Shofar for Rosh HaShanah 2017

I was hired this year to do the shofar calls for the Rosh HaShanah celebration at the meeting of a synagogue without walls service. Thank you, Kelly Dean, for thinking about me for this. I enjoyed it!

Here’s a note from the Rabbi Scott:

Thank you so much for all you brought to our Rosh Hashanah morning service! You were terrific! I’ve never known that the shofar could sound like that!!

For those who don’t know how the shofar  Rosh HaShanah service works, the calls each represent something specific. They are not just random blasts. There are three basic calls which are blown in response to the cantor. When the cantor sings “T’kiah”, the shofar plays on long note. According to the literature at the service, that one note represents wholeness…as in “once we were whole”. When the cantor sings “Sh’varim”, the shofar plays three long notes. When the cantor sings “T’ruah”, the shofar plays at least nine short notes. These represent brokenness. Then the cantor sings “T’kiah” again and the shofar plays the long note, which represents being made whole again.

The video above begins after the first T’kiah.

When I first spoke to the Rabbi, he asked if I had ever done the shofar before. I told him yes, but that it had been many years ago. It was actually several decades ago. But I did my homework and knew what I was doing by the time I got there.

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Congratulations Jazz Region Students

Well, it’s the first time this has happened in many years. Over a decade ago I decided to limit my student load to a fraction of what it used to be. I did this so I could give each student all the attention they deserved. But that also meant that I send very few students to the various competitions anymore. When I say “so few”, I mean in comparison to how it was in the 90’s when I was teaching over seventy students per week.

This week, for the first time in over a decade, I had multiple students win spots in the same band. TMEA Region 23, which is probably one of the most competitive regions in the state for jazz, had their jazz band auditions on Tuesday. Four of my private lesson students one chairs in the band as well as two students master classes that I taught over the summer:

  1. Lily P. is currently a freshman at H.S.P.V.A. and has gotten off to a good start with lessons over the summer.
  2. Christopher L. is a senior at Lamar High School and has become one of my most creative students.
  3. Cristian C. is a senior at Elsik High School. Cristian won some sort of scholarship that paid for his lessons with me over the summer.
  4. Richard C. is my newest student, a junior at H.S.P.V.A. Richard made it into the first band.
  5. Sebastian S. is a student at Taylor High School where I’ve been giving master classes in the summer for three years now. Sebastian is first chair in the first band.
  6. Ryan N. is also a student at Taylor High School.

I typically don’t lump all of the congratulations into one post like this, but there are so many and I am short of time. Congratulations Lily, Christopher, Cristian, Richard, Sebastian and Ryan. You each did a great job.

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Congratulations Abi

We want to congratulate Abinand for making All-Region Jazz in TMEA Region 17. He placed in the first band (top five) and should be qualified to compete at the All-State Level.

Abi is one of our short term students who signed up for lessons with one specific goal. He wanted to make All-Region Jazz. Mission accomplished!

That is part of our teaching philosophy. It is your goals, not our goals. We are here to help you get where you want to go, in your music, on the trumpet.

Congratulations, Abi! You did a great job!

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Taylor High School Trumpet Master Classes

It was an honor to be invited again to do the summer band master classes at Taylor High School in Katy, Texas. This was my third year and I hope they have me back again next year.

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All Blues Play List for All-State Jazz

I’ve created a play list of different trumpet players playing All Blues to help you prepare for the All-Region Jazz auditions. If you are auditioning for All-Region Jazz, listen to these videos several times. Also avoid the temptation to skip after the trumpet solo is over. You need to get into the habit of listening to full recordings and not only listening to the trumpet solos.

This is the region etude. I will try to make a play list for the state improv etude when I have a chance.

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Student News Makeover

RSS Icon By HopkaI have limited disk space on the website, which is my main professional site. So I had to stop posting student news on that website. Instead, I’ve decided to post the student news here on this blog and stream it as an RSS feed on

I have gone about six months or more without posting any student news because of the space problem. Some of the students look forward to those posts, so I apologize for not being able to post them. With this new change, we will get back on schedule again.

This summer the students are all busy with musical projects. Some are preparing for the region jazz auditions. Others are going to camps. These are very exciting times for all of them. We will keep you posted as we get more news.

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Boys Play, Men Fight – Part II

This is the flugelhorn I played on in high school.

The Composition Process

In my last post about the Al Mendez tribute concert, I said I would write a separate post about the composition I wrote specifically for the concert. When Roger asked me what I would like to perform with the band, as a soloist, I asked if it was okay if I wrote an original piece. This was late in the year, last year (2016).

When I compose with a specific theme or subject in mind, I spend at least a couple of weeks thinking about it first. Writing a dedication piece for my high school band director, Al Mendez, took me on a journey back in time.

1980 Yamaha Flugelhorn

My first thought was that this piece should be written for me to perform on my flugelhorn. I am still playing on the same flugelhorn I had when I was in high school. The instrument has signs of heavy wear and tear. I’ve been taking it to every gig since I left high school. The wear and tear gives it a sound that I do not believe can be replicated.

I’m not much of an equipment buff. I’ve only had five different B flat trumpets in forty years. But only this one flugelhorn.

People love the sound of my flugel. To me, it is one of the last physical things that still connects me to my past as one of Al Mendez’ students with the Andress Jazz Band. This is the same flugelhorn I took when we performed in the Paris Jazz Festival in 1982.

I remember when we were at a performance in Paris and the band that was supposed to come after us was too eager to setup. Their trumpets rushed to the stage and knocked my flugelhorn over and it couldn’t be played for the rest of the trip.

Boys Play

We had fun in high school. The band, and more specifically the jazz band, was like a big family. We were very close and we had a good time. And that’s where my thoughts took me as I contemplated how I should approach writing this new composition. I experienced a flood of fond memories, all of them either directly or indirectly related to band.

As Al pointed out in the interview we had on the Thursday morning before the concert, when the band room doors closed, the atmosphere was very serious. We were there to get work done. We were striving for musical excellence. I firmly believe that this is precisely why our fun times were so much more enjoyable. Our ability to get serious in the rehearsals brought us together and brought us as close as a family.

Men Fight

But the more I thought about how “fun” high school was, the more I realized how much it contrasts with the life I live today as a professional musician. I make my living doing what we enjoyed so much in school. It is extremely serious business. If I don’t do it well, then I can’t pay my bills. If I don’t do it well…every single time…then my reputation will suffer and my family’s well-being will be compromised.

Don’t misunderstand me. My career brings me a great deal of joy, greater joy than anything I ever experienced as a student.

But it’s not the same.

I tell my students that there is a “joy spectrum” and “fun” is on the bottom end of that spectrum. I tell them that “fun” is the lowest level of musical joy you can experience. Of course, fun is fun!!! We like that when we experience it. But there is so much more joy to experience in music when we take it to the highest levels.

Just to give you an example of what I’m saying, you can’t imagine the joy it brings me to live as a full time professional musician. It is a very difficult way to live. I have lived beneath the official poverty line for most of my adult life. But I am living a dream that most musicians will never even get a glimpse of in their lifetimes.

But still, at the same time, it is also extremely serious. I’m not sure how else to explain it.

What does this have to do with Al Mendez?

Al was one of the first people to introduce me to this kind of seriousness. There were others, too. But Al was one of the first. By teaching me how to be serious in the band room, he took the first steps in teaching me how to do what I do to make a living. He was right in the interview. I remember how serious our rehearsals were. And we kicked butt!

I recently read a comment by Kenny Capshaw where he said our jazz band set the standard for high school jazz ensembles in Texas in the 80’s. That’s what seriousness does for your music. It takes you far, far beyond the musical fun of a less serious ensemble.

I’m kind of glad that I forgot to introduce my composition. It gave me this opportunity to delve into more detail here.

Thank You Again Al Mendez

It was so nice to have an opportunity for each of us alumni to express our appreciation for your influence in our own ways. Thank you for your serious attitude in music. Thank you for bringing us all together and binding us as a musical family. Thank you for giving us the memories we cherish so fondly.

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