Great American sounds: Colorado Symphony

Colorado Symphony trumpet section September 26-30, 2018 (l.-r.): Stanley Curtis, assistant (extra); Justin Bartels, principal; Philip Hembree, assistant principal; Patrick Tillery, associate principal; Jeff Korak, fourth (extra)

This weekend, I played extra with the Colorado Symphony, a great orchestra based in Denver, Colorado. Conducted by Brett Mitchell, the program was Duke Ellington’s Three Black Kings, George Gershwin’s Piano Concerto, and John Adam’s City Noir. The orchestra sounded marvelous, and it was nice to play in the trumpet section with Patrick Tillery (Associate Principal), Philip Hembree (2nd/Assistant Principal), and Justin Bartels (Principal). Jeff Korak, Second Trumpet for the past 20 years in the Columbus Symphony (Ohio), was also playing extra.


John Adams, “City Noir,” excerpt from 1st trumpet part, showing demanding rhythm.


I got to play fourth on the Ellington and assistant principal on the Adams. Sitting next to Justin was such a treat for me on the Adams, which is an 18-page-long, very demanding part with a huge solo in the third movement.

“City Noir” 1st trumpet excerpt showing part of extended solo in third movement



Justin’s command of the instrument as well as his huge tone was inspirational, especially considering he played the very famous solo on the Gershwin in addition to the Adams on the same program.


Special mention of the some of the rest of the brass section in the Colorado Symphony is required: principal horn Michael Thornton and principal trombone John Sipher (who had an amazing lyrical extended solo in the Adams). Must also mention bass trombone Gregory Harper and principal tuba Stephen Dombrowski who laid down the bass lines so well.

The only disappointment of the series was the audience turnout. Without a big repertoire piece on the program (Gershwin not really being in that category), Denver couldn’t mobilize enough enthusiasm to fill Boettcher Concert Hall. Not that Denver doesn’t like the Arts. They seem to embrace museums, interesting architecture and vibrant shows all over the town (see some of my photos below).

I’m new to Colorado (with the exception of playing in the National Repertory Orchestra for two seasons, many years ago), so I used all of Friday afternoon to walk around the downtown Denver area, taking in some of the really distinct vibe of this city. I think you’ll find some of my photos interesting.

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Happy sixth birthday to Trumpet Journey: six facts

I’m incredibly proud and grateful for the past six years of Trumpet Journey. Really, it has been my journey, and I am so glad that I got to share it with you.

Here are six facts about TJ that are worthy of a list:

  1. There are 163 posts on TJ, including this one.
  2. There have been 245,000 visitors from all around the world.
  3. Trumpet Journey was recently judged to be one of the top-ten trumpet-related blogs in the world by Last Row Music website and as a top site to help beginning trumpeters by TrumpetHub.
  4. My top-ten lists are the most popular posts that I have written. People love these lists–it gives them a place to start, and it gives them an opinion to embrace–or disagree with. The top top-ten list is from a long time ago: jazz trumpeters living today.
  5. I love to do interviews with other trumpeters. I’ve done 27 so far. Two of them were bilingual (Portuguese/English and Italian/English).
  6. There have been 300 comments on the site. But thousands more on social media shares of the posts. I love the positive comments, but I also like the more-critical ones–they make me think.

My future plans for this next year:

  1. Continuing with my “Trumpet Happiness” exploration. It’s been on pause a little bit, but I’m ready to get back to it! It makes me happy.
  2. Writing about some of the big changes in my life over the last few months: retiring from the U.S. Navy Band and starting to teach full-time at Colorado State University. (by the way, I’ll be looking to recruit new students for the fall of 2019!) I will also be looking into my forthcoming recording project and the publishing of my compositions.
  3. More interviews.
  4. More special content. Like the “This Day in Trumpet History” widget that appears from time to time on the webpage. Like more entries in the Trumpet History Timeline.
  5. More lists. What can I say? I love lists!

Here are some wonderful photos from past posts. Enjoy!

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