What I’ve learned so far from Shelby Foote

I just finished volume one of Shelby Foote’s fantastic trilogy on the Civil War. Volume one takes the reader from Fort Sumter to the battle of Perryville. It’s a long volume (and the other two volumes are even longer!). Of course, I always like to imagine that I’m learning something about the trumpet, even when I’m far afield of the area of music. So, here is what I learned about the trumpet from reading Shelby Foote.

When you are down and out, the best strategy often comes from the Confederate book: be brave and go for it! No need to over think. No need for fancy equipment. Just believe in your cause (the trumpet in our case!), and you will succeed. For this to work, you must have grit!

But, in the big picture, the best strategy follows the Union. Have a just cause (or make one up, as Abraham Lincoln did with the Emancipation Proclamation). Why is it that you are pursuing music and the trumpet? Think about this philosophically. Are you trying to be a trumpeter for all of the best reasons? In addition, it’s best to have as many resources as possible. Instead of land, population, factories and money, I mean (for the trumpeter) resources like time to practice and develop. Enough money for trumpets and other equipment. Getting lessons is a big resource. Going to conferences and summer camps and festivals is a huge resource, and I count my summer camps at Brevard Music Camp and the National Repertory Orchestra as transformative. Having lots of friends and family support your trumpet cause is maybe the biggest resource.

Good luck, and win the war!


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