Monday, June 05, 2006

Graduation! Now what?

Four years of school are over, just like that! Congratulations! You can't believe you finished the whole thing! Four years of the treadmill on high speed, and suddenly somebody pulls the plug. You know it is the finish line, but still it comes as a shock. At first you feel relief, and then probably a dozen other emotions race through your soul non-stop. I won't try to articulate them. You know what they are for you. I remember that mine went from celebrate to cry and everything in between many times over. At first were the up times, parties, etc. But then the seriousness of the next chapter began quickly to settle in. No sooner had the school door slammed shut almost in my face, and immediately the next reality approached. And reality usually comes in the fast lane. So now what?

Even for the most on-fire of you grads, I would suggest taking some serious time off the horn! You won't lose your purpose. In fact, you probably will come back even stronger, more determined, and focused than you are just now. Put the trumpet in it's nice little case that it has, and take a vacation. The extent of the musical responsibilities you have looming will determine the length of your visit elsewhere. But for now, go elsewhere senza tromba and relax. You've earned it. Congratulations!

Note #1: My dad told me after graduation from high school, "Phil, have a good time, but don't forget where you're going." In other words, don't be stupid. Keep your purpose in mind. That advice still keeps me out of a lot of trouble.

Note #2: Whatever those emotions are that are surfacing after the enormous pressures you've whethered, don't stuff them. Take this time to reflect, be grateful for how far you've come, express thankfulness where needed, have a good cry, and then be happy. You are going to have a career doing what you have always loved! Keep it that way. It's hard to be a grumpy musician and have your colleagues and your audience like your work. It is possible I suppose, but it is not easy that way.

I have a bunch of ideas for when you return to your trumpet case. But that's for another day. For now, go. I said GO! And congratulations!!!

Friday, June 02, 2006

"Locked and loaded"

Keep your ears open for lessons you can learn! They won't cost you anything. They are out there floating around during your day. But you have to look and listen for them. It could be a word, a phrase, a sound, a picture, a bus, taxi, even a truck driver! I like "the truck driver with a lobotomy" sitting up there on his air horn with absolutely no fear! Sometimes, and I say sometimes, that is the exact image we need!

Lately I heard a repeated phrase that finally caught my attention. Describing someone's playing a friend of mine said, "when he plays it locks in, solid." I like those words "locked in". Another one of my favorites is "it's automatic". There is no way that player is going to miss. "Nail-it" mentality, killer instinct, fixed on the target . . . you get the picture. It's Zarathustra on demand.

I remember hearing Mel Broiles play with such powerfully precise articulation that it made you blink and even wince. Each note had a point on it, yet it didn't offend, (unless he wanted it to). As a young student of his, I used to draw pictures of what his sound looked like! My tablet was full of gleaming knife blades flying out of his bell. He was also able to turn the most beautiful legato phrase, probably due largely to all the great singers he heard every day at the Met.

You probably can recall several instances that got your attention today. Can you translate them into practical lessons for your playing/teaching? Our skills are more useful when they are propelled by a message, an image, a story, or a situation. Describe something with your trumpet playing. Start with the composer's wishes. Now you take over and make it your message.

Why not go on a mission to lock and load for every attack! Blow each first attack out of the room, like a ball player first swings two bats. This might be good therapy for tentative, insecure articulation. Think knife blades, lazar tongue, pound-it city! (Now don't obsess on this! Remember moderation and balance.) Load up that thing and fire away!