Trumpet Happiness: Begin Here

Louis Armstrong, one of the happiest trumpeters ever

“As the Spanish proverb says, ‘He, who would bring home the wealth of the Indies, must carry the wealth of the Indies with him.’” –Samuel Johnson

With this quote, Gretchen Rubin begins her book, “The Happiness Project” by bringing her readers attention to one of her favorite figures, Samuel Johnson. 

I was quite moved by Rubin’s book, which tells the story of her year-long quest for happiness, and I thought her basic approach would work for nearly anyone. Even, me, a 54-year-old trumpeter, in the 19th year of his career with the U.S. Navy Band, looking for more meaning in his trumpet playing and life. And Johnson’s quote rings true to my reasoning: the only way to experience the riches of a great life is to cultivate those riches from within. 

So, I have decided to do a quest for happiness that uses Rubin’s book, (and fantastic blog) as a loose template. It will be the same in the sense that I will try to figure out what makes me happy over the period of a year. No, wait–I’m getting a head start by beginning in December, so, for me, it will be thirteen months: from the beginning of December, 2017 to the end of December, 2018. It will be different in the sense that it will focus on my life and happiness as a trumpeter and musician (but never straying too far from my life and happiness as a dad, a husband and a human being). 

Why happy? 

Recently I have begun to notice a lot more advice for trumpet players available on the internet.  Although most of it is sound, much of it sounds like drudgery: “Practice deliberately for 10,000 hours in an isolated cubicle, sacrifice your best years and chances for financial stability, and then you will have a microscopic chance to win one of the very few jobs available.” But if you do win that orchestral audition, good luck with your job satisfaction. Apparently, there was a 1998 Andrew W. Mellon Foundation study about job satisfaction. In this study, prison guards had higher job satisfaction that orchestral musicians. Prison guards, people. This is serious. (I tried to find the original study, but it was no longer on their website). This study showed, nearly 20 years ago, what many professional musicians have known for a long time: that life in an orchestra is not necessarily happy or engaging. With my 13-month trumpet happiness quest, I hope to find some solutions to being a happier musician. I don’t expect to find definitive answers, but I hope to get at least a little happier and to share my experience with everyone who reads this blog. 

Basically, Gretchen Rubin’s approach in her book is to come up with some guidelines based on her research. She has an over-arching set of rules that she calls her “Twelve Commandments of Happiness.” 

Since, Gretchen (I hope she will not be offended if I call her by her first name) will be my central trumpet happiness guru, and since I am trying to follow in her footsteps, I will take a crack at my very own:

Ten Commandments of Trumpet Happiness 

  1. Be true to Stan’s musicality
  2. First find the problem before fixing it
  3. Do the trumpet/musical thing that needs to be done as soon as possible
  4. Half-done music is better than not-done music
  5. Act the way I want to be as a musician
  6. Act kindly and fair to all 
  7. Choose the more imaginative or enjoyable way, when possible
  8. Enjoy my music in the now
  9. Musical happiness comes from within
  10. The whole music thing boils down to love




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