An aspiring jazz trumpet player's blog about jazz improvisation and ear training.

January 11, 2004 About Me 0 Comments

My playing history - the beginning


My trumpet-playing journey began when I was in the 6th grade (1984), where after a brief introduction to the various band instruments I chose to play the French horn. Yes, the French horn. By the end of that first school year, I had learned everything I needed to know about the French horn: it's boring.

Not willing to be a background player for the rest of my band-life, I decided to switch to trumpet. Using a Rubank trumpet book, I taught myself the fingerings and practiced the same exercises I had played the preceding school year on the French horn. By the end of the summer I was as good on the trumpet as I had been on the French horn, so I started 7th grade in the next level band class. I soon began moving up in chairs and started to take private lessons that same year.

While in 8th grade, I auditioned for Florida's all-state band and was accepted. I'd continue to make all-state throughout high school, but that first year probably had the greatest impact on my playing. The pivotal moment occurred while watching the top high school band perform. They sounded incredible to me at the time, especially the trumpet section and trumpet soloists. I honestly had no idea high school kids could play so well and I certainly didn't think I could ever be that good. Inspired by the high school players, I endeavored to see just how good I could become. And with that, I increased my daily practice time to one hour.

I kept up my 1-hour practice routine during my first year of high school, but by my sophomore year I was beginning to get frustrated. Sure, I had continued to make all-state band, but at all-state and at my own school, I was always behind the same handful of players. No matter how much my playing improved, theirs improved at the same rate or better. While I enjoyed playing the trumpet and to some extent would have enjoyed playing any part, I was dying to play first trumpet. I should explain to my non-trumpet playing readers that first trumpet is the heart of the action in high school band. It's a magical wonderland filled with triumphant high notes, dazzling solos, and instant popularity. In fact, it's just like being the star quarterback on the varsity football team. Sadly, high school cheerleaders are oblivious to this truth... Anyway, the point is that I really wanted to play the first trumpet part but there were always better players at my school.

Things started to turn around for me toward the end of my sophomore year, however, when my parents and I went to visit some old friends of theirs. At their house, I met their son who was then in his late twenties. He had also played the trumpet when he was in high school, but he wasn't stuck in the middle of the section like I was. He was first chair. Before long, we were talking about my situation in band. After telling him that I'd never be first chair because of the better players at my school, he looked at me and said, "why not?" And that was all he needed to say. The only thing holding me back was my lack of determination.

By the end of my sophomore year I had increased my daily practice routine to two hours, and managed to rise above one of the players in the "unbeatable" group. Now confident that I could actually make it to first chair, I spent the summer practicing nearly 3 hours every day. And guess what? During the first playing test of my junior year of high school I made first chair. Not only had I become better than all of the trumpet players at or below my age level, but I had also become better than all of the seniors!

I stopped taking lessons during my senior year of high school because my private lessons teacher moved out of state. But by that time I was practicing at least 3 hours a day, so I was steadily improving on my own. I was improving so much that when all-state auditions came around, I tried out for all-state jazz band and was accepted -- and we didn't even have a jazz band at my high school. Needless to say, I was feeling pretty good about my potential as a professional trumpet player at the time. Unfortunately, those good times would soon come to an end...

On to chapter 2... the big blowout

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