Interview with Dennis Monk, a trumpeter turned academic

Dennis Monk

Interviewer’s note: unlike most interviews on Trumpet Journey, there is no preliminary bio or equipment list for Dennis Monk. His interview is, essentially, his bio.

The date of this live interview was February 20, 2018. The interviewer is Stanley Curtis, who was a student of Dennis in the 1980s at the University of Alabama.

SC: Dennis, thanks for agreeing to sit with me and talk about music, your life, your career—and maybe a little about the trumpet along the way!

DM: It’s my pleasure! I often think of my career in terms of the story of the Fox and the Hedgehog from the fragment attributed to the Ancient Greek poet Archilochus: “a fox knows many things, but a hedgehog one important thing.” Me? I could never be the hedgehog, but I was a pretty good fox.

SC: Tell me about your childhood. How did you get interested in music? What was it like growing up in South Dakota?

DM: I grew up the descendants of homesteaders in a little town called Olivet in S.D.—population of about 500, mostly Norwegian-Americans. I was the child of immigrants, who were recruited by the railroad from countries like Denmark, Ireland, Hungary, Poland and Germany.

My father’s family had a home orchestra. He played several instruments, including the trumpet, and my mother played the piano and saxophone. And every village in SD had a good-quality town band. My grandfather had become an owner of a bank. He closed it every afternoon at 3pm to conduct the local high school band. My grandparents so loved music that they would walk five miles to a railroad spur and take the train to the nearest city (50 miles away) to hear a touring opera star or an orchestra or a band, and then after the concert and get back on the train and back home in the morning.

Unfortunately, the Great Depression destroyed the family bank. My father had to do something, so he became, without any degree in music education, the high school band director, choral director, basketball coach and principal. In a band in those days, the most important person was the first-chair cornet. I say cornet, because the trumpet might as well have not been invented, yet—they were considered pea-shooters! My father began grooming me to be the first chair cornet player starting when I was in Fifth Grade. I played a Reynolds cornet with a Bach 7C mouthpiece. Starting in the Sixth Grade, I was his first cornet player for 6 years. I thought I was pretty great. I played in a polka band in high school, playing “dawn dances” (in the summer), so-called because they started at midnight and went to sunrise.

But the “Fox” of Archilochus took over. I began to be interested in theater, debate, choir and “original oratory,” which is a competitive event. I was one of three democrats in the school. Outspoken doesn’t come close to what I was!

SC: What did you do after high school?

DM: I eventually came to realize that I wasn’t as good as I thought I was on the cornet.

Dennis Monk’s trumpet during his Navy Years: a Chicago Benge, serial #2212 from the late 1940s. He bought it used for $25 and played it for 50 years (using a Purviance mouthpiece). 

I had to decide between going to college at Michigan State (I had been offered a little scholarship there) or joining the Navy. In 1955, you either did your obligatory military service before went to college or after you went to college. If you got drafted after college, you might become an Army grunt and sleep in foxholes and get shot. Whereas the Navy offered me the opportunity of hot meals, sheets, and expanding my musical experience (there was a school of music in the Navy). So, at 17, I enlisted, and spent two and a half years in the Navy. I became the director of a 30-member boot camp band, at age 17, in Great Lakes. We played the “Star Spangled Banner” at morning colors and “Anchors Aweigh” marching back to the band room. That was the total repertoire of the boot camp band. Before going to boot camp, I had seen only one black growing up in South Dakota. That all changed with my experience with the Navy Band program.

After boot camp, I spent a year in Navy School of Music at Anacostia Naval Station, in Southeast D.C. I was smart, and I could type, so they kept me on the staff.

Dennis Monk (far left) with the band of the USS Bennington

Then I was shipped out to sea for the remainder of my enlistment. In the Navy, I played in a big band on the USS Bennington. On this ship I went to Sydney, Australia, Japan, Hong Kong and Hawaii. There was a jazz trumpeter named Jerry van Blair, who went on to play with Bill Chase. The band on the Bennington was made up of draftees. Many were college music majors.

SC: After your time in the Navy, what did you do?

DM: I discovered after a year at sea, I wasn’t getting any better, and I was discouraged. So, when I was discharged in 1958, I decided I would study music education. The best college at the time in music education was San Francisco State. My tuition was $37 a semester.

I set foot on a college campus and thought I had died and gone to heaven. I decided that I would never leave a college campus, and, as it turns out, I never did. I took courses in English, Art and Philosophy, but I remember my advisor eventually said to me, “You know, Dennis, if you’re a music major, at some point you’re expected to take classes in music.” So, I started studying conducting, and I decided I wanted to be an opera conductor. I finished my degree without going to many of the classes, because they were so easy. Then, I got a job starting a band and a jazz band at a Jesuit prep school in San Francisco. I conducted musical shows. Then they hired me at the University of San Francisco (also a Jesuit school). There, I started conducting musical shows. That’s when I discovered that going to college was one thing, and teaching was entirely different. I was more excited to teach. “Music Man” was the first show. At the same time, I was taking graduate courses at San Francisco State in music history, because I needed to know more about classical music, since I wanted to be a conductor. True to the “Fox”, I discovered I really liked music history. And I liked the idea of teaching in a college.

SC: What did you do after you graduated from San Francisco State?

DM: I got married in 1962—my bride, Kay, and I eloped. Soon she was pregnant. Even though I was really busy and sleep-deprived, we packed up and moved to Los Angeles. There I started working toward my Ph.D. at UCLA. I studied conducting with Zubin Mehta’s dad, Mehli Mehta. I was the assistant conductor of the UCLA symphony and the UCLA opera, and soon became a father. Because UCLA didn’t have a doctorate in conducting, I got my Ph.D. in musicology as an alternative to conducting—my residency lasting only two and a half years.

SC: What did you do then?

DM: I accepted a job at a junior college in Washington State. Now I had a family to support. But then I heard about Fulbright Fellowships. The “Fox” came calling once again. I could not resist the temptation of applying for a Fulbright to Vienna.

SC: Had you already learned German?

DM: I had already learned how to read German, but I couldn’t speak it. Much to my astonishment, I received the Fulbright award. I rescinded my teaching position, before I got there. I moved to Vienna with my family (my three-year-old daughter, Kimberly, learned to speak German almost immediately and could translate for my wife during shopping trips). I began doing my dissertation research on the 18th-century symphony: how the style had changed between Bach and Haydn. I felt that up to this time there was the lack of scores to help in this research. So, I went to archives in Hungary and Czechoslovakia and photographed orchestral parts, in order to re-compile them later into a score for study. I got my Fulbright extended by a year, and by this time, I was moving my focus away from the symphony to the quartet, because it was easier to collect only four parts for a quartet.

When I returned to the U.S., after I made scores from the parts, I could analyze them to see how the style changed between Bach and Haydn. I looked at about a dozen composers, such as Johann Baptist Vanhal and Franz Asplmayr. I published some of my editions.

After I got my doctoral degree in 1972, I got a phone call from dean of Oberlin (a UCLA grad), he had a temporary position, so I began teaching musicology. As this temporary job was about to disappear, I took a job at Central Michigan University. There I started an early music ensemble. I got a chance to conduct Monteverdi’s “The Coronation of Poppea.” I was their first music historian. But, like many times before, the “Fox” showed up in my door again. I got invited to take a year’s internship in the Vice President’s office, followed by being appointed Chair of Music Department. It was a really good music school. I liked the place and it was growing. I even helped to design a new building there.

Dennis Monk, early 70s

But the damned “Fox” showed up again. I got very active with the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM). I had the reputation of being very active but a little weird. I gave a lot of papers to them that were quite visionary.

SC: But you didn’t stay there, did you?

DM: No. I was sitting at my desk at CMU, when the Dean at the University of Alabama rang me up. , He said, “We’re doing a chairman search and we have stalled. We’re on the 2nd year and the faculty won’t agree.” I told him, “Let me think who might be a good person for Alabama.” “No, you don’t understand. We want you!” I told him I didn’t want to go, but I went anyway to interview there.

After visiting the Alabama campus and still being undecided, I flew back to Michigan, flying over the last dirty snow of the year. It was cold and ugly, so I walked through the door and told my wife to pack!

SC: I knew you when I was an undergraduate at the University of Alabama. You were, by then, the music director of the school of music there. Was it easy to lead this music school at that time? How did you find Alabama?

DM: I had challenges right away. Because the dean of the college of Arts and Sciences didn’t want to fire anybody, he had simply removed three positions from the school because of budget cutting. This affected me: I didn’t have these positions in the School of Music, and I had thought I did. When it dawned on me what had transpired, I barged into the dean’s office with my hair on fire. He sat there smoking his pipe. “Well, we lied a little”. He told me that I would just have to work through it. So, I did as best as I could.

Dennis Monk with Itzhak Perlman in front of Dreamland Barbecue restaurant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama

I had also been promised that there were plans and money set aside for a new music building. I finally asked President (Joab) Thomas how much money had they set aside. He finally confessed that it was only $7 million. Well, you can’t build for that little—especially with a concert hall in the design! Joab (Thomas, the president) was only too glad to pull the plug on the project, but I saved the building. I started going to trustee meetings. The chancellor finally stepped in and, with his help, the building was finally funded and built.

Dennis Monk (center right) enjoying University of Alabama football with the Million Dollar Band

I stayed on as director for about eleven years. Then I went to work in the Chancellor’s office for a few years, but I didn’t enjoy it. Sooner or later, you’re libel to run afoul your boss. With a personality like mine, it came. The dean took an almost instant dislike to me. The law of jungle is that if you’re chairman and dean doesn’t like you, you have to resign. I resigned. I spent the last 10 years just teaching. And they were the most pleasurable of my entire career.

Now, I enjoy connecting with many of my students on social media, following their lives. It’s been a real pleasure. I just got an email from one of my students from the time I was teaching in San Francisco. He told me that he had recently named me as a music teacher that changed his life.

SC: What advice do you have for the younger generation? How can we improve our musical world?

Dennis Monk enjoying retirement in 2018.

DM: Be ready for change. Follow the fox. There are books out now that say that knowledge is useless. Because everything is changing. I have become very interested in the stoic philosophy of people like Seneca and Marcus Aurelius. It has been a new interest. In a nutshell: the past is the past and there is nothing you can do about. The future you have no idea about. So, you must live for the present. In neuroscience, we have come to learn that decisions aren’t made consciously, but subconsciously. And the conscious mind simply recognizes the decisions. I trusted intuition, opportunity and danger. I think that was the right thing to do, and I would suggest that’s an important lesson for young people today. Over the years, I’ve come to embrace two favorite expressions: “I don’t know” and “I don’t know.” Both are very helpful.

Dennis Monk and his late wife, Kay.

SC: What kind of projects are you looking forward to in the future?

DM: Just recently, when my wife, Kay, died, I got an opportunity to work again on the scores that I had compiled in my doctorate research.


CD jacket for quartet project of Vanhal’s music, manuscripts of which were supplied to quartet by Dennis Monk


Someone in Canada who works with Tafelmusik and in a string quartet, asked me to help with some quartets that he was interested in. After he mentioned to me they were going to record some quartets by Asplmayr that I had edited, I was able to show him some later works that are even more interesting. Now his quartet is planning to do another CD. I’m past 80, and my work still seems relevant, and this makes me very happy.

SC: Dennis, your journey has certainly been an adventure, and I’m sure that some young trumpeters out there will find some inspiration from the paths that you took.

DM: I hope so. It was great to chat with you!






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An Interview You Will Want to Hear

Former Principal Trumpet of the New York Philharmonic, Philip Smith, chatting with Barbara Haws, Archivist of the NYP.

Every now and then I come across things I just have to share, such as an interview between Barbara Haws, the New York Philharmonic’s Archivist, and Philip Smith, former Principal Trumpeter there. This interview is one of four in a series called “Listening Through Time.” The listener is transported through the decades of recorded performances of the NYP to compare and contrast each generation of musicians over the standard repertoire. In this case, trumpeters are featured, from Harry Glantz and Bill Vacchiano and going through John Ware all the way to Philip Smith himself. And Mr. Smith chats about his impressions of each performance. Legends and lore are thrown about in an interview you simply must listen to! 


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Interview in Portuguese (Português) and English with Brazilian Trumpeter, Pedro Azevedo

Pedro Santos de Azevedo, mestre em música pela Unicamp e bacharel em música com habilitação em trompete pela Faculdade Santa Marcelina, iniciou seus estudos musicais aos 9 anos, na Escola de Música da Banda Musical de Peruíbe (1998-2002). Atou como trompetista em importantes grupos musicais, como a Banda Sinfônica de Cubatão (2008-2015). Possui cursos de educação musical pelo Método Suzuki e em 2016 realizou o curso de capacitação para professor de trompete Suzuki no Canadá, se tornando o único professor latino-americano com o curso de formação no instrumento. Sua pesquisa de mestrado, sob orientação do Prof. Dr. Paulo Ronqui, resultou em uma composição inédita para trompete e flugelhorn solo de nome “O Chamado do Anjo”, do compositor Leonardo Martinelli. Trabalha como professor de música na instituição AMIC – Amigos da Criança desde 2013 e como professor de trompete do Centro Suzuki de Campinas desde 2017. Atua como trompetista convidado em orquestras da região, como por exemplo a  Orquestra Sinfônica de Indaiatuba e Orquestra Sinfônica da Unicamp.

Pedro Santos de Azevedo, received a master in music degree at Unicamp and a bachelor in music with trumpet qualification from Santa Marcelina College. He began his musical studies at the age of 9, at the Music School of the Peruíbe Music Band (1998-2002). He played as a trumpet player in important musical groups, such as the Cubatão Symphonic Band (2008-2015). He holds music education courses by the Suzuki Method and in 2016 held the training course for trumpet teacher Suzuki in Canada, becoming the only Latin American teacher with the training course in the instrument.

His master’s research, under the guidance of Prof. Dr. Paulo Ronqui, resulted in an unpublished composition for trumpet and flugelhorn solo named “O Chamado do Anjo”, by composer Leonardo Martinelli. He works as a music teacher at AMIC – Amigos da Criança since 2013 and as a trumpet teacher at the Suzuki Center of Campinas since 2017. He is a guest trumpet player in orchestras in the region, such as the Indaiatuba Symphony Orchestra and the Unicamp Symphony Orchestra.

Bb – Stomvi Titán Bellflex #27 with MaxiClappers
C – Stomvi Titán Bellflex #23 with MaxiClappers
Eb/D – Stomvi Máster Titanium #20 Bellflex gold plated and #20 Copper silver plated  
Bb/A Piccolo – Yamaha YTR-6810s
Pocket Trumpet: Eagle
Herald Trumpet: Suzuki
Stomvi Valencia 3C Classic (on Bb and C trumpet)
Stomvi Valencia 5C Classic (on Eb/D trumpet)
Monette Classic STC-1 C4S S2 (on C trumpet, sometimes)
Stomvi Valencia 10E Classic (on piccolo)
Schilke 13A4a (on piccolo)
Denis Wick 3FL (on flugelhorn)


Bi-lingual Interview with Brazilian Trumpeter, Pedro Azevedo

The interviewer is Stanley Curtis

SC: Pedro, muito obrigado por concordar em fazer essa entrevista

PSA: É um prazer Stan, obrigado pelo convite!

SC: Pedro, thank you so much for agreeing to do this interview.

PSA: It’s a pleasure Stan! Thanks for the invitation.

SC: A maioria dos meus leitores não sabe muito sobre o Brasil. Diga-nos onde você nasceu, cresceu e vive agora. Como é viver de música nesses lugares? Como você acha que a vida musical no Brasil se compara a outros lugares do mundo?

PSA: Eu nasci na cidade de São Paulo – SP, e nos meus 4 anos minha família mudou para Peruibe – SP, uma cidade pequena no litoral sul do estado de SP. Lá permaneci até completar 20 anos. Comecei a estudar música aos 9 anos em Peruibe, na banda musical da cidade, em agosto de 1998. No inicio tinha aulas de coral e percussão, e cerca de 3 anos depois comecei a estudar trompete. No ano de 2002 passei a estudar no Projeto BEC, na cidade de Cubatão – SP, um importante polo musical do estado. Em Cubatão foi o momento onde o estudo do trompete começou a ficar realmente sério, e lá permaneci, como estudante até 2008, tendo aulas com José Torres Menezes. No final de 2008 passei a atuar profissionalmente na cidade, tocando em duas bandas locais: Banda Sinfônica de Cubatão e Banda Marcial de Cubatão. Também em 2008, comecei a estudar trompete na Escola Municipal de Música de SP, com o Prof. Dr. Carlos Sulpicio. Em 2010, ano em que ingressei na Faculdade Santa Marcelina, voltei a morar na cidade de São Paulo, e lá permaneci até março de 2014. Me mudei para Campinas – SP, interior do estado, depois de casar com Marina Maugeri. Nos conhecemos na faculdade. Em Campinas, comecei a fazer mestrado em performance na Universidade Estadual de Campinas – Unicamp – no ano de 2015, sob a orientação do Prof. Dr. Paulo Ronqui. Finalizei o curso no mês passado (agosto/2017).

SC: Most of my readers do not know much about Brazil. Tell us where you were born, grew up and live now. What are these places like to live in for a musician? How do you think the musical life in Brazil compares to other places in the world?

PSA: I was born in the city of São Paulo – SP (the state of São Paulo), and when I was four my family moved to Peruibe – SP, a small town on the south coast of the state of SP. I stayed there until I turned 20. I started studying music at the age of nine in Peruibe, in the city’s music band, in August of 1998. At the beginning, I had classes in choir and percussion, and about three years later I started studying trumpet. In 2002, I began studies at the BEC Project, in the city of Cubatão – SP, an important musical center of the state. In Cubatão I began to get really serious about the trumpet, and I stayed there as a student until 2008, taking classes with José Torres Menezes. At the end of 2008 I started to perform professionally in the city, playing in two local bands: Cubatão Symphonic Band and Cubatão Military Band. Also in 2008, I started to study trumpet at the Municipal School of Music of SP, with Prof. Dr. Carlos Sulpicio. In 2010, the year I joined Santa Marcelina College, I returned to live in the city of São Paulo, and stayed there until March 2014. I moved to Campinas, state of São Paulo, after marrying Marina Maugeri. We met in college. In Campinas, I started to do a master’s degree in performance at the State University of Campinas – Unicamp – in 2015, under the guidance of Prof. Dr. Paulo Ronqui. I finished the course last month (August / 2017).

SC: Como você se interessou pela música? Por que você escolheu o trompete?

PSA: Não foi escolha minha estudar música. Em Peruibe vivíamos na periferia e meus pais tomaram essa decisão para que eu e meu irmão mais velho, João, não ficássemos na rua. A escolha do trompete, até hoje para mim é uma dúvida. Lá na banda de Peruibe, quando me perguntaram qual instrumento eu gostaria de tocar, eu respondi “trompete”de imediato, mesmo sem conhecer o instrumento. Eu escolhi o trompete, e não me arrependo até hoje.

SC: How did you get interested in music? Why did you pick the trumpet?

PSA: It was not my choice to study music. In Peruibe we lived on the outskirts and my parents made the decision for me and my older brother, John, did not stay on the street. The choice of the trumpet, to this day for me is a doubt. There in Peruibe’s band, when they asked me what instrument I would like to play, I answered “trumpet” immediately, even without knowing the instrument. I chose the trumpet, and I do not regret it until today.

SC: Conte-me sobre seus estudos musicais avançados no Brasil. Sua educação foi típica?

PSA: Creio que agora, depois de finalizar o mestrado, não é tão típica assim. Tenho faculdade, o que é bem comum. Tenho diploma de conservatório (Escola Municipal de Música de SP). Muitas pessoas estudam em conservatório, mas aqui no Brasil o número de pessoas que consegue se formar é baixo. Muitas vezes elas acabam desistindo quando entram na faculdade, ou pelo fato de terem conseguido alguma bolsa de estudos fora do país. Sobre o mestrado, falando sobre trompetistas, levando em consideração o tamanho do país, eu diria que existem poucos trompetistas com esse tipo de formação. Estou especulando, não tenho muita informação sobre isso.

SC: Tell me about your advanced musical studies in Brazil. Was your education typical?

PSA: I believe that now, after finishing the masters degree, my education is not so typical. I do have college degree, which is very common. I have a conservatory degree (Escola Municipal de Música de SP). Many people study in a conservatory, but here in Brazil the number of people who can graduate is low. Often, they end up giving up when they enter college, or because they have gotten scholarships out of the country. About the masters, speaking about trumpeters, taking into account the size of the country, I would say that there are few trumpeters with this type of training. I’m speculating, I do not have much information on that.

SC: Em quais grupos musicais você tocou? Conte-me sobre alguns dos seus concertos interessantes.

PSA: Posso dizer que maior parte da minha vida musical aconteceu dentro de alguma banda. Como já disse, comecei na Banda Musical de Peruibe, e lá também tocava na Banda do Colégio Irene Bargieri. Depois atuei na Banda Escola de Cubatão como estudante, e profissionalmente na Banda Sinfônica de Cubatão e Banda Marcial de Cubatão. Minha prática de orquestra, antes de mudar para Campinas, ficava restrita a orquestras de festivais. Entretanto, sou frequentemente requisitado para atuar na Orquestra Sinfônica da Unicamp, Orquestra Sinfônica de Indaiatuba, e outras orquestras da região.

Sobre os concertos, eu diria que os 8 anos que integrei o naipe de trompetes da Banda Sinfônica de Cubatão foram muito enriquecedores. O repertório de Banda Sinfônica é riquíssimo, e muito desafiador. Tocávamos desde música barroca até música contemporânea, brasileira, e etc. Só para citar um, lembro quando tocamos a Sinfonia Nº2 “The Big Apple”, de Johan de Meij, em 2011. Foi marcante não só pela dificuldade, mas pelo que a sinfonia trouxe de conhecimento para mim, sobre música contemporânea. Gosto muito de música contemporânea.

Um concerto inesquecível para mim ocorreu em um festival na cidade de Pelotas – RS, onde tocamos Abertura 1812 de Tchaykovsky com uma grande orquestra, coro, uma banda com cerca de 20 músicos e dois canhões de guerra. Eu estava na orquestra, foi sensacional!

SC: What music groups have you played in? Tell me about some of your interesting concerts.

PSA: I can say that most of my musical life happened inside some band. As I said, I started in the Peruibe Music Band, and there I also played in the Irene Bargieri College Band. Later I performed in the School Band of Cubatão as a student, and professionally in the Cubatão Symphonic Band and Cubatão Martial Band. My orchestra practice, before moving to Campinas, was restricted to festival orchestras. However, I am often asked to perform at the Unicamp Symphony Orchestra, Indaiatuba Symphony Orchestra, and other orchestras in the region.

Concerning the concerts, I would say that the eight years that I have been a part of the trumpet section of the Cubatão Symphonic Band have been very enriching. The repertoire of Symphonic Band is very rich, and very challenging. We play repertoire from baroque music to contemporary Brazilian music, and so on. Just to name one, I remember when we played Johan de Meij’s Symphony No. 2 “The Big Apple” in 2011. It was remarkable not only for the difficulty, but for what the symphony brought to me of knowledge about contemporary music. I really like contemporary music.

An unforgettable concert for me took place at a festival in the city of Pelotas – RS, where we played Opening 1812 by Tchaykovsky with a large orchestra, choir, a band with about 20 musicians and two war cannons. I was in the orchestra, it was sensational!

SC: Quem são seus “heróis” trompetistas – no Brasil, na América Latina, no mundo?

PSA: No Brasil eu diria que os três professores que estudei até hoje. José Torres é minha referência de som, sem dúvida alguma. Ele tem um som lindo! Já Carlos Sulpicio foi quem me introduziu no meio acadêmico, e até o momento foi o professor com quem passei mais tempo, cerca de 8 anos. O Prof Paulo Ronqui foi um marco na minha carreira. Cresci muito com ele, passei a tocar melhor, mais relaxado, e aprendi a organizar meus estudos. Aprendi com ele a me conhecer enquanto trompetista, e saber o que é preciso fazer para evoluir. Essas são minhas maiores referências no Brasil. Tem também o Sidmar Vieira, Daniel D’Alcântara, Walmir Gil, Moisés Alves, dentre outros.

Na América Latina, sem dúvida alguma, é Pacho Flores, da Venezuela. Nunca ouvi em toda minha vida um som tão lindo. Ele vem com frequência ao Brasil, e tive a oportunidade de assistir alguns concertos, participar de alguns masterclasses. É um ser humano que transborda alegria e musicalidade, que canta com o trompete, que realmente faz música. Sem contar que a sua técnica é fantástica. Na minha opinião, todo trompetista deveria conhecê-lo!

No mundo, depende do que quero ouvir rsrs. Quando procuro música contemporânea, Ole Edvard Antonsen. Quando quero alguém com muita musicalidade, Alison Balsom. Quando procuro música antiga, Niklas Eklund. Música eletroacústica e trompete, Markus Stockhausen e Marco Blaauw. Ultimamente tenho ouvido muito Ibrahim Maalouf, foi uma descoberta recente através de um amigo. A música que ele faz é impressionante!

SC: Who are your trumpet “heroes”—in Brazil, in Latin America, in the world?

PSA: In Brazil I would say the three teachers I studied until today. José Torres is my reference of sound, without a doubt. He has a beautiful sound! Already Carlos Sulpicio was the one who introduced me to the academic environment, and so far he has been the teacher with whom I spent the most time, about 8 years. Prof. Paulo Ronqui was a mark in my career. I grew up a lot with him, I started playing better, more relaxed, and I learned how to organize my studies. I learned from him to know me as a trumpeter, and to know what it takes to evolve. These are my biggest references in Brazil. There are also Sidmar Vieira, Daniel D’Alcântara, Walmir Gil, Moisés Alves, among others.

In Latin America, without a doubt, it is Pacho Flores, from Venezuela. I’ve never heard such a beautiful sound in my whole life. He comes often to Brazil, and I had the opportunity to attend some concerts, to participate in some masterclasses. It is a human being who overflows joy and musicality, who sings with the trumpet, who really makes music. Not to mention that his technique is fantastic. In my opinion, every trumpeter should know him!

In the world, it depends on what I want to hear. When I look for contemporary music, Ole Edvard Antonsen. When I want someone with a lot of musicality, Alison Balsom. When I look for old music, Niklas Eklund. Electroacoustic music and trumpet, Markus Stockhausen and Marco Blaauw. Lately I have heard a lot of Ibrahim Maalouf, it was a recent discovery through a friend. The music he does is amazing!

SC: Como você se interessou pela educação infantil?

PSA: Minha esposa Marina é professora de violino Suzuki (e mãe Suzuki), e foi uma aluna Suzuki também. Ela me incentivou a fazer o curso de Filosofia Suzuki com a teacher trainer Shinobu Saito no ano de 2013, pois já tínhamos notícia do Método Suzuki para Trompete. Após a realização do curso, fui contratado como professor de música na AMIC – Amigos da Criança para trabalhar com uma faixa etária de 0 a 6 anos. Nunca havia trabalhado com crianças tão pequenas, foi desesperador. Não sabia o que fazer. Em Janeiro do ano seguinte, minha esposa estava se preparando para ir ao Peru fazer alguns cursos de capacitação de violino. Lá existe um festival muito importante na América latina. Ela me informou sobre os cursos de Estimulación Musical Temprana, um curso equivalente ao Early Childhood Course Suzuki. Acabei fazendo os dois níveis (de 0 a 2 anos e de 2 a 4 anos) e também alguns outros relacionados a educação musical. Foi fantástico. Comecei o ano muito mais capacitado a atender às expectativas da instituição. Ainda trabalho com isso na AMIC. Mas até ir a Calgary, não tinha nenhum aluno de trompete.

SC: How did you get interested in early childhood education?

PSA: My wife Marina is a Suzuki violin teacher (and mother Suzuki), and was a Suzuki student as well. She encouraged me to take the Suzuki Philosophy course with teacher trainer Shinobu Saito in the year 2013, as we had already heard about the Suzuki Method for Trumpet. After completing the course, I was hired as a music teacher at AMIC – Friends of the Child to work with an age group of 0 to 6 years. I had never worked with children so small, It was scaring. I did not know what to do. In January of the following year, my wife was preparing to go to Peru to do some violin training courses. There is a very important festival in Latin America. She informed me about Early Chilhood Music courses, a course equivalent to the Early Childhood Course Suzuki. I ended up doing both levels (from 0 to 2 years and from 2 to 4 years) and also some others related to music education. It was fantastic. I started the year much better able to meet the expectations of the institution. I still work on AMIC. But until I went to Calgary, I had no trumpet pupils.

SC: Você é, eu acho, o único brasileiro que ensina trompete utilizando o Método Suzuki. Conte-me sobre sua decisão de obter certificação, sua experiência em Calgary no verão passado e seu estúdio agora.

PSA: O motivo no qual eu fiz o curso de filosofia em 2013 foi para a possível realização do curso de trompete em um futuro distante. Eu realmente achava que seria algo distante, pois a teacher trainer é sueca, etc. Sempre fiquei, na verdade ainda fico, impressionado com a eficiência do método Suzuki. Minha esposa dá aulas em casa e no estúdio, portanto eu vejo o progresso de seus alunos bem de perto.

Sobre Calgary, eu fiquei sabendo muito tarde desse curso. Um amigo meu, Fábio dos Santos, professor de violino e viola Suzuki, esteve na última conferência em Minneapolis para apresentar uma palestra, e encontrou com Natalie DeJong, com quem ficou sabendo acerca do Suzuki Summer Institute em Calgary. Foi uma loucura! Corremos atrás de patrocínio, crownfunding, ajuda de parentes, amigos, comunidade Suzuki, pois sair do Brasil na época das Olimpíadas com destino ao Canadá no período de férias, é muito, mas muito caro! Mais ainda se a passagem for comprada perto do dia da viagem!

Mas o problema não foi só a passagem. Eu esqueci do visto! Foi insano, mandei muitos e-mails para o consulado canadense no Brasil, fui lá na porta, mesmo não podendo entrar, liguei, e etc. O visto ficou pronto um dia antes da viagem! O consulado adiantou a entrega, o que é algo muito incomum por aqui. Para completar, no dia da viagem era o primeiro dia das olimpíadas no Rio, fiquei preso em um congestionamento por um bom tempo. Não atrasou o vôo, mas me deixou muito preocupado.

Consegui uma bolsa da SAA que cobriu aproximadamente 25% do valor do curso, e mais 50% diretamente da Mount Royal University. Resumindo, consegui uma ajuda para pagar cerca de 70% da passagem, 75% do valor do curso, e fiquei hospedado na casa da Profa. Natalie DeJong, que me ajudou muito nesse processo. Sou eternamente grato. Outra pessoa fundamental nesse processo foi Marg Caspell, que também ajudou bastante.

Sobre o curso, para mim foi um divisor de águas. Eu realmente não sabia como iniciar um aluno adulto no trompete, que dirá uma criança. O conteúdo foi excelente e foi transmitido com muita clareza. Tive a oportunidade de conhecer outros professores de trompete (como você, Stan rsrs) de realidades completamente diferentes, e isso foi bastante enriquecedor.

Atualmente sou professor de trompete no Centro Suzuki de Campinas, um estúdio com mais de 35 anos de ensino Suzuki. No Brasil temos duas teacher treiners Suzuki, e uma delas é fundadora do Estúdio, a Prof. Shinobu Saito. Tenho 5 alunos: Henrique de 4 anos; Davi de 10 anos; Maria Luísa de 14 anos; Glauco de 9 anos; e a Isabela de 9 anos. O Henrique e o Davi começaram juntos há cerca de 6 meses, a Maria Luísa começou agosto, e o Glauco e a Isabela começaram em setembro. Eles tem uma aula individual e uma em grupo por semana, ambas de 30 minutos de duração. No dia 16 de setembro de 2017, Davi e Henrique se apresentaram pela primeira vez. Foi muito legal.

Pedro Azevedo with young students


SC: You are, I think, the only Brazilian who teaches the Suzuki trumpet method. Tell me about your decision to get certified, your experience in Calgary last summer and your studio now.

PSA: The reason I took the philosophy course in 2013 was for the possible completion of the trumpet course in a distant future. I really thought it would be something really distant because the teacher trainer is Swedish, etc. I’ve always been, in fact, still impressed with the efficiency of the Suzuki method. My wife teaches at home and in the studio, so I see the progress of her students very closely.

About Calgary, I knew very late about this course. A friend of mine, Fábio dos Santos, Suzuki violin and viola teacher, was at the last conference in Minneapolis to give a lecture, and met Natalie DeJong, with whom he knew about the Suzuki Summer Institute in Calgary. It was crazy! We run behind sponsorship, crowdfunding, help from relatives, friends, Suzuki community, because leaving Brazil at the time of the Olympics heading to Canada on vacation is very, very expensive! Even more so if the ticket is purchased near the day of the trip!

But the problem was not just the ticket. I forgot the visa! It was insane, I sent many emails to the Canadian consulate in Brazil, I went there at the door, even though I could not enter, I called, and so on. The visa was ready the day before the trip! The consulate advanced the delivery, which is something very unusual around here. To conclude, on the day of the trip was the first day of the Olympics in Rio, I was stuck in a jam for a long time. It did not delay the flight, but it made me very worried.

I got a scholarship from SAA that covered approximately 25% of the course fee, and a further 50% from Mount Royal University. In short, I got help to pay about 70% of the flight ticket, 75% of the cost of the course, and I stayed at Natalie DeJong’s house, who helped me a lot in this process. I am eternally grateful. Another key person in this process was Marg Caspell, who also helped a lot.

About the course, for me it was a watershed. I really did not know how to start an adult student on the trumpet, which will tell a child. The content was excellent and was transmitted very clearly. I had the opportunity to meet other trumpet teachers (like you, Stan hehe) from completely different realities, and that was quite enriching.

I am currently a trumpet teacher at the Suzuki Center in Campinas, a studio with more than 35 years of only Suzuki teaching. In Brazil, we have two Suzuki teacher trainers, and one of them is founder of this Studio, Prof. Shinobu Saito. I have 4 students: Henry, 4 years old; David of 10 years; Maria Luísa, 14 years old; Glauco, 9 years old; and Isabela, 9 years old. Henrique and David started together about six months ago, Maria Luisa started in August, and Glauco and Isabela started in September. They have an individual lesson and a group lesson per week, both 30 minutes long. On September 16, 2017, David and Henry introduced themselves for the first time. It was very cool.

SC: Qual direção da carreira você quer ir de onde você está agora?

PSA: Pretendo seguir a carreira acadêmica, mas não quero deixar de lado a performance. Penso em montar um quinteto de metais ou alguma outra formação e sair por aí tocando. Tenho um projeto de montar um duo de violino e trompete com minha esposa, mas isso ainda não aconteceu rsrs. Tenho interesse também e aprender a tocar trompete barroco, mas aqui no Brasil é difícil conseguir esses instrumentos. Na verdade, é difícil conseguir qualquer instrumento. Normalmente alguém vai para fora do Brasil e traz para vender aqui. Comprar em lojas é inviável! São muitos impostos, fica muito caro.

SC: What career direction do you want to go from where you are now?

Alan Siebert (trumpet professor at Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music) with Pedro Azevedo

PSA: I intend to pursue the academic career, but I do not want to leave aside the performance. I think of putting together a brass quintet or some other group and go out there playing. I have a project of putting together a violin duo and trumpet with my wife, but this has not happened, yet. I am also interested in learning to play baroque trumpet, but here in Brazil it is difficult to get these instruments. In fact, it is difficult to get any instrument. Usually someone goes out of Brazil and brings it to sell here. Buying in stores is unfeasible! It’s a lot of taxes, it’s very expensive.

SC: Quando você não está tocando e ensinando trompete, o que você gosta de fazer?

PSA: Gosto de brincar com meu filho, ir ao parque, ficar com minha família.

SC: When you are not playing and teaching trumpet, what do you like to do?

PSA: I like to play with my son, go to the park, and hang out with my family.

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Interview with African-American trailblazing trumpeter, Jewitt White.

Mus3c Jewitt Lorenzo White, Sr.

Jewitt Lorenzo White Sr., born on March 6, 1921 in Paris, Texas, was the oldest of four boys born to Viara and Luther White. He began his music studies in Gary, Indiana.  

Jewitt’s Conn trumpet and case that accompanied him during his enlistment in the U.S. Navy

After Jewitt’s parents purchased a Conn trumpet for him, he eventually won first chair in the Roosevelt High School band.  He also went on to play trumpet in the band at A&T University (North Carolina) during his undergraduate studies. During WWII, he won a billet in the groundbreaking “B-1 Band” which was the first band in the U.S. Navy comprised of African Americans to serve in a rank higher than messman.  

In addition to his other duties while serving in Hawaii from 1942-1944, Jewitt was tasked to play Taps and Reveille on bugle for the Manana Barracks military base.

After the war, Jewitt supplemented his income by continuing to play trumpet with entertainment bands in the evenings (after teaching school during the day). And he continued to play while he worked on his master’s degree at Iowa State University and his doctorate degree at Penn State University, so that he could earn additional income for his family: his wife, Mae Foneville (Mitchell) White; his son, Jewitt L. White Jr.; his two daughters, Ramone White (Woodard), and Mae Rosalind White.

Interview with Jewitt White, African-American trumpeter who played in WWII band, overcoming racial barrier to higher ratings in US Navy

The interviewer is Stanley Curtis


SC: Mr White, this is really an honor for me to chat with such a groundbreaking WWII veteran. How did you get interested in music?

JW: My mother’s brothers were in a high school band. The older brother played tuba and the younger played trumpet. This youngest brother began to teach me how to play trumpet at age 9, teaching me all the scales. Later, he would take me to his high school jazz band rehearsals and encouraged me to play with them.

By the time I was in high school, which was Roosevelt High School in Gary, Indiana, I was playing first chair in the band.

After high school, I went to North Carolina, to attend North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. Not only did I study agriculture there, but I played in the band every year.

I also played for weddings and parties while I was a student. These gigs payed really good—sometimes as much as $12-14 dollars for the evening! That was a lot of money back then!

I also met my future wife while I was a student at A&T. Her name was Mae Foneville Mitchell. Her father did not want us to date, because she was so young. She was a very young college student, having started college at age 15. Eventually, with WWII looming over us, we decided to elope.


SC: Who were your early musical influences and teachers?

JW: I loved to listen to Louis Armstrong.  I also liked Walter Carlson’s playing a lot. He was a member of the B1 Band and later became the band instructor at A&T.


SC: Tell me about how you enlisted in the Navy?

JW: I was walking on campus, and I ran into my band director talking to a recruiter for the Navy. This recruiter was retired but he wore his uniform, which had stripes all the way up his arm. I was very impressed. He asked me to come play for him at the band room later that day. So, I came and played. After he listened to me, he told me, “Okay. I think you’ll be just fine!” That’s how I joined the B-1 Band.


B-1 Band in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

SC: What were some of your most memorable performances as a member of the B1 Band?

JW: Sometimes in band I would play lead, but sometimes I would play solos. We had dozens of tunes in our book, but my favorite piece to play was “Stardust.” I enjoyed soloing on that tune!


Mus3c Jewitt White playing bugle calls

SC: What was it like being a part of the B1 Band?

JW: They didn’t let us stay in the normal barracks, because we weren’t allowed.

Every morning, I would play reveille, and every evening I would play Taps. This was noteworthy, since it was the first time, to my knowledge, that an African American was given the duty or even the opportunity to play these bugle calls.



Pre-flight Dinner in Chapel Hill, NC, before B-1 Band deployed to Hawaii. Seated on far left, Mus3c Jewitt White and his wife, Mae Foneville (Mitchell) White

SC: Did you stay in North Carolina for the whole war?


JW: No. They shipped us off to Hawaii.



SC: What did you do after the war? Did you continue with music?

JW: After the war, I went back to school to get my master’s degree at Iowa State in education and agriculture. I also nearly finished my Ph.D. in science at Penn State. And during all this time I played dances to earn additional income. I got a job in Clinton, North Carolina teaching. Then I was appointed professor at West Virginia State, teaching science. Finally, in Gary, Indiana, I was a teacher trainer and then director of vocational education at the Gary, Indiana Tech and Vocational School. I retired in the 1980s.


SC: Because I am doing this interview for trumpeters, I always like to talk about equipment. What trumpet or cornet equipment did you play when you were playing with the B1 band?

JW: My trumpet was a Conn, which my parents purchased for me when I was in high school. The trumpet is still in my family. I loaned it to one of my granddaughters who played it when she was a member of her high school band in the early 1990s. The trumpet is still in great shape and is kept in its original case. It is in the possession of my oldest granddaughter, Jacqueline Woodard who lives in Maryland and works for the government in Washington, DC.


Jewitt (center, age 96 at time of interview) with two daughters, Mae Rosalind White (left) and Ramone (White) Woodard (right)

SC: Do you have any advice for the younger generation of trumpeters?

Do the best you can. All the time!



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David Hickman: tireless trumpeter, businessman, innovator, and pedagogue

Trumpeter David Hickman

David Hickman is considered one of the world’s pre-eminent trumpet virtuosos, and has performed over 2,000 solo appearances around the world as a recitalist or guest soloist with over 500 different orchestras.  His tours have taken him to Japan, Korea, Spain, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Belgium, France, Austria, Canada, Mexico, Switzerland, Greece, Russia, Thailand, Costa Rica, Australia, and virtually every major American city.

Hickman has released 19 solo albums encompassing a wide variety of repertoire—from cornet solos by Clarke, Levy, and others, to modern concerti by Planel, Baker, and Plog; from Baroque works of Bach, Telemann, and Hertel, to recital pieces by Chance, Dello Joio, and Mendez.

As a noted clinician and author, Hickman has presented workshops on over 400 major university campuses.  He has taught at the Banff Centre for the Arts (13 summers), Rafael Mendez Brass Institute (32 summers), Bremen Trumpet Days, and dozens of music festivals.  He has published over 40 articles, 250 scholarly editions of trumpet music, and several important trumpet and music texts including Trumpet Pedagogy: A Compendium of Modern Teaching Techniques, Trumpet Greats: A Biographical Dictionary, The Piccolo Trumpet, The Piccolo Trumpet Big Book, Trumpet Lessons With David Hickman (vols. I – V), and Music Speed Reading, a sight reading method used by hundreds of public school systems and universities or conservatories including The University of North Texas and The Juilliard School. His 500-page book, Trumpet Pedagogy: A Compendium of Modern Teaching Techniques, is the number one text for university study and is used at over 200 schools of music around the world. His 1,100-page book, Trumpet Greats: A Biographical Dictionary, contains biographies of over 2,200 well-known trumpeters from 1600 to the present.

David Hickman received his B.M. degree at the University of Colorado in 1972.  He continued graduate work at Wichita State University where he was a Graduate Trumpet Teaching Assistant for two years.  He taught at the University of Illinois from 1974 to 1982, and since then has been teaching at Arizona State University where he is a Regents’ Professor of Music.  He has been a member of the Wichita Brass Quintet, Illinois Brass Quintet, Saint Louis Brass Quintet, Baroque Consort, and the Illinois Contemporary Chamber Players.

Hickman is founder and president of the acclaimed Summit Brass, a large all-star American brass ensemble that has released 11 CDs, toured the world, and hosted annual brass music institutes for thousands of aspiring musicians.  He is also a past president of the International Trumpet Guild (1977-79).  Mr. Hickman is a Shires Performing Artist.  In 2005, Hickman established his own music publishing company, Hickman Music Editions. In addition, he established and directs the Rafael Méndez Library at Arizona State University (since 1993) through a generous gift from the Méndez family.

Hickman’s teachers include Harry E. McNees, Frank W. Baird, Oswald Lehnert, Walter J. Myers, Roger Voisin, Armando Ghitalla, and Adolph Herseth. His former students occupy or have occupied hundreds of orchestra, band, chamber music, and university positions.

Hickman received the International Trumpet Guild’s prestigious “Award of Merit” for outstanding service to the trumpet world in 2005, and in 2017 was awarded ITG’s highest award, the “Honorary Award,” for legendary status as a performer and teacher.  He is the only person to have received both of ITG’s top awards.

Trumpets and Cornets: 
SE Shires B-flat Trumpet (model AZ), gold-plated 
SE Shires C Trumpet (model 401), gold-plated 
Blackburn 5-valve C Trumpet, gold-plated with custom engraving 
Yamaha E / E-flat (sliding bell) Trumpet, gold-plated 
Millens F Trumpet (once owned by Roger Voisin), gold-plated 
Yamaha  B-flat / A Piccolo Trumpet (model YTR 9830), gold-plated 
Yamaha B-flat Cornet, silver-plated 
Giddings “Hickman-model” stainless steel trumpet mouthpiece  (deep cup) 
Giddings “Hickman-model” stainless steel trumpet mouthpiece (medium cup) 
Giddings “Hickman-model” stainless steel trumpet mouthpiece (shallow cup) 
     (Note:  All of the above mouthpiece have identical rim sizes and shapes.)
Schilke Custom Trumpet-Flugel trumpet mouthpiece (with same rim as above, only made with delrin plastic) 
Endsley Custom Cornet mouthpiece (deep “V-shaped” cup with delrin plastic rim same as


Interview with David Hickman, untiring trumpeter, business man, innovator, and pedagogue

The interviewer is Stanley Curtis

SC:  David, thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview.  Your contributions to the trumpet world are amazing in so many different ways!

DH:   My pleasure.  Thanks for the nice compliment.

SC:  How did you get your start in music and trumpet playing?  Can you speak to some of your influences when you were young?

DH:  I grew up in a small town in western Nebraska. . . Kimball, with a population of about 3,000 people.  The town had one elementary school, one junior high, and one high school.  The town band director was Harry McNees, whose main instrument happened to be cornet. 

I decided to join the sixth-grade band because one of my best friends said that his parents wanted him to join.  His grandfather passed down an old cornet to him, so I decided to play cornet, too.  We figured we could sit together and have fun goofing off.  The only problem was that he practiced, and I didn’t, so he was first chair and I was last.  We sat clear across the room from each other!

I was thinking of quitting the band, but one day the director asked me if I wanted to take private lessons from him after school.  Because I was sort of a struggling youth who was constantly in trouble for everything imaginable, I was very surprised that a teacher took an interest in me, so I asked my parents if they were willing to pay the private lesson cost of fifty cents per week for a thirty-minute lesson.  Of course, they were thrilled to see me wanting to do ANYTHING positive, so they agreed immediately.  McNees was the biggest influence on my career.  Without his mentoring, teaching, and friendship, I think my career might have been making license plates at the state penitentiary!  Soon, I was the best player in the band, and I began performing little solos for various things.  It was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed the attention I had been craving. . . but now it was positive attention.

The first trumpet album I ever owned was given to me as a birthday present by my grandfather. It was of Rafael Méndez, and I was amazed to hear what the trumpet could do.  As a result, I decided that I wanted to be a professional soloist like Méndez.  Of course, I could never attain the level he did. . . but who can?!

SC:  Well, you have gotten closer than most of us, David! Why did you decide to study trumpet at the schools you did?  What was your impression of your teachers (and fellow students) at this time?

DH:  When I graduated from high school in 1968, very few universities offered performance degrees at the bachelor’s level.  My parents could not afford to send me to some of the top conservatories, and I doubt that I played well enough to get into one of them.  In looking around, the University of Colorado in Boulder (only 150 miles from my hometown) was the best choice.  I studied with Dr. Frank Baird.  He straightened out a lot of weaknesses in my playing.  Several of the graduate students at CU were amazing, and became good friends and inspiring colleagues.  They included Gerald Endsley, Ritchie Clendenin, and Bryan Goff, so I always had strong competition. By the time I graduated, I had won numerous state, regional, and national solo competitions, as well as principal chair of the National Repertory Orchestra (in the summers of 1971 and 1972). 

I selected Wichita State University for my master’s degree because I knew that Dr. Walter Myers was a respected teacher and player, and the graduate trumpet assistantship I received included playing in the faculty brass quintet (Wichita Brass Quintet) and the Wichita Symphony Orchestra.  I also taught eighteen private students, all music majors, which gave me a lot of teaching experience.  True, I think I could have received full scholarships to several top conservatories, but by this time I wanted to focus on a solo career.  All of the conservatories were centered around orchestra playing.  While at WSU, I won several more prestigious solo competitions, began releasing LP recordings with orchestra, and was selected as the National Trumpet Symposium’s “Young Artist,” which involved performing a full concert of concertos with orchestra during the 1973 NTS in Denver.

SC:  How do you compare studying music in the 1970s to now?

DH:  It’s pretty much the same, but students these days have quick reference to recordings and videos.  Also, nearly all universities now offer performance degrees at the bachelor, master, and doctorate levels, so there is more competition and performing opportunities at schools.  There are also tons of summer opportunities to study with leading performers.

SC:  Which trumpeters have been your favorites over the years?          

DH:  Wow, there are so many.  When I was in elementary and junior high school, my favorites were Rafael Méndez, Al Hirt, and Doc Severinsen. . . all of whom are still my favorites.  In high school, I began to listen to Roger Voisin, Adolf Scherbaum, Armando Ghitalla, Maynard Ferguson, and early Maurice André.  These days, I also enjoy listening to lots of recordings and performances by Timofei Dokshitser, Derek Watkins, Ronald Romm, Allen Vizzutti, Eric Aubier, Arturo Sandoval, Reinhold Friedrich, Matthias Höfs, Jens Lindemann, Sergei Nakariakov, Philip Smith, Allan Dean and several others.

One of my other teachers was Adolph Herseth, who I studied with on a monthly basis for eight years.  Hearing him in the Chicago Symphony was very inspiring!

SC:  I remember when I was a student at the University of Alabama in the 1980s, our library had only a few trumpet recordings. . . a couple of Maurice André and one of you.  You were my role model for a few of the basic repertoire pieces.  Thanks!  As a performer, what have been your favorite projects?  If you had to pick only one of your recordings for the future library, which one would it be?

DH:  You are too kind!  I think that I enjoyed performing the Summit Concerto by Michael Conway Baker the most.  Michael is a Canadian composer who I got to know during the early 1990s, and I commissioned this 20-minute work from him.  I recorded it with the ProMusica Chamber Orchestra of Columbus (OH) with Dr. Timothy Russell conducting, and also performed it with several orchestras around the country.  However, my artists management had difficulty convincing conductors to program this work because many thought it was too romantic.  I think they wanted this new piece to sound more modern, even though audiences loved this work.  It is available on a CD titled “Three Trumpet Concertos” (Summit Records), which also features the first recording of Tony Plog’s Concerto for Trumpet and Brass Ensemble (recorded with the Summit Brass) and Robert Planel’s Trumpet Concerto (with the Naples Philharmonic).  I think this album best represents my playing of all of my recordings.

SC:  You started the Summit Brass, a 15-piece all-star ensemble that has been going for more than thirty years.  I remember seeing you perform with it in 1989 and 1991 (when I was in the National Repertory Orchestra, almost twenty years after you!).  What have been your biggest challenges and rewards from your time at the helm of this amazing brass ensemble?

DH:  I started Summit Brass during the summer of 1984, but it wasn’t until the summer of 1986 that were gave our first concerts.  Since it is a non-profit corporation, the biggest challenge has always been fundraising.  We are fortunate that the family of Rafael Méndez has supported scholarships for students to attend our annual Rafael Méndez Brass Institute in Denver each summer for the past ten years. 

Summit Brass has toured the world, released eleven CDs, and performed at such venues as Orchestra Hall in Chicago, Alice Tully Hall in NYC, the Hollywood Bowl, Red Rocks Amphitheater in Denver, and in many hundreds of cities.  I think the most satisfying thing about it is the long-term relationships the members of the group have had with each other.  Through Summit Brass, many of the leading brass stars of the world are my best friends.  Summit Brass has also helped develop the repertoire for this type of group.

SC:  Perhaps your biggest contribution to the trumpet world has been your teaching. 

David Hickman and friends at tribute concert

DH:  I think you are right, Stan.  Teaching has been the center of my career for over forty-five years.  I take great pride and gratification from seeing hundreds of my former students land significant jobs with major orchestras, chamber groups, bands, and universities.  In fact, about thirty of my former students were able to be at this year’s ITG Conference in Hershey, PA, and performed a tribute concert in my honor to recognize the Honorary Award given to me by the ITG.  It was a fantastic concert, put together with only one rehearsal (!), and I had a huge smile on my face the entire time.

SC: I do wish I could have seen that concert. I bet it was amazing! What teaching ideas of yours do you hope will be the most lasting?

As for what teaching idea I hope will continue through my students and theirs, I would have to say the word “pedagogy.”  Pedagogy is the study of various teaching methods, and my book, Trumpet Pedagogy, stresses that there is no single way to teach an instrument.  Each student has a unique set of skills, physical set up, and musical awareness.  Forcing all students to play exactly like the teacher will result in the majority of students failing.  A good teacher knows several ways to approach physical and musical problems, and can help each student find the best way for them. . . even if it is contrary to their own.

SC:  A few years ago, you helped design a five-valve trumpet with Clifford Blackburn.  Can you tell me about this instrument and why it is important?

DH:  Back in the mid-1970s, I was fortunate to briefly study with Roger Voisin and Armando Ghitalla.  Both of them played C trumpets with an extra (ascending) valve that cut off part of the leadpipe or tuning slide to raise the key of the instrument to D.  They showed me all sorts of musical passages in the repertoire where the fourth valve could make trills, fingerings, or intervals easier.  The advantages of the four-valve trumpet were instant and amazing.  Of course, Voisin’s trumpet was made many decades ago by the French company, Thibouville-Lamy, which no longer makes instruments.  Ghitalla had a similar instrument made by William Tottle in Boston, but Tottle had retired, and later died in 1976.

I took photos and measurements of Ghitalla’s C/D trumpet to a talented brass repairman named Ron DiVore at the University of Illinois where I taught from 1974 to 1982.  DiVore made a four-valve C trumpet for me that worked quite well, and I performed on this instrument for several years.  (One of my albums for the Crystal Records label, “David Hickman with Eric Dalheim,” has a photo of me playing this instrument on the cover.  I use the instrument on the Dello Joio Sonata contained in the album.)  The only reason I stopped playing this instrument was because the bore sizes of the trumpet (a Bach large bore C) and the rotary (4th) valve (off of a French horn) did not match well.  The instrument felt “stuffy.”  However, I knew that if the bore sizes could be made to work together, the instrument would be fantastic.

Hickman-designed 5-valve trumpet, made by Clifford Blackburn

I made a design of a five-valve C trumpet in 2011.  It took me a couple of years to develop accurate drawings and to perfect the design.  The fourth valve was designed to lower the pitch one-half step, placing the trumpet in B-natural.  The fifth valve was designed to cut off some tubing, raising the overall pitch a whole step to D.  If the fourth and fifth valves are added at the same time, the pitch goes up a half-step to D-flat.  Thus, the instrument can play in D, D-flat, C, and B-natural, but it is mainly a C trumpet.

I showed my drawings to Cliff Blackburn in 2014, and he liked the concept.  He began building the trumpet within a couple of months, but wanted to change some of my designs, which ultimately improved the instrument a great deal.  We worked on the prototype, adjusting bore sizes (it has a progressive bore) and valve slide lengths until we came up with an instrument that played extremely well.  To our surprise, it plays in-tune well enough for any of the four key centers to be set by locking down the forth and/or fifth valves, and playing entire passages in either D, D-flat, C, or B.

Cliff and I presented a lecture-demonstration on the instrument during the 2015 ITG Conference.  I also made two 20-minute videos of me playing various orchestral passages on the instrument.  To date, Blackburn Trumpets has built numerous five-valve C trumpets that are being used by professional orchestral trumpeters and soloists.  Like any radical idea, change by the masses is slow. . . similar to the gradual adaptation of double and triple horns over the past 150 years.

SC:  What do you think your single most important contribution has been?

David Hickman, remarkable trumpeter and teacher

DH:  Hard to say.  I categorize my main contributions into eleven areas: performing as a soloist; recording artist; teacher; brass quintet performer; founder and president of Summit Brass; founder, president, and once owner of Summit Records; one of the founders, presidents, and conference hosts of ITG; founder (through the generous support of the Méndez estate) of the Rafael Méndez Library at Arizona State University; founder and owner of Hickman Music Editions; instrument designer and consultant with Blackburn Trumpets and SE Shires Trumpets; author.  I suppose history will decide in time, but I feel that my teaching is the most important contribution because it can affect several generations of trumpeters directly and indirectly.

SC:  What advice do you have for young trumpeters today?

DH:  Stick with it.  Never give up.  Embrace the concept of “pedagogy” by trying different approaches to every problem.  Eventually, you will succeed.

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

DH:  My wife, Miriam, and I are super movie buffs and love to travel.  We also enjoy our two dogs and two cats.  I used to be very much into offroad Jeeping and enjoying the Arizona desert, but I have had to give that up for health reasons.

SC: Well, thanks so much for your time, David. It has been a pleasure!

DH: Thanks, Stan.  We all appreciate what you do!










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