Wednesday, February 07, 2024


The next time you play, consider that you are entering your own personal mistake-free zone! Consequently, all sloppy boring playing will automatically be transformed into a flawlessly stunning performance, even as you warm up. Wouldn't that be nice!   

Upon entering your zone, you have become King Midas turning every phrase into pure gold! Out of your trumpet bell proceeds accuracy and amazing musicianship. Not a single note is tarnished.

Instead of panic, fear, and hesitation, you are confidently playing with finesse and style. The trumpet is now singing like a famous opera diva. 

"Our passion for playing beautifully must exceed our fear of missed notes." A fantasy? No. This mindset of artistry plus accuracy is key to a mistake-free and boring-free zone. Admittedly this is NOT possible but is a worthy pursuit that replaces uninspired drudgery with a new challenge.  

As one maestro charged us just before the concert, "Your performance tonight must be ravishing!"  

Note: I see this mindset also in light of a scriptural perspective. Speaking of the future city in Revelation 21 it says, "But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb's book of life."

In Matthew 6 it also says, ". . . lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."




Thursday, January 11, 2024


"Why don't you play like a great musician, and NOT like an average trumpet player?" 

That was the one-sentence lesson, rather blunt and probably offensive, but in the end, very helpful. Often, what's needed most is a shocking jolt of reality, rather than repeated flattery. 

Sounding great starts well before the first note of the day. A strong musical concept must motivate every phrase. Today's determination: nothing is going to sound bad! It's all going to be good, right?

A great musician warms up like everyone else, except that he/she always sounds amazing! Etudes, recitals, solos and excerpts likewise. It's not up to luck, however. The great sound is the result of an obsessive striving for control and style. There must be a daily pursuit of a great sound.   

Mediocrity is a terrible goal. No one pays to listen to average boring playing ever. Great musicianship matters in the practice room. Great musicianship is expected on the stage and demanded by the audience. 


Tuesday, April 18, 2023


For sure, the professional trumpet player needs to be as aggressive as a highly paid NFL running back. Being able to heroically bulldoze over the rest of the orchestra is not enough, however. The opposite is also required. It can be even more challenging to gracefully tiptoe through the daisies!  

The well-placed bunt is as important as the grand slam. The gentle lob over the net is as effective as the powerful ace. The three-foot putt is as vital as the long drive. We shouldn't focus on power at the expense of finesse.  

The orchestral works of Mahler require not only great strength but gentle lyric skill. The same is true for Strauss's Zarathustra and Don Juan, Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra, Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, Stravinsky's Petroushka, you name it. 

Agenda: pp 

Softspoken finesse is as valuable as a shout from the housetop!

Friday, February 17, 2023


Our one-sentence lesson came quite unexpectedly at Tanglewood one summer as we were all set to perform Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man. The occasion was Tanglewood on Parade, and in the audience were many well-known music icons. The pressure was on us big time!

The great Roger Voisin was conducting us as we awaited our moment in the spotlight. Leonard Bernstein and his entourage were finding their places in the box seats. Next, we heard from our maestro, "Ok, boys, we're going to play it twice."

We tried to hide our panic and quickly steady our breathing. We made our way through the fanfare heroically yet very carefully. Then, as we were catching our breath and trying to restart our embouchures for the second time, Mr. Voisin slyly smiled and whispered, "That'll be all, boys. Good job." 

Lesson: plan to play everything twice. Live for the next moment, the next piece, the next day. Accuracy and drama for sure, but without wasting precious energy. 

Saturday, February 04, 2023


My wife and I were students at the Cleveland Institute of Music, and the orchestra had just finished an amazing performance of Mahler 5. All of us were walking on air, ready to take on the musical world. It was a great concert! No nerves, no fear, just genuine enthusiasm. We had just conquered the great Mahler Fifth Symphony! Life was good indeed! 
But then came that one-sentence lesson I had not expected and which I have not forgotten. The principal horn of the Cleveland Orchestra stopped me backstage and said, "having a good sound is not enough, you know!" 

I shrugged and tried to dismiss that comment, but he was right. Soon enough we all learn that our strengths alone won't carry us very far. Weaknesses must become strengths. A one-trick trumpet player won't last long. We need a whole bag of tricks. 

In addition to a pleasing sound, we need a great sense of rhythm, unobjectionable intonation, outstanding musical instincts, and not least of all, a generous portion of people skills!

Our best lessons are often unexpected and unwelcomed.


Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Job-winning skill #1

Job-winning skill #1. GREAT RHYTHM!

The good news is that a beautiful tone is not required for this skill. Neither is stunning dynamic control, perfect intonation, or sensitive phrasing. In fact, you don't even need your trumpet! You just need to develop the unshakable skill of rock-solid timing.

When under pressure, this is often one of the first strikes against us. While concentrating on accuracy, we quickly forget about timing. Or while focusing on tone, we rush and slow down unintentionally. 

One dreaded comment from the audition committee: "We would have advanced you were it not for your poor rhythm." Superior tone, phrasing, intonation, and articulation are useless without a steady pulse. 

Since our instrument is not needed to develop this skill, we can work on this anywhere. This should be a fun game. We learn to quickly nail every tempo, maintaining rhythmic consistency under the steady hand of our professor, the metronome.  

Again, we don't need to be in the practice room to perfect this skill. When our rhythm is solid, it is ready for music-making. Rhythmic security should be automatic. 

Don't let the trumpet rob you of being able to demonstrate great rhythm.  

Friday, October 14, 2022

Your best lesson!

Your best lesson should not cost you anything! No travel expenses, no fees! All you need is your undivided attention, your music, and some great recordings!

Analysis, instructions, and detailed strategies are fine, but the best learning happens when we just listen. Sit down with your music, listen, and pay close attention to what you are hearing. Then copy that!

A trumpet colleague of mine in the CSO used to have the three-choir Gabrielli recording playing as his students arrived for their lessons. He simply said, "now play like that!"

Don't sound like a student! How well we play is a reflection of how carefully we listen.