Recital this Friday: Windows and more

Tia Wortham and me, Stan Curtis

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

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

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

Creation Window

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

Epiphany Window

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

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

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

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


Crucifixion Window

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



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Trumpet mastery is like writing a fugue

Facsimile of Bach’ Brandenburg No. 2, beginning of movement III

Do you like fugues by J.S. Bach? I do. But writing a fugue is a compositional challenge, because you cannot just write anything for a subject and then expect the fugue to work out. Once you start putting the counter subject in, and then layering on a third voice, and maybe a fourth voice, each with its own countersubject, then you will have to go back and revise the subject, so that the imitative entries make sense. Then as you change the subject, the other entries have to change. If it doesn’t work out, then you have to revise again. Of course, this is even more true for a cannon (a stricter type of where there are no deviations from imitation).

By the way, if you want to really learn how to write a fugue, your best bet is to find an old book by George Oldroyd called “The Technique and Spirit of Fugue,” published by Oxford University Press and designed to help music students at Oxford write a fugue for their examination. Try to find this book in a good music library and make a copy for yourself, because it is out of print. 

But why is composing a fugue like gaining trumpet mastery? Because their are many psychological/pedagogical components to master. And once you start making an effort in one area, the other areas are affected and they will need redirecting. This process continues for the rest of your life. For me, the basic components of trumpet mastery, and trumpet satisfaction, can be divided up in this way:

  1. Awareness of the larger musical world as it was, as it is now, as it probably will become
  2. Awareness of yourself–your personality, your capabilities, your probable potential
  3. A goal to achieve: what niche do you want to occupy? This must be constantly revised as the realities set in. There should be an almost perfect match between the optimistic ideal and the practical necessities.
  4. A process to achieve that goal. This process must be full of time commitment, focus commitment, organizational commitment, a commitment to quality control and a commitment of effort. This is almost always made better by working with a great teacher
  5. A positive way to react to real results. Things will not happen the way you want. You will try and you will fail. In the failure, you will rise like a phoenix and try again (hopefully). This cycle can be very short: you practice a passage, and you fail. But you think about how you can do it better, then you try again. Thousands of times, until you get it. This cycle can be long: you perform a recital or an audition and you have an implosion. You want to hide under a rock, but you must crawl out and schedule another performance or audition and try again. The best is to keep your cycles of “failure/trying again” as short as possible, so that you can have a little more control. Your resiliency is key here. Each personality reacts to failure differently, but push yourself to optimism and happiness. This is really the reason I am doing a year-long Trumpet Happiness Project.

Most trumpet methods focus on number 4 (the process). This seems natural, since they assume that you already know the musical world and yourself and that you want to join the legions of working musicians who have gone before you into glorious orchestras and bands. You will need to constantly revise your goals to somehow connect with the realities of the musical world as it is today. What is it that people want from musicians? What is it that you think you can give to the world audience? What are your limitations now? How much can you improve to achieve your goal? Keep asking yourself these questions, just like Bach kept wondering about his counterpoint from beginning to end. The more you do this kind of recalculation, the more you can see the problems before you even get there. Just like Bach saw much of his composition in the whole before he finished–but if he didn’t, he had the technique to get himself out of the corner he painted himself into.








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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 Navy Band 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 trumpet 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 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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Re-thinking jazz and classical music

I recently read an op-ed in the Washington Post,All that jazz isn’t all that great by Justin Moyer, and it brought to my mind a lot of old conversations and thoughts that I have had about the place of jazz (and classical music) in our culture. Moyer’s piece is a critique against jazz in general. I both agreed and disagreed with Moyer’s views.

Louis Armstrong established his legacy by both playing the trumpet and singing

Louis Armstrong established his legacy by both playing the trumpet and singing

His first point that “Jazz takes great songs — and abandons the lyrics that help make them great,” is partially true. Most jazz today is based on instrumental versions of standards that used to have lyrics. Not wanting to get too bogged down in the fact that there are many great jazz recordings and performances of vocalists, it should be noted that classical music, too, is largely instrumental. Craig Wright, in Listening to Music, writes that “about 80 percent of the Western classical repertoire is instrumental.” Wright attributes the rise in instrumental music to the growing popularity of playing instruments in taverns and homes in the 17th and 18th century. I propose that the rise in jazz popularity in the mid-20th century was also due to the large number of very competent amateurs who could easily play the popular songs of the day and understand the sound of the basic harmonic changes underneath the vocals. Their familiarity with great songs helped create a fantastic backdrop for an appreciation of, and love for, jazz instrumental renditions of popular songs.

The problem today is that there are fewer homes with pianos or other instruments that are played on a regular basis with enough competence to entertain the family. There isn’t enough musical vocabulary understood by the common person of today. I would venture to say that there isn’t even a desire to have live music in homes today. This is, of course, due to the ease in which we can get any recording today for instant gratification. Nobody is compelled to make the effort to learn how to play for the entertainment of friends and family at home.

Moyer’s second point that “improvisation isn’t all it’s cracked up to be” is weak, while taking a needless swipe at Wes Montgomery, the great jazz guitarist. In my opinion, improvisation IS all it’s cracked up to be. Moreover, if there were more improvisation in ALL genres of music, then I think there would be a lot more joyful music making and appreciation. I believe improvisation is none other than the remedy to the decline of today’s music industry. It’s just too easy for everyone to have a favorite tune, to like it only the way it’s recorded, and to only like cover bands that play the tune exactly that way. This mindset has been formulated mainly by the recording industry, which made a huge profit selling people definitive recordings, and by music conservatories and competitions that have promoted correct execution of the musical score over individual freedom. Well, with streaming music today, that profit for the recording industry and the musicians themselves is woefully diminished, and classical orchestras and bands are in great decline. It’s time to start pulling away, at least a little bit, from definitive recordings and scores and to start embracing spontaneous, improvised performances. The difficulty, of course, is that this notion sets the standard higher than most musicians want to go. It depends on developing much better “ears” and knowledge of how the music is constructed. It also tends to by-pass conservatories, at least in the way that they are structured today.

Renaissance wind ensembles improvised their performances in large part

Renaissance wind ensembles improvised their performances in large part

It’s useful, by the way, to point out that classical composers such as Brahms, Mozart, Beethoven, Handel and Bach all were exceptional improvisers. Indeed, an accomplished wind band of the 16th century would have all of their repertoire memorized, and they would decorate their part to such an extent that we would call it improvisation. They called it making “divisions.”


To become a spontaneous, original, improvising musician, you have to listen to others, break down their musical ideas into small portions,  paraphrase these ideas, and then develop the ability to originate your own ideas within the musical language in which you have been working. This is a long process with high demands, but great rewards.

Schoenberg, a masterful composer, is best known now for "inventing" 12-tone serialism

Schoenberg, a masterful composer, is best known now for “inventing” 12-tone serialism

Moyer’s third point is that “Jazz stopped evolving.” This brings up a very important issue that runs contrary to the jazz and classical worlds’ notion that greatness comes in large part from doing something fundamentally new. There is nothing wrong with new ideas in music, but it is just too easy for the human brain to artificially construct an evolution of musical language. And the critics just love to say things like, “Miles Davis introduced the world to cool jazz.” Or, “serialism began primarily with Arnold Schoenberg’s twelve-tone technique.”

Clifford Brown, one of my favorite jazz trumpeters of all time.

Clifford Brown, one of my favorite jazz trumpeters of all time.

To be able to pin a new trend to someone is just too tempting. Unfortunately, this fascination with music evolution tends to crowd out great artists that were not necessarily innovative in that way (such as hard-bob trumpeter Clifford Brown, British 20th-century classical composer Vaughan Williams, or even J.S. Bach). Innovation is important and needs to be recognized, but beautifully working out one’s personal approach to a musical language should be equally prized. I’m sure there are young composers and jazz artists out there that are afraid to embrace old genres for fear of not being taken seriously as an innovator.

Jazz great Winton Marsalis has let his musical language develop organically. His authenticity has captured the hearts of young and old alike

Jazz great Winton Marsalis has let his musical language develop organically. His authenticity has captured the hearts of young and old alike.


And here I think it is important to point out that Wynton Marsalis is a shining example of a jazz musician that has revived a general public interest in jazz by embracing older styles of jazz and creating a fresh approach to this music. Respighi, Hindemith and Stravinsky were all heavily inspired by Renaissance and Baroque examples, and their music continues to inspire listeners with their grasp of older genres. It comes across as authentic and masterful.

Moyer’s fourth point, that “Jazz is mushy,” rambles on about a number of points. He points out that there are non-musical things that are equated to jazz: President Obama once described his own style of speaking as being “like jazz.” And author Jack Kerouac “may be the closest thing we have to a ‘jazz writer.’” Moyer’s statement brings to my mind another interesting point about artificial vs. organic artistic “evolution.”

Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 12.22.27 PMIf you were to go to a library and browse any number of literature genres, you would notice, by and large, a tendency to use the English language in a very recognizable way. Grammar would be mostly correct (and please go easy on my own use of grammar!), and vocabulary would not normally need to go beyond the top 20,000 words (although there are hundreds of thousands of words in the English language). This is true of popular fiction, biography and even scholarly articles. Even most poetry uses recognizable constructions. We do not ask that English literature evolve artificially to some unrecognizable form (even non-sensical poems such as Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” and stream-of-consciousness novels such as Joyce’s Ulysses are largely understandable). So why, I ask, do we put this terrible onus on jazz and classical music to be new and different? Why do we insist on jazz reaching it’s “logical” conclusion in the “free jazz” of musicians such as Ornette Coleman? Why do we snub modern tonal-like or modal classical music as being dilettante-ish? Let’s everybody relax and enjoy the communication of a living musical language that is SHARED between the artist and the audience. There are countless more pieces that could be masterful and innovative in musical languages that seem “dead,” like, for instance, the baroque language of Bach.

Moyer’s final point, “Jazz let itself be co-opted” brings up the danger of getting too conservative. He writes, “this music has retreated from the nightclub to the academy. It is shielded from commercial failure by the American cultural-institutional complex, which hands out grants and degrees to people like me. Want to have a heated discussion about “Bitches Brew” or the upper partials? White guys wielding brass in Manhattan and New England are ready to do battle.” While it is true that jazz has been fetishized by many white intellectuals and largely ignored by young blacks, it would be nice to gently lay aside these racial aspects that divide us. Can’t we all just get along and enjoy the musical language for what it is? It’s a living language available for all to communicate with. On the other hand, I have to ask myself why is it that you can find a jazz studies program in hundreds of American music schools, but you can hardly find any school that might nurture your interest in Rock, dance music, pop and Hip-hop (perhaps with the exception of Berklee College of Music)? The answer to this question is that we are not willing to be spontaneous and profound with our education. We are not willing to really educate our children and youth in how to communicate with music. From elementary and middle school music programs up to graduate schools in music, we take the easy way out. We encourage a quickly-learned ensemble performance without engaging students in how to improvise or compose or even understand the music that is performed. If a band director can demonstrate to his boss, the principal, that some students learned to play “Hot Cross Buns” at the convocation or the “back to school night” then everything is okay. We insist on students writing English essays, but we don’t care about their ability to compose and communicate in music and the arts in general.


Kids Compose! allows hundreds of schoolchildren between second and sixth grades from Monroe County to use their imagination to compose melodies

Kids Compose! allows hundreds of schoolchildren between second and sixth grades from Monroe County to use their imagination to compose melodies

How about this idea? Let’s have a group of students compose, under the guidance of a teacher, their own musical, opera or song. (An example of this is the “Kids Compose!” project in Bloomington, Indiana). Let’s have a young musician, who is learning how to play the flute, improvise over some simple chords. Let’s communicate with our artform!

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Back from a Long Vacation

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

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

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


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

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





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

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



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

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

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




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


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