August 10, 2010

Trumpet Summit

Yesterday evening, an obscene number of Utah (as well as one Idaho and one Alaska) trumpet players convened in Libby Gardner Hall for some performance, ensemble playing, and socialization. With so many giant egos in one room it's a wonder we didn't blow the place up!

The catalyzing event that brought us all together was the temporary visit of Rich McMaster. He is a Utah native who attended the University of Utah for a few years before going off and joining the Air Force Band. He's now stationed in Anchorage Alaska and seemingly having a great time tooting his horn and, with his wife, raising three young daughters. The Air force paid for him to come to Salt Lake for a week and take a few lessons with Nick Norton, and before he was to take off back to the frozen north, we all got together to catch up and play some trumpet.

I remember when I was a freshman at the U and first met Rich. We played in the Philharmonia, Wind Symphony, and Marching Bands together and very soon after the school year began, Rich and I started playing duets nearly every day. Rich was a few years my senior and a substantially better player technically. As I was just learning to transpose and otherwise play at a much higher level, playing with Rich REALLY pushed me to learn quickly. He would say stuff like, "Ok, let's play this Vizzutti etude in canon...and transpose it into E flat...and let's do it fast!" Those duet sessions really made me sweat, but I had a great time as well!

In my opinion, playing duets is one of the most effective ways to improve and learn. While reading through music, two players can usually keep each other going through the rough spots...if one person screws something up, it's likely that the other guy (or girl) is still playing, so together you push each other to read well and respond quickly. It is also a great way to improve your listening skills as learning to precisely match the sound and style of the other player hones the ear's ability to turn on and tune in to something other than what's coming out of your own bell. In my case, having a much more polished player to listen to and keep up with on a regular basis was a huge benefit, and I felt that between the excellent lessons I got from Nick, the great new ensembles I was playing in, and Rich's and my daily duet sessions, I made more improvement that first year than perhaps at any other time before or since. I hadn't seen Rich in...well, probably about 8 years...maybe more, and it was great fun to sit next to him in a section again!

At the start of the "Summit", we played a quartet version (5 or or 6 players on each of the 4 parts) of the "Triumphal March" from Aida, conducted by another great trumpeter/director of bands at the U of U, Scott Hagan. Rich then got up to play a solo and answer questions about his life in the Air Force Band. Following Rich's performance, we played another large ensemble piece, and then I got up to perform the Charlier #6: one of the etudes that will be required for my placement audition at Northwestern. I didn't play flawlessly, but overall I was quite pleased. My only problems were a couple of mental transposition hiccups after which I kept right on going as if nothing had happened (which is a VERY good thing!..especially for me). Overall I played musically and got through the tricky parts well. It may have in fact been my best performance of the piece so far.

For the rest of the time we played a few more ensemble pieces, some great Baroque standards that Nick conducted (and on which we were joined by a timpanist), and finished off with a version of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy". One of the highlights for me was a rousing attempt at "Bugler's Holiday" on which I played the bottom hand of the piano part while Sereta Hart, a doctoral student at the U and a great local trumpeter, played the top hand. We were accompanied (Ha!) by a whole roomful of double-tounguing trumpeters and more or less made it through with only a few bumps and bruises:)

Afterwards, Nick invited the lot of us over for pizza and drinks at his home. It was all in all an excellent time. Who'd have thought a bunch of trumpeters could get along so well!?


  1. Cool! Matt's band is getting a trumpet player from Alaska in a couple of months. I think it's his replacement for when we go to Germany. It's a guy named Sam, though, not Rich. I'm sure he and Rich will cross paths one day, if they haven't already!

  2. Hi - I'm Lindsay Kite, the PR person for the School of Music at the U. I was going to do a post about the Trumpet Summit and found this blog post. It's great! Is it OK if I link to it from the SoM facebook page?