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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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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