I met Rafael
Méndez - Ron Bradley
student at Castro Valley High School in California from 1956-60, I
played with Rafael four times--3 with my high school band, and
once at a summer camp in San Leandro, California, where I received
the "Outstanding Music Student" award in 1958 .
With the award, I received an autographed album of "The World's
Most Versatile Trumpeter" (see composite photo below).
During those years many professional photographs were taken, which
I subsequently inherited from our band teacher, Eugene Graves, and
which I then passed on to the Rafael Mendez Museum at ASU.
One of the photos shows me playing in a trio with him. I
can't remember the piece, but it was composed by Mendez.
I remember one time in the band room before a rehearsal, he was
sitting on a stool. I asked him about his ability to double
tongue and circular breathe at the same time, so aptly illustrated
in Moto Perpetuo. To those doubters, he showed me how he
could do it, and that it took him five years to perfect.
He was both very humble and demanding at the same time. I
remember him abruptly stopping the band and pointing to one of the
third clarinet player and saying "F-sharp". He also
complained about the amount of valve oil his sons used on their
valves, then showing us how he applied it, by putting on a couple
drops and then spreading it with his finger. Ironically,
during one concert his valve started sticking and he had to
interrupt his solo and go back stage and apply some oil. As
for his humility, he was asked by someone at a rehearsal--a little
ungraciously--that he must feel pretty superior to other trumpet
players. His response was low key and said, "I just do the
best I can." or something to that effect.
I was, and still am, struck by his showmanship. Unlike
Sergei Nakariakov, who seems to have no rapport with the audience,
Mendez in many of his performance photos frequently changes his
pose, adding flair and excitement to his performance.
Unfortunately, my last recollection of Mendez was a performance in
1969 at Chabot College, in Hayward, CA, where he was struggling
mightily to play anything. It was a sad occasion.
For many years after his passing, I had many dreams about
Mendez. He is still a big influence on my playing--however,
I have never come even close to his extraordinary virtuosity,
still highly respected among all trumpet players.
Stomvi Master Bb
Bach Strad 37 Bb
Shilke B6 Bb
Buescher 400 Cornet
Courtois 154R Flugelhorn
Award from 1958
Mr. Mendez and me.
with me on left in above photo
You can also see Mrs. Mendez and his two
next to my dad on the left.
Me on left as freshman at Castro Valley High
Me more recent