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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Suzuki Trumpet Training, Part I

Ann-Marie Sundberg, the only Suzuki trumpet teacher-trainer in the world

Ann-Marie Sundberg, the only Suzuki trumpet teacher-trainer in the world

I just got back from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Mount Royal University was hosting the very first Suzuki Trumpet Teacher Training ever given in North America. I was one of ten students in the course, and the teacher was the only teacher trainer in the world: Ann-Marie Sundberg of Sweden.

I knew a little about Suzuki music education, because my two children have both developed in Suzuki studios (violin and flute). I have been impressed for years by their early start, rapid progress and confidence as young instrumentalists. Compared to my education as a trumpeter, they are much better technically, they have a far greater and more serious repertoire, and their ears are more refined than I was at their age.

Swedish Suzuki Trumpet Class

Swedish Suzuki Trumpet Class

I read about Ms. Sundberg’s Suzuki teaching and  teacher training a few years ago, and I eventually wrote to her asking how I could  learn how to teach Suzuki trumpet. She wrote back, saying that I would have to fly to Sweden three times in one year in order get the certification. As much as I would like to visit Sweden that many times, I realized it would be quite an expensive undertaking. I put it off that year.

Natalie DeJong teaching Suzuki trumpet at Mount Royal University

Natalie DeJong teaching Suzuki trumpet at Mount Royal University

Fortunately, one of her students, Natalie DeJong, who is on the faculty of Mount Royal University, arranged to have Ms. Sundberg come to Calgary in Alberta, Canada last August (2016) to give an eight-day seminar to do the entire training for the first unit (training to teach the first book of Suzuki trumpet). So, when I heard about this possibility, I signed up right away.

 

Shinichi Suzuki leads a violin group class of children in the United States (date unknown)

Shinichi Suzuki leads a violin group class of children in the United States (date unknown)

On the day before the trumpet training, I took the required all-day prerequisite course called Every Child Can. I formally learned about the general history and philosophy of the Suzuki school, named after the founder, the Japanese violinist, Dr. Shinichi Suzuki, whose revelation came when he realized that “all Japanese children speak Japanese.” In other words, all children learn effortlessly how to speak their own language regardless how difficult that language is. He applied this language learning process to music learning. But perhaps the most important take away from learning about the Suzuki philosophy is that it is not primarily for teaching children how to be better musicians, but it is a way to nurture them to become “fine and noble human beings.” That is a concept I can truly believe in, and I am really excited about teaching students of my own very soon. 

Next: Suzuki Trumpet Training, Part II 

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Happy birthday, and the importance of Story, Song and Support

It all started three years ago with a little post about, well, starting this website. And now Trumpet Journey has grown to more than 90 published posts about all kinds of trumpet-related things. There have been many interviews, but also “Top Ten Lists.” There have been posts about jazz, renaissance and baroque music, orchestral playing, the jobs market, and even language learning. 

Of the 117,000 people who have visited Trumpet Journey, I am really happy to receive the occasional comment or question. Especially from places like The Netherlands or Italy. Or even India! (sorry, India, I haven’t gotten around to answering you, yet). 

15th-century manuscript with a bearded figure blowing a trumpet

15th-century manuscript with a bearded figure blowing a trumpet

I haven’t posted much of my own writing in a while, because I have been doing so many interviews. So, I’d like to shake off the dust and talk about the three “S”s. These are what I think are the three key elements that each great trumpet player has: Story, Song, and Support

Each of us has a unique story. That story may be an actual account of some event, or even the story of our life. But we also have our own stories that we keep coming back to, such as “beauty is great,” or “old things are cool” or “technology is what I’m about.” These are our thematic points that our choices point to. Choices about repertoire, style, equipment, venues, and even the clothes we wear when we perform can help create our own story and the story that each generation needs to hear. Many players perform to a story that is going on inside their heads. As listeners, we can sense that something dramatic is happening. 

Trumpeters like Jean-Francois Madeuf, Doc Severinson, and Philip Smith seem to have a really strong story. Their playing seems to spring effortlessly from their personal story. 

Authenticity (played on an authentic natural baroque trumpet–very rarely heard):

Showmanship–notice how Doc adjusts his story to suit the Lawrence Welk Show audience:

And this story telling in the orchestral realm. I remember hearing Philip Smith talking about the way he thought about this opening excerpt from Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. He said he pictured Death (as the shrouded skeleton) reaching out from a dark fog. Closer and closer he comes, until you see his grotesqueness clearly. Sound quality is not quite perfect in this example.

 

Then there is the song. This is how we play what we play. This song can be sung with heart-on-the-sleeve romanticism, laser-beam clarity, or rhetorical interpretation. This is our personal song we sing on the trumpet when we play. Each of our voices are different–and they should be. Our song is the meeting place of our phrasing, our interpretation, our experience and, of course, our tone. I learned a beautiful lesson about tone from a former colleague of mine, the great euphonium player named Roger Behrend. He said it helps him to think about tone in terms of color, texture and taste. So, for instance, if you are thinking about maroon, velvet and chocolate, you get an especially luxurious sound. Or, perhaps you’re thinking golden, rough and with the taste of jambalaya, like I do, when I hear this trumpeter:

Trumpeters that have a great sense of song are many, but for me, some of the most astounding “trumpet singers” have been, besides Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, and Maurice André. 

I found this unusual example of Maurice André playing the Hindemith “Trumpet Sonate.” While this is not normal repertoire for André, nor is it a standard interpretation of the renowned German composer’s piece, it so well shows André’s glowing song-making style.

 

But to keep the song going, which keeps the story fresh, we all need the support of our technique, our fundamentals, our use of air, and our “chops.” For most of us, this comes down to consistent, mindful practice over many years. We are also looking for the right equipment to help us get there. Equipment and practice routines seem to be the subjects of most the trumpet chatter out there on the web and in studios. We all want to be able to play better, faster and higher. I know I do. But I think we all understand the limitations of mouthpieces, technique and high notes without a great singing style. Or without a musical story to tell. Let’s let support be what it is: help for a greater cause. Nevertheless, there are some great examples of technique and equipment.

Wynton Marsalis’ amazing technique and unique equipment do not get in the way of his song or story.

Malcolm McNab is a paragon of fundamentals, and he spins them into the most amazing recordings.

And, or course, there are the high note players like Arturo Sandoval and the late, great Maynard Ferguson. 

Talk about support!!! 

I think all of these examples show exceptional Story, Song and Support, and hopefully will give us some inspiration to communicate with our audiences, too.

In a very meaningful way, Trumpet Journey has been one of my trumpet stories that I have been able to tell over the last three years. 

 

 

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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 Michael Blutman, New York City freelance trumpeter

Trumpet section with Sting, New York City, 2009. l-r: Chris Gekker, Chris Botti, and Mike Blutman

Trumpet section with Sting, New York City, 2009. l-r: Chris Gekker, Chris Botti, and Mike Blutman

Michael Blutman enjoys a diverse career as a trumpeter, music educator, and music publisher. A graduate of The Juilliard School and University of Maryland, his performing and recording credits include: Sting, National Symphony Orchestra, American Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, American Ballet Theater, Paragon Ragtime Orchestra, David Parsons Dance Company, Jonathan Batiste Jazz Band, Westminster Choir, Broadway’s Phantom of the Opera, and many others. Michael’s trumpet instructors include: Chris Gekker, Mark Gould, Steven Hendrickson and William Vacchiano.

Also an educator, Michael’s music teaching credits include: East Meadow’s Fusing Culture and Curriculum program (coordinator and teaching artist), Nassau Suffolk Performing Arts (artist in residence), Usdan Center for the Arts (trumpet and chamber music instructor), and the American Symphony Orchestra (former education manager). He is also a clinician for colleges, primary and secondary schools, maintains a private trumpet studio, and is a published music education author (featured articles in NYSSMA’s School Music News, the International Trumpet Guild’s ITG Youth website, and co-author of the Festival Sight Reading series, published by Pinnacle Music Press, Inc.).

Recordings / Websites:
Pinnacle Music Press: www.pinmusicpress.com
Not many recordings (mostly a concert player or record for commercial entities), but there are clips from the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra’s “Minding the Score Album”: http://paragonragtime.com/store/minding-the-score-the-amazing-harry-l-alford/
 
Equipment:
Bb Trumpet: Shires (Model A-W) and Bach 37
C Trumpet: Bach 229H
D/Eb: Blackburn MD-19
Piccolo: Schilke P5-4
Bb/A Cornet: Conn Victor Quick-Change Cornet (ca. 1924)
 
Mouthpieces:
Orchestral Playing: Bach 1.5 C (25 throat, S backbore) for C trumpet, stock 1.5C for Bb, sometimes Curry TF for chamber orchestra
Commercial Playing: Warburton 5S (Greg Black #5 Backbore) or Curry 50S
Cornet: Conn Levy Model #6 (ca. 1910’s)
On heavy teaching days, or long brass ensemble shows: Bach 5C (with Wayne Tanabe’s magic touch) or 10.5C (with Josh Landress’ magic touch)
 

Interview with Michael Blutman, New York City freelance trumpeter

 
The interviewer is Stanley Curtis

 

SC: Tell us about your early interest in music.
 
MB: My early musical interest came mostly through listening to jazz with my father.  Though not a musician, he has amazing taste!  Basie’s Chairman of the Board album was a favorite – I was being introduced to arguably the greatest big band album of all time and early Thad Jones arrangements.  My dad regularly made jazz mix tapes that included Oscar Peterson, Stan Getz, Ella Fitzgerald, and many others.  Sinatra was also a favorite, especially the Capital Records years.
 
Mike with the Leon Petruzzi Jazz Orchestra at Whoville Bar and Grill on Long Island.

Mike with the Leon Petruzzi Jazz Orchestra at Whoville Bar and Grill on Long Island. Two of Mike’s band directors from East Meadow School District are in the sax section (Joel Levy on the left and Dave Fletcher on the right). Leon Petruzzi is to the left of Mike in the trumpet section.

When I really started showing an interest in music and willingness to practice in middle school, my parents bought me a subscription to the Carnegie Hall Jazz Band, led by Jon Faddis. The trumpeters I got to hear with that band included Lew Soloff, Earl Gardner, Byron Stripling, Randy Brecker and others … absolutely amazing! My parents also started taking me regularly to the Leon Petruzzi Jazz Orchestra; an excellent local big band that continues to play twice per month on Long Island. That band consists of terrific musicians who are mostly music educators from Long Island.

Most of my early interest in music was rooted around big bands. Although I primarily play classical music for a living now, big bands have always been my hobby and first love. I play as often as I am able with the Leon Petruzzi Jazz Orchestra.
 
SC: Who have been your most influential teachers and mentors?
 
MB: At every stage of my development, I have been lucky enough to have excellent teachers and mentors who have encouraged and challenged me.
 
My public school teachers from the East Meadow School District had a tremendous influence on me. Besides being terrific musicians, they are master teachers and were always generous with their time during the school day as well as before and after school. They are incredibly dedicated teachers. In addition to my in-school teachers, Mike Klein and Leon Petruzzi were private teachers who helped encourage solid fundamentals and excitement about performing music.
 
 
In my final two years of high school, I also took about one lesson per month from William Vacchiano. It was amazing to play for him, and I taped almost every lesson. The teaching took place then, but I’m learning at least as much from him now and am sure that will continue forever. He was 88 and 89 years old when I studied with him. I’m really glad to have gotten to know him.
 
 
I went to the University of Maryland for my undergrad, where I got to study with Chris Gekker and Steve Hendrickson. I first heard Chris as a member of the American Brass Quintet when I was in middle school. His and Ray Mase’s playing had such an impact on me that I really wanted to study with him in college. An added benefit to studying at University of Maryland was also getting to work with Steve Hendrickson, who had a tremendous influence on me as well. Just trying to keep up with him on orchestral rep was lesson enough to try to thicken out my tone! During my senior year at Maryland, Steve invited me to play extra a few times with the National Symphony, a tremendous opportunity and thrill!
 
 
After studying at the University of Maryland, I was lucky enough to study with Mark Gould at Juilliard, where I also worked with Ray Mase as a chamber coach.  Both were great mentors and very generous with me.
 
 
One of the greatest things about playing in a major metropolitan area is getting to hear terrific musicians regularly (not just trumpeters). I have been fortunate to get to perform with Carl Albach, Lou Hanzlik and John Dent a fair amount; after hearing them, my practicing always gets better for a few weeks trying to emulate aspects of their playing.
 
 
SC: Describe the free-lance scene in NYC.
 
MB: I met with Lou Hanzlik just as I was graduating from Juilliard hoping for some advice on establishing a freelance career in NYC.  The gist of his advice was something to the effect of, “find ways to stay busy, even if it doesn’t earn you much money at first.”  The more I’ve talked with freelancers about their work, I’ve found it to be individual without too many consistent patterns other than figuring out ways to “stay busy.”
 
SC: How have you “stayed busy” working in NYC? 
 
MB: Ray Mase asked me a tough question sometime when I was at Juilliard, something like, “what do you need in your professional musical life that you are not willing to let go?”  The answer I came up with was, “I need to play with excellent musicians regularly and I need to teach.”  My version of staying busy includes subbing with several orchestras and other groups, teaching, running an arts-in-education program and running a music publishing company with my brother.  It pieces together into a “way-too-busy-all-of-the-time” schedule!
 
Besides having great teachers, I also had great mentors just a few years older than me at every stage of my development, including today.  In turn, I always liked encouraging people a few years younger than me.  Upon graduating from Juilliard, establishing a teaching studio in my parents’ basement was a quick way for me to earn money doing something I loved doing.  I continue that studio today and have great, hard-working students.
 
Other teaching includes running an arts-in-education program in my hometown school district, teaching trumpet at Usdan (a terrific arts day camp on Long Island) and coaching at Nassau Suffolk Performing Arts (a Long Island youth concert band and jazz band program).  As you can tell, my teaching tends to be Long Island-centric.  It’s nice to contribute in that way to the community that helped encourage me to pursue my passions as a career.
 
Mike warming up at intermission of an Orchestra of St. Luke's performances at Carnegie Hall

Mike warming up at intermission of an Orchestra of St. Luke’s performance at Carnegie Hall

Over the first eight seasons of my career, I’ve been fortunate to sub with several of the freelance orchestras in, and around, NYC, including the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, American Symphony, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Northeastern PA Philharmonic, Stamford Symphony, and others. Between all of them, I end up performing about a half-year orchestra season.  In addition, I’ve enjoyed playing chamber music, with big bands, and as a substitute on Broadway shows.

 
SC: What are some of your most memorable musical projects?  
 
MB: I am more of a “gun for hire” on trumpet, rather than one who cultivates my own creative playing projects. My creative energies really come out in my teaching.
 
Mike with Chris Gekkeer in Avatar Studios recording world premieres with the Manhattan Contemporary Music Ensemble (2014)

Mike with Chris Gekkeer in Avatar Studios recording world premieres with the Manhattan Contemporary Music Ensemble (2014)

Some of my most memorable musical opportunities have been with Chris Gekker over the past few years.  We performed together with Sting in 2009 and more recently with Richard Alden Clark’s Manhattan Contemporary Chamber Ensemble, where we performed world premieres at Carnegie Hall and recorded at Avatar Studios for a week after.  Getting to spend time in the recording studio with Chris was a special treat for me.

 
Two recent interdisciplinary Stravinsky programs really stand out, both with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s.  First was Soldier’s Tale performed in collaboration with The Puppet Kitchen for thousands of NYC school kids; 8 performances in one week. Another was a collaboration with Basil Twist (a puppetry company described as “ballet without dancers”) on a program that included Fireworks, Pulcinella Suite, and Jonathan McPhee’s reduced orchestration of Rite of Spring. I’ve always loved interdisciplinary performances.
 
Mike Blutman with Jon Batiste

Mike Blutman with Jon Batiste

 

Jon Batiste was a colleague at Juilliard and has since done amazing things with his Stay Human Band. I performed with him in his “Little Big Band” at the Blue Note, Dizzy’s Club, KC Jazz Club, Rubin Museum, for an NPR national broadcast, Central Park’s Summerstage jazz series with Esperanza Spalding, and recorded at Pyramid Studios. Jon and I also did a few educational recitals based around music by Duke Ellington and William Grant Still.  Jon brings intimacy and excitement to every performance, which continues to inspire me.

 
Mike's Conn Victor 1924 Bb/A "quick change" cornet in front of the George Washington Bridge and Hudson River before a Paragon Ragtime Orchestra recording session.

Mike’s Conn Victor 1924 Bb/A “quick change” cornet in front of the George Washington Bridge and Hudson River before a Paragon Ragtime Orchestra recording session.

 

Recently, I have performed and recorded a bit with the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra (on my Conn Victor 1924 Bb/A quick-change cornet). This group performs ragtime, theater music and accompanies “silent” movies. The first CD I performed on featured music arranged by Harry Alford (listen to clips of this CD here).  The forthcoming CD features early cinema music from the “silent movie” era.

 
There are other really great programs and performances I’ve been lucky enough to play like Elliott Carter’s opera What Next?, an all Kurt Weill / Hans Eisler program at Carnegie with H.K. Gruber, and many others … I have been very lucky so far to have some very cool playing opportunities and hope to continue that into the future.
 
SC: What are some things that you do other than play the trumpet?
 
MB: My brother and I started Pinnacle Music Press, a publishing company looking to fill gaps in music education.  Part of this series is Festival Sight Reading, which my brother and I co-authored.  This is the first “job” I’ve had that doesn’t really involve a trumpet up to my face.  I often have to do long tones or lip slurs while I’m doing Pinnacle work just to feel normal!
 
 
Outside of music, I’m somewhat “normal”: sports fan (particularly baseball), enjoy following/discussing politics and current events, read (mostly history), long walks around the city, etc.
 
SC: What would you like to be doing in 5 or 10 years?
 
MB: My hope is that over the next several years, Pinnacle Music Press develops into a strong business. I believe that our products have a great potential for wide distribution. This is my first business venture outside my playing and teaching and I think it has a great potential.
 
 
I want to be a really good musician and teacher, so I need to continually improve my trumpet playing and deepen my musical knowledge and experiences. In these areas, my immediate goals are similar to what they have been to this point. I believe that if I focus on improving the quality of my trumpet playing and musicianship, other good things will follow.
 
 
SC: What do you do when you’re not working?
 
MB: SLEEP!!!
 
SC: Michael, thanks so much for your time!
 

 

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