What first drew you to the trumpet and when did you realize that trumpet playing was what you wanted to do professionally?
I began playing when I was 10 years old and knew I wanted to play professionally when I heard the St. Louis Symphony (Missouri, USA) play Mahler #5 when I was 18.
Where have you studied and who were your teachers?
My main trumpet teachers were Sidney Mear at the Eastman School of Music and James Stamp in Los Angeles; my main composition teachers were Don Freund at the University of Memphis and Sam Adler at Eastman.
What was your first full time professional job as a trumpet player and how did you get it?
My first full time job was teaching trumpet and music theory at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (1976-1980). I sent a resumé and was invited to interview and play an audition.
Which musicians, teachers, conductors or trumpet players have influenced and taught you the most?
Don Freund (now Professor of Composition at Indiana University), James Stamp and Thomas Stevens (former Principal Trumpet with Los Angeles Philharmonic and new music expert).
What is your daily practice routine?
Mostly Stamp exercises, sometimes James Thompson buzzing and/or my own Symmetrical Studies.
You spend a lot of time on the road performing and teaching. What do you do to stay in shape?
See #1 above. If I’m driving, I do Thompson buzzing in the car.
How important do you consider a rest or break when you are practicing?
Hugely important! I always should have done more resting and spaced out practicing over several hours. Because I didn’t, I now HAVE to take time away from the trumpet for my lips to recover from damage.
How do you approach a new piece?
Slowly! Read the composer’s markings carefully.
What is your approach to teaching your students?
Center pitch, play perfect rhythm, breathe in-tempo (a la Stamp); otherwise, most technical/physical issues can be solved by focusing on the music itself, so that we don’t struggle against the composer’s intentions.
Do you consider it important to combine more than one genre in your studies such as jazz and natural trumpet?
Yes. I played in a lot of big bands and shows when I was young. Natural trumpet had not yet caught on in the USA when I was starting out, although I always wanted to play it. If I were now beginning a career, I definitely would make natural trumpet a bigger part of my life.
What criteria do you follow when you are choosing a mouthpiece and trumpet?
I avoid fads or gimmicks. I look at what the pros I admire the most are playing and try to find a version that works for me, even if the mouthpiece, especially, is slightly different. I try to assess honestly what kind of playing I’m most likely to be doing and find equipment that is suitable for that kind of work, taking into account my own particular strengths and weaknesses. I also try to imagine how I’ll sound to an audience, worrying less about how I sound to myself or the person sitting next to me.
What advice do you have for young students and for teachers?
Enjoy playing, teaching, and learning! While there always will be occasional rough days, most of your experiences in music should be fun and inspiring. Those who truly love practicing and performing will have the best results over the years. If much of your time is spent worrying about competing or feeling stressed, anxious, aggressive and angry, you probably should rethink your life choices. I wish I’d understood this better when I was young!
Have you ever had a bad experience on stage?
How should one take criticism?
Positive criticism, given with love and good humor, should be accepted gratefully and graciously; negative criticism, given with intent to hurt or bully, should be ignored.
They say that everybody has a little bit of performance anxiety and the important thing is controlling it. What do you do to control it?
First of all, be prepared! I always feel more confident about a performance if I know that I have done everything possible to prepare for it. I breathe deeply and in rhythm. I focus on perfect rhythm and pitch-centering. Most other aspects of musicianship cannot be consciously controlled and will happen naturally if my fundamentals are sound. The fewer intrusive, extraneous thoughts, the better. I try to focus “within.”
Any advice on preparing for auditions?
Obviously, we must learn all the music thoroughly, both the notes themselves and how they fit into the musical circumstances. One should be able to play all standard repertoire/excerpts from memory. It’s also helpful to acknowledge that what we must do to sound great in an audition might be quite different from what actually works in the ensemble, especially an orchestra. Auditions are solo performances and one needs to be a great soloist to win. Ensemble playing is quite different and requires the subjugation of ego and a willingness to sound less brilliant and be more flexible.
What kind of music do you listen to?
Mostly “classical,” of all eras and styles.
With what musician or style of music do you identify with the most?
Me and my compositions.
Who is your favorite trumpet player?
Giuliano Sommerhalder. If I were a great trumpet player I would play like Julian, but I’d play different repertoire.
What is your favorite piece for trumpet?
My own Sonata #2 in F-minor (Romantic).
Do you have any exercise you would like to share with the members of Trumpet Magazine?
One day I’ll publish my own SYMMETRICAL STUDIES warm-ups and exercises. I keep revising and tweaking. Attached is one set of scale studies, designed to build range, sustain air flow and center pitch.