section

Members of the U.S. Navy Band trumpet section: (l-r: MUC Eric Lopez, MUC Stanley Curtis, MUC John Schroeder, MUCS Bob Couto, MUC Chris Sala, and MUC Gunnar Bruning

CS: Playing in the Navy Band Brass Quintet has been a real honor. It’s wonderful to be playing chamber music regularly again while serving my country and representing the U.S. Navy at the same time. The group is phenomenal and I am humbled to be put in the position of leader. We play several recitals each year and also high-profile ceremonies. One of the most notable performances was when we played for the ground-breaking commemoration of the 9/11 memorial at Shanksville, PA. We played for Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton and Vice President Joseph Biden. It was a very moving ceremony.

With the band, I always look back fondly on our international trips to Military Tattoo performances. These are large festivals of military bands and ceremonial guards from all over the world. We put on a big variety show that takes a lot of work to put together but getting to know other military musicians around the world makes it worth the effort. I also think that our recent recital of and for large brass ensemble at the Library of Congress was an extremely rewarding concert.


SC: Very recently, you won the job of Principal Trumpet with the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra–coming to the audition already as a member of the orchestra. Tell me about how you prepared for the audition and what was asked at the actual audition.

CS: It is a bit nerve-wracking to be put in this situation. You are playing for your colleagues and the conductor who know you personally. In a way, I had only something to gain from playing the audition, but I was determined to win the principal spot. I put a lot of pressure on myself. We had less than a month to prepare for the audition. I also was playing acting principal with the orchestra on the first week of having the list. So, that first week I had to go easy on the excerpts to keep my chops fresh. I dug into the solo pieces first, Haydn and Honegger, and played through Vacchiano’s Trumpet Routines. Then, I made a practice schedule for myself of the excerpts I was to practice each day. I printed out an October calendar and generated a random order of excerpts by rolling dice. Two weeks before the audition, I played entirely through the list every day and the week before two times a day.

Here is an audio sample of Chris playing Principal Trumpet with the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra on Samuel Barber’s Second Essay: two clips from Jean ’ Symphony No. 1, Movements 1 and 4 (thanks for permission to stream this clip given by the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra and the Musicians Association of Metropolitan Baltimore, Local 40-543, American Federation of Musicians. Used by Permission of G. Schirmer, Inc.): 

[audio:|titles=Chris Sala with the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra in Barber’s Second Essay]

On Jean Sibelius’ Symphony No. 1, movement 1 (thanks for permission to stream this clip given by the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra and the Musicians Association of Metropolitan Baltimore, Local 40-543, American Federation of Musicians): 


[audio:|titles=Chris Sala with the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra in Sibelius’ Symphony No. 1, I]

On Jean Sibelius’ Symphony No. 1, movement 4 (thanks for permission to stream this clip given by the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra and the Musicians Association of Metropolitan Baltimore, Local 40-543, American Federation of Musicians): 


[audio:|titles=Chris Sala with the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra in Sibelius’ Symphony No. 1, IV]
Chris Sala with his two girls

Chris Sala with his two girls

SC: What do you like to do when you’re not playing trumpet?      


CS: Reading, running, cooking, and enjoying life with my wife and two daughters.





SC: What are you looking forward to in the next few years? 

CS: I can’t think that far ahead. Life moves so fast, my kids are growing up with each blink of an eye. I plan on continuing to better myself as a musician, a leader and a busy parent.

SC: Chris, thanks so much for your help in making this interview possible! I count you not only as a fantastic trumpeter, but as a great friend!


Here are some videos of Chris playing the Henri Senee “Concertino”: