Carrying a Bag – Part of the Business
Like a Boy Scout – Be Prepared
A lot of music students don’t even consider the non-musical aspects of our job as professional musicians. There is so much more to “going pro” than being a great player. Some of the non-musical aspects are so important that you could destroy your entire career if you got them wrong, no matter how talented you are on your axe.
It was Danny Garcia (a saxophonist in El Paso) who taught me to be organized about my equipment. Of course it’s different for woodwind players because they take a variety of different instruments to gigs, depending on what they were called for. But still, for us as trumpet players, having the right gear when you walk out the door is important, too.
Over the years I have allowed my professional laziness dictate that I simply put everything I need into one single bag. Instead of repacking the bag before the gig, it is always ready for almost every gig.
My Personal Gig List:
- 2 Straight Mutes
- Harmon Mute
- Bucket Mute
- Cup Mute
- Mica Mute
- Pencil Bag
- Wooden Pencil With Eraser
- Pencil Sharpener
- Small Post-its.
- Two Black Pens
- One Red Pen
- One Stylus
- Two Clothes Pins
- Two Emergency Ear Plugs
- Spare tee shirts
- One Black
- One White
- Valve Oil
- Business Cards
- Lip Balm
- Protein Bar
- Emergency Bow Tie
- Phone Charger
- Ear Buds
- Stand Light
- Wireless Mouse
That’s everything in my bag right now.
I think that sometimes people assume I’m nuts because I carry this bag to gigs even if I don’t need anything in it. Most often the only thing I pull out of the bag is a mouthpiece.
But I operate best as a creature of habit. Because I carry the same bag to every gig, there is very little chance that I will ever forget something I need for a gig.
Donald S. Reinhardt Letter?
I recently purchased a collection of old trumpet music and found the following sheet of paper mixed in with the books. It’s not clear to me if the writing is by Mr. Reinhardt himself or if this was a student’s writing, but I thought it was very interesting either way.
ABC’s of Pivot System
- In order to produce sound on any cupped [mouthpiece] brass instrument – the lips must vibrate.
- In order to produce vibrations over entire playing range the lips must line up in such a manner with the teeth that vibrations are not snuffed out at any given spot.
- On placing mouthpiece to play lips should be “just touching” & is one’s job to “blow them”; not tongue them apart.
- In order to retain this all-essential lineup of lips & teeth enough mouthpiece pressure should be used to maintain a grip on both inner and outer embouchures. The outer embouchure is where the rim contacts the lips. The inner emb. is where lips contact teeth & gums. This is especially true when first starting to equalize pressures – before reducing them.
- In pivot system all players fall within two categories – a downstream or an upstream.
Proceduge for placement & breathing – (?)
- Saturate embouchure! 2 or 3 times before playing because lips absorb saliva. Difficulties in warming up sometimes because lips aren’t lubricated. Drink water before playing.
- Push lower teeth slightly forward & simultaneously…..
When Trumpet Students Won’t Practice
My career is really something of an oddity. To say things didn’t work out the way I had hoped would be an understatement. I always saw myself as an academic. But when my options dried up, leaving me degree-less after almost a decade of undergraduate studies, my career took fateful turn in an entirely different direction. As a result, my methods as a trumpet teacher became increasingly more commercial and less academic. Over the past twenty-five years, I have come to recognize substantial differences between the two teaching styles. One of those differences is in the way we deal with students who won’t practice.
Two Different Philosophies: Academic vs. Commercial
Academic Trumpet Lessons
Academic styled music lessons assume that there is an established curriculum. Take for existence a student taking trumpet lessons as required for a music performance degree. The student is not supposed to receive that degree until he or she has demonstrated appropriate levels of proficiency as spelled out by the degree requirements. If the student is not “good enough”, then the that student should NOT be rewarded with the degree.
It’s important for me to clarify at this point that I agree with this. If I was a university professor, teaching private trumpet lessons, I would hold my students to the highest traditional standards, in accordance with the requirements of that degree. For me to fail to do so would be a dereliction of my duties as a university trumpet teacher. Not only that, if we assume that the performance major has intentions of becoming a professional trumpet player, then it is a disservice to that student if I fail to hold him or her to the standards outlined by the degree.
In the academic environment, your trumpet teacher is a recognized master of the art who is to be revered and obeyed. Your trumpet teacher at university is the most influential person in your entire career. When you do not practice, there will and should be consequences. For your sake as a serious trumpet major, your teacher should reprimand you when you do not practice. The teachers who take their jobs seriously consider it a great insult when you don’t practice, and I clarify once again that I believe that this is precisely how it should be.
And the same thing applies to those who teach at any academic institution at all levels. There is an established curriculum and you are required to practice enough so that you are able to fulfill those requirements.
Commercial Trumpet Lessons
In contrast, the teacher of commercial trumpet lessons is less of a mentor and more of a coach. In a more commercial environment, the student “hires” the teacher to assist them in reaching some sort of personal, musical goal.
This is the kind of trumpet teacher I have become, and I’m good at it. But it is important for me to point out how the two differ.
In commercial styled lessons, the student is the master, not the teacher. The student is the one with the money and the student sets the agenda.
I recently likened my more commercial style of teaching to a safari guide. The rich dude with all the money is the boss, but for as long as he is trekking around in the jungle, he defers to the wisdom of his professional guide.
I like that analogy because it describes perfectly my relationship with my students. They know where they want to go and its my job to help them get there. I remain an authority on the subject, and yes, my students do respect me. But they have a lot more say in the overall direction we take in the lessons.
For that reason, when my students don’t practice, it’s usually not that big of a deal. Unless they tell me that they want to become professional musicians (right now, i only have two students who want to “go pro”), there is no legitimate need for me to chastise a student for not practicing. In fact, there are a lot of circumstances when I tell students that it is inappropriate for them to practice.
So yes, it is a very different way of teaching.
This means that my students tend to be internally motivated. It’s ironic, really. Without needing to be disciplined for not practicing, my students actually tend to be even more enthusiastic about their practice time than any student I ever taught in a more academic setting.
I say it on several pages of this website, there is a great power in this way of teaching. I help the students to become more goal oriented in their music studies, then I give them practical tools to help them reach those goals. When you teach this way, the students don’t need to be chewed out for not practicing. The students take ownership of their own progress and do not need to be coaxed.
Another benefit of this more commercial style of teaching is that the students tend to be what I call “musically honest”. They are not trying to be someone they are not. They are not trying to play music that they don’t like or in a way that does not appeal to them. When these student reach their musical goals, they can perform from the heart. Nothing is contrived. Nothing is fake. They had a passion, they pursued that passion, and now they are sharing that passion with the world.
I am not suggesting that my students are better than other trumpet students. If you judge their performance abilities according to strict academic standards, they may or may not stand out as great players. But that’s one of the things I have learned over the past two decades of teaching outside of the schools, is that there really is no such thing as “better” or “worse” in a commercial lesson environment. A student’s success is defined ONLY by whether or not he reaches his own goals.
I Love Teaching This Way
In case you couldn’t tell, I really love teaching this way. It is a joy to watch the students blossom, and to see their personalities shine through their music. There was a time when I very much wanted to have a university gig. When that ceased to be an option, I felt like a failure for a few years. But today, when I look back at how things worked out, I am happy everything went precisely the way it did. I have the training. I had a wonderful, wonderful education and decades of experience as a trumpet teacher. Now I get to share all of that with students in a way that enhances and enriches their lives. It’s a beautiful way to teach.
Yes, sometimes the students don’t practice, but when you teach this way, that does nothing to diminish the experience for them or for me. I love seeing them grow as people and as musicians. Life happens. If you’re not playing your horn for a living, then there are going to be times when it is inappropriate to practice. But when they are pursuing musical honesty in their lessons, that time off actually enhances their growth.
Full Benefits of Music Eduction
I’ve been teaching trumpet lessons for so long now (since 1980) that I know first hand the effects music education has on a child’s development. There’s no question in my mind that music education enhances students’ academic abilities. However, I have also observed that the benefits of music education are minimized or even completely erased when shortcuts are taken. And unfortunately, shortcuts have become the norm in some circles. The result is that many students who are signed up for music classes at school are not actually receiving the benefits they should be.
Music education is holistically valuable to students because learning to perform music is difficult. It’s a complex field of study that involves so many skills simultaneously that when you spell it all out for people, on the surface it seems to be an almost impossible task. Music taxes the students’ intellects, demands great physical dexterity and accuracy, and in the midst of so many technical challenges, it asks them to tap into and share their emotions. And all of this happens on the fly, in real time.
So yes, it makes sense that someone who can play music will also acquire strengths that enhance other areas of their lives. And yes, better academic performance is one of those wonderful benefits.
But what happens when the process is dumbed-down? What happens when the students avoid working on the hard stuff? Can we continue to expect the same beneficial results when the bar is lowered?
I think not!
The High Road or the Low Road?
As music educators, we have a choice to make in the way we teach music. We can choose to get faster, easier results by avoiding anything that requires higher level thinking or greater physical control etc. Or we can teach our students in a way that encourages them to rise to the challenge of practicing more difficult music. Only one of those paths leads to a more enlightened student.
The low road in music education is the quick results road. Yes, I understand the drive to get quick results. The non-musical public doesn’t know what we know about music and how much time it takes to be successful. They can be very disappointed when progress doesn’t meet their expectations, no matter how unrealistic those expectations are. And yes, sometimes we can lose our jobs over it.
I have heard stories of school band directors losing their jobs because the band didn’t do well at contest or performed poorly at a concert. And I have had students who quit when the progress just wasn’t enough to please the parents. I understand that there is a very real push to dummy down the music just to please those people who know nothing about what we do.
But when we choose the low road, we choose it at the students’ expenses. When we choose to teach in a way that impresses people now, we are choosing to minimize the beneficial results of the students’ music education.
The high road is a much better way to teach, even if it means that the ones who don’t get it end up quitting. I know that sounds harsh. When we look at it emotionally, we want every student to experience those full musical benefits. Right? But when you take emotions out of the picture, and look at reality, people who don’t get it will never experience those benefits anyway. And by trying to cater to them, we then make it impossible for ANY of our students to experience those full benefits.
The Irony of Low Expectations
Ironically, it is the teachers who take the high road who get the best musical results. I have seen this in my career as a private teacher, and have observed the same thing with different band programs.
In my lessons, it was always the students who refused to work on the hard stuff who took the longest time to learn anything. Those who took the high road in their trumpet lessons ended up accomplishing far more and with less effort than those who took the low road. Go figure!
And it’s the same way with bands. Bands that dumbed down the process, avoiding hard keys, avoiding difficult time signatures, etc, ended up taking a long time to make very little progress.
Just as it is with so many things in life, I could almost understand the desire to do things the easy way if that easy way came with easy results. But the easy way produces no results with an extraordinary amount of work. When you step back and look at how that happens, you just have to scratch your head in wonderment. WHY would anyone do that?
How It Works
The most important aspect of music education, in this context, is that the materials must be progressive. Of course it makes no sense to just hammer the students with materials that are far beyond their capabilities. The best approach to achieving musical excellence is in progressing gradually.
The students can learn far more than we ever give them credit for. But the curriculum must approach music in a way that exposes them to difficult materials in incremental stages. As an educator, you should be able to recognize when you screwed up. If your students hit what I call “speed bumps”, then you need to know that the materials you are using to teach them are not progressing gradually enough. When a student spends two or three weeks on what should have been a simple exercise, then the student wasn’t ready for that level of difficulty yet.
Yes, it is hard to plan your materials this way. I’ve been working on this in my own teaching for decades now and I still have room for improvement. I am constantly writing new materials to smooth out the speed bumps in my pedagogy. I strongly recommend that you do the same.
The Biggest Mistake
The biggest mistake a music teacher can make is assume that the speed bumps are the students’ faults. I am not suggesting that every time they bog down on something that it is on our shoulders. Of course the students have a responsibility in the process. However, I believe in what I call “overlapping responsibilities”. I believe that the best music education happens in the overlap between the students’ responsibilities and our own responsibilities. If we MAKE it our responsibility to iron out the speed bumps, and if the students MAKE it their responsibility to do their best with what we teach them, that’s when the best results happen.
That’s why I wrote so many original materials for my students. Just about every original etude or exercise I have ever written was for the purpose of ironing out one of those speed bumps for a specific student. I don’t mind doing this work because I can use those same materials for other students in the future.
I encourage everyone who reads this to think about what I am saying. The benefits of music education are not achieved through proxy. We don’t get smart just because we signed up for band or music lessons. That’s not how it works. Music education makes us smarter because it demands so much more from us than anything else you can do. So it’s not good enough to just sign up for band and do a mediocre job of it.
If you want the full academic benefits of a musical education, then you must commit to doing it right. Don’t cut corners. Don’t sell yourself short. Don’t dummy it down. (I’m running out of cliche phrases here. LOL) Yes, music is a wonderful way to enhance your academic career, but you have to actually do the work for any of that to rub off on you.
Think about it….
Congratulations Elijah M.
We want to congratulate one of our students, Elijah M. for getting into three of the four summer jazz camps he auditioned for this year. Elijah will be attending jazz camps this summer at the Brubeck Institute, the Summer Jazz Institute at Skidmore College and the Summer Jazz Academy at Lincoln Center.
Elijah has been a trumpet student of Mr. Lewis’ since he was a sixth grader and is now going into his senior year at the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (HSPVA).
Trumpet Mug – 32 Different Languages
Just in time for Fathers’ Day:
Here’s a thoughtful gift that most trumpet players are sure to enjoy. This is an original design by Dr. Pearl Lewis which utilizes the word “trumpet” from over thirty-two different languages. It is a perfect gift for the trumpet geek in your family.
This design is available on the mug and several other drink wear products. You can purchase this specific mug at http://www.cafepress.com/tigermusic.1603523163 or you can browse similar design/product combinations at http://www.cafepress.com/tigermusic/738289.
Kyle Taylor – I.T. for D.C.I.
We want to congratulate one of our past trumpet students who recently took an internship with D.C.I. (Drum Corps International). Here is the message Kyle Taylor posted on Facebook:
I’m excited to announce that I have accepted an IT internship position with DCI (Drum Corps International) at their corporate headquarters located in Indianapolis, Indiana. While working on projects at the corporate office, I will be traveling to many different shows throughout the country in assisting with the technological needs at the shows. I cannot wait to begin this exciting experience this summer and to meet numerous fantastic individuals at DCI.
Kyle was Mr. Lewis’ trumpet student for most of his junior high and high school years and is currently a university student in Alabama. We consider Kyle one of our successes and you can read what he has to say about his time with Mr. Lewis at our Trumpet Lesson Success page.