Interview with University of Kentucky trumpet professor, Jason Dovel

Jason Dovel

Jason Dovel enjoys a busy schedule as a soloist and clinician, having appeared at more than 70 universities and festivals in the United States and abroad, most recently performing at the São Paulo Trumpet Academy (Brazil), Australasian Trumpet Academy (Australia),  International Brass Course of Thessaloniki (Greece), International Conference, and International Trumpet Guild Conference.

Dovel has recorded four highly acclaimed solo CDs; Lost Trumpet Treasures (2014), Ascent: New Music for Trumpet (2016),   for Trumpet and Organ (2018), and New Unaccompanied Music for Trumpet and Flugelhorn (2020).

He has published articles in the Music Educators JournalInternational Trumpet Guild JournalThe Instrumentalist, and the Journal of the Art College of Inner Mongolia University in China.  He is also editor of The Big Book of Sight-Reading Duets for Trumpet, published by Mountain Peak Music.

As an orchestral trumpeter, he is principal trumpet of the Lexington Chamber Orchestra, Kentucky Bach Society, Lexington Theatre, and also spends summers playing in the Charlottesville Opera Orchestra in Virginia. He is a founding member of the nationally touring Quintasonic Brass, who will be featured artists at the 2021 International Trumpet Guild Conference.

Dovel is associate professor of trumpet at the University of Kentucky (UK), where he has taught since 2013.

Dovel writes well-researched trumpet-related articles in his blog.

Equipment
Modern instruments:
YTR-8335 and YTR-9335 B-flat trumpets
YTR-9445NYS C trumpet
YTR-9830 Piccolo Trumpet
YTR-948 Rotary C Trumpet
YFH-613G Flugelhorn
TCR-2330S Cornet
Period instruments:
Jason also has other baroque trumpets ( 3-, 4-, and no-hole instruments)

Interview with Jason Dovel. The interviewer is Stanley Curtis

SC: Jason, it’s so good to be able to chat with you about your trumpet and teaching career so far. I say “so far,” because you are still very young!

JD: Thanks for having me, Stan. I’m not sure I’m still “very young” but I do hope I’m closer to the beginning than the end!

SC: I’d like to start at the beginning. How did you get interested in music and who were your teachers when you were young?

JD: I was a first-generation college student who grew up in a small one-stoplight town in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. I did, in many ways, come from a musical family. My mother performed and recorded as a vocalist with a traveling band in her younger years. She and her siblings play various instruments. Mom grew up in a musical family that gathered around the piano for “after dinner family singalongs.”

I myself started guitar lessons in 1st grade and then joined the school band – as a percussionist – in 5th grade. I disliked percussion and planned to quit band, but my friend at the time who played trumpet encouraged me to try trumpet. (He’s now a lawyer, and I’m still playing the trumpet…)

My high school band director (Greg Oaks, a trumpeter himself) was my main inspiration for becoming serious about trumpet and music. I took lessons on an occasional basis in high school from local players.

SC: In college, you also got interested in . Tell me how that happened!

JD: One of my college friends purchased a Baroque trumpet and invited me to accompany him to the Maryland Early Brass Festival at Goucher College. It was there I heard Baroque trumpet live for the first time… and the featured soloist at that event? It was you – Stan Curtis!  You played beautifully and elegantly and I still remember that performance well. That event (and largely, your playing) lit the fire for my interest in Baroque trumpet. So, thank you!

SC: Wow, thanks! It’s so amazing to think that your recitals might really have an impact!

Jason Dovel with his teacher Keith Johnson following Dovel’s solo at the 2018 International Trumpet Guild Conference in San Antonio, TX

JD: Later at the University of North Texas my teacher, Keith Johnson, required all students to take at least a couple semesters of applied Baroque trumpet lessons and play in a Baroque trumpet ensemble. I enjoyed playing Baroque trumpet in the UNT Baroque Orchestra and, as well, with some regional early music groups. It was at that time that I purchased my own Baroque trumpet and became more serious, even completing a doctoral minor in early music.

After North Texas, I spent three summers at the Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio, working with and the other Baroque Performance Institute faculty. There, I had some great classes — not only trumpet, but also performance practice, dance, rhetoric, etc. One summer Bruce Dickey was there and I got to study with him.

SC: Barry and Bruce are amazing–such a great experience! So, eventually, you became a teacher. What was your first teaching job?

JD: My first teaching job was an adjunct position at North Central Texas College in Corinth, Texas. The job was not advertised, and I received it as the result of cold contacting every small school within driving distance of Denton! My first full-time teaching job was at Northeastern State University in Oklahoma, which was a tenure-track position that was advertised in a national search.

SC: Getting that NCTC job was unusual, but a testament to your great “can-do” attitude, Jason! You eventually came to the University of Kentucky, which is a huge job. How was the interview process for UK?

JD: I sent a cover letter, CV, and CD of recent performances. There was no phone interview round. Three candidates were invited to campus for a live audition. On the audition day, I had a rehearsal with the pianist, then gave a 30-minute solo recital, then had a 30-minute sightreading session with the Faculty Brass Quintet, then an informal meeting with the search committee. Then I had lunch with the trumpet students at Qdoba, and then taught a master class that was basically two public lessons. After, there was a more-formal meeting with the search committee, then a meet-and-greet with the faculty, and then I flew back to Tulsa. About a week or so later they called and offered me the job.

SC: That was a big day. You have been so active since being at UK. Tell me about some of your creative activities—like the CDs you have made.

2019-2021 edition of the University of Kentucky Faculty Brass Quintet (L-to-R: Matt Hightower, Margaret Tung, Brad Kerns, Allie Woodbury, Jason Dovel)

JD: In this past year I’ve recorded my fourth solo CD (New Unaccompanied Music for Trumpet and Flugelhorn) and helped my students in the UK Baroque Trumpet Ensemble record their second CD, a disc of the music from the 1795 J. Hyde trumpet treatise. The UK Faculty Brass Quintet just recorded a CD of new brass quintet music, and recently I also recorded a CD with my early music group, Sonitus Clarissima.

 

Aside from recording, I do a lot of composing and arranging, and have been lucky enough to recently receive some commissions for new works for trumpet, trumpet ensemble, and even choir.

I love to travel, and as soon as the pandemic is over, I plan to do a lot of it! I have many projects that are on hold now, at least until it is safe to travel. I hope take the UK Baroque Trumpet Ensemble on a European Tour.  I also look forward to some future collaborations with my former student who know is a trumpeter in China.

Jason Dovel with Margaret Tung, UK professor of horn, on a UK Faculty Brass Quintet tour. (They found UK Coke in Arkansas!)

SC: And you have started being a real leader in the and the . Can you tell me about some of your favorite accomplishments in these professional organizations?

JD: ITG and HBS are great organizations that are both easy to get involved with – and anyone reading this should feel more than welcome to reach out to me, and I’ll be happy to help connect them.

ITG has really improved its opportunities for young trumpeters, and I’m perhaps most proud of the work I’ve done as ITG’s competition coordinator. ITG also has new ways for students to connect on social media, including a very active ITG Student Facebook group that is managed by my current and former UK students Madison Barton and Abby Temple.

HBS has largely been run by the tireless, selfless work by the founder, Jeff Nussbaum, for many years, and as Jeff plans for his stepping down, HBS is now being reorganized, and there has never been a better opportunity for brass players to get involved with HBS!

The University of Kentucky Baroque Trumpet Ensemble at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, at the 2017 Historic Brass Society International Conference

Every five years HBS hosted a major international conference, and my favorite HBS memory was taking 15 University of Kentucky baroque trumpet students to perform at the 2017 HBS conference in New York City. We were so honored that HBS let us play the featured Friday night concert at the Metropolitan Museum Art – a wonderful experience that my students and I still talk about all the time.

SC: I’m excited about new opportunities in the HBS, too! Of course, you are a fantastic teacher. I would love to hear about your teaching philosophy.

JD: I have always known I wanted to be a teacher. Music is a wonderful avocation, but teaching is my real passion. Recently my mother showed me my Kindergarten scrapbook, and for the “When I grow up, I want to be….” question, I had listed “teacher.”

Jason Dovel with Charlie Geyer at the NSU Trumpet Festival in Tahlequah, Oklahoma

Many of my influential teachers (James Kluesner, Keith Johnson, Charlie Geyer, Barbara Butler) came through the “Chicago” school of trumpet playing/teaching, and I suppose my teaching foundation is pretty grounded in that approach.

I want playing the trumpet to be a physically efficient process for my students. Part of this comes from the Chicago “Song and Wind” approach, but it also comes from years of study of Alexander Technique. I personally experienced a great deal of physical pain in my college days, and thanks to Alexander Technique, I now enjoy a completely pain-free career – and I seek to ensure my students play the trumpet healthfully.

On one hand, I like to think that my teaching is organized and systematic like my teachers’ approaches; however, if you were to come observe three consecutive lessons, they’d probably all look quite a bit different. I’m a big believer that no two students are alike and it’s the job of the teacher to craft an individualized plan for success for each student, cultivated based on their background, experience,  strengths, weakness, and goals.

I’ve written some science-y journal articles, and I suppose that I have a bit of a reputation as being a science-y (read: “nerdy”) trumpet pedagogue who is really interested in physics, sound production, acoustics, physiology, and those sorts of things, too.

SC: I didn’t know about your connection with Alexander Technique–I have been taking lessons for the past six months and love it. So, back to your teaching–who are some of your notable students?

L-to-R: Marisa Youngs, John Foster, and Jason Dovel, at the 2017 Australasian Trumpet Academy in Queensland, Australia

JD: I have been so lucky to work with so many wonderful young men and women, and I hesitate to make a list for fear of leaving out so many! But some of my recent alumni would include (Dr.) Marisa Youngs who teaches at Winthrop University, (Dr.) Steven Siegel who teaches at Western Colorado University, (Dr.) Jeff Barrington who teaches at Asbury University, (Dr.) Michael Black who teaches at Franklin College, (Dr.) Rui Li who plays with Centre for Performing Arts Orchestra in Beijing China, (Dr.) Stacy Simpson who teaches at Bellarmine University, (Dr.) Chase Hawkins who is principal trumpet of the Knoxville Symphony, Sabrina Musick who plays with the U.S. Marine Band in San Diego, and countless others who are important music educators or in top graduate schools throughout the United States. Also, Kyle Williams won the first season of NBC’s Songland and has now written music that has been featured on major motion pictures and soundtracks.

SC: I personally know a few of these great trumpeters! As I mentioned before, you have many years ahead of you. What are some of your goals over the next five or ten years?

JD: For starters, I’d like to do all of the things that have been cancelled in the past 11 months!

The early music group Sonitus Clarissima (L-to-R: Josh Smith, Jared Wallis, Chase Hawkins, John Foster, Jason Dovel, Jenna Veverka, Don Johnson, III) Photo taken at their CD recording session at the Chapel of the Loretto Motherhouse

I want to do more recordings and performances with my early music group, Sonitus Clarissima. I want to do more tours with Quintasonic Brass.

I have some specific goals at the University of Kentucky. I want to earn the rank of “Full Professor” (From “Associate Professor”) at UK. I want to establish more recurring study abroad opportunities for the music students at UK. I want to get more trumpet teaching assistantships funded at UK and expand scholarship opportunities (pipe dreams).

Trumpet section for the Charlottesville Opera Orchestra in Virginia; Jason Dovel, Jason Crafton, Nick Harvey

 

I also look forward to my regular summer activities, such as playing trumpet with Charlottesville Opera and hosting the UK Summer Trumpet Institute.

 

 

SC: Tell me about your family and what you like to do in your “off” time.

JD: My wife is a soprano and conductor who teaches at a private school in Lexington. When I’m not making music, I love to exercise and eat. (I’m hoping the former allows me to do more of the latter.) I also love all things technology-related, and during the pandemic started taking online coding classes.

SC: Jason, it was so good to chat with you. Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer these questions. I’m looking forward to many more collaborations with you in the future!

JD: Thanks so much, Stan! I always enjoy reading your blog and am honored to be included in this week’s post. I hope to see you in person soon!

UK Trumpet Studio (2019-2020)

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My own trumpet journey continues into graduate school

With this article, I am continuing the story of how I became a player.

I eventually graduated from the University of School of Music and wanted to go to graduate school. Nothing against the , but it felt provincial to me, and I needed to “go big.” I needed to GO somewhere else.

My dad, who had played a big part in keeping me on the right track with my music, was a true Southerner. He tried to get me to go to in Tallahassee, Florida. I think he also wanted to visit me on the way to the beach! I auditioned there, but I really wanted to improve my orchestral playing. Florida State and (the trumpet professor at Florida State at that time) didn’t seem to offer that skill as much as I was hoping for, so I decided against FSU. Sorry, Dad–no beach trips while visiting me there!

I had also auditioned at Eastman to study with Barbara Butler or , but that audition didn’t go quite well enough. I don’t think Prof. Butler was impressed with my jury-rigged E-flat trumpet made from an Olds Ambassador–or my insecure playing on it.

A later photo of me on tour in Florida with the U.S. . Bernie Adelstein and his wife Connie came out to hear us.

But I also auditioned at the Cleveland Institute of Music. I found a great connection with Bernie Adelstein, who taught there and was the principal trumpet at the (the two other teachers at that time were James Darling and David Zauder). Moreover, I had an older trumpet friend from Alabama who had already gone to CIM, studied with Bernie, and then won an orchestra job. His name was John Drissel. Really, it’s those personal connections that make the most difference in one’s life. Mr. Adelstein liked the fact that I had good grades (why? I don’t know! He was a very un-academic trumpeter!). He offered me a modest scholarship to go to CIM and my parents gave me the green light, so I went to CIM.

At CIM, I met some great fellow students, including Geoff Hardcastle (now in the Buffalo Philharmonic), Greg Gilmore, Richard Bailey and Ryan Anthony (who became quite famous as a member of the Canadian Brass and principal of the Dallas Symphony). Geoff, a very humorous friend, was a former student of Jimmy Stamp. Listening to his mouthpiece warmup really impressed me and changed my approach and, later, my tone forever.

Of course, I was also impressed with Ryan. But I’m not sure his playing really influenced my own, because it was so natural and of such a high quality, that I didn’t know how to play like him. I am sure a lot of other thought the same way about Ryan’s playing.

The focus on orchestral playing there was terrific. We had about three concerts per semester, but the seating in the trumpet section was never permanent for the semester. For each concert, Mr. Adelstein and the school conductor, Carl Topilow, would audition the trumpets. The winner got to play principal for the plum literature, and the runner-up got to play first on the . It was very motivating!

By the time I was ready to graduate from CIM, Ryan and Geoff had just locked up all of the gigs in the Cleveland area (like the Akron Symphony and the Canton Symphony). There wasn’t much for me to do in the area. I was not looking forward to going back to Alabama with no future prospects.

Around the same time, Bernie Adelstein decided to retire from the Cleveland Orchestra. He was offered a teaching position at , one of the best and biggest schools of music in the world. Toward the end of my studies at CIM, he sat me down and asked if I would consider being his teaching assistant there. That was destiny. I didn’t see that coming, but I realized what a great opportunity it was, so I immediately accepted.

Another step up on my trumpet ladder.

 

 

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