CSU Trumpet Day: Saturday, October 27

As trumpet teacher at Colorado State University, I am thrilled to host my first “CSU Trumpet Day.” This is pretty exciting news, because I will get to bring together Colorado trumpeters on Saturday, October 27 in the Instrumental Rehearsal Hall and Runyan Rehearsal Hall at CSU’s University Center for the Arts (UCA). A kind of mini-trumpet guild of Colorado. Go here for more information. Registration is $20, but that money goes a long way to get you a pizza lunch, a CSU Trumpet Day t-shirt, and a little trumpet swag.

Here is the schedule for the day:

8:30—Registration (Runyan Rehearsal Hall)
9:00—Clinic with Stanley Curtis (Runyan Rehearsal Hall)
10:00—Clinic with Dawn Kramer (Runyan Rehearsal Hall)
11:15—Trumpet Ensemble Rehearsal 
12:30—Pizza lunch: CSU jazz combo (Instrumental Rehearsal Hall)
1:00—Clinic with Sophie Urban (Runyan Rehearsal Hall)
2:00—Clinic with Justin Bartels (Runyan Rehearsal Hall)
3:00—Concert: solos from clinicians, CSU Trumpet Ensemble, Participant Trumpet Ensembles (Runyan Rehearsal Hall)

We will have three guest clinicians:

Justin Bartels, principal trumpet, Colorado Symphony


The fabulous orchestral trumpeter, Justin Bartels, of the Colorado Symphony. He will talk about practice techniques and play the Honegger Intrada. Look for impressive tone and experience as an orchestral trumpeter



Dawn Kramer, freelance trumpeter

Dawn Kramer, a freelance trumpeter in Colorado and member of the Boulder Brass, will present “Jack or Jill of All Trades: Developing skills to become a well-rounded freelance trumpet player.” Look for tips on how to make it as a trumpeter playing a variety of jobs, including movie music, salsa bands, musicals, orchestras, cruise lines and rock bands.





Sophie Urban, young trumpet soloist


Young trumpeter Sophie Urban, winner of the ITG Young Artist Award, will present a clinic she calls, “Yoda on Trumpet: Learning from the Masters.” She is looking forward to playing the Viviani Sonata Seconda, the Enesco Legende, and Kevin McKee’s Song for a Friend (a tribute to Colorado trumpeter John Wacker, who was killed in an automobile accident in 2014). She is a sophomore at Coronado High School in Colorado Springs. Sophie is a member of the Denver Young Artists Orchestra. She recently won the winds/brass concerto competition and will be performing Enesco’s Legend in November with the orchestra. From 2013-2018, Sophie participated in the Colorado Springs Youth Symphony Association and was principal trumpet in the Youth Symphony for the last two years. She has received two honorable mentions for her performances in the annual Young Artist Concerto Competition. Sophie was a finalist in the International Trumpet Guild (ITG) Junior Competition in 2017 as well as a semifinalist in the National Trumpet Competition and the Young Musicians Foundation of Colorado in the same year.

Stanley Curtis (that’s me) will present “How to play your best on auditions: Colorado All-State and beyond.”

Speaking of which, if trumpeters want to play in a trumpet ensemble on this day, I recommend that they submit an mp3 recording of some excerpts (these are posted on the CSU Trumpet Day site. The excerpts for trumpeters, high school age and older, are the same excerpts as the Colorado All-State excerpts for this year. There is an easier excerpt for younger trumpeters.

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Wind-and-song Wednesday

Herbert L. Clarke, one of the most admired cornetists and brass teachers in history.

Trumpeters are reluctant advocates of breathing exercises and concepts that our low brass counterparts fully embrace. The reason? I think it has to do with the way we use our breathing for the trumpet–the highest range instrument of the brass family. We use less volume of air and more air pressure than horns, trombones, and euphoniums, not to mention tubas! So, while it is nice to participate in the Breathing Gym exercises, or whatever program is getting tuba players to play in a relaxed way, it isn’t directly addressing the real issues trumpeters have. We have to look at a completely different school of thought that was offered up years ago by such great trumpeters and cornetists as Rafael Mendez, Claude Gordon and Herbert L. Clarke.

Real improvement comes mostly from expanding the demands we place on the capacity of a single breath. How FAR can we go in one breath? How focused can we remain, even when our lungs are at the end of their breath? I know, I hear the grumbling now from all the doubters out there: “if you play to the point where your lungs are shaking, then you are practicing poor air support and reinforcing bad tone!” I hear you. BUT, it is the effort in expanding our capacity that allows us to play on better air for longer stretches of music.

Who could play the whole Mexican Hat Dance in one breath? Rafael Mendez, that’s who!

Let me quote from Rafael Mendez’ Prelude to Brass Playing (Carl Fischer, 1961, 2005, p. 13):

To help you attain correct breathing habits and to build up the chest, lungs, and muscles, the following exercises are recommended:

1) Regulating the breath (you will need a watch)

Stand erect…. Inhale deeply…. Timing yourself, blow out a small stream of air…. How many seconds? 15? 20? Breathe correctly and try again. Add five seconds…. In 80 seconds of blowing out, try holding the diaphragm steady for 10 seconds, the allow ten seconds for it to recede, and the final ten seconds for lower ribs to return to normal. Keep adding five seconds each time. You can get this up to 60…70…80…90…100 seconds and over by exerting will power. Will power can be your greatest ally in music study. Right here is where you start to exert it. [emphasis mine]

And of course Clarke is always advocating to play his exercises in one breath, and if there are repeats, to see how many repeats can be made in one breath. See his Technical Studies for this kind of advice.

Claude Gordon, great high-range pedagogue.

And Claude Gordon, who was a student of Clarke, and who has helped a lot of players play great in the high (and low) register, advised the student to play long tones “as long as possible with a crescendo at the end. Hold the note until all the air is gone and longer (until your stomach shakes).”

I think Clarke had the best additional advice to make sure this kind of practice would not hurt the player or result in poor tone: always play softly. And I agree with this advice, especially on technical kinds of practice. Soft playing, with a metronome, intentionally trying to improve by small increments of speed and of duration of breath. This is basically working on our physique, our technique, but most importantly of all, our mind focus.

Now, go out and play some “Clarkes” with more reps than ever!! (softly)

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