John Fumo: “Etudes Will Show Your Weaknesses and Help You Understand Music Making as Well”

He has participated in two Grammy award-winning recordings, has performed with such artists as Neil Diamond, Neil Young, James Brown, Bon Jovi, Whitney Houston, and his trumpet can be heard in a number of movie soundtracks. Today he teaches at CalArts and is a Yamaha Performing Artist. Ladies and gentlemen, John Fumo.
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Where do you come from? That is, we would like to know 1) where you grew up as a trumpeter, 2) who were your most important teachers, and 3) what your professional and pedagogical trajectory has been until today.

Studied with: Alex Sabo, John Hemkes (Kenosha, Wisconsin); Robert Nagel (New England Conservatory of Music, Boston, Massachusetts); James Stamp, Stu Blumberg (Los Angeles). Beginning with the Arban’s book (the whole book!), Clarke’s Technical Studies & Characteristic Studies, etudes of all kinds (I love etudes). Jamey Aebersold Camps 1973-74. List of credits in Los Angeles are varied and extensive, from James Brown to Neil Diamond, Lady Gaga, film and TV scores, recordings, plus over 50 Broadway shows in Los Angeles. Teaching jazz and commercial trumpet since 2000 at CalArts and University of Southern California, in LA.

Every trumpeter has his methodological preferences. What type of exercises or methods do you emphasize when practicing and teaching, and why?

Solid warm up & routine that covers the whole horn, from loud to soft, high to low, multiple and single tonguing, plus lip slurs. I like etudes for teaching because most good books go thru all 12 keys, they will show your weaknesses and help you understand music making as well.

Could you tell us what your daily trumpet routine consists of?

A good 15-20 minute warm up & routine I wrote for myself. Then I am off to play a gig or record at home. Sometimes I will read thru top tones etudes or jazz licks I developed in all 12 keys.

What brands of trumpets and mouthpieces do you use? Do you use them for any particular reason?

I endorse Yamaha trumpets as a Yamaha Artist. I play custom GR Mouthpieces. GR made life as a trumpet player way easier for me!

Do you use any equipment that is beyond what we would consider normal? (E.G. a Delrin top, bent mouthpiece, bent trumpet receiver, different bell configuration, etc.)


Where can a student, that would like to study with you, find you? Where do you teach?

I have a home studio in Los Angeles, California — I do some teaching there. And I teach at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia.

What can a student expect from you? And what do you expect from the student?

I am able to understand a student’s needs quickly and help them to overcome weak areas — be it classical, jazz, commercial styles or lead playing. A great student comes in and loves music and the challenge of playing it with ease.

In your experience, what is the one common problem young players have today?

Most young players need a solid foundation on the horn, a classical approach, good intonation and sound, proper tonguing technique and no stress while playing.

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