Teachers around the world:

Oswaldo Zapata

Assistant Professor of Trumpet and Director of the Mariachi Program at Texas A&M International University (United States).

«Even the most technical exercise should have some sense of musicality»


The interviewee we have today in Trumpetland is a young Colombian professor who studied in the United States and through intense musical study has obtained a doctorate and the position of assistant professor of Trumpet and director of the Mariachi Program at Texas A&M International University. A very interesting Interview! And of course, he is sharing some exercises on a PDF, exclusively for Premium members of Trumpetland!

Up close and personal
  • Age: 37.
  • City of birth: Medellín (Colombia).
  • A hobby: Video games.
  • A food: Almost anything with cheese.
  • A drink: Aguapanela (typical Colombian hot beverage).
  • A book: Your Erroneous Zones (Wayne W. Dyer).
  • A film: Life is Beautiful (Roberto Benigni).
  • A place: 1 San Diego, California (USA).

Musical roots

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 started off playing percussion instruments in high school. After a while, I joined the municipal band in my hometown of Caldas, Antioquia, Colombia (near Medellín) playing minor percussion, and alto euphonium (in E flat). I became very interested in the trumpet after listening to the first trumpet of that group. He was such an inspiring role model at the time! After I graduated from high school, and completed a year of mandatory military service in Colombia, I decided to continue playing trumpet professionally and started more serious music studies.

I have studied trumpet under professors Fernando Parra, James Ackley, Allen Vizzutti, and David Hickman. I hold a Bachelor of Music in Performance with an Emphasis in Instrumental Pedagogy from the Colombian National University in Bogotá. While there, I performed with the Cundinamarca Symphonic Youth Band, the University Orchestra and Band of the conservatory, and I was invited to assist with the Bogotá Philharmonic on several occasions. I also performed and taught at the Youth Symphony Orchestra Foundation of Colombia.

I traveled to the United States in 2008 to obtain a Certificate of Graduate Study in Music Performance and a Master of Music in Trumpet Performance from the University of South Carolina, under the tutelage of James Ackley. I obtained a Doctorate of Musical Arts (DMA) in Trumpet Performance from Arizona State University, where I was a Graduate Teaching Assistant for the mariachi program and trumpet studio, under the supervision of professor David Hickman. Currently, I am the Assistant Professor of Music in Trumpet at Texas A&M International University, where I am also the Director of the Mariachi Program.

Every trumpeter has his methodological preferences. What type of exercises or methods do you emphasize when practicing and teaching, and why?

I use many different method books and exercises (Arban, Schlossberg, Irons, Colin, Stamp, Clarke, Vizzutti, Cichowicz, to mention a few). Regardless of the methods or drills I choose, I think it is important to correct your technical weaknesses through music. In other words, even the most technical exercise should have some sense of musicality. Also, every individual is different. The type of exercises and methods I use may or may not be as beneficial to a specific student.

Day to day with the trumpet

Could you tell us what your daily trumpet routine consists of?

I warm-up for about 20 minutes, then I begin my routine that usually includes a little bit of everything: long notes, bent notes, flexibilities, fingerings, tonguing (all forms), and range. I frequently adapt the routine — and even the warm-up — depending on the circumstances. After that, I practice pieces, etudes, excerpts, or whatever I need to play with periods of rest in between.

What brands of trumpets and mouthpieces do you use? Do you use them for any particular reason?

I play Bach Stradivarius 37 B-flat trumpet, Bach Stradivarius 229 C with 25H leadpipe, Yamaha YTR-9636 E-flat/D trumpet, Getzen 940 Eterna Piccolo trumpet with trumpet shank, and a Courtois Paris AC154-1-0 flugelhorn. I use a wide variety of mouthpieces depending on the sound and type of music I want to play.

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.)


The teaching center

Where can a student, that would like to study with you, find you? Where do you teach?

I teach at Texas A&M International University in Laredo, Texas (USA).

What can a student expect from you? And what do you expect from the student?

I expect commitment from my students. Trumpet is an instrument that requires dedication and discipline. If a student is committed to learning it, we can almost always obtain, at a minimum, satisfactory results. In return, students can expect commitment, preparation, and flexibility in respect to their individual needs.

In your experience, what is the one common problem young players have today?

Young players today often exhibit a lack of patience and expect improvement to be almost immediate. Additionally, I feel that while technology can provide fantastic resources, it can also provide distraction.

Sharing exercises with Trumpetland

Do you have any exercise you would like to share with the Premium members of Trumpetland?

Most people practice some sort of bending note exercise. I like to take a scale or a short, easy passage and finger it a half step higher than printed, bending every note down a half step. For example, playing (sounding) an E Major scale while fingering an F Major scale. This helps keep the oral cavity open and forces the player to use the air properly. When done correctly, the same oral approach applied to the normal fingerings should result in a better sound.

Free download:

Exercise by Oswaldo Zapata (PDF 107,23 KB) [Only Premium members]