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 was born and raised in Texas. I became very involved with marching band and then drum corps. To this day I still love and appreciate the activity. My most important teachers were my high school and college trumpet professors: David Fortenberry (High School), Dave Ritter (Undergrad/Grad), and Keith Johnson (Graduate). I also learned much from instructors in the drum corps (Star of Indiana) I was in right out of high school. I became involved with Brass Bands after college, namely traditional British Brass Bands. I started playing with a brass band based in Kansas City, Missouri called Fountain City Brass Band. I learned much about ensemble technique and how to play in a more efficient manner. I have since played in a myriad of brass bands and still play in one today in Tennessee, Southern Stars Symphonic Brass Band. I also have a passion for chamber ensembles, most importantly, brass quintet. I have played in school and professional ensembles since I was in my 20s. I am fortunate to play in a faculty brass quintet at Tennessee Tech University and with a professional quintet, Seraph Brass. I have learned an immense amount from these quintet experiences. I have learned how to play with more refinement, more care with intonation, and how to build endurance. All of my experiences with small and large brass ensembles have given me my approach to playing and teaching the trumpet. I have a session called, Brass Tactics: Building Virtuosity in the Brass Section that I have presented at the Midwest Clinic and at various state conferences. It focuses on what a brass player needs to practice daily (sound, flexibility, finger/slide dexterity, articulation, and range). I expand on all of these five topics based on what I have learned as a musician and also by what I have seen has worked with my students.
Every trumpeter has his methodological preferences. What type of exercises or methods do you emphasize when practicing and teaching, and why?
The most important method one should begin with is sound production. This involves proper air production in the inspiratory and expiratory approach one takes. I am an advocate of utilizing air exercises away from the horn to help establish a breath that is relaxed and steady. I use Breathing Gym exercises and also use a Breath Builder I got while in graduate school. It is the one with a ping pong ball; the idea is that constant air is needed to keep the ping pong ball afloat while breathing through the tube. I also use the Stamp and Cichowicz books to practice flow studies on the horn. The next most important exercises away from sound production are flexibility exercises. I use a variety of slur exercises to assist with this endeavor. My favorite books are the Irons, Bai Lin, Vizzutti Book 1, Flexus, and the Clarke book. I think these two aspects of playing are the most crucial because it lays the foundation upon which everything else is built upon. If you don’t have a nice sound and aren’t able to get around the horn without any tension it doesn’t matter how high, fast, or loud you can play.
Day to day with the trumpet
Could you tell us what your daily trumpet routine consists of?
I begin with a warm-up routine that focuses on relaxed air for long tones. I usually have a drone or tuner going while I do this. After playing long tones (usually Cichowicz) I move on to a short (15 min) session on slurs. I usually rotate a few books throughout the week so I don’t get accustomed to the exercises too much. I use the Clarke book, Flexus, and Vizzutti Book 1 materials. After that I take a break and come back with some etude work to help with my articulation and finger dexterity. In my complete routine, I try to do all of this in the full range of the instrument to help with range.
What brands of trumpets and mouthpieces do you use? Do you use them for any particular reason?
I play on Bach trumpets and Denis Wick mouthpieces. I feel these are the best reliable tools for whatever I need to do in performance.
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 am pretty standard, haha!
The teaching center
Where can a student, that would like to study with you, find you? Where do you teach?
I teach at Tennessee Tech University and I have a website: www.solotromba.com.
What can a student expect from you? And what do you expect from the student?
My philosophy is to teach the student to teach themselves. That is, acquire the necessary tools to assess any issues in their own playing as well as that of others. I expect a good attitude and for the student to work hard. Students won’t always have good days on the trumpet, a bright outlook is needed to get through these periods and still excel.
In your experience, what is the one common problem young players have today?
I feel a common problem with young players is a lack of patience. The trumpet needs a progressive and determined approach. It takes time and practice to figure things out.
Sharing exercises with Trumpetland
Do you have any exercise you would like to share with the Premium members of Trumpetland?
This is a great exercise to isolate the “K” syllable in the double tongue. The exercise is in 4/4 time and should be practiced at quarter note = 100. The tempo can be increased, as one’s tonguing ability gets better. Use one pitch (middle register) for the entire exercise and go either up or down chromatically to get repetitions for the exercise.
Exercise by Raquel Rodriquez (PDF 75,97 KB) [Only Premium members]