Book review: Koehler’s Dictionary

Author is now the chair of the Department of Music at Winthrop University. She is a great trumpeter and writer about the trumpet. When she was at Goucher College, she came out with several books including A Dictionary for the Modern Trumpet Player, published by Rowman & Littlefield in 2015. You can find this title on Amazon in hard cover or Kindle, and you should get it, because it is a great resource for any trumpeter. Completely cross-referenced, it alphabetically takes on the most important facts, people, equipment and makers of the trumpet. One of the things I love about the book is its focus on the most relevant information–just enough to help explain something to a trumpet student who is wondering what a “keyed trumpet” might be and perhaps help start a student essay on the subject. But there are many obscure entries, also:

phorbeia. Ancient Greek version of the capistrum, a strap used to support the cheeks while playing at loud volumes on the salpinx or the autos.  

There are entries for most of the truly important players, like Louis Armstrong (“Known by his nickname, Satchmo, in 1924 he joined Fletcher Henderson’s band in New York, but returned to Chicago in 1925 and began recording.”), Philip Smith (“…Smith won the audition to replace Gerard Schwarz in the New York Philharmonic in 1978….” and Valaida Snow (“…she is the only female trumpet player of the vintage or swing eras to be extensively documented on record.”).

Perhaps the best thing about this book is that Dr. Koehler chose to illustrate certain instruments and other equipment with line drawings by Todd Larsen. Line drawings can be so helpful in getting the true gist of a physical object. Here’s an example:

Drawing by Larsen on p. 29 of Koehler’s Dictionary

The one complaint I have is that this book is that it is expensive at $72. This is comparable to most academic books these days, but is still a little out of reach for most students, who may have to find this title in their local library.

This may sound crazy, but I would encourage a curious trumpeter to just start reading this book from the beginning. It’s not as daunting as you might think at just 219 pages. You will become much more knowledgable about your instrument.

Winter Olympics coming and where are the trumpeters?

Greek salpinx (trumpet) player

Athletes the world over are getting ready for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. These Olympics are going to be captivating and dramatic, but this Olympics, just like the summer Olympics that will come in 2020 hosted by Tokyo, will not feature an important event that happened for hundreds of years: the trumpet event (which was kind of a combined Heralds Contest event including an announcing category). This was nicely reported on Raquel Rodriquez’s blog post in August of 2008 and in a wonderful article about the Salpinx in the ITG Journal by Nikos Xanthoulis. “Salpinx” is the Greek word for trumpet.

A list of the most famous Olympic trumpeters (an all-male event):

  1. Timaios (or Timaeus) (the first winner in 396 BCE)
  2. Archias of Hybla, in Sicily (3-time winner from 364-356 BCE)
  3. Herodoros of Megara (10-time winner from 328-292 BCE and one-time periodonikes: winner of the circuit of Olympiano, Pythian, Neean and Isthmian games)
  4. Diogenes (5 wins: 69-85 CE; two-time periodonikes)
  5. Valerius Eclectus of Sinope (4 wins: 245, 253-261 CE)

But trumpet playing was not just for men. There were also games for females called the Heraia and these games may have had a similar event. One famous female Greek trumpeter was Aglais, daughter of Megacles. She was active around 275 BCE and famous for wearing a fancy wig with a plume when she performed.

Greek statue of male salpinx player performing with female organ player


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