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My Trumpet Experience (Extended Bio)

My trumpet studies began at age nine. Although I received trumpet instruction in my elementary school and played in the band, my first "private teacher" was actually my father, who was the reason I chose to play the instrument in the first place. He was an excellent trumpeter that played in jazz bands in the U.S. Navy. Although he never gave me formal lessons, I gained a lot from his overall guidance. He also supplied me with a great listening background by regularly playing recordings of trumpet luminaries such as Maynard Ferguson, Doc Severinson, Jon Faddis, Chet Baker and Wynton Marsalis...some of whom he took me to hear live in concert.


My first formal private instructor after elementary school was Edward Timbrell. At the start of my lessons, my father very generously bought me a brand new Bach Stradivarius trumpet – the most widely used model of professional trumpet players around the world, and one I still use to this day! I studied with Mr. Timbrell in grades seven through nine. With him, I worked on technical exercises, melodic etudes and trumpet solos (performance pieces), as well as the famous Arban method book. In lessons, I gained a lot of experience playing with accompaniment parts, as Mr. Timbrell would play piano with me for the duets he would regularly assign. Not only was that very beneficial for my musical development, but also just a lot of fun!


During middle school, I played in the band, orchestra and jazz ensemble. By the time I started high school, I already knew that I wanted to pursue a career in music. So I participated in every ensemble that was available, playing "1st trumpet" parts in symphonic band, marching band, orchestra, jazz ensemble, brass ensemble, pit orchestra for musicals, and pit ensemble for show choir (as well as singing in the concert choir and playing in the percussion ensemble). My high school had an excellent music department, producing ensembles that performed in many festivals and competitions, often receiving highest honors. In tenth grade, I moved on from lessons with Mr. Timbrell and began to study with one of the area's top jazz trumpeters, Bill Perbetsky. He was (and still is) an expert in playing in the upper register of the instrument. Under his tutelage, I was able to increase my range and flexibility, and advance my technical and expressive skills.


After high school, I decided to focus on piano (which I had been studying since age 7) as my primary instrument. However, I continued with self-study on the trumpet, concentrating mainly on jazz improvisation. I was already starting to consider how I would approach private instruction in the future by treating myself as my own student. Although my college courses provided a great deal of information about classroom instruction, not much attention was given to individual instruction. But I still tried to appropriate everything I was being taught. During my first three semesters as a music education major at Temple University, I learned a great deal from Edwin Gordon's "Music Learning Theory," which I would end up consulting later to extract principles for my private teaching. I also gained valuable knowledge and insight about brass instruments in general from studying trombone and french horn at Temple. Unfortunately, I had to put the trumpet down when I became a piano performance major (jazz studies), as my time was fully consumed with that instrument. As it turned out, my exclusive focus on piano lasted for almost 15 years, involving a performing career that is detailed in another blog post ("My Piano Experience").


By the time I reached the age of 35 or thereabouts, I felt like I had achieved enough on piano, both personally and professionally, that I could finally make a faithful return to the trumpet. As it happened, I was encouraged by a fellow instructor at the Menchey Music Education Center to begin teaching trumpet around the same time, being that there was a shortage of instructors on that instrument at the time. So I gave myself a full year of intense practice to get my embouchure and technique back in shape. Looking back, I have to say that being required to "relearn" the instrument (so to speak), and having myself as an instructor to do so, was the best thing that could have possibly happened for my teaching skills because I was forced to rethink everything I learned in the past, some of which was not the greatest information from a technical standpoint, as I learned both through experience and textbook knowledge. I spent a vast amount of time at local college libraries, as well as on the internet, doing research on different theories about how to correctly play and teach brass instruments. I ended up throwing out the erroneous concepts I learned growing up and provided myself with the best possible method for excelling on trumpet, according to all of the "scientific" and practical knowledge I had gained.


After I was satisfied with my new level of proficiency, which I considered to be at a professional level, I began to take on students...and I loved it, mostly because I was supremely confident that I was providing everyone with excellent, freshly tested instruction. As a teacher of many years now, I have been especially pleased with the results in the students that started their instruction with me – hearing them develop great tone, nice articulations and solid range, all with proper technique. I've also enjoyed helping more advanced students achieve goals like making “first trumpet” or “first chair” in their band/orchestra, making it into York Junior/Youth Symphony, being selected for honors ensembles like County Band, District Band, Regional Band and District Jazz Band, or excelling in whatever musical activities they pursue. Those achievements are in addition to those that are common to all students – developing the abilities to read music well, play successfully by ear, and improvise in jazz and popular styles.


In lessons, I typically focus on helping school-age students work on their band/orchestra/jazz music, or on their basic method books if they are beginners. If given the choice, for a beginner, I usually prefer either the “Standard of Excellence” or “Essential Elements” method book series, but am happy to work with students on any of the methods that are available. As for students that have advanced beyond a basic method book series, I usually supplement their band music with books that contain etudes, solos or pieces with accompaniment. I also like to use various materials for improvisation (especially “Jazz Combo Session” as a starter book), and work with students on playing "by ear" by having them choose whatever songs they might be interested in learning. As for adult trumpet students, I work with them on whatever they would like to play!


Of course, I still have my very first student -- myself! I am currently working on taking his improvisational skills to even higher levels, and have begun documenting that process in an ongoing series of recordings that I am titling "Duets with Myself" (featuring myself on electric piano), soon to be posted on my SoundCloud page.

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