Glenn’s Trumpet Notes

News & Tips for Trumpet & Cornet Students

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Posts Tagged ‘opera’

My Trumpet Student Solos at “Jazz Night” at Eckstein Middle School in Seattle

Posted by glennled on December 20, 2019

IMG_5454

Junior Jazz Band, Eckstein Middle School, Seattle

 

One hundred and eighty-six student musicians performed for a packed audience on “Jazz Night” on 21 November at Eckstein Middle School in Seattle. And one of them was a 6th grade trumpet player who has been taking private lessons from me since May 2018. I recall that he originally chose trumpet because it sounded “jazzy” (see my blog post of 12 May 2018). And here he was now, one and a half years later, my 42nd trumpet student, at this evening concert—the featured trumpet soloist when the 29-member Junior Jazz Band played “Second Line” (Joe Avery Blues). IMG_5627

Mr. Cuauhtémoc Escobedo (“Mr. E” or “Moc”) is Director of Bands, Jazz Band and Vocal Jazz. After the Junior Jazz Band opened the concert, Vocal Jazz II performed two songs.  Next, the 28-member Intermediate Jazz Band, with 7 trumpeters, played four pieces. Fourth on the program was Vocal Jazz I, the largest group (67 members). Lastly, the strong Senior Jazz Band (41 members, including 7 trumpeters) concluded the concert with five pieces.

As I sat again in Eckstein Auditorium, I was reminded of a former trumpet student of mine who also played in the winter concert there, also conducted by Mr. Escobedo, 8 years ago (please see my blog post of 14 December 2011). I remain in touch with his mom, a nurse. She says he continued to play trumpet in the concert, jazz, and pep bands through four years at two high schools. “Band was great for him,” she wrote to me. “It gave him a home wherever he went.” He’s now a senior at Western Washington University in Bellingham, studying manufacturing engineering. “He is quite the young man. I am very proud of him. He has had several 4.0 quarters and is on the Dean’s list. Hopefully, his job search will go well when he finishes.” IMG_5723

That prompted me to re-read my first blog post about him, then a sixth grader and my fourth student. (Please use the Archives in the left column to find 18 November 2009.) He sounded good in tone and articulation but was very frustrated, struggling with fingering, range, and reading music—no wonder—almost no one can teach themselves to play trumpet well. I wrote, “It is my pleasure to help this gentle boy overcome these obstacles. Let’s give the kid some successes! and who knows? maybe we’ll be listening to him play in the jazz, concert and marching bands soon…maybe in the symphony or opera orchestras someday…maybe on some CDs or in the movies when he’s that good. Let him dream! Help him dream! Help him achieve his potential. Or maybe he’ll simply enjoy playing in the school band with his friends for a few years and never take it any further…that’s fine, too. You find good people in bands. Good memories accumulate with the many events, and lifetime friendships often form–even marriages!”

My 42nd student, now at Eckstein, doesn’t struggle with trumpet the way my fourth student did. He’s quite talented and advanced for his age. But I feel the same about both of them. “Let’s give the kid some successes!…Let him dream!…Help him dream!”—and then watch what happens!

Please click on any photo to enlarge it.

 

Junior Jazz Band

 

Intermediate Jazz Band

 

Senior Jazz Band

 

Vocal Jazz I & II

 

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29th Trumpet Student is Law Professor from University of San Diego

Posted by glennled on August 5, 2016

You’re a 67-year old law professor at the University of San Diego (USD) with a 56-year old imagesG5V7PQYStrumpet sitting in your closet. Your parents bought it new for you when you were in about 5th grade in St. Louis. You played it until the 9th grade. After graduating from Yale, you earned a J.D. degree from the University of Texas School of Law, taught a law course in Miami, took a job teaching law at Southern Illinois University (SIU) in Carbondale, IL, got married, and had a family. It’s there at SIU that you held tenure. Later, your son played your trumpet for a few years before he specialized in piano and sports and gave the trumpet back to you. And there it sat in the house while you taught law for 34 years. Then, in 2011, USD offered both you and your wife positions on the law school faculty. You’re now in your 40th year of teaching up to 7 different law courses. You’ve been a Visiting Professor at a dozen university law schools, including Seattle University in the summer of 2012. At USD, you are now the J. Lawrence Irving Distinguished Senior Teaching Fellow and Professor-in-Residence. (Please see http://www.sandiego.edu/law/faculty/profiles/bio.php?ID=638). And you took your trumpet with you to San Diego and kept it there until you brought it with you to Seattle in July this year.

Mark Lee, Law Prof, USD

Prof. Mark Lee, School of Law, University of San Diego

In all those years, you had periodic yearnings to play trumpet again. When you both decided to rent a house and vacation for a few weeks this summer in Seattle—where your son, wife and baby daughter live—she suggested that while you’re here, you do something you’ve always wanted to do but never did. You chose to bring along your trumpet and re-learn how to play it. So you found me on the internet, and we had our first private lesson at a studio in the Ted Brown Music store in the University District on 7 July.

I’ve asked Prof. Mark R. Lee why he chose trumpet when he was a kid. He says he’s always loved the trumpet’s pure, crystal-clear notes. They sometimes give him chilblains, he says, a cold feeling running up and down his spine, as if he’d been exposed for hours to cold but non-freezing weather. For him, the “Triumphal March” in Verdi’s opera, Aida, can produce that feeling.

He says he’s now taking lessons and practicing his trumpet simply for his own pleasure Marching Band Clip Artand enjoyment. He is a competitive person and generally likes to perform at the highest level he is capable of, but as for trumpet, he has no ambition or plans to play in an orchestra or band. If he did, he would prefer to play classical music, but he also loves marches and musicals. He’d love to play The Music Man, and to his surprise, he’s come to enjoy opera.

His trumpet is a Penn stencil horn. In other words, it’s a medium-to-high-quality horn made by an undisclosed trumpet manufacturer and engraved “Penn” on the bell. He says his parents paid $300 for it—quite an expense for them at that time, about 1959. He let me play it, and I was surprised at how free and open it is—little resistance and a solid tone with smooth valve action.

My 29th trumpet student and his wife return to San Diego in early August. Any time they come back to Seattle for a few weeks to see that granddaughter, I hope we will go for another round of lessons. Learning is fun, right, Professor?

Prof. Lee’s Penn stencil trumpet is shown below. Please click on a photo to enlarge it.

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Scottish Love Story, Sung in Italian, Performed in Canada—Donizetti’s “Lucia Di Lammermoor”

Posted by glennled on May 3, 2015

Royal Theatre, Victoria, B.C., Canada

Royal Theatre, Victoria, B.C., Canada

My, oh, my, how they saw love in Scotland and Italy in the early 1800’s! Sir Walter Scott published his novel, The Bride of Lammermoor, in 1819, and Donizetti produced his opera, Lucia di Lammermoor, based on the novel, in 1835. It’s said to be a drama tragico written in the bel canto tradition. What’s that? Well, to me, an opera novice, that sounds like the opera is a tragedy, probably turgid or melodramatic, in which the singers belt out a lot of fast-moving notes over an extremely wide range…i.e., a very sad story told through very difficult, sometimes beautiful music.

Gaetano Donizetti, c. 1835

Gaetano Donizetti, c. 1835

So, what happens? Sure enough, three protagonists die in the third act, one by murder, one by suicide, and one of a broken heart that induces insanity. That’s early 19th century love for you! Only the villain, Enrico, survives. As he manipulates others in his own struggle for power, casualties fall dead on the stage, one by one, including his helpless sister, Lucia and her two suitors, one of whom she loves passionately but tragically. In the end, Enrico is forced to see what he has wrought, and his pain and guilt hang heavily and darkly over the final scene.

My wife and I have now seen two operas in Victoria, B.C. (see my post of 2 June 2014, regarding Richard Strauss’ Ariadne Auf Naxos). We saw this second opera on the evening of Valentine’s Day, 14 February 2015. It was performed in the Royal Theatre by Pacific Opera Victoria with the Victoria Symphony and the Pacific Opera Chorus. Lucia di Lammermoor is generally considered Domenico Gaetano Maria Donizetti’s masterpiece among his ~75 operas.

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“A Time for Christmas,” the 2014 Musical at Alderwood Community Church, Lynnwood

Posted by glennled on April 23, 2015

"It's a Merry Christmas Eve!" sung on a city sidewalk by townspeople and carolers

“It’s a Merry Christmas Eve!” sung on a city sidewalk by townspeople and carolers

I confess–I love musicals more than I love opera. I’m simple. After most musicals, I walk out of the theater with some song in my head, some melody in my heart, some lyrics on my lips. I like that. But although some opera music is magnificently beautiful and I like it, too, I often can hardly hum even my most favorite arias.

And so it was when I was invited to play trumpet with the orchestra of Alderwood Community Church (ACC) last Christmas season. Each year, ACC stages a Christmas play, and in 2014, the choice was the superlative religious musical, “A Time for Christmas” by Paul McCusker, David T. Clydesdale, Steven Amerson, and Lowell Alexander.

Mistress Lewis and children sing and dance at the orphanage in 1850 to "With A Little Bit of Faith"

Mistress Lewis and children sing and dance at the orphanage in 1850 to “With A Little Bit of Faith”

The plot features the very hard-working Bill, a young businessman who gives lip service to Christmas but is too busy to celebrate it, and his consultant, Mary, who understands the meaning of Christmas and loves the joy and hope found in the celebration of it. In a dream, Bill encounters Bartholomew, a mysterious stranger, who leads Bill on a journey through five scenes of various Christmases past, from the birth of Christ to the present. It awakens Bill—through watching others in other times and places, he begins to realize what he’s missing and warms to Mary.

play2014-2The orchestra and choir were conducted by Linda Collins, and the musical was dedicated to Dave Ballbach, “whose support and encouragement has inspired this endeavor for two decades.” It was presented five times during the weekend of 5-7 December at the church, which is located in Lynnwood near the intersection of I-5 with 196th St.

What tune was I singing when I left the church after the performances? Well, sometimes it was “With a Little Bit of Faith,” but more often it was “It’s a Merry Christmas Day!” And you know it’s a truly special musical when there are TWO songs stuck in your mind and heart!

The photos in the gallery below were provided courtesy of the professional photographer, John Crozier of Edmonds (see http://www.crozierphotography.com). Please click on any photo to enlarge it.

 

 

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“Ariadne Auf Naxos” by Strauss at Pacific Opera Victoria, in B.C., Canada

Posted by glennled on June 2, 2014

Royal Theatre, Victoria, B.C., Canada, from a loge in the balcony

Royal Theatre, Victoria, B.C., Canada, from a loge in the balcony

On Saturday, 15 February, the weather in Victoria, B.C., Canada was shivery cold and windy. Clipper Navigation, operators of the large, 300-passenger catamarns that speedily ferry people back and forth between Seattle and Victoria, cancelled our 5 p.m. trip home due to the rough crossing that day of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Admiralty Inlet, and Puget Sound. My wife and I had a choice–go home early at 3 p.m. Saturday or wait till the Sunday, 5 p.m. sailing. So, what did we do? Naturally, we stayed in town and went to the opera!DBPB_1954_124_Richard_Strauss

At the Royal Theatre in downtown Victoria, B.C., Canada, the Pacific Opera Victoria company performed Ariadne Auf Naxos by Richard Strauss. As opera novices, of course, we’d never seen it or even heard of it, although the second (revised) version premiered in Vienna on 4 October 1916–almost 98 years ago.

According to the Artistic Director and Conductor, Timothy Vernon, it’s an opera about an opera, and in it, Strauss created “the greatest coloatura [soprano] part in all opera.” Two troupes of performers, one a serious opera company and the other a burlesque group, arrive one evening to entertain the dinner guests of the richest man in Vienna, expecting to present separate performances. They are ordered to present both performances at once, finishing not one minute longer than nine o’clock when there would be fireworks in the garden.

Ariadne (opera) has been abandoned by her lost love and longs to die. Zerbinetta (burlesque) intervenes with her advice that finding another man is the easiest and simplest way to get over a broken heart and that when a new love arrives, the only choice is to yield to it. These conflicting views make the opera.

And this opera made our trip–our fifth to Victoria in the previous 14 months.

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Does Rossini’s “Cinderella” Opera from 1817 Play Well in 2013?

Posted by glennled on January 22, 2013

On Sunday, 13 January, it was time for my wife and me (opera novices) to be re-introduced to Gioachino Antonio Rossini, the blog_poster_cinderella, 1-13-13composer whose nickname was “The Italian Mozart.” We were both familiar with The Barber of Seville, but it was so long ago, we can hardly be sure of when, where and what. So off we drove to McCaw Hall not knowing what to expect to see and hear at the Seattle Opera’s matinee performance of Cinderella (La Cenerentola)—almost 200 years after it premiered at Teatro Valle, Rome, 25 January 1817.

The prince wins Cinderella in Seattle Opera’s La Cenerentola, with sets and costumes designed by Joan Guillén - Photo © Elise Bakketun

Prince Ramiro wins Cinderella in Seattle Opera’s “La Cenerentola,” with sets and costumes designed by Joan Guillén – Photo © Elise Bakketun

It turns out that Rossini’s Cinderella is a romantic comedy of the bel canto (“Beautiful Singing”) kind. The story was altered by librettist Jacopo Ferretti both in characters and in plot, but yes, in the end, the prince does get the lovely, virtuous Cinderella as his bride. This takes two acts stretched over three hours (including a half-hour intermission). During the pursuit, there are lots of laughs and some extraordinary singing.

The basic premise of the opera, writes Spreight Jenkins, General Director of the Seattle Opera, is that the prince wants to marry someone who loves him for himself, not his position, power or wealth.  That romantic ideal still plays well in 2013 in Western society, does it not? Cinderella, called Angelina in this opera, is a forward-looking person who also will marry only for love but wants respect, too. She is not a male-dominated person, and she is not ambitious to become a princess. She stands up for herself, knows what she wants, and wins it fair and square on her terms—her man must be willing to make an effort to win her. This idea of feminity is still modern and plays well in 2013 in America and elsewhere, does it not? Jenkins writes in Encore, “There’s a lot of humor, but we see in Angelina a far more recognizable and believable young woman than many created in the nineteenth century. She is generous when she wins, and altogether she is a really charming person who might fit very well into the twenty-first century.”

Here’s what the bel canto style meant when it was dominant from the 18th century until about 1840, according to the experts at Wikipedia:

  • an impeccable legato production throughout the singer’s (seamless) range
  • the use of a light tone in the higher registers
  • an agile, flexible technique capable of dispatching ornate embellishments
  • the ability to execute fast, accurate divisions
  • the avoidance of aspirates and eschewing a loose vibrato
  • a pleasing, well-focused timbre
  • a clean attack
  • limpid diction
  • graceful phrasing rooted in a complete mastery of breath control

    Alidoro (Arthur Woodleyj), tutor to Prince Ramiro, has other plans for Cinderella - Photo by Alan Alabastro.

    Alidoro (Arthur Woodleyj), tutor to Prince Ramiro, has other plans for Cinderella – Photo by Alan Alabastro.

The music was written to show off the exceptional quality of the singers’ voices. I especially enjoyed the various ensembles. The precision of the attacks, phrasing, and breath control were remarkable and often, as intended, funny! I imagine it would be quite challenging and possibly exhausting to sing for so long in that style. Among the voices I enjoyed the most were those of Angelina (Cinderella), mezzo-soprano; Alidoro, bass; Dandini, baritone; and Don Magnifico, bass.

Courtesy of Seattle Symphony & Opera Players' Organization

Courtesy of Seattle Symphony & Opera Players’ Organization

I enjoyed listening to the orchestra, too, hearing and watching how the music from the pit matched the action on stage. It’s great fun to play trumpet in the orchestra of a musical or an opera. I did both long ago on the college level—but now I’m just a happy spectator. I wonder if any of my trumpet students will ever have that wonderful experience. I hope so. That would please me, as did this .  😉  Please click on any photo to enlarge it:

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My Trumpet Student Stars in Bizet’s “Carmen” at Seattle Opera

Posted by glennled on November 1, 2011

Anita Rachvelishvili (Carmen) with ensemble; © Elise Bakketun photo, courtesy of Seattle Opera, http://www.seattleopera.org.

My trumpet student, John (51), may cringe when he sees that headline, but that’s too bad—to me, he’s a Star! No, he doesn’t play in the orchestra. No, he doesn’t sing a major role in any opera. No, he doesn’t sing in the opera chorus. He’s simply a “super”—an “extra.”

In Carmen, just finished at the Seattle Opera House, he was a banderillero at the bullring in Seville, Spain. Wearing the traditional black and silver costume and carrying his bright yellow banderilla, he lead the parade of bullfighters into the ring. Banderillas are sharp,

Planting the banderillas

barbed sticks which are planted into the bull’s shoulders to weaken it for the kill.

On 4 October, he appeared in full costume on King 5 TV during a segment of the New Day Northwest show, promoting Carmen for the Seattle Opera (see http://www.king5.com/new-day-northwest/The-Seattle-Opera-Performs-131056473.html  toward the end of the segment). He was on stage only twice per performance in this opera.

John has been a faithful and competent extra in enough operas so that the opera company gave him a couple of complimentary tickets for the Friday night performance on 28 October. The seats were outstanding—right in the center section on the Orchestra Level (main floor) of McCall Hall . He kindly offered them to me and my wife, and we quickly and gratefully accepted. We usually attend one or two operas per season. We just saw Porgy and Bess last August (see my post of 15 August 2011).

Georges Bizet, 1838-1875

Carmen is now our favorite, supplanting La Boheme by Puccini. Both are consistently among the top 10 operas performed annually throughout the world. Carmen was first performed 136 years ago in Paris on 3 March 1875. It struggled to survive, and Georges Bizet, composer, died on 3 June just after its 30th performance. He could never have guessed its prominence today in operatic lore. In 1962, I was lucky enough to play second trumpet in a production in the old Meany Hall at the University of Washington. The Dean of the School of Music, Dr. Stanley Chapple, was the conductor.

John, originally from New York, commenced trumpet lessons with me almost two years ago (see my post of 7 January 2010). Carmen is John’s fourth opera, all in Seattle. In 2008, he was a soldier in the grand processional march in Verdi’s Aida. In 2009, he was a lackey/servant in Verdi’s La Traviata.  In 2010, he was a Normano guard/soldier in

Poster, American Production, 1896

Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor. He did it the first time because it sounded like so much fun. It was, so two of his good friends decided to do it also. He says he keeps doing it because he loves opera—the acting, singing, orchestral music, and (sometimes) dancing. “Being on stage with some of this incandescent talent is a very special experience [and that gives him] “the best seats in the house! Someone asked me what I get paid to do it, and I told them that when I interviewed for the role, I asked if I had to pay.”

When Carmen ended Saturday night, another “super” (a Microsoft corporate Vice President) hosted an after-hours party at Ten Mercer in Lower Queen Anne, about a block from Seattle Center. John contributed some wine. “Just about everyone showed up, including all the principals,” he says, and “we didn’t get outta there until 2:30 a.m.”

Somehow, I think that if he could, Georges Bizet would have been there, too, happy and proud.

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Sweet Tones from 6th Grader

Posted by glennled on November 18, 2009

This afternoon during our first private trumpet lesson, I heard my newest student, the 4th of this school year, play the sweetest tones on his trumpet! Trouble is, he cannot yet read music fluently. He’s sort of stuck at that stage where he still has to think about the name of each note and then recall the fingering. But when he finally blows, his attack is clean and his tone is big, solid, full, round and fat! It’s so natural to him.

He’s been thrown into a 6th grade band class, handed a band book, and told to go learn to play Exercise __ or Song __ on pages __ with little or no guidance or instruction about the horn and technique. It’s forced “do it yourself” learning. Well, with this teaching approach, what results does the band director at this north Seattle elementary school expect?! Struggles, frustration, and a probable band drop-out someday.

It is my pleasure to help this gentle boy overcome these obstacles. Let’s give the kid some successes! and who knows? maybe we’ll be listening to him play in the jazz, concert and marching bands soon…maybe in the symphony or opera orchestras someday…maybe on some CDs or in the movies when he’s that good. Let him dream! Help him dream! Help him achieve his potential. Or maybe he’ll simply enjoy playing in the school band with his friends for a few years and never take it any further…that’s fine, too. You find good people in bands. Good memories accumulate with the many events, and lifetime friendships often form–even marriages!

Thanks to his Mom for giving me the opportunity to help him come to love music and the trumpet. Let’s motivate him to practice more. Let’s have fun while we work hard. Let’s see what he can do, if he really wants to.

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