Interview with Julian Zimmermann, natural baroque trumpet soloist

Julian Zimmermann

Baroque trumpeter Julian Zimmermann grew up in Kriens, Switzerland (near Lucerne). After receiving a trumpet teaching diploma from Bern University of the Arts (studying modern trumpet with Marc Ullrich and Markus Würsch), he went on to study the natural baroque trumpet (without vent-holes) at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis with Jean-François Madeuf, where he earned a master’s degree in Early Music Performance.

In groups like Capriccio Basel, De Swaen, Berlin Baroque, Neue Hofkapelle Graz, Jeune Orchestre d`Atlantique, Das kleine Konzert, and Trondheim Baroque, Julian has worked with such renowned directors as Philipp Herreweghe, Hervé Niquet, Jos van Immersel, Herrman Max und Sigiswald Kuijken.

Instruments:
17th-century repertoire (Fantini, Schütz, Lully, Torelli, Biber):

Natural trumpet in C, A=466 (or, D, A=415), made by Aron Vajna (after Michael Nagel)
Mouthpiece: Egger-Renaissance trumpet mouthpiece with short 17th-century back-bore, altered slightly by Nathaniel Wood

18th-century continental repertoire (Bach, Telemann, Fux, early Mozart, Haydn)

Natural trumpet In D, made by Graham Nicholson (after Wolf Wilhelm Haas, 1730; since the Engraving says 1730 the maker would have been Wolf Wilhelm Haas)
Mouthpiece: Graham Nicholson, after Leichnamschneider (Graham Nicholson can be contacted at graham.nicholson “at” inter.NL.net) 

Museum trumpet by Wolf Wilhelm Haas (Basel Music Instrument Museum)

Natural trumpet in C, made by Aron Vajna (after Friedrich Ehe, ca. 1700)
Mouthpiece: Egger, MZ-Prototype (mouthpieces developed by Egger with input from Jean-François Madeuf and Julian Zimmermann: this line has a longer back-bore than the standard Egger Bull model. Note: this line of mouthpieces is not advertised on the Egger website at this moment; it is necessary to ask for it by contacting them directly)

Tirarsi (slide trumpet) in Eb, body made by Graham Nicholson (after Ehe with altered bellform) and slide made by Egger
Mouthpiece: MZ-Prototype, Egger

18th-century English repertoire (Handel, Arne)

Natural trumpet in Eb, made in collaboration with Nathaniel Wood (after Nicholas Wingkings, English maker, mid. 18th Century)
Mouthpiece: Bull 1/3 (original Bull) known from the article on early British mouthpieces by Eric Halfpenny, Graham Nicholson. (for more information, see this scholarly article)

Nathaniel Wood and Julian Zimmermann after finishing the Wingkings trumpet.

 

Early 19th Century “Classical” repertoire (Beethoven, Mendelsohn)

“Inventions-trumpet” with original bell dimensions made by Aron Vajna (after Michael Sauerle)
Mouthpiece: Egger KSB-4, KSE-4 and KFG-3

Interview with Julian Zimmermann, natural baroque trumpet soloist

The interviewer is Stanley Curtis


SC: Thanks for agreeing to do this interview, Julian! I have really enjoyed seeing some of your videos that you have recently posted!

JZ: My pleasure, I am very happy for the positive resonance of those videos and I hope they give motivation to trumpet players discovering real historical instruments, because, as you know yourself, playing them is fun, it brings us back to the core: singing with our instrument.

SC: Tell me about your childhood—how did you get interested in music and in the trumpet?

JZ: I grew up in Kriens which is a small city, near Lucerne, in the center of Switzerland. My mother was very supportive when it came to arts, and she listened to a lot of classical music. When I was quite young, I enjoyed listening to CDs of Glenn Miller and Louis Armstrong, while building Lego-Castles.

At age seven, I went to a presentation of musical instruments at a local music school, where I met my first teacher. A year later, Ying Nie, a Chinese student of renowned British trumpeter, Philipp Jones, started teaching me. He introduced me to recordings of trumpeters like Maurice André, Timofei Dokschitzer, and Rafael Méndez.

SC: When and how did you get interested in Baroque trumpet and, specifically, the natural trumpet?

JZ: My first exposure to the baroque trumpet was when I were about 16 years old in what Teacher-training College. I got the Vol. 4 of Niklas Eklund’s “The Art of the Baroque Trumpet,” and I was just thrilled. At that time, I didn’t know about the difference between a baroque and a natural trumpet.

SC: Which of your teachers do you think influenced you the most?

JZ: Maybe the stongest influence in my professional formation was Marc Ullrich. I think the most amazing thing about him was that he could play more or less in every style and genre. For more than 30 (or even 40) years he was principal trumpet in Basel (Switzerland). Nevertheless, he really liked to play jazz. He introduced me to the recordings of Clifford Brown (“Clifford Brown with Strings” is still inspiring me when it comes to control of sound color and articulation). And, of course, he was one of the very early students of Ed Tarr. He was basically one of the pioneers with the baroque trumpet.

Marc had this amazing patience and seemed to believe in every student without hesitation. For example, I decided unilaterally during one summer holiday to totally change my embouchure. Imagine a student, who comes to his first lesson in the new semester and is basically not able to play a straight note anymore! Marc just said “Okay, then let’s do it.” So, he guided me through the mental hell that I had chosen (without asking his permission). The embouchure approach and psychological resiliency, which I got through this embouchure change, turned out to be very helpful, when I was able to adapt them later to the natural trumpet. He was a big help, as well, in overcoming parts of my stage anxiety, which was really strong at the time I was studying modern trumpet.

Marc knew both Niklas Eklund and Jean-François Madeuf quite well and strongly suggested that I go to Basel and study with Jean-François.

SC: Tell me about Jean-Francois Madeuf.

JZ: My first “one-on-one” exposure to the natural trumpet (without vent-holes) was in the trumpet room of the Schola Cantorum with Jean-François. I had heard an older recording of him, which left me quite critical about the whole thing. But when I heard him in person about ten years after that recording was made, he sounded so much better! I understood at that moment, how much potential and space for development the natural trumpet still had!

Few people know so much about the natural trumpet, its music and surviving original instruments like Jean-François Madeuf. Since I am a person who likes to question authority, and he has a strong character, I think we were a good challenge to each other, and it really helped me to find my own voice. Today I am happy to call him a colleague and friend.

Schola Cantorum trumpet studio reunion

The Schola offers a diverse curriculum for students from all over the world. It is a place where a lot of different ideas can be pursued and discussed. I spent a lot of time in the cafeteria, hanging around and discussing these ideas with colleagues.

SC: Tell me about some of these colleagues that you met at the Schola.

JZ: I met my wife Daniela, who is the voice of reason to my stubborn trumpet mind. She reminds me that things which are important to me, are not necessarily important to the rest of the world. We played a lot of organ and natural trumpet together. More and more, we realized how a good continuo player is able to mask the intonation clashes: it is all about good voicing.

My colleague, Mike Diprose, is the one who got me interested in reading primary sources and to have a closer look at other instruments than only the trumpet. His big interest were tuning systems and how they fit into the bigger picture.

The last person I would like to mention is Nathaniel Wood. He gave me the incredible opportunity to build instruments together.

SC: What makes you so sure that the natural trumpet was the instrument they played in performances during the 17th and 18th Centuries?

JZ: Of course, I could just say look at all the museum examples of instruments from the time when clarino playing was in its hey-day. They are all natural trumpets. But I think to answer that question it is also good to show examples where iconography, written music and historical figures interlink.

At the court of Schwerin we have the court conductor and composer, Johann Wilhelm Hertel  (1727-1789). He was born in Eisenach into a musical family. Being court composer in Schwering, he wrote three very difficult concertos for trumpet and a double concerto for trumpet and oboe.  He demanded the same, if not higher, level of difficulty from his chief-trumpeter as J.S. Bach did from his trumpeter. Hertel’s trumpeter was Johann Georg Hoese (1727-1801). He was born in Leipzig, so he was seven when Gottfried Reiche (Bach’s trumpeter) died. I am pretty sure Hoese was familiar with Reiche’s performances of Bach, and I am even more sure he heard the trumpeter Ulrich Heinrich Ruhe, Reiche’s succesor. The great thing about Hoese is that we have a picture of him (done in 1770 by painter G.D. Matthieu) playing the natural trumpet in concert.

1770 painting by G.D. Matthieu of musical performance at court of Schwering

He holds his trumpet in one hand and the sheet music in the other hand (if you look closely enough, “clarino 1” is marked on the paper). Note that there is no music stand for him. So how could he operate any finger system on his instrument? That looks like a Haas-made trumpet to me (and in that time it would be the grandson of J.W.Haas, Ernst Conrad Haas).

Also, there is a second picture from Schwerin with three trumpets in concert.

Painting of music concert at court of Schwering (18th C.)

Considering that Hoese was right at the end of the Golden Age of the natural trumpet, I assume it can be viewed as the general way of doing things for that period—that is, playing without fingerholes. Also, we have the iconic pictures of Gottfried Reiche (Bach’s trumpeter).

Portrait, oil on canvas of Gottfried Reiche (1667–1734) by Elias Gottlob Haussmann (1695–1774), 1727

And another of Valentine Snow (Handel’s trumpeter), which show the same evidence of playing the trumpet one hand.

Portrait of Valentine Snow (1700-1770), c. 1753
Artist: Unknown
Location: Fenton House, England

Having said all that, recently a great thing happened. In a phone call with Graham Nicholson (a British trumpet maker and natural trumpet pioneer living in the Netherlands) discussing Reiche and his instrument, Graham said to me “You know Julian, there actually is a picture of Reiche in concert, playing that instrument”. And it is true: Reiche was in Leipzig much earlier than Bach, and there is a picture of Bach’s predecessor Johann Kuhnau (1660-1722) conducting a cantata. We can see Reiche with his round Instrument and two colleagues with long trumpets.

Frontispiece of Leipzig Gesangbuch, Johann Kuhnau, 1710

 

SC: Those are some fantastic images, Julian! I think there is a general ignorance in the early music world about authentic baroque natural trumpets. We have had decades of “period instrument” performances by trumpeters who use fingerholes. I use them, too, for most of my performances, but I have misgivings. Talking with conductors, I usually find a lack of interest in authenticity, and I think conductors mainly want to hear clean, “in tune” trumpet playing. What are your thoughts on this?

JZ: The divine creator obviously had a misunderstanding with Signor Vallotti when defining the laws of nature! (Interviewer’s note: the “Vallotti” system of tuning, named after Francesco Antonio Vallotti, was used in the 18th Century. It is used frequently in baroque music groups today, but its intonation does not line up ideally with the harmonic series of the natural trumpet. In a mathematic sense, the only interval that lines up between the natural trumpet and the Vallotti tuning system are the octaves, because Vallotti gave more emphasis to the 5th than the  3rd in general)

I think the natural trumpet can serve as an instrument to challenge the approach we have with historically informed performance practice (or “HIP”) today. In music, all is interconnected!

But Intonation is a good topic to discuss, what does “in tune” mean? Here is a quote from Tosi in his book on singing:

“… If one were continually to sing only with the above-mentioned Instruments (keyboards), this knowledge might be unnecessary, but since the time that composers introduced the custom of crowding the operas with a vast number of songs accompanied by bowed instruments, it becomes so necessary, that if a soprano was to sing D-sharp like E-flat, a nice ear will find he is out of tune. Whoever is not satisfied in this, let him read those authors who treat of it, and let him consult the best performers on the violin. …”

–Tosi, Introduction to the Art of Singing (Bologna, 1723), page 21 in the English Translation of 1743

To make it short: why do so many schools of the baroque era make a difference between sharps and flats, big semitones and small ones and where is that fact reflected in our current performance practice using keyboard temperaments as a judge of what is right and wrong? The amount of correction to the 11th and 13th partial becomes much smaller when using a “relative,” or “just” system like Tosi describes, where notes change their position with their harmonic function – as opposed to a “fixed” system like Vallotti’s keyboard temperament.

On the other side of the coin, there is a lack of accepting the character and nature of historic trumpets and horns, and this character gives them their identity! This would be as absurd as a conductor talking to a cembalo player: “in this bar, I would like to have a real pianissimo and you are too loud, so please push the key down softer.” After repeating that bar five times, the conductor finally says “it’s getting better!”

SC: What is the way forward to develop an interest in the baroque natural trumpet? Is there some “marketing” type of strategy we need to embrace?

JZ: As a marketing strategy, it is very important to show people historic iconography to our performances, pictures are a lot of times stronger than words. But, as well, we should be able to talk about what we do in context, that shows we have a deep interest in the time where the music we perform comes from. We should expand our knowledge in all possible aspects.

SC: If a trumpeter wants to learn how to play the natural baroque trumpet well, what are some suggestions that you might have for him or her?

JZ: Having a good instrument, with a fitting mouthpiece from the start, helps a lot. Then, you should take separate time from your daily practice, with a rest time of at least three to four hours (so that the different mouthpiece rims don’t confuse the embouchure). And don’t over do it. You should make, for exemple, two 15-minute sessions with a rest in the middle. 

To play with big mouthpieces, it is important to start in the middle register (middle C, 8th partial) with the aperture not too wide open. This is why I don’t use the Tarr method anymore, since it has an approach which is more from bottom to the top. About four years ago, I developed my own routine (something comparable to James Stamp and Vincent Cichowicz). It is on my website www.naturtrompete.ch. I use it today to get well-centered on an instrument. For example, if I have to play in C, which is a low and somewhat clumsy key, compared to D, or if I have to get used to a 17th-century instrument in a short amount of time.

When it comes to music, I think the repertoire from Purcell and Handel are good to start with. Especially because Handel wrote some very good second and third voices, which create a stable low and middle register.

Swiss historic natural trumpet ensemble, Trummet

The third trumpet part is, in a lot of cases, not getting enough attention in our practice. I think it is essential to work on military signals, which we find in Fantini, Mersenne, Philidor, Altenburg and Dauverne. If you carefully consider, for example, Bach’s low trumpet parts, you will not only find the style of military signals, but also the actual signals everywhere in his works with trumpet, as for example, in BWV 119. Another very important aspect is practicing to hear difference-tones as a trumpet section (a good place to start is with Ed Tarr’s second book). The first thing that will convince people is a trumpet team that sounds good as a unit. That was the reason that gave birth to the trumpet ensemble “Trummet” (www.trummet.com).

 

Another thing I would like to mention is that it is very important to get stage experience without holes. To build up the confidence on stage, it is good to increase the stress gradually. I was lucky to meet players, that were supportive with me! Although they usually play with holes, they provided me the opportunity to play third and second parts without holes in the actual concert. That took a leap of faith for them, and I offer my sincere thanks to Henry Moderlak, Frans Berglund, Andy Hammersley, Roland Callmar and Giuseppe Frau.

For (an) interested young students that means: question what your teachers do! Go to the museums! Get a faithful copy of a historic instrument! Practice it with an open mind! Read primary sources! Discuss them with colleagues! Try them out seriously!–Julian Zimmermann

SC: Tell me about the trumpets and mouthpieces you play. Why do you think they are effective for what you are doing?

JZ: I think an important thing to know is that a natural trumpet of fixed length changes its playing characteristics with time according to the player. After playing an instrument for some time, it gets easier to place and vibrate the Fs and As in tune. What is really interesting to me is the experience of playing on some original instrument (one that is found in a museum), and sometimes I can still feel how the original player played on it.

To find out if an instrument is good, I check first to see if the basic notes, the frames, are purely in tune (the tonic and dominant notes). It is also important to say that natural trumpets played with a modern approach are going to sound flat in the low register. But this doesn’t mean the instrument is bad. So, if possible, get a player with real experience to choose an instrument for the beginner!

Today, for 18th-century repertoire, I play a cup with a diameter of 19.5to 20 mm. I have also started to play with larger mouthpiece throats in recent years (up to 5mm in diameter). Those provide more space to move notes, but it’s not for beginners!

Close up of original baroque natural trumpet mouthpiece (made by Jacob Steiger)

SC: What kind of trumpeters and other musicians do you like to work with?

JZ: First of all, I like musicians with an open mind. If someone approaches early music with concepts and sound pictures rooted in the 20th Century, I find it very difficult. I enjoy when people are able to take original information and authentic copies of instruments, and create something aesthetic and beautiful with those ingredients.

Personally, I like an emphasis on a strong, driving bass, and I love, in general, the sound of string instruments strung all in gut—making equal tension on all the strings!  That authentic way of stringing instruments seems to have been predominant throughout the 17th and 18th Centuries. L. Mozart still describes it in paragraph 4 on page 5 of his Violin-School (1756). I find violinists like Oliver Webber amazing to hear!

SC: Tell me about some of your favorite performances.

JZ: I had two performances that really changed me! Both with Bach cantatas, the trumpet parts of which were written for Reiche. The first was during the 2013 Bach Festival Leipzig, where I played Cantata 77 in the Michaeliskirche with students from the Hochschule in Leipzig. I had a lot of discussions with colleagues about which instrument to use to perform it. The first movement is basically a “no brainer.” It says “Tromba da Tirarsi” and it is playable on a single-slide instrument like I have, even though it goes up to high C. The alto aria (“Ach, es bleibt in meiner Liebe,” (no. 5), is the big question. The original part just says “Tromba,” but it has a lot of notes outside the harmonics. Although they are possible to bend, it is quite difficult to play in tune, because Bach voices the 13th partial very often as a perfect fifth and as octave to the bass. This is a harmonic voicing that you can’t really get in tune on a natural instrument, because the 13th partial is so flat. When I went to Egger to get my tirarsi, I talked about it with Gerd Friedel and he asked “what does the text say.” And with this question, he really got to the right point…. It says “Ach es bleibt in meiner Liebe lauter Unvollkommenheit! Hab ich oftmals gleich den Willen, was Gott saget zu erfüllen, fehlt mirs doch an Möglichkeit.” roughly translated: “in my love (to God) there is so much imperfection! Even though I often have the will to do what God tells me, I don’t have the ability.” So, it is about being an imperfect human being that tries so hard and still struggles to get it right. In the end, I decided to do the aria on natural trumpet. It felt very special while performing it, and I had an inner peace which stayed with me the whole aria.

Julian Zimmermann

The other time was the performance of Cantata 66 on Easter 2016. I played it twice that day, in the morning for a church service and in the evening for a concert. In the morning service, there was a moment when the sun was shining into the church, and I was so inspired that it felt like I wasn’t playing it under my own power, but that the music played itself.

SC: Wow, that’s an inspiring story. Julian, what do you think is the future of early music?

JZ: Hopefully, young explorers will enter the field of early music and revive it’s core values. History repeats itself, and early music was born because people felt that authenticity was absent in the traditional way of performance. Today we are there again, because early music is now a huge market, and it is too big and inflexible to deal with new (old) ideas! 

SC: So what can we do?

I think a new subculture will arise. The internet links musicians that are really interested! The great thing is that there are a lot of original texts, schools and iconography already online. This means you can live anywhere and have access to the important information, and that is a game changer.

For interested young students that means: question what your teachers do! Go to the museums! Get a faithful copy of a historic instrument! Practice it with an open mind! Read primary sources! Discuss them with colleagues! Try them out seriously!

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

JZ: I really like to do Tai-Chi Chuan.

SC: So, what do you want to be doing in five or in 20 years?

JZ: Hopefully still being happy with my family! And playing the natural trumpet, of course, and I would love to get the opportunity to teach interested students.

SC: Julian, thanks again for sharing all of your really great insights into playing early music on the natural trumpet!

JZ: As I said in the beginning, my pleasure!

 

 

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Interview with Christopher Still, Second Trumpet in the Los Angeles Philharmonic

CHRISTOPHER STILL joined the Los Angeles Philharmonic as Second Trumpet in 2007.  Before coming to California, he was the Principal Trumpet of the Colorado Symphony. He has also held the positions of Associate Principal Trumpet of the Dallas Symphony and Principal Trumpet of the Charleston (SC) Symphony. Additionally, Christopher has served as Assistant Principal Trumpet with the Grant Park Festival Orchestra in Chicago’s Millennium Park and Guest Principal with the St. Louis Symphony.

Christopher Still, Second Trumpet, Los Angeles Philharmonic

Christopher has recorded extensively with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Grant Park, Dallas, and Albany symphony orchestras.  Active in the Hollywood recording studios, he can be heard on major motion picture and television soundtracks.  He is a Yamaha Artist, a dedicated educator, and an active clinician.

Having grown up in a musical household, Christopher originally intended to become a band director and earned a Bachelor of Music Education degree from the Crane School of Music (SUNY-Potsdam). Switching to performance, he received his Master of Music Performance degree from the New England Conservatory in Boston. He was a Tanglewood Music Center Fellow in 1995 and 1996.

Christopher’s favorite aspect of his job is the orchestra’s frequent performance of contemporary music, especially the Green Umbrella concert series.

Christopher lives in Altadena, CA with his wife Amanda McIntosh, and two children. He enjoys distance running, skiing, brewing beer, and hiking in the trails behind his house.

 

Equipment

Yamaha C Chicago, model YTR9445CHII (Bach 1 ¼ 24/24)
Yamaha B-flat Chicago, model YTR9335CHII (Bach 1 ¼ 24/24)
Yamaha B-flat/A Custom Piccolo trumpet, model YTR9830 (Warburton 5MD/10*)
Yamaha C Cornet, YCR-9435 (Bach 1 ¼ 24/24)
Getzen C Cornet, model Eterna (GR Sparx 2B Soloist)
Yamaha E-flat/D, model YTR9636 (Yamaha 14B4)
Yamaha Flugel Horn YFH8315G (Yamaha 16F4)
Yamaha Rotary B-flat Trumpet, YTR938FFMS (Breslmair G2)
Weimann Rotary C Trumpet, Passion model (Breslmair G2)

Interview with Christopher Still, Second Trumpet in the Los Angeles Philharmonic

The interviewer is Stanley Curtis


SC: Chris, I’m really excited to finally do this interview that we’ve been talking about for a while!

CS: Thanks again for asking me to chat.

 

SC: What’s it like playing with the LA Phil? It seems like a dream job!

Walt Disney Concert Hall

 

 

 

CS: I feel like I have the greatest job in the world, and I get to play in two of the greatest venues—Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Hollywood Bowl. 

The Hollywood Bowl

It doesn’t get much better than that. 

It’s invigorating to be part of such a dynamic organization, in such a vibrant, creative city. Our management has put the orchestra at the forefront of LA’s cultural life. How many orchestra musicians get to participate in world-class, avant-garde projects on a regular basis?

 

The Trumpet Section of the Los Angeles Philharmonic: (l.-r.) Thomas Hooten (principal), James Wilt (associate principal), Christopher Still, Stéphane Beaulac

I feel very fortunate.  Each season we perform roughly 350 different pieces, including chamber music, subscription concerts, educational offerings, new music, and so on.  Actually, over the past 5 years we’ve commissioned close to 50 completely new works.   This kind of schedule can be rough, but it helps to have a very strong and supportive section. We all carry our weight and we work well together. My section is a big part of why I love my job. 

 

SC: How do you prepare for this challenging schedule of rehearsals and concerts?

CS: You look at the rep weeks (sometimes months) ahead, prepare at home, and work on an ongoing basis to keep up your overall playing skills. Different orchestras and sections have different standards, but my section expects you to do what needs to be done to show up at the first rehearsal prepared to play well.

If you’re in a crunch, the most important thing is to know the piece, which can help you “manage” no matter what else is happening.  Be familiar with transitions and likely tempos.

Over the years, experience has shown me what types of mistakes I’m likely to make in rehearsal or performance that I might not make at home. It’s my job to recognize these pitfalls ahead of time and sidestep them with strategic practice. The more confidence and preparation you have when you walk on stage, the more you’re able to listen and hear what’s going on, which allows you to be a more responsive musician.

 

SC: What was your audition like for the Los Angeles Philharmonic?

CS: My audition was pretty typical of a major orchestra.  It was well-run and fair, but it was also grueling—the committee had to find one person from over a hundred participants. I had to play almost every one of the seven trumpets I brought with me, and the lists jumped from low material to high, soft to loud, and fast to slow.

“Auditions require a certain type of mental stamina and toughness.” –Chris Still

 

 

I didn’t play a perfect audition, but I stayed focused on communicating the heart of every excerpt or piece, which requires a certain type of mental stamina and toughness. The committee later told me that I played very musically, with a great sound and character throughout each round.  

 

 

 

 

SC: How would you advise a young trumpeter to prepare for an audition in today’s competitive environment?

A master class on lead-pipe buzzing at the Crane School of Music

Auditioning is a long-term project for most of us.  Playing well and auditioning well are two different, but related, skill sets.  And you can’t audition well unless you play well. 

Most trumpet players I hear don’t have a strong enough technical foundation to win a major orchestra audition. I see a lot of willful ignorance among trumpet players—ignoring the parts of their playing that they’re not good at. Learning how to identify and correct your playing weaknesses is the crux of the learning process, so I’m not saying this is easy.  But a lot of advanced players, who should know better, only work on the things they’re good at, and pretend that everything else isn’t important. I think that what’s happening is that there are a lot of trumpet players who practice, but very few who practice with a real ear for improvement.

“I see a lot of willful ignorance among trumpet players—ignoring the parts of their playing that they’re not good at.”

SC: So, how do you practice to really improve?

CS: You have to be willing to delve into the things that aren’t comfortable. And the best way to do this is to record yourself every day and listen immediately, before you forget how it felt. Record yourself without warming up. Record yourself playing the things you don’t like, the things you’re not good at. Record yourself playing the audition list in the least comfortable order. Record yourself playing when you’re tired. And most importantly, record yourself when you’re playing for other people. 

Talking about swallowing the honesty pill at ITG 2016

I like to call practicing this way “swallowing the honesty pill.” It’s really easy to talk about your goals, but when the rubber hits the road, I find most people back down pretty fast. They don’t even realize they’re giving up. The excuses for the lack of success flood their minds, and they never consider taking a hard look in the mirror to see what they could do to improve for next time. It’s more comfortable to keep practicing the same way, and to keep thinking thoughts like, “The audition was rigged.”

 

SC: Can you talk about your musical influences?

Chris playing in the fire department band with his father, c.1985

CS: My father was an amateur trumpet player and he used to take me along to his fire department band rehearsals and let me sit in the section.

His Phillip Jones Brass Ensemble and Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass records were constantly playing in our house. 

 

 

 

 

Recording off-stage parts at Walt Disney Concert Hall for John Williams’ single movement piece,”Soundings”

 

 

Of course the music of John Williams had a huge impact on me too­­—I think every kid in my band wanted to play the theme to Star Wars.

Getting in the Star Wars spirit at the Hollywood Bowl

 

 

 

 

 

 

We took many trips into New York City to see Broadway shows and New York Philharmonic concerts, so all of these sounds were in my head. Also, I had a really strong high school band program, so the musical foundation was pretty much set before I went to college. Incidentally, I originally planned on becoming a band teacher, and did my undergrad in music education and performance at the Crane School of Music. It wasn’t until my junior year that I became inspired to go for a job in an orchestra, which led to a master’s degree at the New England Conservatory. 

 

SC: Who/what do you like to listen to?

CS: To keep my head clear, I do a lot of running up in the canyons behind my house; I’m not listening to Brahms 4 on the trails. It’s usually something energizing that gets my adrenaline going—mostly some type of electronic, upbeat music.  I listen to a pretty wide variety of genres, but I have some go-to records—jazz artists like Clifford Brown and Ella Fitzgerald, and some classic rock like Steely Dan’s Aja.  One of my favorites is a Lotte Lenya recording of Kurt Weill’s cabaret music from the twenties—so much character!

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

CS: I hang out with my kids. I go trail running. I help my wife with her new business.  Basically, stuff that keeps me mentally balanced. Playing the trumpet is fun, but the people in your life are what really matter.  I’ve been a pretty serious home brewer for decades, so I’m doing my part to reinforce the “beer drinking brass player” stereotype!    

 

SC: I understand you are launching an online course some time this fall. Tell me about it.

CS: Every time a national audition is announced in the International Musician, I get a panicked flurry of phone calls and emails from trumpet players asking if they can come play their excerpts for me. 

I support the concept of playing your excerpts for a helpful set of ears before an audition, but often these requests come only a week before the first round. 

In almost every case, I hear basic deficiencies in sound concept or technique that are guaranteed to get the person bounced out of the prelims. Making impactful change in a handful of days is nearly impossible, especially the type of change that can hold up to the stress of an audition. There is not much I can do to help these players in such a short time, and it can be a frustrating situation. 

My online course (www.honestypill.com) is designed to help players identify and address the things that are holding them back. Understanding and working on your shortcomings is much harder than most people think, which is why most musicians (and human beings in general) just avoid thinking about them. When my course launches in the fall, I’ll offer a set of diagnostic tools to help each participant hone in on what needs the most work, and then I’ll offer a series of lessons and strategies to “get under the hood.” It’s basically a distillation of the same things I discovered on my own path from being an “also-ran” to winning an awesome job in the LA Phil. 

“You have to be willing to delve into the things that aren’t comfortable.”

SC: Well, it’s been awesome to interview you, Chris, and get your insights. Thank you so much for your time!

CS: You’re welcome! It was a pleasure!

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Tell a Story on the Trumpet: The Cadence

When I play trumpet, I want to communicate with the listener. I want to tell a musical story. If my fundamentals are working on the trumpet (breathing, articulation, fingers, lips, tongue placement, etc.), then I can shape and pace notes in ways that help deliver this story, from the details up to the big picture. Perhaps the smallest detail of the story that we musicians can tell is the cadence, which is that part of a phrase that harmonically resolves, usually with a dominant chord leading to a tonic chord.

The melody, which cannot fully convey the harmonic movement, nevertheless can support the underlying cadence. From the Sixteenth Century until today, a very good rule of thumb with cadences is to give more intensity throughout the dominant and relaxing this intensity on the tonic. The reason for this is that the dominant chord is harmonically “far” from the tonic. The dominant has tension, dissonance, or “drama.” Will the dominant resolve? Maybe yes, or maybe no–that is the drama that the listener is confronted with. Imagine a movie where the camera follows the protagonist down a dark hallway. Something will happen. Will it resolve peacefully or will there be a shock? Watching the scene, your anxiety increases, and your heartbeat quickens. This is drama. In a very similar way, the dominant chord sets up expectations which can be fulfilled or denied.

A good movie director underpins the dramatic hallway scene with lighting, music and pacing that helps the audience feel the anxiety more. In the same way, a good musician can highlight the drama of the movement from dominant to tonic with more intensity. This intensity usually means more volume, but it could also be a change of vibrato, timbre (tone color), pacing or articulation. This helps the listener hear the harmonic framework of the music better. It helps to draw him into the “rhetoric” of the music. 

To me, nothing is more “rhetorical” than Renaissance music, so, as an example, I offer this cued-up YouTube video of cornettist Bruce Dickey playing Josquin des Prez’s Mille Regretz. Notice the intensity swelling and then releasing as the dominant resolves to the tonic (this happens twice at 1:24 and 1:29). 

Let’s look at another example from the second movement of Joseph Haydn’s Concerto for Trumpet. I want to contrast two great performances with the small difference of this device. In the eleventh bar, we hear a line descending by steps with the longer notes on dominant harmony and the shorter notes on the relative tonic of each successive dominant. In the first (cued up) example, a young Wynton Marsalis, teamed up with John Williams and the Boston Pops, performs this passage smoothly.

But listen to the contrast in rhetorical delivery with more emphasis on these dominant-underpinned notes in a performance by French trumpeter, David Guerrier (who plays a historically-accurate keyed trumpet). This video is also cued up to the same musical passage (it is pitched lower, at A = 430). 

For me, the subtle difference of “leaning” on the dominant notes that Guerrier does in his example helps us hear the harmony more vividly. 

One more example comes from the end of the first movement of G. P. Telemann’s Concerto in D (the “first” concerto). In the first example, listen to the great Maurice André play this last phrase. He has a gorgeous tone, he has chosen a very luxurious tempo (very slow), but his shaping of the inner dynamics from the dominant to the tonic (where he is playing a trill) is pretty straight. There is not much contrast. 

Another example (on baroque trumpet) by Niklas Eklund, shows the dynamic tension on the trill followed by a slight release on the last note, which coincides with the dominant-to-tonic harmony. Notice, in both examples, that the trill starts slow and speeds up, which also helps the drama of the line. This cued-up video is pitched at A = 415, which is lower than the example by André.

 

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Interview with Italian Trumpeter, Marco Vicario (in Italian and English)

with Michael Sachs

Marco Vicario with Michael Sachs

Marco Vicario è nato a Siracusa (Sicilia, Italia) nel 1985 si diploma in tromba nel 2006 l’Istituto Musicale “V. Bellini” di Caltanissetta sotto la guida del M° Claudio Salonia. 

Ha partecipato a numerosi masterclass di perfezionamento e lezioni con i docenti: Vincent Penzarella, Michael Sachs, Tage Larsen, John Hagstrom, Robert Sullivan, Raymond Riccomini, Rex Martin, Gabor Tarkövi, Roger Webster, Claudio Gironacci, e molti altri. 

Dal 1997 al 2005 è stato prima tromba dell’Orchestra di Fiati Karl Orff di Priolo Gargallo diretta dal M° Salvatore Tralongo, Vice Maestro Concetta Vicario e presieduta da Pippo Vicario con la quale ha vinto cinque primi premi in concorsi nazionali e con la stessa ha inciso un CD dal titolo Dialoghi.
Da Dicembre 2005 al Dicembre 2006 ha effettuato il servizio militare presso la Banda Nazionale dell’Esercito Italiano di Roma collaborando come musicista sotto la direzione del Mº Fluvio Creux. 
Dall’ottobre del 2006 ottiene le idoneità presso l’orchestra Giovanile Italiana di Fiesole, l’Orchestra Sinfonica di Savona, l’orchestra dell’istituto musicale “V. Bellini” di Catania. 
Inizia a collaborare con l’orchestra del Teatro San Carlo di Napoli nel novembre del 2007, nel Maggio del 2009 risulta terzo idoneo, nell’Aprile del 2012 primo idoneo e vi collabora tutt’ora. È stato nominato Commissario esterno per gli esami di compimento inferiore e diploma di tromba e trombone al Conservatorio di Musica di Stato “A. Scontrino” di Trapani nella sessione estiva e autunnale dell’anno 2009. 
Nell’ottobre 2009 risulta secondo idoneo presso l’orchestra del teatro lirico di Cagliari e primo idoneo nell’anno successivo. Nell’Estate del 2011 collabora con l’orchestra

Brass section of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino (Florence). L-R back row, Simone Squarzolo, Marco Crusca, Emanuele Antoniucci, Andrea d'Amico, Marco Vicario, Claudio Quintavalla, and, in front, Fabiano Fiorenzani.

Brass section of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino (Florence). L-R back row, Simone Squarzolo, Marco Crusca, Emanuele Antoniucci, Andrea d’Amico, Marco Vicario, Claudio Quintavalla, and, in front, Fabiano Fiorenzani.

Sinfonica Siciliana di Palermo. Nel giugno 2012 risulta secondo idoneo presso l’orchestra del Teatro Alla Scala di Milano, nel novembre del 2015 risulta quarto idoneo e vi collabora tutt’ora. Nel Maggio del 2013 inizia la collaborazione con l’orchestra del Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. A Luglio del 2013 è stato nominato commissario esterno per gli esami di diploma di Tromba presso il Conservatorio di Benevento. 

with Vincent Penzarella, former member of the New York Philharmonic

with Vincent Penzarella, former member of the New York Philharmonic

 

A dicembre del 2014 partecipa al concorso per prima tromba presso la New York Philharmonic Orchestra preparando il concorso con Claudio Gironacci e Vincent Penzarella. Nel 2015 risulta idoneo presso l’orchestra Haydn di Bolzano. Nel Novembre 2015 risulta finalista al concorso per prima tromba presso l’orchestra del teatro la Fenica di Venezia. A dicembre 2015 risulta secondo idoneo presso l’orchestra del teatro Massimo di Palermo. Ha partecipato a varie tournée  con l’orchestra del Teatro San Carlo di Napoli in Russia (San Pietroburgo e Mosca) ed in Cina e con l’orchestra del Teatro Alla Scala di Milano in Giappone. 
Ha suonato sotto la direzione di grandi direttori quali: Riccardo Muti, Zubin Mehta, Ala Gilbert, Daniel Barenboim, Nicola Luisotti, Antonio Pappano, Gustavo Dudamel, Riccardo Chailly e tanti altri noti direttori. 
Attualmente continua a perfezionarsi con il. Mº Claudio Gironacci. 

Marco Vicario was born in Syracuse (Sicily, Italy). Iin 1985 he graduated in trumpet studies in 2006 at the Musical Institute “V. Bellini” of Caltanissetta under the guidance of Claudio Salonia.

with Gábor Tarkövi, principal trumpet, Berlin Philharmonic

with Gábor Tarkövi, principal trumpet, Berlin Philharmonic

He has participated in numerous master classes with teachers, such as: Vincent Penzarella, Michael Sachs, Tage Larsen, John Hagstrom, Robert Sullivan, Raymond Riccomini, Rex Martin, Gabor Tarkövi, Roger Webster, Claudio Gironacci, and many others.

From 1997 to 2005, he was first trumpet in the Karl Orff wind ensemble of Priolo Gargallo directed by Maestro Salvatore Tralongo, Deputy Master Concetta Vicario (his sister) and chaired by Pippo Vicar (his father) with whom he won five first prizes in national competitions and the same has recorded a CD entitled “Dialogues.”

From December 2005 to December 2006 he performed his military service at the Italian National Army Band in Rome working as a musician under the direction of  Fluvio Creux.

Since October of 2006 he was playing in the Italian Youth Orchestra of Fiesole, the Symphonic Orchestra of Savona, and the music institute orchestra “V. Bellini” of Catania.

He began working with the orchestra of the Teatro San Carlo in Naples in November 2007.  In May 2009, he became an official extra, in April of 2012, he became first-call still collaborates. He was awarded the basic and the trumpet diploma by the commissioner for external examinations at the State Conservatory of Music “A. Scontrino” of Trapani in the summer and autumn session of the year 2009.

Brass Section of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino Festival with Zubin Mehta

Brass Section of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino Festival with Zubin Mehta

In October 2009 he was appointed second call at the orchestra of the opera of Cagliari and first call in the following year. In the summer of 2011 he collaborated with the Symphonic Orchestra of Sicily in Palermo. In June 2012 he was an extra at the orchestra of the Teatro Alla Scala in Milan, and in November of 2015 he was officially appointed fourth call and still collaborates. In May of 2013 he started working with the orchestra of the Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. In July of 2013 he was given the trumpet diploma  at the Conservatory of Benevento.

In December of 2014 he participated in the competition for the first trumpet at the New York Philharmonic Orchestra (preparing for the competition with Claudio Gironacci and Vincent Penzarella). In 2015 he started working with the Haydn Orchestra of Bolzano. In November 2015 was a finalist for principal trumpet of the orchestra of the theater Fenica Venice. A December 2015 he won a position as extra with the orchestra of the Teatro Massimo in Palermo. He has participated in various tours with the orchestra of the Teatro San Carlo in Naples, including to Russia (St. Petersburg and Moscow) and China. He has also toured  in Japan with the orchestra of the Teatro Alla Scala in Milan.

He has played under the baton of great conductors such as Riccardo Muti, Zubin Mehta, Ala Gilbert, Daniel Barenboim, Nicola Luisotti, Antonio Pappano, Gustavo Dudamel, Riccardo Chailly and many others.

Currently he is continuing his trumpet studies with Claudio Gironacci. 

Equipment
Bach Stradivarius B-flat trumpet, model 37, 50th Anniversary edition (mouthpieces by Parke, Merkelo 650-280-24 and Bach 1½C, 23-24)
Bach Stradivarius C trumpet, model 229, 25H pipe
Schilke E-flat trumpet
Schilke piccolo trumpet P5 (mouthpiece by Schilke 14A4X, p5x, p6x)
Yamaha flugelhorn 
Yamaha cornet
German rotary trumpet in C by Peter Oberrauch (mouthpiece Yamaha 15e4)

Video of Marco trying out different mouthpieces on his Bach B-flat trumpet:

Video of Marco trying out his rotary trumpet: 


Bi-lingual Interview with Italian Trumpeter, Marco Vicario

The interviewer is Stanley Curtis


 

SC: Ha iniziato i suoi studi musicali quando era giovane? È stato il suo primo studio tipico di studenti italiani?

MV: Ho iniziato a suonare la tromba a 12 anni a scuola, nello stesso anno è nata una banda musicale di cui mio padre e mia sorella erano presidente e vice maestro, cosi per gioco ho iniziato a suonare la tromba in banda diretta dal maestro Salvatore Tralongo con il quale ho iniziato a fare le prime note.

SC: Did you start your musical studies at a young age? Was your early study typical of Italian students?

MV: I started playing trumpet when I was twelve years old in school. In the same year my father started a band, and my sister was president and assistant director. So for fun I started playing the trumpet in this band, which was directed by Maestro Salvatore Tralongo, with whom I started playing my first notes.

 

SC: Chi sono stati alcuni dei vostri primi maestri? Quali erano le loro lezioni importanti che hanno aiutato ad andare avanti nel suo modo di suonare? Ai quali conservatori sei andato? Come pensi che si differenziano dalle scuole americane di musica?

MV: Successivamente ho studiato con Carmelo Fede (prima tromba del teatro V. Bellini di Catania), poi con Claudio Salonia e Gioacchino Giuliano che mi hanno seguito fino al diploma conseguito nel 2006 presso l’istituto musicale di Caltanissetta da privatista (cioè allievo esterno, studiare con altri insegnanti e fare in conservatorio solo gli esami). Ho capito di voler studiare a livello professionale anche grazie ad un mio carissimo amico Stefano D’Amico (trombettista), che mi ha da subito aiutato e fatto conoscere il mio attuale maestro Claudio Gironacci (seconda tromba del teatro San Carlo di Napoli) con il quale ho cominciato un percorso di vera formazione professionale e preparazione per le audizioni e i concorsi in orchestra.

with teacher Claudio Gironacci, second trumpet of the Teatro di San Carlo di Napoli

with teacher Claudio Gironacci, second trumpet of the Teatro di San Carlo di Napoli

Claudio Gironacci ha studiato in America con grandi strumentisti e didatti quali: Arnold Jacobs, Vincent Chicowiz e Vincent Penzarella; la sua formazione ha contribuito molto alla mia crescita tecnica e musicale della tromba, a mio parere la scuola americana è molto efficace ed io personalmente cerco di applicare i concetti basilari della scuola del (bel canto) cioè cercare di cantare con lo strumento e divertirmi, suonare con facilita in massimo relax.

SC: Who were some of your early teachers? What were their important lessons that helped you move forward in your playing? Which conservatories did you go to? How do you think they differ from American schools of music?

MV: Later I studied with Carmelo Fede (first trumpet of the theater V. Bellini in Catania), then with Claudio Salonia and Gioacchino Giuliano who have followed me up to the diploma in 2006 at the Music Institute of Caltanissetta as a private student (i.e., an external student who only studies with studio teachers and takes the final exams). I knew I wanted to study at a professional level thanks to my dear friend Stephen D’Amico (trumpeter), which immediately helped me and made known my current master Claudio Gironacci (second trumpet of the Teatro San Carlo in Naples) with which I began a process of real vocational training and preparation for auditions and competitions in the orchestra.

with Vincent Penzarella and Claudio Gironacci

with Vincent Penzarella and Claudio Gironacci

Claudio Gironacci studied in America with great musicians and teachers such as Arnold Jacobs, Vincent Cichowiz and Vincent Penzarella. Gironacci’s teaching has contributed a lot to my growth technique and music of the trumpet. I think the American school is very effective and I personally try to apply the basic concepts of the school of beautiful singing (trying to sing with the instrument and play with ease and maximum relaxation).

 

SC: Qual è stato il suo primo lavoro professionale? Che tipo di esperienze ha avuto da questo lavoro?

MV: La mia prima esperienza professionale è stata con l’orchestra sinfonica di Viterbo, ho fatto la prima tromba in vari programmi, li ho iniziato a capire come suonare in orchestra, cioè ascoltarsi reciprocamente, fare da subito le dinamiche scritte in funzione del suono dell’orchestra e cercare la stessa articolazione e intonazioni con le varie sezioni.

SC: What was your first professional job? What did you learn from this experience?

MV: My first professional experience was with the Symphony Orchestra of Viterbo (about 100 km or 60 miles northwest of Rome), I played first trumpet on various concerts. There, I learned how to play in the orchestra—in other words, to listen to each other, and immediately do the dynamics written according to the sound of orchestra and try to match the same articulation and intonation with each section.

 

SC: Quali altri lavori sei stato nominato? Quali sono state le audizioni come? Penso che potrebbe essere un po’ diverso da audizioni americani.

MV: Dal 2005 ho iniziato a fare audizioni e concorsi nei seguenti teatri italiani. 2005-2006 ho svolto il servizio militare a Roma con la banda musicale dell’esercito italiano e successivamente partecipato anche ad i concorsi nelle bande della polizia di stato e dei carabinieri. Attualmente collaboro assiduamente con il teatro alla scala di Milano, il teatro san Carlo di Napoli, il teatro del maggio musicale fiorentino.

Orchestra giovanile europea
orchestra giovanile italiana di Fiesole
orchestra del teatro san Carlo di Napoli (2 idoneità)
orchestra del teatro lirico di Cagliari (2 idoneità)
orchestra del teatro del maggio musicale fiorentino
orchestra sinfonica di Savona (1 segnalazione)
orchestra Haydn di Bolzano (1 idoneità)
orchestra dell’accademia santa cecilia di Roma
orchestra del regio di Torino
orchestra del conservatorio bellini di Catania (1 idoneità)
orchestra del teatro alla scala di Milano (2 idoneità)
orchestra del teatro massimo di Palermo (1 idoneità)
orchestra del teatro la fenice di Venezia (finalista)
New York Philharmonic (eliminatoria)

SC: What other jobs have you been appointed to? What were the auditions like? I think they might be a little different than American auditions.

MV: Since 2005 I started doing auditions and competitions in Italy. From 2005 to 2006 I served in the Italian military in Rome as a member of the Italian army band. Currently I work closely with the Scala Theatre in Milan, the San Carlo theater in Naples, the Theatre of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. (Note by SC: In Italy, if you do well on an audition, you can be put on a sub or extra list): 

Orchestra of the Teatro San Carlo in Naples
Orchestra of the opera house in Cagliari
Symphony Orchestra of Savona
Haydn Orchestra of Bolzano
Orchestra of the conservatory Bellini of Catania
Orchestra of La Scala Theatre in Milan
Orchestra of the Teatro Massimo of Palermo

Also, I did pretty well in these auditions for full-time positions: 

Orchestra of the Teatro La Fenice in Venice (finalist)
New York Philharmonic (semi-final round)

Verdi's Requiem with La Scala di Milano

Verdi’s Requiem with La Scala di Milano

SC: Si gioca opera spesso ora. Quali sono alcune delle difficoltà in opera per il trombettista che potrebbe sapere solo di giocare in orchestre e bande.

MV: al momento lavoro molto con l’orchestra del teatro alla scala di Milano, facendo molto repertorio operistico ho notato che la differenza è proprio nella sonorità, in buca si suona molto piano per dare spazio ai cantanti e rispetto al repertorio sinfonico il suono deve essere meno presente e brillante quindi per un trombettista che suona spesso sinfonico o in banda la difficoltà è quella di ridimensionare tutto e trovare subito un bel suono sul piano e la prontezza negli attacchi.

SC: You play opera often now. What are some of the difficulties in opera for the trumpeter who might only know about playing in orchestras and bands.

l-r, Esteban Batallan, first trumpet in Granada, Spain, Nicola Martelli, second trumpet of La Scala di Milano, Zubin Mehta, Francesco Tamiati, first trumpet  of La Scala, and Marco Vicario

l-r, Esteban Batallan, first trumpet in Granada, Spain, Nicola Martelli, second trumpet of La Scala di Milano, Zubin Mehta, Francesco Tamiati, first trumpet of La Scala, and Marco Vicario

MV: I am working a lot now with the orchestra of La Scala Theatre in Milan, doing a lot of operatic repertoire. I noticed that the difference is really in the sound. In the opera pit, one plays very softly, giving way to the singers. It is less brilliant by comparison to an orchestral trumpet sound. Then the difficulty for a symphonic band trumpeter is to be able to change all of the dynamics immediately, finding a nice piano sound but in the next instance being ready for loud attacks.

 

SC: Tu hai mantenuto gli studi in corso, studiando con insegnanti di tutto il mondo. Chi sono alcuni di quegli insegnanti, e che cosa hai imparato da loro?

MV: nel 2013 ho studiato in America a New York maggiormente con Vincent Penzarella (ex seconda tromba della New York Philharmonic), e poi ho fatto lezione con Raymond Riccomini, a Chicago con Steven Burns, Robert Sullivan, Tage Larsen e Rex Martin. Con loro ho cercato di applicare le cose basilari del bel suono in tutto il registro nella tecnica ed in tutto ciò che esegui, suonare cercando sempre la facilità e la bellezza e ho lavorato molto sul repertorio orchestrale sentendo quindi vari pareri sull’esecuzione dei passi più importanti per tromba.

SC: You have kept your studies going by studying with teachers around the world. Who are some of those teachers, and what have you learned from them?

with Raymond Riccomini, Second Trumpet at the Metropolitan Opera.

with Raymond Riccomini, Second Trumpet at the Metropolitan Opera

MV: In 2013 For the most part, I have studied in America in New York City with Vincent Penzarella (former second trumpet in the New York Philharmonic), and then I took lessons with Raymond Riccomini (Metropolitan Opera Orchestra), in Chicago with Stephen Burns (trumpet soloist and music director), Robert Sullivan (principal trumpet of the Cincinnati Symphony), Tage Larsen (Chicago Symphony Orchestra) and Rex Martin (trumpet soloist). With them, I tried to apply the basics of good sound throughout the register in technique and in all execution, always trying to play with ease and beauty. I worked hard on orchestral repertoire, and I learned a lot on how to improve on the trumpet, step by step.

 

SC: Dove vuoi andare da qui? Nei prossimi anni? In venti anni?

MV: il mio sogno è di far parte di una grande orchestra, come già detto ho vissuto parte del mio sogno partecipando al concorso per prima tromba alla New York Philharmonic Orchestra e continuerò a collaborare in orchestra e a fare concorsi in Italia ed all’estero.

SC: Where do you want to go from here? In the next few years? In twenty years?

MV: My dream is to be part of a great orchestra. As I said earlier, I lived part of my dream by auditioning for the first trumpet job in the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, and I will continue to work in Italian orchestras and to audition for permanent positions in Italy and abroad.

 

SC: Cosa ti piace fare quando non si gioca la tromba?

MV: quando decido di non studiare e rilassarmi vado a camminare o correre, trascorro del tempo con la famiglia ed esco con gli amici

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

MV: When I decide I’ve had enough practice and I need to relax, I go on a walk or run, spend time with family and go out with friends!

 

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Trumpet Books: An Autobiography From Herbert L. Clarke

Herbert L. Clarke as a member of the Victor Herbert Band (c. 1896)

Herbert L. Clarke as a member of the Victor Herbert Band (c. 1896)

Trumpeters and cornetist all over the world usually know a little about Herbert L. Clarke, but what a lot of us may not know is that he wrote a marvelous memoire, How I Became a Cornetist. You can buy this fairly short and easy to read book from various retailers or you can get a PDF version for free from the Kalamazoo Public Library, or from a few other websites. 

Clarke organizes his book into Series (chapters) that were originally published serially in a band magazine, Fillmore’s Musical Messenger. The relaxed style of writing about his pursuit of great cornet playing during an era when cornetist were so incredibly popular helps the reader immerse himself into the time period. 

For me, the most important theme of this book is how much effort cornet-playing at this level was required. In fact, Clarke makes a big point of de-bunking the notion of the “born cornetist.” This book is about the hard work Clarke put in to become great, and it stands as an example for us today. His anecdotes and advice about his family upbringing, the difficulty of buying his first cornet, his first encounters with transposition, and lying about his age to join a band all make delightful reading. 

We can all be grateful to Clarke for his remarkable memory. Even the most trivial stories come to life with his amazing grasp of past details. For instance, his first hearing of Walter B. Rogers when he was about 15 years old: 

At about the middle of the program a young man not much older than myself stood up and without moving from his place began playing a cornet solo which at once so captivated my attention that I forced my way through the crowd in order to get nearer the bandstand and not miss a note. . . . The number, an extremely difficult cornet solo which demanded great endurance in playing was the Excelsior Polka by Frewin. . . . At the ending of the solo the young player was given an ovation of tumultuous applause, in which I joined vigorously. The cornetist again arose, but this time stepped to the front of the platform, and to my wonderment played the entire solo through for the second time without seeming tired or making a slip. . . . His face did not become purple, distorted, or show any signs of strain.

 

Herbert L. Clarke at age 23, Cornet Soloist of Gilmore's 22nd Regimental Band

Herbert L. Clarke at age 23, Cornet Soloist of Gilmore’s 22nd Regimental Band

Learning how Clarke took up the viola to play in the family quartet and how he tried working in a business store, helps us to realize that Clarke kept his career options open. Even so, he still pursued his dream with an enormous amount of hard work on the cornet. The book concludes with him finally getting his dream job–as cornet soloist with Patrick Gilmore’s band at age 23. 

After I had finished, Mr. Gilmore came over to me, patted me on the back, and told me that he had been looking for a great cornet player who could play musically, with the endurance I had displayed this afternoon and at last he had found one! I nearly fell over on hearing this expression of enthusiasm regarding my playing, and had to sit down. 

In closing, Clarke adds an amazing synopsis of his career as a cornetist after that point. Here are some of those facts:

Clarke logged over 8000 miles of travel as soloist with the bands of Gilmore, John Philip Sousa and Victor Herbert. He played over six thousand programmed cornet solos, including 473 concerts in one season. He soloed at the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, the Paris World’s Fair in 1900, and the St. Louis World’s Fair of 1904.

Anglo Canadian Leather Company Band leader Herbert L. Clarke (left) and C. O. Shaw (right), owner of the Anglo Canadian Leather Company, Huntsville, Ontario.

Anglo Canadian Leather Company Band leader Herbert L. Clarke (left) and C. O. Shaw (right), owner of the Anglo Canadian Leather Company, Huntsville, Ontario.

 

 

Of course, Herbert L. Clarke also distinguished himself as a bandmaster himself, eventually becoming the president of the American Bandmasters Association in 1943.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Me at the grave marker of Herbert L. Clarke

Me at the grave marker of Herbert L. Clarke

 

I have visited Clarke’s gravesite in Congressional Cemetery in Washington, DC, on a number of occasions, and each time I have a sense of wonder, appreciation and meaning. 

 

 

 

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