Kenny Capshaw was my trumpet teacher in high school from my sophomore year until I graduated. At the time, he was the band director at El Paso High School and I used to get rides with my friends to that school once a week for my lessons.
Since then, Mr. Capshaw owned and ran a music store in El Paso for many years before returning to teaching high school band at Coronado High School on El Paso’s west side. I didn’t know he had retired from teaching until I did a few searches on google in an effort to find external pages to link to from this article. The following is a youtube video of his final concert performance at Coronado:
An Embarrassing Introduction
The way Mr. Capshaw and I met was one of the most humiliating stories of my early trumpet “career.” At the time, Mr. Capshaw was already teaching my trumpet friends, Jawn Glass and Leslie Townsend and I had hoped to one day study with him as well. But our relationship got off to a bad start when he was my judge at solo contest.
At the time, I was experience horrendous problems with performance anxiety. I used to get so nervous when I performed that I literally couldn’t play a note anymore. When this happened in my solo performance at the contest, I pulled my horn off my face and swore under my breath. Or so I thought it was under my breath – it was a lot more audible than I had thought. Then I put my horn back to my lips and tried to finish the song. That’s when I said the F-word, once again, under my breath.
When I got my score from Al Mendez, my band director, he told me that Mr. Capshaw told him he would have given me a 5 but it doesn’t go that low. Mr. Mendez suggested that I should call Mr. Capshaw to apologize. I did. After I apologized, I asked him if he would be my teacher. He was reluctant at first. As far as he knew, I was just a punk with a bad attitude. But he agreed to take me on and I studied with him for three years.
It’s not a coincidence that I made the Texas All-State Band my last two years of high school. I had taken Mr. Capshaw’s teaching very seriously and with his help, I was able to correct a lot of my performance issues. In fact, I remember that one of the first things we ever talked about in our lessons was what to do about my performance anxiety. With Mr. Capshaw’s help, we were able to find a workaround that not only helped me make All-State two times, but also helped me get through my college and early professional years as well.
I have told people in the past that it was my lessons with Mr. Capshaw that opened my eyes to higher quality playing. Making All-State is not about trying harder. You cannot make All-State without taking your performance to a higher quality level. It’s all in the details, and I was blind to those details before I began taking lessons with him.
That’s why, when I was asked to review a book titled How to Make First Chair, I mentioned Mr. Capshaw in my review. He taught me just about everything that book teaches and not only did it help me become a successful musician, but it also changed the way I see quality outside of music.
Classical and Jazz Trumpet
I was blessed in my career by trumpet teachers who are not narrow-minded about classical music. Kenneth Capshaw was always active in the El Paso music community as both a jazz player and a classical performer. Not only did I get to hear him perform on numerous occasions, doing both jazz and classical performances, but studying with someone who has crossed that fence himself is a very different experience from working with the die hard classical players.
For that reason, Mr. Capshaw helped in shaping my career into what it is today. I tell people that I am a “studio player”, which to me means that I play all styles applicable to trumpet. When people ask if I play any other instrument, I tell them, no, that I invested all of my energies into learning how to do EVERYTHING on the trumpet that the trumpet could do. Mr. Capshaw was a key influence in moving my career in that direction.
This Life Builders series is dedicated to acknowledging the people who have contributed to my success. There is no question that Kenny Capshaw played a major role in my development as a musician and as a trumpet player. As with all of these Life Builders posts, I cannot possibly put everything Mr. Capshaw ever did for me in one article. When I write these posts, I write the things I remember most.
Thank you Mr. Capshaw. Thank you for taking me as a student and investing your time into my life the way you did. Know that you are appreciated for it.