Where do you come from? That is, we would like to know 1) where you grew up as a trumpeter, 2) who were your most important teachers, and 3) what your professional and pedagogical trajectory has been until today.
I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio and I began playing the trumpet when I was about 10 years old. I didn’t begin any formal instruction until I was 15, and my first teacher was a great trumpet player in the Cincinnati area named David Thomas. Little did I know then that what he was teaching me were the foundations of what became my adopted pedagogical philosophy. I attended Morehead State University, Kentucky where I studied with my hero/mentor, Mr. Greg Wing. I was a Music education major, and quite frankly I chose that track because I never thought I would be a good enough trumpeter to be a professional. Luckily, Mr. Wing believed in me before I knew how to believe in myself! I still work to send students to Mr. Wing for their studies. He is an incredible teacher and player and one of the best people I have had the good fortune to know. Without his presence in my life, I do not believe I would have become a professional musician. Morehead State is a special place, and I while I was there I also studied jazz with Dr. Gordon Towell and Dr. Steve Snyder, both excellent musicians and educators, and I studied music education with Dr. Susan Creasap.
Upon completion of my bachelors degree, I attended Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music, where I earned a Masters in Jazz Studies. While at IU I studied with Joey Tartell. Joey is a masterful educator and player, and helped me refine some of my rough edges before entering the “real world.” I was also fortunate to study with the late great David Baker. David was an incredible man, and my time with him was very profound. I also had fantastic instruction from Pat Harbison, Brent Wallarab, and Mike Spiro. The faculty at IU is world class, and to this day I reflect on lesson learned and wisdom garnered from my time there.
In addition to my studies at IU, I sought additional trumpet instruction from the late trumpet guru William Adam. Mr. Adam taught both David Thomas and Greg Wing (and a myriad of others — Chris Botti, Jerry Hey, Charley Davis, Randy Brecker, Karl Sievers, Bob Baca, Pat Harbison, and the list goes on and on), and I was fortunate to become a small part of his legacy. Mr. Adam’s philosophies have shaped much of my approach to teaching and playing, he was an amazing man and I’m truly grateful that at the age of 91 he was still so giving of his time and instruction.
After IU, I went on the road with the Broadway tour of Young Frankenstein: The Musical. It was a 9 month tour, where I learned what it took to be a professional musician! In addition to the tremendous lessons I learned, I also met the woman who became my wife. So in more ways than one, that first big gig was life changing. After the tour was over, I moved full time to New York City. I was a freelancing musician for several years, and during that time I also toured with the shows Elf: The Musical (twice), and Addams Family. I was a regular member of several groups in the city, and was assistant principal trumpet of the Bronx Opera, and served as principal in the Bronx Orchestra. NYC is one of the most vibrant music scenes in the country and the diversity of work that I have done here has been an education.
During a trip to the National Trumpet Competition, Joey Tartell approached me and told me about an opportunity to do my DMA and get some teaching experience. He set me up with a meeting with John Aley, the Professor of Trumpet at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. So, in 2014 I moved to Madison and began my Doctorate in Trumpet Performance. In addition, I was the adjunct professor of Jazz Trumpet and Director of the Afro-Cuban Jazz Ensemble. I was mentored by jazz pianist Dr. Johannes Wallmann and studied trumpet with John Aley. John and Johannes serve as models of education. I am grateful for their faith in me, and the lessons and knowledge they imparted to me during my time in Madison.
After completing my DMA, my wife and I returned to NYC. I returned to freelancing, and taught at the United Nations International School. I performed on the Broadway production run of Elf: The Musical this past December at Madison Square Garden as lead trumpet (which I also did in 2015, as second trumpet). I also released my first full length album, Walk the Walk on the Shifting Paradigm Records label. The album has been well received by critics and fans alike, and was the culmination of my doctoral course work. In May of this past year I was invited to interview at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. After a successful interview I was offered and accepted the position of Assistant Professor of Trumpet to begin in the fall of 2018.
Trumpet has taken me on a journey I would have never predicted or imagined… and there’s still a long way to go. I have been fortunate to have people in my life who have supported and believed in me, even when I couldn’t see how I was going to make a living playing this crazy instrument. What I do know is this; the harder I work, the luckier I get — stole that from Mr. Wing. If you keep your head down, work hard, be a great person, and always strive to be the best musician you can, there is no telling how far you can go. All you can do is stay “fired up!”
Every trumpeter has his methodological preferences. What type of exercises or methods do you emphasize when practicing and teaching, and why?
I touched on this a bit in my first answer, but my methodology or to be phrased more accurately, philosophy of trumpet is born out of the teachings of William Adam. Principal among this philosophy is that we teach the student, not the trumpet. We must free the students mind so that they can approach the instrument without reservation. Beyond that, I teach from a sound driven approach, or a kinesthetic approach to trumpet. Think about all the great trumpet players we love, Doc Severinsen, Adolph Herseth, Phil Smith, Freddie Hubbard, Clifford Brown, Maurice André, Maynard Ferguson, Wayne Bergeron, etc. What all these player have in common is an impeccable CORE trumpet sound. I teach a solid dose of DAILY fundamental studies, long tones, Clarke studies, Schlossberg studies, Arban studies, Theike studies, etc., then I give students supplemental etudes, solos, and repertoire to accentuate the musical concepts upon which we are working. A friend of mine and I are fond of saying “trumpet is trumpet, and music is style.” What we mean by that, you must first have mastery of your instrument, then music is simply stylistic interpretation and not an athletic event. So we should have our students strive to play the trumpet well, and then expose them to as many musical styles as we can, so they can become as complete a player as they can.
Day to day with the trumpet
Could you tell us what your daily trumpet routine consists of?
I use some variation of the following, which is a daily routine I received from Mr. Wing and was refined and adapted by Mr. Adam. The most important thing about my routine… EVERYTHING is a tone study!
- Long Tones
- Clarke #1 & 2 (chromatic/scale)
- Glantz Studies (scale/articulation)
- Schlossberg Studies (flexibility/articulation)
- Theike Studies (flexibility)
- Ernest Williams Studies (scale/articulation)
- Expanding Scales (range)
After my routine I rest, and after I play etudes, solo repertoire, and work on music I may be performing soon. I also come back later in the day and do a dedicated jazz set, and similarly I have a routine type approach to that material as well.
What brands of trumpets and mouthpieces do you use? Do you use them for any particular reason?
I am an endorsing artist for Powell Trumpets and Flugelhorns, and play those horns exclusively. I have found them to match the sound concept I hear in my head, and they are the easiest horns I’ve ever played. They allow me to consistently perform at a high level. Fred is a brilliant horn designer, and he is a blast to work with because we’re coming from the same place philosophically. I also play Greg Black mouthpieces 90% of the time. Greg is a masterful mouthpiece maker and great guy. I also use Reeves, Hammond Design, and vintage Bach pieces for specific musical settings. I tend to stick around the 3C ish range, though I use custom pieces designed by Greg Black for lead and commercial music. I also use vintage Bach 6C pieces (Mt. Vernon and NY) from time to time. I also have a fondness for Monette pieces, though I’m not currently using one regularly.
Do you use any equipment that is beyond what we would consider normal? (E.G. a Delrin top, bent mouthpiece, bent trumpet receiver, different bell configuration, etc.)
I don’t use any equipment that would be considered out of the ordinary. I tend to play fairly middle of the road equipment.
The teaching center
Where can a student, that would like to study with you, find you? Where do you teach?
I currently serve as the Assistant Professor of Trumpet at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. However, I return to NYC regularly for performances, and I try to pack in some lessons while I’m there. So if you’re in the NYC area and want a lesson, we can try to line something up. And if that doesn’t work, Skype, FaceTime, etc. are always an option as well. Contact me via my ULM email, or through my website to set up a lesson.
What can a student expect from you? And what do you expect from the student?
Students can expect a full commitment from me. When I teach I will give you 100% of what I have to offer. I expect students to come to lessons ready to learn, and excited about the trumpet and music. If you come with a great attitude, you’ll walk away with more than one lessons worth of material on which to work. I always take a students interests into account, and I also share information from my own experiences which I have found helpful.
In your experience, what is the one common problem young players have today?
Time management! Students today are often spread too thin, but they also seem to manage their time rather poorly. My suggestion, make a list of important tasks to do everyday, and make sure the trumpet and music are in the top five so you get to it EVERYDAY! The trumpet is a demanding instrument, but if you give it the attention it requires everyday and approach it the right way, you will have success on the instrument. Manage your time well, listen to your teachers, and work hard. 95% of the time, if you do things that way, you’ll be a pretty successful player.
Sharing exercises with Trumpetland
Do you have any exercise you would like to share with the Premium members of Trumpetland?
When we play this chromatic enclosures exercise, we are trying to keep our sound flat out. We must remember that we blow through the trumpet, and not into it. We must also keep our sound moving away from us. The exercise ascends and descends, but our air and sound do not move up and down, only flat out.
Make sure each note is a full beautiful tone, and that you account for your sound at all times. Think of a singing sound, that moves away from you in the room. Playing these exercises at a mezzoforte or forte is plenty loud. Blow through each note so it slots, and then move through the next note. This exercise is a tone exercise first, and a technical exercise second! Follow the tempo markings strictly at first so you attain the technical facility needed to play the exercise well, without compromising your sound.
Exercise by Eric Siereveld (PDF 102,91 KB) [Only Premium members]