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Performance and Pedagogy Blog

A blog about the performance and pedagogy of music.

Filtering by Tag: trumpet

Great Insights Into Freelancing

Andrew Hitz

A couple of years ago I was having lunch with my good friend John Abbracciamento, a trumpet player with the President's Own Marine Band, here in DC. Our conversation, as always, started with us articulating our distastes for the others favorite sports teams (he is from New York, I am from Boston.) But this one day the conversation ended up segueing into a very interesting discussion about the music business. It got good enough that I jotted down a couple of notes.


I asked him about his career before joining the Marine Band. He started out as a freelancer in New York City. He told me he started getting a lot of phone calls very quickly, to play everything from small gigs to becoming a regular sub with the New York Philharmonic.  

To paraphrase him, he was getting more calls than he "should have" gotten. He's always been a great player. He's in the Marine Band! But he said he was getting more calls than other guys who were either as good or better than he was in town. So naturally I asked him why he thought that was.  He gave me two answers:

I got a lot of calls for two reasons. One, I can keep my mouth shut. And two, I can almost immediately match anyone else’s playing.
— John Abbracciamento, Trumpet Player "President's Own" Marine Band

The first point is an imperative one. As musicians, we are taught to share our (musical) opinions all the time. Sometimes it can be challenging to not let that naturally extend to things off of the horn. I was taught to ask myself three questions any time I want to open my mouth to criticize anyone or anything:

1. Does this need to be said?
2. Does this need to be said by me?
3. Does this need to be said by me right now?

Unless I answer yes to all three of those questions, I've learned to keep my mouth shut.

John's point was that he didn't criticize colleagues. He didn't criticize conductors. He didn't complain about the pay on a gig (which he had already agreed to or he wouldn't be there in the first place!) He kept his mouth shut as a sub and kept his head down.

And the second point will get you hired over and over again. As Rex Martin used to preach to us at Northwestern, our job as musicians is to make those around us sound better than they actually are. And John shared a compliment that Woody English, the fantastic former trumpet player for the Army Band, once gave to him:

I like playing with you. You make me sound better than I am.
— Woody English, Former Trumpet Player US Army Band "Pershing's Own"

If you can do the two things that John did during his time in New York, you will find yourself with a phone that rings an awful lot.

No BS! Brass: Monday YouTube Fix

Andrew Hitz

This past week I was soloing with the Bird High School Wind Symphony outside of Richmond and had the privilege of meeting the tuba player for Richmond's No BS! Brass, Stefan Demetriadis.  I've been a big fan of his and the entire band for a while now.  They are a fantastic brass band in the New Orleans tradition but they've absolutely got their own sound. Any band that describes themselves as "fearlessly combining elements of James Brown, John Coltrane, Michael Jackson, and Led Zeppelin" has got my attention.  Stefan holds down the low end like a champ.  This video is totally kick ass.


David Guerrier: Monday YouTube Fix

Andrew Hitz

To be honest, I would be okay with never hearing another version of the Carnival of Venice.  But as soon as I say that, I come across a truly effortless and musical rendition like this one, and I'm happy to hear it all over again. French trumpet soloist David Guerrier is one of those players who is so technically accomplished that all that's left to worry about is the storytelling.  This fantastic rendition of the Carnival of Venice is done on an antique coronet.  And if you really want to get mad, he also plays the horn.  What a talent! May we all aspire to have our playing sound as effortless as that of David Guerrier.


Jens Lindemann and The United States Army Band, Pershing's Own: Monday YouTube Fix

Andrew Hitz

I'll never forget meeting Jens Lindemann.  Boston Brass had a few hour layover at LAX the summer of 2001 and Jens and his wife, Jennifer Snow, came to meet us at the LAX Marriott for a quick meal.  All seven of us basically laughed uncontrollably for two hours before we got back on the plane.  Instant friendships were born. Jens had recently retired from the Canadian Brass and taken as the trumpet professor at UCLA, a position he still holds today.  We traded road war stories and vowed to work together as soon as possible.  As chance would have it, both of our trumpet players' wives gave birth to kids within the next two years and Jens filled in each time.

I have also been fortunate to work with him on some other occasions as well, the most notable being in Mexico.  He called me and asked if I wanted to play in a brass sextet with him, Jim Thompson, Fred Mills, Marty Hackleman and Julio Briseno in Texcoco, just east of Mexico City.  I thought he was playing a joke on me! It was one of the highlights of my career.

© 2006 Andrew Hitz

As you can tell by this clip, Jens is one of the best players in the world.  I have also learned an invaluable amount from him about being a showman.  He is a master as you can see from the beginning of this clip.  Jens is a true inspiration as an entrepreneur and artist.  He is a beast on the trumpet and sounds amazing along with The US Army Band, Pershing's Own from the National Trumpet Competition in 2012.


Charles Lazarus Master Class Quotes (Part 3 of 3)

Andrew Hitz

Here is the final installment of the wonderful Charles Lazarus trumpet master class at the National Trumpet Competition at George Mason University this past March.  I always love going to the NTC master classes and this was one of the best I've ever seen.

In case you missed them, here are Part 1 and Part 2 of the quotes from his class.  So many nuggets of wisdom!


  • Minnesota Timberwolves physical trainer: "It takes 10,000 repetitions for someone to learn how to swing a golf club or shoot a basketball. But if you are trying to relearn something the right way, double that."
  • "Slow, methodical practice. You can slow things down. You can add a note at a time. You can play an entire phrase and slowly take one note away at a time. You can change the rhythm."
  • "There are eight aspects of practicing: high, low, loud, soft, fast, slow, articulate, slur."
  • "There are three ways to play them: through the range, interal studies, isolate the ranges."

  •  "I’ve started writing a practice book 20 times but then realize that everyone’s needs are going to be different.  It’s just important that you touch all the bases every day."
  • "I’m a big fan of short practice sessions, often."
  • "Adolph Herseth told me he never practices more than 30 minutes at a time."
  • "It is better to practice 15 minutes, 4 times a day than playing for one hour straight. Then you have to wait 23 hours until you play again and there is a lot of muscle memory."
  • "Joey Tartell can play quadruple high Q’s but still get a great sound on the Haydn."
  • "I recommend that you practice with straight tone.  Add vibrato later for musical reasons."
  • "If you’re phrasing, you can’t really fail. You can miss a note but people won’t really care."
  • "You can tell by how I’m playing that E that it’s going to go somewhere."
  • "You don’t need to open up so much to play the low notes. I think of my embouchure as adjusting to stay the same."
  • (After playing call and response with student on one lick in time) "That one was statement/statement. The first ones were statement/question statement/question."
  • "For most of my range, I try to stay set. I don’t stay completely set but I don’t over adjust."
  • "I like to sometimes think of the (previous) note as the beginning of the inhale."
  • "You played the G like you were testing the note. There’s no testing."
  • "(Instead of a metronome) I like to practice with the shakers on Garage Band."
  • "Internalizing the rhythm is the hardest thing for playing orchestral excerpts by yourself."
  • "In soft lyrical playing, people frequently don’t articulate enough."
  • "Playing trumpet you want to be fluid and sometimes we can get position oriented."

Charles Lazarus Master Class Quotes (Part 2 of 3)

Andrew Hitz

Here is part two of quotes from the wonderful master class that trumpet great Charles Lazarus gave at the National Trumpet Competition this year.  In case you missed it, here's part one.  I can't believe how much I learned from this class.  I'm awfully happy that I braved all those trumpet players! I'll post part three on Friday.

  • "As basic human beings, we react to rhythm. Rhythm is a very primal and fundamental thing that humans react to."
  • "Rhythm gives you the framework to coordinate all of the physical things that have to happen in synchronicity when playing the trumpet."
  • "Rhythm, more than anything else when you’re playing, dramatically affects your physical coordination."
  • "Most missed notes are early.  Some are late, very few missed notes are on time."
  • "I subdivide everything I play, all of the time if I’m playing well.  If you hear me kack, I probably am not subdividing."
  • "Why did I biff the E? Because I wasn’t subdividing and I tried to play the E before it was time."
  • "Heldenleiben duh duh-duh splee-ah  - the splee would be before the downbeat."
  • "Every single day you should play with a metronome, especially in your warm-up."
  • "Play with a metronome every single day and then turn it off. Learn to internalize it."
  • "If you are a jazz player and you can’t tap your foot on 2 and 4, that’s a problem."
  • "I ask myself three questions if the sound is terrible and the feel is terrible: 1. How did it sound? What do I want it to sound like? 2. Am I phrasing? Am I taking in air and phrasing with that? 3. How is my time?"
  • "I’ve found that if those three questions are addressed, any technical problem can be solved."
  • "Don’t worry about aligning your wheels if your engine won’t start."
  • "You need to address those three questions before you go looking for the magic mouthpiece. You have to have your priorities straight."


Charles Lazarus Master Class Quotes (Part 1 of 3)

Andrew Hitz

I had the privilege of attending a wonderful master class by trumpeter Charles Lazarus at this year's National Trumpet Competition at George Mason University.  Charles is one of the best musicians I've ever met.  He can play not just well in a frustrating number of diverse styles but amazingly well in said styles.

His diversity is legendary.  If you were to hear him play a baroque trumpet solo, you would assume he does it full-time for a living.  If you were to hear him play with a brass quintet, you would assume he did that for a living.  Same with him playing with the Minnesota Orchestra or playing as a solo jazz player.  Really, he'll either drive you mad or to the practice room.  One or the other!

I had heard he was a great teacher but had never had the opportunity to see him in action until this master class.  I came away with enough quotes to share in a one hour master class that they are being split into three separate posts.  Some of them resonated with me to the point of being shared in almost every lesson I taught the following week after spring break.  I hope you enjoy these great Lazarus quotes as much as I have.

  • "No matter what you play, Body and Soul or Mahler 5, people only hear the sound that comes out of your bell."
  • "If your focus is on your sound, you will get to your end result faster."
  • "If you give a beginner a tone to try to match, they will sit up straight and their sound will get better."
  • "Technique is the ability to control your sound on any given note. At any given dynamic, 100% of the time. It is very easy to forget that when you're working on a lick."
  • Doc Severinsen: "I spent days and days and days trying to imagine the sound I’m trying to achieve.  I came up with my ideal sound and then I go for that."
  • "Not to say there’s not a physical side (to playing), but you have to know what your goal is."
  • "Rather than air support I like to think of tone support."
  • "I like to think of breathing as phrasing.  If you keep the air moving, your lips will vibrate."
  • "If you take in a full breath, there is some natural compression."
  • "If I want to get a fuller sound, I actually back off."
  • "When I talk to you, there are certain words that I emphasize. It is the same with phrasing."
  • "When you phrase, the sound and style will make sense to people."
  • "Our lips are like the string and our air is like the bow."
  • "If you’re phrasing with your air, you are going to take in enough air and you are going to keep it moving."
  • "If your chops are feeling stiff, keep the phrasing and the air moving."


Excellent Definition of Technique by a Master

Andrew Hitz

"Technique is the ability to control your sound on any given note, at any given dynamic, 100% of the time." - Charles Lazarus

Considering the tone that comes out of the end of Charles Lazarus' bell, it is not surprising that he nails this directly on the head.

The most important thing to do when working on your high register: play with your most beautiful sound possible.  The most important thing to do when working on your multiple tonguing: play with your most beautiful sound possible.  The most important thing to do when working on extreme dynamics: play with your most beautiful sound possible.

I think you get the point.  If you want to play the trumpet like Charles does (or any other instrument), this is some of the best advice you will ever receive.


This quote is from Charles Lazarus' master class at the National Trumpet Competition this past March.  I will be posting a full list of quotes from his excellent class later this week.  It was one of the best I've attended in a long time.