"You are not just teaching slurs, tonguing and high notes."
I couldn't agree more. I feel sorry for those students who want
"the answers" and think a teacher should be able to prescribe a course
of study or exercises that will solve their problems perfectly.
Of course when they are young and just getting started, that is
exactly what we need to do for them. Even in college, sometimes a
student is messed up and needs very specific instruction. Usually by
the time they get to college, they have been told what to do and how to
practice and they have had an opportunity to reflect on the results.
Ultimately, we have to learn to teach ourselves so as a college
trumpet teacher I try to begin that process.
For example, rather than prescribe a warm up routine I will go through
a variety of materials with each student and let them make their own
routines. When we start in a new etude book I will assign the
first few in a specific order to get them going, then I will assign
several and let them learn them in whatever order seems good to
them. I might give them a whole pile of orchestra excerpts and
tell them to learn a couple for next week. If they are too high
for them I will encourage them to learn them in a lower key. That
way, if they really like an excerpt we will find a way to work on it
and learn something from it.
Of course it isn't a total free for all. They know they have to
warm up and make some routines for themselves. They know they need
material prepared for every lesson. And they know I will watch the
overall picture to make sure they don't neglect anything for long
periods, like multiple tonguing, range or transposition. I tend
to make them transpose in every lesson as a practice tool, and they get
used to it.
So far this year I have suggested to two public schoolstudents a switch
from a 7C to a 5C. In each case, it was their initial idea and
after hearing the larger mouthpieces I agreed the sound and response
were better. Range and endurance didn't suffer, just a little
familiarity was a temporary issue. Two college students have
switched from 3C's to 5C or a Laskey equivalent. And a couple
have switched to Laskey equivalents of what they already were playing.
But I've never insisted on any mouthpiece changes and I don't
even encourage students to play on equipment that I like, unless what
they are doing isn't working and they need a suggestion.
I get out and play as much as my schedule and energy level will allow.
Last year I played recital tours from memory that included
Juilliard, Eastman, Ithaca, Yale, Syracuse, Baylor, TCU, the Univ. of
Iowa, etc. Last week I was a last minute replacement for Chris
Jaudes in a group called "SOLID BRASS" that was touring Wisconsin, so I
got to play with some full time pros from NYC. But the fact is, I
can't do two jobs at once. I can't be a full time trumpet teacher
and play the trumpet for a living full time, so my students will just
have to "make do" studying with someone who doesn't play full time for
If the full time players on the list are inclined to grind an axe about
college teachers who have never played full time, maybe the college
teachers could start grinding an axe about the players who have never
taught full time for a living. Obviously, this is just silly and
counterproductive. I try to focus on what music is about and what
it's role on the planet and in our lives is about and let my playing
and teaching reflect some of this awareness.
I couldn't get through a single day of teaching without pointing a
student towards the efforts of a full time professional trumpet player.
Conversely, without the music instruction very few full time
players would have an audience or would have become great players
without the full time teachers.
I tell my students that our career is based on three things; our
ability, our passion, and opportunity (what the market will bear).
And since the pot has been stirred, let me offer the observation that a
lot of full time players play large mouthpieces. The American
Brass Quintet is on campus this week and both Ray Mase and Kevin Cobb
play large Bach mouthpieces. This isn't something that a bunch of
ignorant college teachers have made up, it came from the real world, or
at least some fraction of the real world. I am loathe to switch
anyone to larger equipment. I have performance majors playing
everything from 1C down to 7C and playing in sections together just
fine. I agree with Mike Vax that bigger isn't better with
mouthpieces, and I agree with Mike that college trumpet teachers are
often the first to confront a student about the issue of mouthpiece
size. But bigger isn't worse either, and switching to a larger
mouthpiece isn't necessarily a bad idea. I just think it is
largely beside the point for most players at that level.
Allen Vizzutti told me before he got out of LA he subbed with the LA
Phil. Before the first rehearsal he got a 1C and learned the part
on that, because there were some really loud moments and there was no
other way for him to fit in. He mentioned this in the context of
a discusion about mouthpiece size to say we shouldn't be biased, but
should keep an open mind. (He is fairly proactive about not playing
anything bigger than necessary.)
For me, I've learned something from every mouthpiece I've tried to play
and as a full time teacher of the trumpet I think I owe it to my
students to know what's out there and give it a blow. But I like
doing that and it doesn't mess me up so I wouldn't suggest that
every trumpet teacher do it.
As long as we are pot stirring, lets make sure we getthings thoroughly