Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Ultimate Trumpet Teacher

Are great trumpet players born, or do they acquire their skills? If so, where? What city, what school, and who are their teachers? What is the magic formula, the secret button, or the special equipment? How does fame happen?

Maybe it's the environment. It is said that being around greatness breeds greatness, and skills can be absorbed by osmosis. Take enough lessons, attend enough concerts, and travel to every brass conference, and then maybe it will all come together. Or, I know. It must be intense and careful listening that eventually sends fabulous notes soaring out the bell. Or is it the incredible amounts of practicing? Is it all or non of the above? Either talent is there or it isn't. Which is it?

My high school guidance counselor suggested that I ask my trumpet teacher if he thought I should go into music, and if I was good enough to pursue it. The reply from my teacher, "You go tell your guidance counselor that nobody can determine that. It is up to you how much you want to make of it. And further more, he said, it's not where you go (to college), but how inspired you are to work hard.

Wherever you go, there you are. You take your abilities, dreams, and determination with you. The best university music department cannot guarantee your success. And the loneliest uninspiring location cannot hold back one who is bent on developing great musical instincts. So the externals can prompt and stir creative juices, but it is that which lies within that determines our course.

When it comes right down to identifying the greatest influence on our musical journey, it is the player himself who must ultimately be his own best teacher. There are only so many hours of lessons one can take. Teachers can only hold our hands for so long, and then we are left to ourselves. The hours we spend alone with the trumpet far exceed all other stimuli. The successful player is the one who soon learns to instruct himself, and who is able to maintain his motivation. The training wheels are eventually removed, and we must confidently ride alone. Some learn this quickly. Others catch on in time, but some never learn.

The good news is in recalling all the instructions we've received and the wealth of how-to information available. Vacchiano used to say, "Nowadays we trumpet players know too much to make a mistake." Our job is to put to practice all we've learned, and begin to implement it into our playing.

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