A second interview with Elisa Koehler, tireless researcher of the trumpet

Elisa Koehler – Trumpeter, Conductor, Researcher and Academic Administrator

Known for her versatility and probing musicianship, Elisa Koehler is a trumpeter, conductor, and author with professional experience as both a soloist and an ensemble musician. Currently Chair of the Music Department and Professor of Music at Winthrop University, she was previously Professor of Music and the Director of the Center for Dance, Music, and Theatre at Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland and Music Director and Conductor of the Frederick Symphony Orchestra. As a trumpeter, she has performed with the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra, the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, the Lyric Brass Quintet, and as the solo trumpeter of Baltimore’s Concert Series. Dr. Koehler has performed and recorded on period instruments with the Bach Sinfonia, the Handel Choir of Baltimore, the Washington Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble, and Newberry’s Victorian Cornet Band. A member of the editorial staff of the International Guild Journal since 2002, she was elected to the ITG Board of Directors in 2017 and elected ITG Secretary in 2019. Also an active researcher, Elisa Koehler is the author of Fanfares and Finesse: A Performer’s Guide to Trumpet History and Literature ( Press) and A Dictionary for the Modern Trumpet Player (Rowman & Littlefield). In 2016 she edited new performing editions of the Haydn and Hummel trumpet concertos with historical commentary for Carl Fischer Music. She can be heard as cornet soloist with Newberry’s Victorian Cornet Band on the album, Thomas Coates: The Father of Band Music in America.  Dr. Koehler has presented at national and international conferences, and produces the YouTube channel, Brass from the Past, which features educational videos concerning historic brass instruments. Her articles have appeared in numerous publications including the Conductors Guild Journal, Heritage Band Encyclopedia, The Brass Herald, and The New Grove Dictionary of American Music. She also keeps a blog with interesting articles about academia, music making and trumpet-related things. Elisa Koehler earned a doctorate in orchestral conducting from the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, a master’s degree in from the University of Tennessee, and bachelor’s degrees in both music education and trumpet performance from Peabody. In 2009 the University of Tennessee honored her as a Distinguished Alumna and in 2014 she received Goucher College’s highest faculty honor, the Caroline Doebler Bruckerl ’25 Award, which honors an exemplary faculty member in the areas of teaching, scholarly activity, and service.


Interview with Elisa Koehler. The interviewer is Stanley Curtis.

SC: Elisa, it has been almost nine years since our last Trumpet Journey interview, and a lot has changed! I thought it would be good to catch up on what has been happening to you since that time, so I am really grateful that you have agreed to another interview!!

 

EK: The pleasure is all mine, Stan. Thanks for the invitation! I’m really honored.

 

SC: What are some of the changes that you have gone through since 2012—your job, your research, your trumpet playing?

EK: In 2013 I became chair of the Music Department at Goucher College (it was my turn in the rotation), and everything changed. The focus of my career shifted from performing to administration, which was something of a natural progression. I started out as an adjunct while conducting a community orchestra (the Frederick Symphony) and juggling a lot of trumpet freelancing and private teaching. As I moved up through the ranks at Goucher and eventually earned tenure, I gradually reduced the amount of freelance work and private teaching to focus on my increasing responsibilities at the college and my writing projects. The organizational leadership skills I had developed as a conductor translated easily to academic administration. During that same year (2013-2014), I was finishing the edits on my first book while writing my second book and simultaneously managing a major facility renovation at the college. It was insane! But I’m grateful for all the opportunities and have always subscribed to Billie Jean King’s philosophy: “pressure is a privilege.” Three years after that I was promoted to full professor and became the director of Goucher’s new Center for Dance, Music, and Theatre as the college consolidated academic departments. In 2019 I moved on to become the chair of the Department of Music at Winthrop University, which is where I am now. I’m extremely grateful that I have been able to combine trumpet playing, conducting, and research in my academic career.

 

SC: In 2012, you told me in our interview that you were working on some books that you mentioned in our interview. Since then, published them and some other things, too. What has the impact of that been on you?

 

EK: The books have been well received, especially Fanfares and Finesse, which is required reading in many university trumpet studios now. I am really proud of that. I was also invited to edit new editions of the Haydn and Hummel trumpet concertos for Carl Fischer Music in 2015, which was a huge honor, and I have given presentations at international conferences of the ITG and the . But the biggest reward has been the number of people who have written to me or have come up to me at conferences to tell me how much they enjoyed my books. That means the world to me.

 

SC: It means a lot to us, too, Elisa—thanks for your books. A big congratulations on your new job at Winthrop University and your leadership role. Could you talk about transitioning from Goucher to Winthrop? Did this require new skills?

 

EK: Thanks! The biggest challenge was relocating to South Carolina after having spent most of my life in Maryland. I also had to get up to speed with several university-specific online platforms for curriculum revisions, personnel management, academic records, and assessment. Getting to know my new colleagues and the culture of the university was crucial, and I have also upped my game with Microsoft Excel, an essential tool for academic administrators. Michael Watkins’s The First 90 Days, a standard book on leadership transitions, was helpful preparation, as well.

 

SC: What is your routine like at Winthrop? Does your schedule allow for trumpet playing and teaching? How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your department?

 

EK: I am primarily an administrator now and only teach one class, which is conducting the Winthrop Symphony Orchestra. My routine involves a lot of meetings, responding to email, and working on long range projects including curriculum revisions, course schedules, facilities, and budget planning. I also observe classes for colleagues’ faculty reviews and supervise recruiting and community outreach. Winthrop has an excellent trumpet teacher, Dr. Marisa Youngs, so that is not what I do. However, I have given occasional trumpet master classes and recitals, but the pandemic has put a stop to that since March 2020. The impact of COVID-19 has been enormous. I have had to re-think every aspect of how we deliver our curriculum and serve the needs of our students. In addition to creating sanitizing protocols for practice rooms, supporting remote instruction, and planning for social distancing, we have had to change every aspect of how large ensembles function, especially regarding facilities, including outdoor tents. But the biggest challenge has been creating a live stream system for our degree recitals and video recordings for ensembles.

SC: I was really fortunate in 2019 to get to play under your baton in Newberry’s Victorian Cornet Band. Playing on your cornet, as well! It was a great experience at the Vintage Brass Festival. What else are you conducting these days? 

 

EK: Thanks! That was a lot of fun. I love working with the Newberry Band, which is a period instrument group that specializes in music from 1875 to 1910. Our second CD will be released next month. I’m super excited about that because it will be my first credit as a conductor. I was the cornet soloist on the band’s first CD, which was directed by Doug Hedwig. Right now, I’m conducting the Winthrop Symphony Orchestra at the university.

 

SC: For the past few years, you have also become a leader in the International Trumpet Guild. What has that been like? 

 

EK: It has been a privilege to work with so many terrific colleagues from all over the world. The ITG leadership team is an inspiring group of selfless, hardworking professionals. We were already meeting quite often by video conference before the pandemic, so it has been interesting to see all the innovation and forward thinking the ITG has engaged in recently, especially making all the back issues of the ITG Journal accessible online for members. And the virtual conference this summer is going to be fantastic!

 

SC: What would you like to be doing in the next few years, Elisa?

 

EK: Filming more episodes for my YouTube channel, Brass from the Past is a big priority. I have seven episodes already scripted to cover the , vented Baroque trumpets, cornets, and other topics, but the demands of my new job and the pandemic have put those plans on hold for the time being. I’m also working on a new project with Tim Quinlan at qPress to create an anthology of ’s “Art of Phrasing” collections (he published more than what appears in the famous method book). Another major goal is to publish a second edition of Fanfares and Finesse with updated information and new chapters on mutes and trumpets of antiquity. There has been some fascinating new research in that area.

SC: Down time—what do you like to do these days in your free time?

 

EK: Practicing the violin, learning French, and lots and lots of reading.

 

SC: The violin?! Et le Français? C’est incroyable! That sounds like fun! Here at , we’re so much looking forward to hosting you via Zoom next week. What are you going to talk about to our students?

 

EK: I’m going to discuss my research on Arban’s “Art of Phrasing” as a window into cultural history and related topics, such as research techniques and musical interpretation. I’m excited to meet with your students!

 

SC: Thanks so much for this second interview (the only second interview on my site)! I hope that we’ll get to do this in about nine more years!!

 

EK: It’s been my pleasure. Thanks for the invitation!

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Interview with renowned teacher, Wiff Rudd

Wiff Rudd began teaching trumpet and serving as Brass Area Coordinator at Baylor University in 2002. Previous teaching posts include Oklahoma Baptist University and the University of Arkansas. A founding member of Rhythm & Brass, he is also an active soloist, chamber and orchestral musician. He has been a featured soloist in Carnegie Hall on multiple occasions and at several National Trumpet Competitions and Conferences. Rudd has performed and presented master classes at more than 350 universities and music festivals on five continents. He serves as principal trumpet with the Waco Symphony and performs regularly with the orchestras of Houston (Moscow 2012), Dallas (Europe 2013 and 2016), and Harrisburg. Baylor’s trumpet ensembles have won six prizes at the National Trumpet Competition since 2009, including three first place wins. In 2010, Rudd received the Award for Outstanding Teaching and was named the Centennial Professor, which provided funding for research in collaborative practice. The resulting book, Collaborative Practice Concepts, was released at the 2013 and has been adopted by many university trumpet studios across the country. He has recently published a second book, : Building and Sustaining an Effective Community in the Music Studio.
Equipmentall Yamaha
Bb: Old Yamaha Zeno (Early 1990’s) YTR-6335 Gold Brass Bell
C: Yamaha Gen I and Gen 2
D/Eb: YTF-9636 & 9610
F/G: YTR 9710
A/Bb Piccolo: YTR-9820 & 9825
Flugelhorn: YTF-631 (1980’s)
Mouthpieces:
Yamaha 16C4
Yamaha 16E4 (Rotary)
Old Bach Corp. 3C
Piccolo – 7E or 11A4
Flugel: Bach 1.5 FL

Interview with Wiff Rudd. The interviewer is Stanley Curtis.

SC: Wiff, I really appreciate you sitting down to chat with me. You’re kind of one my idols, I have to say!
WR: That’s very kind of you! Idol is a word I’m not used to hearing! Thanks for your interest in visiting today!
SC: So, let’s go back in time. What were you doing when you were young that got you interested in music? Who were your big influences?
WR: Being in band was just something the Rudd kids did. I was the 5th of 6 children, and though our parents were not musical, somehow “band” was something we were encouraged to do.

Al Hirt and Doc Severinsen performing “the battle of the horns” before the Super Bowl IV in 1970

As I became more interested in music during high school, the big influences were Al Hirt and Doc Severinsen – in fact I remember Super Bowl IV very well! It was 1970 and the halftime was the battle between these two amazing players. Times have changed, eh – and here we are in Super Bowl LV! I also had the good fortune of seeing Doc perform a couple of times when I was in high school. I enjoyed hearing Herb Albert and remember 2-3 prime time television specials by the Tijuana Brass (I would tell the family to hush while I held the microphone to my small reel-to-reel tape recorder next to the TV speaker. I mowed a lot of yards to pay for that machine).

Bill Chase, high-note fusion trumpeter

The other thing that got me more interested in getting better in high school, and then as a college student was the emergence of horn bands – Blood, Sweat and Tears (with Lew Soloff) was my go to band and of course, Chicago was busting out, then Tower of Power, and Chase. I saw Chase live in high school and went to a clinic he gave. I was bummed when he died in that plane crash.

SC: What else were you interested in when you were young?
WR: I enjoyed going to pro baseball games and remember seeing Hank Aaron play in Atlanta. But I didn’t really play sports that much. I love flying kites so high I could hardly see them, often winding up the string well into the dark. Salt-water fishing and water skiing were my go toos on weekends at the Texas coast before we moved to San Antonio (from Houston) for my last two years of high school.
SC: You eventually went to Baylor. Did you study with Ron Fox there? What was Baylor like then compared to now?

WR: I first studied with Michael Ewald and had the pleasure of sitting next to him in the Waco Symphony and the faculty . Ron (Fox) was my teacher for only one year, but I often say that “he saved me” – for various reasons, I hit a major crisis in my playing during my junior year. Ron has great instincts and he got me lose and having fun again. I’ll forever be indebted to him and his wonderful wife, Carole.

Baylor is so much the same – it’s a tight-knit community. What’s different now is that music program is a bit larger. But the traditions that were established when I was student have served us well, and the level of the large ensembles and the quality chamber music and jazz program are fantastic.
SC: Then you went to graduate school at the University of Northern Colorado with Bill Pfund (who just celebrated his birthday—his 86th I believe!). 
WR: Bill was amazing. I got to play 2nd to him in the Greeley Phil and that was an incredible experience. He not only demonstrated resourcefulness and the focus on “each note being beautiful,” he demanded it from his students, particularly the grad students – there was a sense of urgency. I think the fact that I was married and my wife was pregnant at the end of my masters added a degree of intensity. Under his guidance, I was able to secure my first job just as we were finishing our time together.

Bill Pfund, professor emeritus at Univ. of Northern Colorado

SC: How did you win your job with the ? What was it like and who did you play with?
WR: a former student, Stephen Goforth (my first freshman at Oklahoma Baptist University) told me about Dallas Brass during my 7th year at OBU. I was freelancing a lot with the Oklahoma Symphony, in big bands, studios and so forth, but the idea of playing and touring with a small group seemed really appealing. I loved playing a wide variety of styles and the thought of doing that all in one concert was appealing.
Steve was too busy to stay with the group which at that time, was only playing regional gigs. But it seemed apparent that the group had a chance of going full time in a couple of years. He introduced me to the owner and I drove to Dallas for a long evening rehearsal/audition. Next thing you know, we moved to Dallas (it’s a lot more complicated than that!). And sure enough, two years later we were touring full time.
SC: And then you started Rhythm & Brass, playing and managing the group. Did you have to grow into your managing role?
WR: I was very fortunate in that I learned a lot of business skills in Dallas Brass. I enjoyed negotiating and representing the group and did that when we started R&B. Everyone in the group had a job (, arranging, logistics, etc.) – mine was booking, with the amazing help of my wife, Jeanette. Our three boys grew up watching us having “not normal jobs” and living risky lives at times. I believed those experiences have served them well and they are all doing unique, creative things in their workplaces.
SC: How long were you with Rhythm & Blues?
WR: After 13-14 years of full time touring, we made the decision to reduce the touring and move into university teaching. Within 2-3 years, all 6 members of the group were affiliated with a university. We continued touring part-time for many years. It’s been 5 years since we last performed and we miss it. I know we will do a reunion tour some time!
SC: Your first big teaching job was with the University of Arkansas. Was it a challenge?
WR: It was – especially because I was still doing run-out tours. But I have always known that a balance of teaching and performing was my dream, perhaps my destiny. It was so good to be back at it full time but I inherited 28 students, and that was too many. We figured that out, and I planned on staying in that job until retirement.
I believe that we won’t do a good job where we are if we are always looking to move somewhere else. So we put down roots and since out kids were older, Jeanette and I realized we could build our life in a new town. We made some of the closest friends ever, and it was nice to be “home.”
SC: Then you were asked to apply for your alma mater–Baylor. What was that like? How was the interview?
WR: Being asked to apply to Baylor was a surprise. I had literally just received tenure at Arkansas when the phone rang; the call was from a former professor and she informed me there was a trumpet opening – would I consider applying. “NO” and some mutual laughter. I had never imagined teaching at Baylor and truly had no interest. We were settled, living creative and engaging lives. But one thing led to another, and as we warmed up to the idea and visited the campus and realized that we would be close to our two sets of parents in San Antonio – well that’s how it went.
It was very sad for us to leave Fayetteville – we had invested deeply in our four years there, and that had been my “dream” job. We often talk about our dreams coming true in this business and my dream of touring, then of teaching again had come true – going to teach at Baylor was never a part of my dream. So I often say “my dream didn’t come true” – but what a surprising gift it has become in our lives, for many reasons.
SC: Since 2002, you’ve been at Baylor, and the trumpet studio has grown in number and reputation. Tell me about some of the proud moments you’ve had as a teacher there?
WR: There have been so many proud moments in my 19 years at Baylor. But we can’t forget the challenging times. I think they are perhaps the most important. In the first few years, I think a proud moment, really more of an “ah-hah” moment was when I realized that young people are amazing. When they are loved, spoken to honestly and transparently, when fun and laughter are shared freely, and if meaningful musical opportunities are available, they thrive. Did I talk about having fun?
At first I thought I had to build a healthy culture. Sure, that’s part of it. But the fact is, they want to build it, too. So a proud moment for me now, is when they do it. More and more, I want less and less of the credit for what they do. Students need to feel like they are truly shareholders in what we are all building together. Also, I have found it’s important to not just rely on the veterans (upperclassmen) of the studio for culture building; I now look at freshmen and sophomores to step in and let us know what they would like have happen in the studio. They want to contribute as soon as possible, so why wait?
SC: How did you transform your studio? In your wonderful new book, Side by Side, you talk about some keystone habits that you implemented. How did they work for you? Will they work for every trumpet studio?
WR: That’s a big question and one that is answered by looking back. I didn’t know what I should do specifically to transform or improve the studio culture, but I did know that it would be impossible without having solid relationships in place, first. Those were the most important lessons I learned in Dallas Brass and Rhythm & Brass days. First thing first.
A keystone habit is a thing that, done continually with everyone buying in, will absolutely shape everything else the studio does. Our habit happens to be a twice weekly group hang (warm-up). Students must attend one per week to have a chance for an A. It’s all call and response, no metronome, no tuner, no music. I detail it in Side by Side. But each studio must find what works for them. It not the “thing” – it’s the doing of it with purpose and persistence. Creativity is the key.
SC: Have you read a lot of self-help books? Your writing seems to reflect that. What is your workflow from reading to applying what you read?
WR: When I came to Baylor, I read business books and those based upon research (Talent Code, Good to Great). I listen to podcasts and read a variety of books when time allows. Our studio members do a book report each year and rarely are they about music. They are usually books based upon research about wellness: physical, spiritual, and mental. When reading or listening, I will inevitably find something that resonates with me, and I’ll try to find a creative application for the studio. My favorite epiphanies have come from what we can easily observe in nature – nature speaks clearly and wisely, if we will only watch listen.
SC: At the 2018 San Antonio Conference, you gave a wonderful presentation on developing a Collaborative Studio—that’s when I was really impressed by what you do! And you gave me a copy of your Collaborative Practice Concepts—thanks so much. How did you come up with these great ideas? 
WR: Ron Fox was the one that really got me into the collaborative approach – call and response. That’s how he turned my playing around. He made it a game. Teaching is much easier if someone is willing to play a game.
SC: Has the pandemic completely taken the wind out of sails of these collaborative practice concepts?
WR: The pandemic has certainly reduced the number of group practice sessions we usually have, but we have been able to continue the morning warm-ups. We are fortunate, thanks to some strict protocols, to be meeting in person. When we can’t do what we would in normal times, we simply find something else that will work. And–when one of us complains, I strive to move us (the studio) toward gratitude for each other and what we are able to do. These students, all of our students, have a chance of coming out of this time with serious levels of creativity and fortitude.
SC: I’m so glad that the Trumpet Studio will be able to host you for a virtual clinic next week. I hope the students behave–and I hope they ask good questions!
WR: If they don’t have questions, I’ll ask them a few!

Original art by CSU trumpet student, Alexa Hudson

SC: What’s next on the horizon for you, Wiff? 

Jason Bergman, Wiff Rudd and performing “Song of Hope”

WR: I’m working on a couple of projects with others. One is a book (I’m advising, not leading), and another is a special recording project to honor Ryan Anthony’s memory and support CancerBlows. A former student is leading on that project. Additionally, the Baylor Trumpet Studio will be ramping up some recording projects.

SC: Well, thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me. Looking forward to next week!
WR: See you then!
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