My eleven years of trumpet playing in school are now ancient history. Yet today, as I took my prized Selmer Bb out of its case and insert the Schilke mouthpiece, it was as if I had never quit. I could almost hear the buzz of the crowd as I would approach Reynolds Colliseum for another appearance by the mighty Wolfpack basketball team. We took our places in the sideline seats under one basket, wearing our silly red and white striped jackets and red derby hats. There would be the normal banter with the other musicians, a few notes to warm up, and then the first number of the night performed by the stage band. Maybe it would be the Cherish / Traces medley arranged by our bass player, or perhaps the MF charts Chameleon or Eli's Comin'. Or maybe the Stan Kenton chart 'A Little Minor Booze'. Or any of the other numerous pieces that fade in my memory. Today, twenty five years later, it is a good thing I don't have to play these same charts in front of 12,400 fans. (No, we didn't even pretend to think that they were there to hear US!)
After college I sold my trumpet--a BIG mistake. Five years later my cousin got married, and insisted that I play in her wedding. I hunted around in some pawn shops and discovered a beat-up old Selmer Radial trumpet that seemed to play pretty well. That horn and I managed a passable rendition of Trumpet Voluntary, and then the Selmer disappeared into my closet.
Fast forward 14 years. As I sat in the audience at my daughter's high school band concert, the fever struck. Suddenly I remembered how much fun this was. And I remembered my Selmer. The next day I pulled it out of the closet and began to play. A few things came back quickly. The memory of fingering patterns of scales and my better-known charts were still there. Range and endurance were absent. I am not satisfied with the practice time (typically 30 minutes daily) that my schedule permits, but that is enough to make the horn enjoyable--at least to me!
During that first month I started searching the Internet (where was THAT in my former career?!! ) and I discovered the Trumpet Players' International Network (TPIN). Being the bashful shy type (ha!) I charged right in and started posting my questions, and received some excellent advice as well as some comeraderie with other CB players. One particularly helpful piece of advice was to obtain a couple of Claude Gordon method books ("Brass Playing is No Harder Than Deep Breathing", and "Systematic Approach to Daily Practice"). A few weeks of close study and practice of Gordon's method corrected some problems with my approach, closing much of the gap between my former self and my new self.
From the beginning of my comeback, my intent was to rebuild my skills to a point where I could trust myself to pick out a horn, and to buy a new one. But after spending numerous hours in local instrument stores, I decided that I really preferred the way my Selmer Radial played--but it definitely needed some work! At this point, I made another discovery from TPIN, a local brass instrument repairman named Rich Ita. I took the old Selmer to Rich and he transformed it into a beautiful instrument, which played even better than before.
I find that I require a slightly larger mouthpiece today than I did in college. I don't know exactly why. Perhaps it is because my embouchure is a bit more of a "puckered" style now, with more of a cushion and less mouthpiece pressure. Or maybe it is because I am older and perhaps have larger lips now. The larger mouthpiece takes a toll in the upper register, but I am quite happy with the sound I get in the "meat" of the range.
After a year or so of practicing mainly exercises, I HAD to play some real music. I started playing along with some old vintage Louis Armstrong and Bix Beiderbecke jazz recordings, and that helped some. I also got a copy of the software package Band-in-a-Box and did some playing along with that. But I'm still starving for live performance. I've discovered a couple of venues where I can bring my horn and "sit in" with a jazz ensemble, and that is a load of fun--but very challenging since I don't know the repertoire. I'm about to venture into the "community band" arena to see if I can find a fit. I believe this is crucial to my continued development. It's time to "go public"--make an IPO of my music on the trumpet! Is the world ready? Am I ready? We'll soon find out!
Without fail, when the game was over and Reynolds Colliseum was nearly empty, we closed out the night by playing an arrangement of the West Side Story favorite, "Tonight". It was time to "play Tonight and leave". We made a joke of it. But nowadays, the tune brings a melancholy feeling deep in my soul. Maybe this is due merely to the circumstances in the musical--the brief moment in the couple's lives when they were happily together. But in my case I think it is because every time I played it, it marked the end of a delightful event--something I thoroughly enjoyed for a number of years, then left behind. But tonight, I can play it again.
To-night, To-night won't be just any
To-night there will be no morning star___
To-night, To-night I'll see my love to-night
And for us, stars will stop where they are.
To-day the min-utes seem like hoursthe hours go so slow-ly
And stil the sky is light ___
O moon, grow bright and make this end-less day