About 5 years ago, I was watching The Voice, or America’s Got Talent, something like that. I made some sort of critique, and my wife…in her Long Island, New York accent with her tough girl look, said to me and deadpanned – “what the fuck do you know about music”.
To which I replied…”I was voted most musical in high school”, and in my mind, did a metaphorical mic drop. She was like…”oh…yeah. Forgot about that”.
I loved playing the trumpet. I hated marching band, but it was a requirement to play in the band. Our school was no joke either in the music department. We’ve had some people go on to some really good success. Some other highlights…
- Band of 130+ members, 17 trumpets alone when I was there
- Every other year, we’d play in a big national/international event and wipe everyone’s asses up. In 9th grade, we went to Toronto and kicked some ass
- Our travelling “stage band” always won events with Outstanding awards.
- I got to play solos in Vet stadium in Philly and lead the band down the center of Disneyworld.
- Every year during our memorial parades, I would play taps at the cemeteries. While I did not have a personal connection to anyone there, I did have deep respect for this task and carried it out with a feeling of great responsibility.
So now that I qualified this, I was first chair in our band from mid 10th grade on. I made counties and failed miserably at districts. So many things I learned later I wish I could have applied to then. My failure was Haydn’s Concerto in E Flat. To this day, it’s on my top list of favorite classical songs. I did some of it extremely well as I did have some high range. Some of it I just couldn’t seem to get the 16th notes right. Here is Winton Marsalis playing the Finale, so you can see it’s a little tough. My favorite version of that song is done by someone named Rolf Smedvig. I used to own his DVD with this on it and I must have worn the damn thing out.
In high school, I loved to play the trumpet, but I also had no interest in a musical career. I did have some interest in maybe following one of my band mates to the Penn State Blue band, but I wanted to be an FBI agent – so I was looking into Criminal Justice. My options were mostly West Chester, York College, and Indiana University of PA (IUP). While IUP and West Chester had superior music programs, York College had a serious criminal justice program and was closer than IUP. So I went to York College and played in their orchestra for 4 years, then played in it during grad school for a bit. A few years after college, I was briefly in touch with my HS music director who cut me a CD of my last HS performance. They used to record all of these. Here are my samples…
- Star Trek – about 4:00 in..remember, we had 17 trumpets and our French horns had some struggles with this, but I liked my solo performance.
- Whole New World – any time you hear a solo trumpet in this, it’s me. First is about 0:33 in…and then a few times in the song…
- Jurassic Park – this was a new movie at that point…23 years ago. While I didn’t solo in this, I was playing some of this an octave above where it was written at about 1:50 in…
- March 1 – I have no idea what this was called lol. No solo in this, but it just shows how our marching band had some chops.
- March 2 – What I like about this was a weird time change for a few measures, almost like a West Side Story…you can hear me in this for about 30 seconds at 1:50 in
- March 3 – I did have a small solo in this…about 1:15 in
Also, if you or anyone you know go to York College, I played in the first performance ever of the MAC center they have there, now called Wolf Hall I think. The library has this recording, so I’m forever there too!
Where am I going with this?
I love music, and feel it in a certain way. It was so impactful to me, that the only thing I really fought for with the wedding was a string trio to play for us. They played outside for us doing the processional, then played during cocktail hour. I insisted on them playing “moonlight sonata”. My father passed in 2005 – he used to play the beginning of that on the piano for me as a small child. So, in a way, it was the best way for him to be part of my wedding. These are a snippet of my wedding pics courtesy of our awesome photographers at Lighthouse Studios.
When you get married, get carried away with grad school, work, long commutes, kids – you sometimes put things you love to do on the back burner. I would love to play my trumpet again, but around the age of 27 or so I had to sell due to some really hard times. I don’t see myself trying to be crazy with the Haydn concerto, but I do really want to play some songs I discovered later in life.
This might be my top one, which has so many different covers and artists that it sounds entirely different depending who’s doing it.
Nature Boy – This is by John Hassel and I heard it in the movie “Angel Eyes”. This is my style, my wheelhouse, and I could have kicked its ass all over the place in HS. This is my speed. Give me a little so bluesy type of feel, I’m good.
MacArthur Park – This is a favorite of mine by Maynard Ferguson, but I didn’t discover it until well after I got rid of my trumpet. 2:30 in might be one of my favorite parts. I did have some high chops – I could play had high C/D/E at times, once getting to F/G. This guy has some serious, serious, serious chops. He’s the guy who did the rocky theme. Remember, when I was in HS, there was no such thing as the internet. I just thought this guy died in the 50’s or something. I was saddened to hear he only died a few years ago. I first heard of him with a song in 10th grade called “Lion Heart”, to be played by our then first chair in the first half of 10th grade (he was a senior). I have looked this up on the internet and I can’t seem to find it anywhere, but it was beautiful.
If I had to do it all over again….
- I would focus more on embouchure more and more and more and more. I liked playing music, not the exercises. I didn’t really learn much about this until later in my playing career
- I would have focused forever on double and triple tonguing. While I finally kinda sorta figured out triple tonguing near the end of my playing days, it still wasn’t as fast as I’d wished. This probably should have been taught in middle school instead of 11th-12th grade. Tu-tu-ku and ta-ta-ka….but tu-ku-tu-ku and ta-ka-ta-ka were extremely difficult for me.
One big problem I also had was that I’m left handed. My fingers on my left hand are far quicker than the fingers on my right hand. By a long shot. This made it also slightly more difficult to get through fast runs. My speed was mellow, slow, and passionate – I had great tone, it was my “wheelhouse”.
Anyway, I finished my grad school up and while I’ve been on my fitness journey and listening to music all the time working out, it really also is begging me to pick up a trumpet and bang out a few hours of soul to heal my innards. I don’t know what it was about playing trumpet back in the day, but I didn’t play in the band for anyone else but me. I shied away from crowds. I got nervous when playing solos. When I would hear the sweet songs that came out of it, it made me feel “whole”. I just never gave two shits if anyone else ever heard it. I think I’m going to buy one again soon…
Be forewarned. If you have a kid in3rd or 4th grade and you’re going to start them on trumpet, but the cheap one. However, by about 7th/8th grade, you want to then upgrade. It was mid 9th grade before my mom went out and got me a bach stradavarius silver trumpet. In 9th grade, I was new to my school and was 16th chair out of 17. After getting my silver stradavarius, I then made it onto the stage band…which was the top 6 trumpets. I was 6th chair on that. By first week of 10th grade, I was 2nd chair in both band and stage band. The instrument helped, but I was also in a kick ass music program.
Piano. This is something I wish I could play. I have tried to self teach over the years, and I can play some really simple stuff. But I’m used to the melody with trumpet, so adding the harmony with chords with the left hand is a little daunting. I also have no time, so once in a blue moon, I pop out the keyboard and try to learn a little more. I just don’t have 30-60 mins a day to dedicate to it. Why? Well, maybe when I retire I will learn to play. I was inspired by some of Chopin, but mostly Moonlight Sonata. The third movement gets nuts, but there’s a mathematical aspect to this I feel but cannot describe. Around 8:00 or so in it starts getting nuts and hitting me right where the math aspect of my brain resides. I’m just drawn to it!! However, I’ll never be able to play it…but one reason I wanted to learn the piano.
I’m mostly focused these days on my fitness, but I’ll tell you…music is good for the soul, and I promised myself I will get back to it someday. 6 years of grad school and long ass commutes and 10 IT certifications has you putting a lot of your life on hold for 10 years. 10 years. I really owe it to myself to make sure I can get back to the trumpet within a few months.