Friday, January 28, 2022

Only 1 Lesson!

Sometimes it only takes one lesson to make a lasting impact. 

In 1974 John Ware played a two-octave scale up and down for me. That was all I needed to hear. But it was the way he did it, starting pianissimo with a crescendo to fortissimo, and returning to pianissimo. Or it can be done with the reverse dynamics with a variety of articulations. Really quiet and really loud, without forcing or pinching. Always with a fabulous tone! 

The rest of that lesson was inspirational for sure, but the details have been forgotten. What I remember today however, is the ease and finesse with which he released a superior sound!

Lesson 2 was watching him play first on the Planets in the Philharmonic. It was the same thing: power and finesse all in one player! Articulations exploded out the bell. We heard exciting dominating trumpet playing from a rather small, mild-mannered gentleman. 

Of course, who cannot be amazed at the beauty of his Posthorn Solo in Mahler 3! His gorgeous playing still rings in my mind every time that excerpt comes up. He said very little that day, but his playing said everything I needed to hear!  

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Overcoming the Nerve Monster

Great news! The NERVE MONSTER is not invincible! The dreaded adversary can be overcome or rendered ineffective and no longer a dangerous opponent.  How great would that be!

To be able to resist the onslaught of nerves requires a strengthening of your message. There should be no enslavement to crippling bouts of fright every time you take the stage! 

For this to happen, something more powerful than fear must take control. When it does, a successful performance or audition could actually happen. How great would that be!  

A public speaker who was known for his effective speaking before large crowds once admitted that were it not for one thing, he would be a nervous wreck every time he approached the podium. Nervousness was an admitted obstacle until he remembered why he was there!  

So, what turns hesitancy into confidence, fear into boldness? Answer: a total focus on your message! 

When there's much to share, there's no room for self-consciousness. An effective performer concentrates on his music, not on himself. Confidence comes from a sustained passion to deliver a great product. The audience pays to hear the music, not your attempt at an error-free zone. Plunge into the drama and avoid the trauma. How great will that be!



Wednesday, January 12, 2022


Stop! Hold on! Slow down and listen! You need to play the Floating Fermata Game!

Imagine a fermata hovering over each line of your music as you play. It dances freely until it stops suddenly over one of your notes that needs your attention. It says, "There, hear that? Now fix it!" 

There's no point in ignoring the floating fermata. It's very sensitive and easily provoked. Any of the following will set it off:

  • Intonation violations
  • Quality malfunctions
  • Legato offenses 
  • Final-note sloppiness
  • Blundered entrances, etc.
The floating fermata is your best teacher!  

Tuesday, December 28, 2021


"You are spraying the air with thousands of notes of highly questionable value!" (Mel Broiles)
  • Quality beats quantity.
  • Quality wins jobs.
  • A few minutes of gorgeous playing is better than a whole hour of mediocre blasting. 
  • Big bucks for good notes. Big fines for bad notes. 
  • Ensure that all notes are "usable."

Monday, December 13, 2021


As a junior in high school, I was super excited about my first lesson with William Vacchiano. On my new C trumpet, I had prepared #6, molto veloce, from Caffarelli's Etudes de Perfectionnement. The lesson that day was not at all what I expected, but one that I will never forget. 

After a rambunctious charge through my etude, I expected a smile or a nod of approval. Instead, there was no response. He told me to open my Arban book to page 125. It is one of those boring pages of staccato interval studies. Taking his pencil, he deliberately tapped a dreadfully slow tempo, and had me play line 1. I must have missed a third of the notes! Pathetic!

After several of my nervous attempts, he said: "Go home and practice; don't come back until you can play this correctly."

  • Humiliation can be the very experience needed to spark improvement.
  • Confronting weaknesses is vital.
  • Appreciate the value of a single lesson.
  • Prepare for performance.
  • Practice accuracy.
  • The control of a single note can be harder than a whole page.  
  • Practice what's not fun.
Note: I did return for my second lesson two weeks later.  His one-sentence lesson had been echoing in my mind for two weeks, and there was no way I was going to get that same lesson again. 

Nailed it!  

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Eyes on the Carrot

What should the serious trumpet student have in common with a rabbit, a mouse, and a fish? 

Answer: HUNGER. The rabbit is drawn to the carrot. The mouse is lured by the cheese, and the fish is hooked by the worm. Consider also the bull, who is enticed into a wild frenzy by the matador's crimson cape! That's the picture, an obsession to be captured by music! 

Great musicians motivate great students.  

Saturday, July 31, 2021


"Would you mind playing that again, please?"

Thomas Schippers asked that question in the Cincinnati trumpet audition in 1975. It was after one of those long grinding excerpts from Ein Heldenleben. I was a bit puzzled, thinking that I had just nailed it successfully. Later I learned that he was testing for endurance. 

At Tanglewood one summer we heard it again. Roger Voisin was conducting us on Fanfare for the Common Man. Right before we began the performance, he said "all right, boys, we're going to play it twice." (GULP!) Fortunately, we only played it once. He then smiled as if to say, "just testing you, guys." 

Lesson: Once is not enough, even if it's good.