Interview with Julian Zimmermann, natural baroque trumpet soloist

Julian Zimmermann

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

18th-century English repertoire (Handel, Arne)

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

Nathaniel Wood and Julian Zimmermann after finishing the Wingkings trumpet.

 

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

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

Interview with Julian Zimmermann, natural baroque trumpet soloist

The interviewer is Stanley Curtis


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SC: Tell me about Jean-Francois Madeuf.

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

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

Schola Cantorum trumpet studio reunion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Frontispiece of Leipzig Gesangbuch, Johann Kuhnau, 1710

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Swiss historic natural trumpet ensemble, Trummet

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SC: Tell me about some of your favorite performances.

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

Julian Zimmermann

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

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

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

SC: So what can we do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Suzuki Trumpet, Part II: An Interview with Natalie DeJong

Natalie DeJong

Natalie DeJong

Natalie DeJong holds a Master of Music degree from Rutgers University. She began her studies at the University of Calgary and the Vancouver Academy of Music. She has attended trumpet and brass workshops in Alberta, Quebec, Chicago, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, and Sweden.

Ms. DeJong now teaches trumpet at Mount Royal University Conservatory in Calgary. She has performed with a variety of ensembles, including Altius BrassThe Calgary Creative Arts Ensemble big band, the Prime Time Big Band, and the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra.  She has performed with the Rodney Marsalis Philadelphia Big Brass in Pennsylvania and China, and has played the natural “baroque” trumpet with early music groups Musica Raritana (New Jersey), Concert Royale (New York City), the Swedish Baroque Orchestra (Stockholm), and Per Sonatori (Regina). Natalie also performed as principal trumpet with the Philadelphia Camerata National Symphony on a month-long tour throughout China. 

Ms. DeJong developed a class called Funfare TM  for young children to learn the trumpet and went on to train as a Suzuki Trumpet Teacher in Sweden in 2013.  She returned to Canada to launch the first Suzuki trumpet program in the Americas at Mount Royal Conservatory in 2014.  She is a member of the International Suzuki Trumpet Committee and thrilled to be promoting and sharing the concepts with other trumpet and brass players throughout Canada, the U.S. and beyond. Natalie is also a “Suzuki Parent “ as her son studies in the Suzuki piano program at Mount Royal.

Trumpet equipment(for Ms. DeJong to play):
Bb-Bach Stradivarius 37 ML (mouthpiece: Stork 5C or B)
C-Bach Stradivarius 329 G, 25H leadpipe (mouthpiece: Stork 5C or B)
Picc-Yamaha Custom (mouthpiece: Stork Vacchianno 3P)
Baroque Trumpet-Tomes 4-hole Ehe 1746 (mouthpiece: Naumann 5B and one given to me by Niklas Eklund!)
Flugelhorn-Conn Vintage One (Variety of mouthpieces)
Cornet-York “Preference 3027” (mouthpiece: Breslmair Wien AH2-F3)
Pocket Trumpet-Jupiter model 416 (mouthpiece: anything on hand!)
(French Horn-Conn single F horn)
 
Trumpet equipment for Suzuki students: 
-Most kids are using a pocket trumpet (the older Jupiter model 416 with the smaller bell, as well as the new Jupiter pocket trumpet model 516.  
-Older children use a cornet or standard sized trumpet when they have grown big enough
-Students a generally using a standard 5C or 7C mouthpiece, also other sizes as needed.
-Various “buzzing devices” are fun, but the favourite is the “shortcut” (made by JoRal).  This can also be made out of simple household materials.
 
Some Toys Ms. DeJong uses for teaching children (in her words):
I can’t possibly list all the toys I have collected over the years, but I can say that I walk through toy stores with entirely new eyes; looking at toys for ways they might apply in my teaching. 
Rafael

Rafael

Some of favourites in my toy box include:
 
 
Rafael (My Mexican Trumpet playing string puppet) who reminds my students about good posture
 
Pinwheels

pinwheels

-Any toys that get the kids breathing in full and blowing out in various ways or thinking in various ways:  
Little mouse holding a "shortcut"

Little mouse holding a “shortcut”

  We use anything from ping pong ball games, pinwheels, toy cars, trains, and airplanes to miniature animals
  
 
hospital breathing machine

hospital breathing machine

–and breathing aids found at hospitals.  
 
 
  
 
breathing device from Arnold Jacob

breathing device from Arnold Jacob

 
 
 
Arnold Jacobs gave me one of his ping pong ball breathing machines when I was a student…and I now use it with my students too!
 
 
-There’s a great invention out there called “Staccator” which should become a staple in any wind player’s studio!  
-There are MANY great children’s books out there with little life lessons in them.  I like the Harold B. Wigglebottom books. And kids always like Franklin 🙂
 
magnetic dartboard

magnetic dartboard

 
 -I carry my magnetic dart board to everywhere I teach (no, not with regular darts-safe MAGNET darts!)
-Music theory materials, such as MusicMindGames products by Michiko Yurko, and simple flashcards are a nice way to take a “chops break”
 
Rolling, decorated box, used to carry teaching aids and "toys" for Suzuki trumpet class.

Rolling, decorated box, used to carry teaching aids and “toys” for Suzuki trumpet class.

 
 
 
 
 
-I carry it all around in my toy box on wheels
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Interview with Natalie DeJong, expert Suzuki trumpet teacher
The interviewer is Stanley Curtis

SC: Tell us about your background as a musician and trumpet player—who have been your big influences?

ND: I grew up in Calgary with my earliest musical influences being all the classical records that my grandparents played for me in their living room.  They loved listening to everything from Bach, Handel, Mozart, and Beethoven to Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky, and anything that might get played on CBC radio!  I started learning to play the trumpet at age 12 when there was a chance to join the school band, and eventually private lessons led to post-secondary music school (University of Calgary, Vancouver Academy of Music, Rutgers University).  I’ve enjoyed opportunities to play in orchestras, in chamber ensembles, in brass ensembles and brass bands, and in big bands… and one of my favorite things to do is to play baroque trumpet in period music ensembles.

My biggest influences start from age 12; my earliest private teacher, Linda Brown played 3rd trumpet in the Calgary Philharmonic and not only set up amazing opportunities for me (such as attending masterclasses in Chicago with Vincent Cichowicz), but she also set an incredible example of hard work and diligence in striving for the highest playing standards for her role in the orchestra…and an example of really beautiful trumpet tone too!  I was also fortunate to have the sound of Jens Lindemann’s playing in my ear from that age, as the first trumpet player I ever heard live! 

 

SC: What got you interested in teaching—especially early childhood trumpet teaching?

ND: I’ve always admired all of my teachers and their creative and musical ways of tackling the ‘little mysteries’ of trumpet playing.  I find it exciting to gain some new ability on the instrument.  It’s also fun to be able to explain it to someone else.  I find that once I can explain it…and be understood, that I also learn even more from it.  And the fun part is that communicating is not always via direct language, but sometimes through imagery.  It’s fascinating to always learn something new about playing a brass instrument, and helping others do the same is fun.

I became interested in early childhood trumpet teaching when I had started Doctoral studies at Rutgers University with Dr. Scott Whitener (author of Complete Guide to Brass).  I was working on a project about ‘Tension in Brass Playing’ and began thinking about instrument size (I’m a small person). It occurred to me that brass playing tends to be delayed until we’re “big enough” to hold the heavy brass instruments… but it also occurred to me that children are missing the opportunity to start very young on the trumpet like their friends who play piano or violin. When I propped my two-year-old son up with my big B-flat trumpet, he could create quite a beautiful tone…he just couldn’t hold the horn by himself.  So, I put a pocket trumpet in his hands…and from that point, realized that small children really CAN learn to play the trumpet from a very young age-if we give them the right equipment and the opportunity!

SC: When did you take the Suzuki teacher training for trumpet? What was that experience like? 

Ms. DeJong's Funfare class

Ms. DeJong’s Funfare™ class

 

 

 

ND: I had already started a pilot project called FunfareTM which was a trumpet class for younger children, aged 5-7 or so, in 2011.  I was very excited when I found out the first-ever Suzuki Trumpet Teacher training course would be held in Sweden starting in the fall of 2013.  I had been looking for Suzuki activity in trumpet land for a number of years, because I knew it was such a wonderful way to teach a musical instrument to young children.  At last I had found a trumpeter who had begun developing the method for Suzuki trumpet.  How could I not jump on board?!  There was so much to learn, (and there still is)! I was lucky enough to find a way to get myself to Sweden to take part in this first teacher training event.  We were a group of four student teachers from all over: Poland, Spain, Ireland, and Canada, and we later joined a group of Swedish trumpet teachers who were also training to teach Suzuki trumpet.  As you know, it was wonderful to work with Ann-Marie Sundberg, the world’s first official Suzuki Trumpet Teacher Trainer. It was a very collaborative atmosphere and everyone brought fun and creativity to the studio… I’m sure I wasn’t the only one feeling the joy of being like a kid again… approaching the trumpet with fun, games, and good music!  Combining that with gaining a deeper understanding of the Suzuki Method and philosophy, made for a life changing experience.  It added to my reasons for teaching and even to my own reasons for playing music.

SC: How would you describe the Suzuki philosophy in general and how the trumpet teaching fits into the world-wide movement? How is the trumpet school different from the other disciplines, in your opinion?

ND: The Suzuki philosophy encompasses ideas that are much deeper and farther-reaching than mere ways in which to teach a musical instrument; Dr. Suzuki had the goal of creating a better world.  He devoted his life’s work to fostering a sense of happiness in children, and felt that he could use music as a tool to do so.  If children could learn to play music from a young age, they would be raised to have good hearts: they would know the value and satisfaction of hard work, sharing, empathy, perseverance, team-work, and a host of other noble qualities.  In essence, it is an educational philosophy that can be applied to the teaching of any skill or subject… to students of any age.  The notion that “Any Child Can” is a belief that every child—every person—can be nurtured to learn something toward these goals.

Suzuki trumpet teaching is simply the newest voice in the world of teaching instrumental music in the Suzuki Method way.  The Suzuki Method began with the violin, but has been applied to many instruments since Dr. Suzuki first brought his ideas to the world.  There is much crossover from the activities used in other Suzuki studios.  I believe there is much for Suzuki trumpet teachers to learn from Suzuki teachers of other instruments, and I believe that the trumpet method, as we are developing it now, will also give ideas back to those same teachers.  What will be exciting to watch is how the Suzuki Trumpet Method impacts the larger world of brass playing in general.

The Suzuki “trumpet school” is different from other Suzuki instrument schools, in that much time MUST be spent in the beginning getting students to actually CREATE a sound, let alone a beautiful one!  It’s not impossible to create a good sound from day one or two…but it’s also possible that it can take weeks for a small child (or any new beginner for that matter) to even create a sound.  In the meantime, there are many musical and physical activities that are introduced that lead toward the creation of sound and eventually toward beautiful tone.

SC: Can you describe the process of getting one of your beginning students to play the trumpet for the first time? What are some common hurdles in this process that you have to overcome with the student to get them to be successful in this very important beginning step?

ND: I always aim to have students begin creating trumpet sound for the first time in the most natural, tension-free way possible.  This all starts with a strong concept of tone quality and musical concepts:  listening and watching is key to young students.  Any beginner needs an image of how it’s supposed to look and sound.

We always start by forming an easy posture and natural breathing habits.  I like to “coax” the lip vibration to start, using simple blowing exercises rather than “forcing” a lip “buzz” to happen.  A common hurdles for many beginners is getting over the idea of “trying too hard,” which only creates tension and back pressure when blowing into the instrument.  Beginner students often hit tones that are in between proper pitches on the instrument, so finding the “resonating” spots of each pitch can be a challenge.  Because this can all take time—to simply get a centered and beautiful note on the trumpet—it is a challenge to keep students musically engaged in the meantime. This is especially true for the very young aspiring trumpet players who really want to press all the buttons and make songs come out!  We do a LOT of singing and moving, and playing just on mouthpieces.

SC: What have been some of your success stories in your Suzuki teaching?

Ms. DeJong with three young students at the Grand Opening of the Bella Concert Hall in the Taylor Centre for Performing  Arts, Calgary

Ms. DeJong with three young students at the Grand Opening of the Bella Concert Hall in the Taylor Centre for Performing
Arts, Calgary

ND: So far, I see every child as a success story.  Each child who has been a part of the program has learned SOMETHING valuable—which is the whole point!  Musically speaking though, I will have my first student graduating soon from Suzuki Trumpet School Book One.  He is a sensitive, expressive player, with a beautiful and naturally produced tone on the trumpet!  There are several children within the studio who have taken it upon themselves to perform (all by memory, I might add) at school or community events by their own initiative. There are several more who have struggled with this or that, be it trumpet playing or behavioral issues, but each has grown in some way through the process of practicing regularly and persevering.  The biggest success I can see, when I look at the program as a whole, has been the little nurturing trumpet community that has formed between parents, children, and even other trumpet teachers.

SC: What did you learn about teaching young children during your teacher training with Ms. Sundberg?

ND: Besides all the things that you learn from the children themselves—some having nothing to do with trumpet playing or abilities, but to do with things like their attention span or confidence levels—I learned that the parent’s role plays a huge part in the success of the child and the method.  Ms. Sundberg’s ideas and materials are wonderful and support the Suzuki Method beautifully, but it is the relationship between teacher, parent, and child that determines the ultimate outcomes.  Everyone is a partner in learning…and everyone is learning.  So that’s been exciting!

SC: How is your studio different from other Suzuki studios in the world?

ND: I can’t imagine that my studio is all that different from other Suzuki studios in the world.  We might have a different set of instruments, equipment, toys, and songs to work with, but our goals and methods are all based on the same ideas.  What IS truly different at this point in time, is that the method for trumpet is new.  It is new within the Suzuki community and certainly new within the trumpet and brass community as a whole.  It is still in the beginning stages of development and will be for a very long time.  We are not in a rush to find the perfect ways to teach very young children.  I envision that, like a growing child, the Suzuki Trumpet Method will grow and mature alongside the young children who are enrolled in these first Suzuki trumpet programs.

SC: Has your Suzuki teaching experience shaped your teaching of older students?

ND: Absolutely!  Basically all of the same concepts in the Suzuki method and philosophy can be applied to older students.  Listening is key.  Playing without sheet music is key.  As are the ideas of taking one small step at a time, repetition, and providing loving encouragement.  Two days after returning to Canada after my first trip to Sweden, I began applying the ideas to junior high and high school trumpet classes, hour after hour at a festival where I was teaching.  Without putting any music in front of these multi-level trumpeters, we set about learning the exposition to Haydn’s trumpet concerto (all on Bb trumpets).  I didn’t tell them how high or fast the notes would go…we simply listened, watched, played and repeated until pretty much every player was capable of playing most or all of the passages with the exception of a few younger players missing high notes.   But no one stopped playing the SONG. The key thing I noticed was how naturally relaxed everyone was.  Compared to the results of putting printed music in front of students first thing—revealing to them the range of pitches and rhythms and causing a whole bunch of tension and doubt—this method was more successful by leaps and bounds.

There are many ways you can use the concepts with older and/or more experienced students.

SC: What do you like to do in your spare time?

ND: I love to get outside and be in nature, whether it’s hiking up mountains, camping, or cross-country and downhill skiing.  I love to draw and paint, and I’m starting to dabble in writing short stories.  Mmmm, and if I really have spare time I like to cook good food!

SC: What are your aspirations for the future of your Suzuki studio and your teaching career?

ND: I would love to see the students in my Suzuki trumpet studio grow and develop into fine people and skilled, musically sensitive players.  As the studio is still young, I am looking forward to eventually having a wide range of ages within the studio to see how the older Suzuki trumpeters will influence and guide the younger students.  This is already beginning to happen, as I have enough students to begin to separate them by age and ability, and bring them all together periodically.  I would like for my students to continue to perform in public and become confident in their performing abilities.

I’m always aspiring to learn more as a player myself so that I continually have more to share.  Teaching can become stale if the teacher isn’t also continuing to grow.  Ultimately, I love to teach people of all ages; my oldest student is now 83. I also love to connect with players and teachers of all levels.  I want to continue learning from my new Suzuki colleagues and students, and ultimately begin to teach other teachers to teach Suzuki for trumpet…and all of the the brass instruments!

SC: Thanks so much, Natalie, for your time! 

 

 

 

 

 

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

with Michael Sachs

Marco Vicario with Michael Sachs

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

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

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

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

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

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

with Vincent Penzarella, former member of the New York Philharmonic

with Vincent Penzarella, former member of the New York Philharmonic

 

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

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

with Gábor Tarkövi, principal trumpet, Berlin Philharmonic

with Gábor Tarkövi, principal trumpet, Berlin Philharmonic

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

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

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

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

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

Brass Section of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino Festival with Zubin Mehta

Brass Section of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino Festival with Zubin Mehta

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

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

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

Currently he is continuing his trumpet studies with Claudio Gironacci. 

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

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

Video of Marco trying out his rotary trumpet: 


Bi-lingual Interview with Italian Trumpeter, Marco Vicario

The interviewer is Stanley Curtis


 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

with Vincent Penzarella and Claudio Gironacci

with Vincent Penzarella and Claudio Gironacci

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verdi's Requiem with La Scala di Milano

Verdi’s Requiem with La Scala di Milano

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

with Raymond Riccomini, Second Trumpet at the Metropolitan Opera.

with Raymond Riccomini, Second Trumpet at the Metropolitan Opera

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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Interview with Navy Band Rock Trumpeter, David Smith

David Smith is a young and awesomely hip trumpeter

David Smith is a young and awesomely hip trumpeter

 

 

 

 

David Smith is a professional trumpet player and music educator. He is well versed in many different musical genres and has had a multitude of different musical experiences.

Melvin Miles Jr., director of bands at Morgan State University, with David Smith

Melvin Miles Jr., director of bands at Morgan State University, with David Smith

 

He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in music from Morgan State University, and a Masters of Music degree in trumpet performance from Penn State University. His studies at these universities has given him the opportunity to participate in master classes with Wynton Marsalis, Terrance Blanchard, Wallace Roney, Nicholas Payton, Jimmy Heath, Goerge Rabbai, Cyrus Chesnut, and Regina Carter just to name a few.

Penn State trumpet ensemble with the great Dr. Langston Fitzgerald III (who was also a member of the US Navy Band)

Penn State trumpet ensemble with the great Dr. Langston Fitzgerald III (who was also a member of the US Navy Band)

His primary trumpet teachers include Dr. Langston Fitzgerald III, Professor Wayne Cameron, and John Blount.

David has aspirations to continue to perform live music, and to give back to the community by contributing in the field of music education. After three years as Musical Director for the cruise ship company Celebrity Cruises, he is now ready to share his vast experiences and knowledge attained from playing internationally. He is currently serving in the U.S. Navy Band as the trumpeter for the Cruisers ensemble in Washington D.C. He also regularly performs with various local groups, keeping a busy freelance schedule.

Equipment:
Bach Stradivarius 43g B-flat trumpet (mouthpiece: Monette B6)
Benge 5x B-flat trumpet (mouthpiece: Schilke 13b)
Bach Stradivarius C trumpet 229 gold plated
Schilke P5-4 piccolo trumpet
Yamaha flugel 731

Interview with Navy Band Rock Trumpeter, David Smith

The interviewer is Stanley Curtis


SC: How did you get started in music and in trumpet playing?

David Smith living up to his childhood dreams!

David Smith living up to his childhood dreams!

DS: I first started at Hyattsville Elementary School in Prince George’s County public schools. I actually initially wanted to play saxophone after many years of watching Lisa Simpson in the Simpsons, but the sales man and my mother convinced me otherwise. He buzzed his lips and had me do the same. I looked at the trumpet and only saw three “keys” and thought I would be easy. Little did I know….

 

SC: Who has been your most influential teacher?

DS: My high school band director, Mr. Anthony Townes, has been my most influential teacher. He was very passionate about music and making sure we were exposed to different genres as well as professional possibilities. He’s the reason I even knew the Navy Band program existed.

 

SC: Who are your top three artists or groups to listen to?

DS: When I listen, I try and listen to players and groups that would best help me fulfill my professional responsibilities. That being said, I love Roy Hargrove’s playing. Jazz, Latin, Gospel and R and B—his style of playing is very soulful and he plays with conviction! I also enjoy listening to Earth Wind and Fire for horn sections. And Stevie Wonder—his music is inspirational.

SC: How do the Cruisers prepare their repertoire, and how do you, as a “horn line” guy, and a trumpet player, prepare yourself?

DS: The cruisers were looking for someone with “commercial skills:” someone who basically plays all styles—including jazz and classical. I have a masters in trumpet performance with a focus on orchestral studies, so I was able to fulfill that requirement. When rehearsing and preparing music, we all come together as a group and suggest songs for our repertoires. We strive to play songs that reach a multicultural audience, everything from Motown to Taylor Swift, EWF to Bruno Mars. After selecting songs, we make our own arrangements, writing horn lines and composing the charts. As a horn line guy, I prepare the same I would as an orchestral guy. You have to listen to the style that you will be performing in and emulate. Play along with recordings. Listen to the style of attack and how the music is being phrased.

SC: What is your most memorable performance?

David Smith with family at the National Harbor

David Smith with family at the National Harbor

DS: Right now, my most memorable performance is when the Cruisers performed at the National Harbor. It was a homecoming for me as my family was there, and I grew up here. It was the culmination of all the hard work and patience I’ve developed as a musician trying to “land the gig”!

 

SC: How do you see the trumpet’s future in contemporary popular music? Is it diminishing, increasing?

David Smith, jumping into the spotlight

David Smith, jumping into the spotlight

DS: I think trumpet is pretty safe. I thank God that I play the trumpet. In popular music as far as I can see, they just continue to reuse some of the same stylings as the ones from the 50s-80s. I don’t really see anything that original. Even though I enjoy the music of Justin Timberlake, Pharrel Williams, Janelle Monáe, and Bruno Mars—all of whom use horns—in my opinion they’re doing what’s already been done by innovators like James brown, prince, Michael Jackson and so on. Not that I’m complaining. Any artist that uses live horns in their songs is fine with me!

 

SC: How can a trumpet student best prepare for playing in a contemporary/pop/rock group?

DS: Play anything and everything as often as you can, especially while you are in school! Play in orchestras, jazz bands, blues bands, rock bands, salsa bands, never limit yourself, the more ground you cover the better it serves you and the more opportunities it presents to you.

SC: Do you teach? What are some of your guidelines and thoughts about teaching?

David Smith at Loyola University Jazz Faculty Recital

David Smith at Loyola University Jazz Faculty Recital

DS: I teach trumpet at Loyola University in Baltimore, and this fall will be leading their jazz ensemble. I try to keep things as simple as possible. Long tones, lips slurs, and repertoire. Arban, schlossberg, and Clarke. There are two ways to learn and two ways to teach. Some students learn because they’re passionate, but most students learn because they’re being forced to. So, I try and gauge which category that student fits in, and I generally find out by the second lesson, if they have practiced or not. My goal is to find out whether they are into the music or not. And then I try to get them to a higher level by the end of the semester. If they are a non music major, we will work fundamentals and I’ll have them work on a piece to perform. For music majors, I’m relentless about preparing them for the world outside of the safe walls of the school.

 

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

David Smith, relaxing at the beach

David Smith, relaxing at the beach

DS: I like to work out, in trying to keep up with the saxophone player in the cruisers. He is a fitness guru. I spend time with my family, trying to plant seeds of wisdom into my nieces and nephews. I even started teaching my nieces how to play trumpet. Honestly I play trumpet all of the time. It’s what I do for fun and how I serve this world.

 

 

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Interview with jazz/rock trumpeter, Mart Avant

Mart Avant with Vic Carstarphen, keyboardist with the Temptation

Mart Avant with the late Vic Carstarphen, keyboardist with the Temptations

Mart Avant, Founding member of The Tuscaloosa Horns, graduated in 1980 with a B.M. in arranging from the University of Alabama. Named outstanding soloist at the Kentonian Jazz Festival, Mart quickly moved into the studios of Birmingham, Alabama, as an arranger for horns and strings.

 

Mart Avant with a Slo-Gin 60s band revue

Mart Avant with a Slo-Gin 60s band revue

The Tuscaloosa Horns were merged with the Slo-Gin 60’s band in the fall of 1981. Avant was the staff brass arranger for Southwind Drum & Bugle Corps from 1983-1993, winning the DCI division II championship with “The Little Mermaid” & “Robinhood.” Mart began contracting for the Tuscaloosa Horns with the Temptations, The Four Tops, Frankie Valli, and Martha Reeves in 1984. That list has been continuously expanding and now includes Frankie Avalon, Kenny Rogers, Little Anthony & The Imperials, Fabian, Lou Christie, The Tommy Dorsey Band, Guy Lombardo, Peter Duchin Orchestra, and the Denny LeRoux Orchestra. Locally, Mart directs the Alabama Cavaliers Alumni Big Band as well as the Night Flight Jazz Quintet. He also plays from time to time in both the lead and jazz chairs in several big bands in the Southeast. Under his leadership, The Tuscaloosa Horns have gained a reputation for precision and quality that currently makes them the preferred horns with The Temptations at many of their performances through the country. In January 1999, as a member and co-founder of The Tuscaloosa Horns, he was inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame Music Achievers.

 

Equipment

B-flat trumpet: Getzen Custom (bore size .462 in.)
Trumpet mouthpieces: Marcinkiewicz modified Bob Findlay model with 3C rim
Warburton, 4.5 rim with ES or S under-part
Flugelhorn: Yamaha Pro Model YFH731 with Giardinelli 6F mouthpiece
(see interview below for the long story of Mart’s equipment)


Interview with jazz/rock trumpeter, Mart Avant

The Interviewer is Stanley Curtis

SC: What are some of the early musical influences in your life?

MA: I began my music career with piano lessons, from the second grade on through my junior year of college. My very first piano teacher was a stern taskmaster but rewarded hard work, and being an only child, I had plenty of time to practice without siblings throwing things at me…HA!

Jerry Bobo with Mart Avant

Jerry Bobo with Mart Avant

One of my two most influential mentors was my band director at Fayette County High School, Jerry Bobo. My time with him from 1967 to 1973 was a time when band and sports were the absolute focal points for our community. Mr. B had an absolutely incredible career as the band director there, amassing superior ratings at state band competition from the late 50’s thru the early 90’s. He instilled a work ethic in us that is with me, and countless others, to this day. You had better come prepared to rehearsal as he would go down the row of chairs seeing who could execute the literature we were working on at that time, and you could find yourself relocating from the first trumpet section to the third in the blink of an eye. Jerry Bobo was a freak clarinet player, but had minored in trumpet while at the University of Alabama. While he and I differed a bit on mouthpiece placement and a few other issues, Mr. B was great at hammering us on the Arban book, the Rubank books, and scales, scales, scales. We learned to articulate accurately, to double- and triple-tongue, and he made sure we had to perform literature that demanded that.

Discipline was never an issue in the Fayette County High School Senior Band. In fact any such problems were handled internally without Mr. Bobo having to get involved. We considered it a huge honor to sit in his band, and those that didn’t were quickly dealt with out behind the gym! Mr. B also allowed me to get my feet wet with arranging, as I co-wrote a massive arrangement of “Lowdown” from Chicago III (the third album by the rock band Chicago) for the band. That pretty much got me going as a writer, along with the three- and four-horn garage bands that I was in from the age of 15. Even in the tiny community of Fayette, there were always three or four working bands during my early- and mid-teens that fueled my desire to be a performer. It didn’t hurt that within a year or two of my beginnings on the trumpet (the year 1967), Tower of Power, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Chicago, Dreams, Ten Wheel Drive, Earth, Wind & Fire, Cold Blood, and many other horn bands sprang into being. It was GOOD to be a pop/rock trumpet player right about then!!

Steve Sample

Steve Sample

Upon moving to Tuscaloosa in 1975 (just south of Fayette County), I continued a relationship with my second, and probably most influential, mentor, Steve Sample, Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Alabama. A nationally renowned arranger and teacher, Steve was the driving force behind an astounding number of musicians that are still working worldwide to this day. Under his direction, the ’70s and ’80s produced a huge number of University of Alabama Jazz Ensemble alumni that all owe a great debt to Steve for his guidance, innate musicality. I majored in Arranging, and pretty much left the drums and piano to those way more proficient on those instruments. I did ruffle quite a few feathers as Dr. Jim Ferguson awarded me First Chair Trumpet in the University of Alabama Symphonic Band my last semester, since there were a ton of classically oriented trumpet majors that I beat out for the position. To them I was “That Jazz Hippie” from Fayette.

My trumpet teacher was Michael Johnson, who I met in 1970 when he came to the University from the Midwest. Michael was an eccentric cat to be sure, but was a great motivator and let me choose the path that I wanted, which was pop/jazz rather than strictly orchestral.

 

SC: Michael Johnson was also one of my trumpet teachers, too. In fact, he was my first teacher and the one I studied with the longest. Tell me more about your experience with him.

Michael Johnson, trumpet teacher at the University of Alabama from 1971 to 2003.

Michael Johnson, trumpet teacher at the University of Alabama from 1971 to 2003.

MA: Mike Johnson and I met when I was a sophomore at Fayette, in the summer of 1970, when he came to U of A from Nebraska. He was a great piccolo trumpet player no doubt and had followed up a very successful touring rock band stint with his turn to full-time teaching. We were the best of friends, and our duets were something that I both dreaded and also looked forward to, as he was really a better player than he was a teacher, and could just toast any of us, laughing all the while. He kind of forced my hand at being an arranging major, as he told me flat out that if I was going to major in trumpet, he would have no part of me being in the jazz ensemble. I would only be able to play in the symphonic band, the orchestra, and brass ensemble. I wasn’t feeling that in the least, but I actually went on to play in each of those ensembles—with my trusty 3C mouthpiece always at the ready.

 

SC: Tell me about your equipment—the long story!

Mart Avant

Mart Avant

MA: While at Fayette, our band director (Jerry Bobo) had a philosophy regarding trumpet players—that it was best to start out on a cornet. Then as you grew into the instrument, the trumpet would be the next step. I started on a student-line Besson cornet, probably with a Besson mouthpiece. After a couple of years I bought a really neat King Silver Sonic cornet from a graduating senior. It had a sterling silver bell with gold plating inside the bell, and I kept it until my junior year.

Tuscaloosa Music Service was the mecca for all things instrument-related in those days. Having tried out two or three different horns that the store’s rep brought to our school, I decided on a Getzen Severinsen Model. It was a 1972 instrument, and other than retro-fitting a large bore leadpipe four years later, I played that horn until I could see the air in it.

I went to Whipkey’s Music in Atlanta and bought a Getzen Custom trumpet in 1999 with the .462/.464 interchangeable tuning slides. I played the bigger slide until on a Temptations/Four Tops run down in Charenton, Louisiana, when Chip Crotts (he was lead trumpet with Maynard Ferguson’s band in 1998) picked it up, ripped a phrase and then declared that he could NEVER play lead with that larger bore! So, I went to the .462 slide and have it to this day.

My flugel was purchased at Giardinelli’s music shop in New York City in the fall of 1977, and is a Yamaha Pro Model YFH731, and it, with a Giardinelli 6F mouthpiece, has been my sole flugel setup! I have never heard a better sounding flugel or flugel piece, and that horn is my soul without a doubt.

As far as trumpet pieces go, I have run the gamut from Giardinelli and Schilke in the ’70s and ’80s to Warburton and Marcinkiewicz since then. Terry Warburton and I are tweaking a piece that is between his stock 4 and 5 rim size. For lead I stay pretty shallow—“ES,” or “S”—on Warburton mouthpieces. The great New York trumpeter Don Harris (Lead with Tower of Power in ’97) let me copy his Marcinkiewicz that started out as a Bob Findlay model with Joe Marcinkiewicz’s version of a Bach 3C rim on it. With this copy I survived the World’s Greatest Singers Tour with the Temps, Tops, O’Jays, and Whispers in the summer of both ’03 and ’04, hernia surgery notwithstanding! We can find no evidence of a horn section other than the Tuscaloosa Horns ever doing that many shows in a row, back to back to back with Temps, Tops, and Jays. Brutal is not an adequate description!

 

SC: How did you learn how to arrange?

MA: Being an only child, and with a strong background in piano from such an early age, I would sit for hours listening to pop records (Blood, Sweat, and Tears, Chicago, Tower of Power, Chase, and Cold Blood, mostly) with sketch score books in my face, listening to the horn parts with first one side of the stereo cut off then the other so the parts were easily discernible. I studied those whopper chord symbols, and over time learned what a “C13b9#11” sounded like under my fingers on the piano. Again we had many working bands during my high school years that allowed me to hone my skills as an arranger because there were so many great horn bands that we were like kids in a candy store learning all this stuff.

As my studies progressed, I was introduced to the world of studio arranging/recording in the real world quite by accident– (there is a great account of this on the Tuscaloosa Horns website). In the summer of 1980 we decided to call our original four-piece section the Tuscaloosa Horns, and that was the beginning of something special for all of us that continues to this day.

Once we made that scene in Birmingham, we began to take off musically in every way. These producers basically let us write whatever we heard as being a complimentary horn chart to the rhythm/vocal arrangements on countless commercial projects for a period of seven or eight years starting around 1979. I actually co-wrote the very first 30-second TV opening for HBO. We had the world by the tail and planned to take it over during those days, as we were learning how to write, how to play in the studio setting, and we were making contacts all over the country through Boutwell Studios, The Music Place, Sound of Birmingham, and Shamblin Sound in Tuscaloosa.

Then came the Synclavier and Kurtzweil keyboards that sampled all the sounds of the music world, and our recording dynasty folded. Overnight, nearly. That forced our hand to look to the live stage.

 

SC: How did you start working with big-name acts, like The Imperials, The Temptations, Kenny Rogers, and others? Are there some favorite group or groups that you like working with?

The Tuscaloosa Horns near Atlanta for a Four Tops concert, July 2015.

The Tuscaloosa Horns near Atlanta for a Four Tops concert, July 2015.

MA: The Tuscaloosa Horns, while still cranking out a few projects in the summer of ’84, got a call from a Birmingham percussionist, Michael Panepento, that was on the Motown Reunion Tour with the Temptations and Four Tops. He knew me from the Boutwell sessions and we had worked together in a band or two as well. He told me simply: “Mart, get your best ten players, as the “TNT” show is coming into Birmingham in a few weeks. If they like you, they will use you when they are in the area in the future.”

Mart Avant with Barney Floyd at a Temptations show.

Mart Avant with Barney Floyd at a Temptations show.

That single conversation launched a life relationship with the Tempts, Tops. Word of mouth got out about us within a few years to include all the other acts that we are family with right now—the O’Jays, Percy Sledge, Martha Reeves, Mary Wilson, Natalie Cole, Frankie Valli, Wayne Newton, Little Anthony and the Imperials, Kenny Rogers, Fabian, Lou Christie, Bobby Vinton, Bobby Rydell, and even a Barry Manilow production for good measure. The Guy Lombardo Orchestra, Glenn Milller Orchestra, Bill Tole’s Dorsey bands, and many other jazz groups look to the “Thorns” when they are in our range. From that first show, we have seen years that afforded us 50-60 shows with just the Temps and Tops, with all the others sprinkled in. According to these groups, we bring a vibe, an exuberance, and an execution of their sometimes brutally unforgiving books that is unmatched in the country. I am exceedingly proud of that designation.

 

SC: What about the Night Flight Jazz Quintet and the Night Flight Big Band? What are some of the highlights from these groups?

MA: My Night Flight Jazz Quintet groups started in the early ’80s as I was called to do many wedding receptions and other events around Tuscaloosa/Birmingham.

The Night Flight Big Band

The Night Flight Big Band

In 2000 I took over a rehearsal band format at a great jazz club in Birmingham called Ona’s Music Room. We called that group the Night Flight Big Band, and we are together even now. We have a standing first Wednesday night of the month date there to simply pass out charts, read them, and have a blast. We do private parties, receptions, and big events out of that venue, and its nucleus is again the Tuscaloosa Horns. Killer band for sure. 

 

SC: How does it feel to be inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame? What are your most significant achievements that you are proud of?

MA: One of the co-founders of the THorns, the immensely talented author, educator, trumpeter and pianist, Chris Gordon, spearheaded the effort to get us Music Achiever status with the Alabama Music Hall of Fame a few years back. For me to be the main organizer of our group, it gives me a sense of humility in that Alabama has produced some of the most accomplished musicians in the world and we are on a list with them! When we are onstage and Ron Tyson or Otis Williams of the Temptations, or Duke Fakir of the Four Tops, or Eddie Levert of the O’Jays turns to us and tells the audience “Ladies and Gentlemen, the greatest horn section in the country, the Tuscaloosa Horns!!” it makes all the phone calls, e-mails, delicate negotiations, personnel juggling, lodging, and travel preparations all worthwhile. And somehow I have maintained enough trumpet face to stay up there with them.

 

SC: Who are some of your favorite musicians?

MA: As far as favorite musicians and albums go, you could plant me on an island with the Michel Camilo Big Band CD (Caribe), some Steely Dan (the album Aja, possibly,) and some Natalie Cole tracks from her impossibly hip and classiest-in-history show book, and I would be just fine, thank you.

 

SC: What is your sound concept?

MA: I found that early on, to be able to get work in the trumpet world, at least with my mostly pop/jazz calendar, I needed to be both a decent lead player and also a jazz player that could grab the solos as well. This probably explains my love for the flugel, as I have always gone for a brilliant, high-end cutting lead sound on the trumpet and let the flugel be my alter ego for the dark, sexy solo color. Many players are content to keep that color on their trumpets by using a really big, deep piece, but that’s not me. Very few of those cats can make that work on a lead book. There certainly are exceptions, but mostly no.

I have always practiced both trumpet and flugel, and I devote at least one third of my allotted time on the flugel to be able to switch back and forth without difficulty. I find that the flugel helps focus me for more lead, as it somewhat refreshes my buzz, often at critical times during a show.

I have always tried to include the basics (to me) in my practice regimen. One simple four-page exerpt has helped me maintain finger speed and dexterity since my early 20s—that is from the John McNeil book “Jazz Trumpet Techniques.” He simply devised a set of low- to mid-range patterns to exercise the fingers, and I can tell in half a set whether I have hit those patterns or not over the previous week’s work. They are absolute finger busters, but when you finish a page, your fingers have the burn, not your corners! Buzzing with the piece only (I use the B.E.R.P. which is a great tool on or off the horn) using the Stamp “Warm-ups” method is a great help to me. It is a great way to power through a reluctant vibrating surface if I’ve had a strenuous last gig or series of shows. I also feel that Clark “Technical Studies” and Charles Colin “Lip Flexibilities” have to be visited on a regular basis if you are going to keep that good foundation going. I am all about the P.E.T.E. from Warburton to work your chops when you can’t get the horn out as well.

 

SC: How do you keep getting high-quality gigs, year after year?

Mart Avant with Blue Lou Marini after a James Taylor concert

Mart Avant with Blue Lou Marini after a James Taylor concert

MA: A word about maximizing your ability and visibility as a player—I can tell you from decades of experience that I have been hired, retained, and referred to for countless gigs for both me as a solo/section player, and our horn section, the Tuscaloosa Horns, as principal contractor, for one overwhelming reason that actually has very little to do with our abilities as technicians, although it is a given that you have to be an A-lister to get those repeat calls! It is that I have developed the ability over my career to be able to do some seemingly simple things—get along with people, make them comfortable around you, add ENERGY to their stage, and be positive and upbeat. You have no clue how many top-shelf acts have come to me during or after a performance and remarked, “you guys look like you’re having fun, you’re smiling, moving, hitting your steps, and THEN you go about Killing the show!” So many times players that are way better than me get one call and then dumped off that list because they have a dour, ill persona about them, and seem to only want to get the show done, and grab the money. Trust me, the money will come if you practice these traits. It has worked for the section and me for 30-plus years.

The Tuscaloosa Horns with the Temptations on “Standing on the Top” 

SC: What do you hope to do in the next 5 years?

MA: In the next 5 years, I hope to infuse enough new blood into the Tuscaloosa Horns to continue our improbable journey that began with a simple phone call from Panepento back in ’84.

 

SC: Thanks so much for doing this interview, Mart!

Mart Avant with wife Donna at the restaurant Commander's Palace after a performance with the Mighty O'Jays at Jazz Fest New Orleans 2015

Mart Avant with wife Donna at the restaurant Commander’s Palace after a performance with the Mighty O’Jays at Jazz Fest New Orleans 2015

MA: Thank you, Stan, for allowing me to share my thoughts, my accomplishments, and my philosophies concerning this curious piece of plumbing that we are all so devoted to, and this wonderful world of music that it affords us. All the best to all of you, and I hope that sharing my thoughts will help or inspire even a few of you to keep on keeping on.

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