I met Rafael Méndez  - Mike Vax


Boy, do you realize that was almost 50 years ago?

I was a Mendez "freak" in high school. I loved his playing and  attended a couple of clinics that he did at local high schools.  I learned  his solos, bought his records, and yes, even played his horn. I was  playing my Mendez model Olds when I went to the Stan Kenton Clinic in 1960 at  Indiana University, that eventually changed my life.
 
He was one of the most gracious, warm and caring individuals that I have ever met. He made EVERY student he came in contact with, feel like they  really meant something to him.

I didn't get any "quality" time alone with him. Just long enough to have him sign a record jacket.  I just remember how warm he was to everybody and, of course, his wonderful playing.  I do remember him talking about the importance of consistent practice and talking about "resting as much as you play."  I also remember him "daring" us to tell him when he switched from single tongue to double tongue in a passage he played for us.  It was impossible to tell.  I also remember that he was the first one I ever saw, who could circular breathe.  It blew my mind. I listened to his recordings constantly, starting with 78 records.  Somewhere, I still have a 78 with "La Virgen de la Macarena" on it.

While I never received a horn from him, one of my most prized possessions  is a copy of "The World's Most Versatile Trumpet Player" LP that he autographed. I sold my original Mendez Olds years ago (big mistake), I did find a "mint" one in the attic of a friend about 10 years ago and bought it, just to  have.

I really think that the clinics I attended by Mendez and Don Jacoby were  what made me want to be a professional trumpet player! 
Maybe that is  partly why I love doing clinics so much now, and have made it my "life's  work."


Mike Vax

January 2008 - an addition (first posted to TPIN):

When I was a junior in high school, my band director (who was also my trumpet teacher) took a bunch of us to see Mendez live.  I was already a "Mendez freak" from listening to his recordings. 

On the way home, the other young trumpet players were commenting on his wonderful playing and the "usual" thing was said. "He is so good that he makes me want to sell my trumpet...."  I said "Gee, I don't feel that way at all. He makes me want to go home and practice more, so that I might be able to play really good some day."

About 30 years later, my teacher told me that he knew I was going to be a professional musician that night.  That one really "blew me away!"

Mike Vax

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