El Paso Trip Reflections

I am back now from spending five days in El Paso, performing and speaking about music. It was a nice trip and I wanted to spend some time reflecting here on what happened while I was there.

This is the hotel where they put me up. Very nice, one of the best I've stayed in.

This is the hotel where they put me up. Very nice, one of the best I’ve stayed in.

Jawn Glass and Joe Barriga

The first event for me on this trip was a rehearsal with the UTEP jazz ensemble. Since most of the trumpet players from UTEP were at the Cancer Blows event in Dallas, I was asked to join Jawn Glass and Joe Barriga as subs in the section for the rehearsal.

Of course, why not!!!

It was wonderful playing in a jazz section again with Jawn Glass. Jawn and I were in high school together and did a few college years together as well. So it was very nice to spend that kind of time with him again.

It was also a nice opportunity to meet Joe Barriga, who is one of El Paso’s up and coming players. Apparently Joe knew me from a workshop I did at NMSU many years ago. So that was cool. He has developed into a fine lead trumpet player.

Jazz Gig and a Special Honor

On Tuesday night I did a jazz performance with the guys from our recent CD, A Not So Distant Pass; Ruben Gutierrez, Erik Unsworth and Ricky Malichi. Not only did we have a blast hanging out and making music together, but it was also a very special honor to have some special friends come out to hear us play. It was great to see Martin Huerta and Jeff Stevens.

Tuesday night gig in El Paso

I think the following video was shot by Jeff at the gig:

The biggest honor on Tuesday night was my high school friend (and reader of this blog), Devin Gray. Devin drove all the way from Albuquerque to hear us perform. If I remember right, that’s a four hour drive.

You cannot imagine how much I appreciate that anyone would drive so far just to hear me play my horn. That was the kindest thing anyone has done for me in a very long time. Thank you Devin!

Devin took some photos while he was there and I’ll be including them in the mosaic below.

KTEP Radio Interview With Dennis Woo

I also had the privileged to do a radio interview Wednesday morning. Dennis is not only a radio DJ. He is the current president of the El Paso Friends of Jazz, teaches broadcasting at the university and plays a bit of jazz guitar as well. So he had some wonderful questions for me that I enjoyed answering.

It’s nice talking to people who appreciate what you have to say. And if there is any one thing I would say about the interview, it would be that I definitely felt appreciated when it was over.

UTEP Performance

The concert on Wednesday evening featured four other bands besides just UTEP. The first of those bands was a very impressive junior high band from Indian Ridge Middle School.

Indian Ridge Middle School

This kids swing harder than most of the college bands I’ve heard. It’s amazing how mature they sound.

This was also a great opportunity for me to hear Roger Morgan’s son, Chandler, who is the jazz trumpeter for Franklin High School. Roger was my section leader in high school. He was always a very impressive, natural player. His son is obviously following in his footsteps.

The concert went well. I haven’t mentioned Dr. Willie Hill yet. He was the guest conductor for the UTEP jazz ensemble. I had the pleasure of eating lunch/dinner with him three different times and he is a delightful character. It was very interesting to hear stories about his work.

Dr. Hill is also a very good jazz educator. It is rare when I hear a jazz band director say pretty much the same things as I would have said. His sense of swing and overall jazz style is very similar to what I like to hear and teach to my own students (even though I haven’t directed a band in years).

Jazz Improvisation Workshop

The following morning I presented a workshop on the topic of “Musical Honesty in Jazz.” I shared with the students (and some teachers) my concept of Wholesome Musical Priorities and then demonstrated how those priorities can manifest themselves as individualism in the way we practice jazz. We talked about grammar in the context of jazz vocabulary and how to take traditional jazz motifs and practice them in a way that makes it our own.

I got such wonderful comments and feedback about the workshop, and that touches my heart. Really, I think it’s important to take everything we do back to the basics. Not just musical basics, but all the way back to who we are as a person. If we are not true to ourselves, even in the way we practice, then our performances will always be fake.

So it was good to hear that the students responded so well to what I had to share with them.

Thank You All

In summary, it was a very nice trip and I want to thank everyone who made it special. Erik Unsworth was a very good host and made my stay very comfortable. As always, it was a blast making music with him, Ricky and Ruben again. And I was so thrilled to hookup with so many dear friends while I was there. Thank you all for welcoming me back with open arms.

Here’s a bunch of photos from the trip:

Posted in Jazz, Performances, Reflections | Leave a comment

Life Builder: Martin Huerta

Time for another Life Builder post, and since I’m in El Paso, it should be one of the many people from that time in my life…Martin Huerta.

This Life Builder series is something I’ve been doing for several years now, acknowledging those people who have contributed to my success in life. I believe it is a mistake to go through life failing to acknowledge those people who build us up.

Martin is one of those people to me. And this is why…

This is a picture from our trip to El Paso for the Andress High School 50 year anniversary.

This is a picture from our trip to El Paso for the Andress High School 50 year anniversary.

Martin Is a Giver

I cannot talk about how much Martin means to me without pointing out that, of all the people I know, Martin is one of the most generous people I ever met. It’s sad that, in today’s society, we associate generosity with giving money. But that’s not what I’m talking about. Martin is the kind of guy who will go the extra mile for you, give you the shirt off of his back, etc.

Yes, I know those are cliches that people use, but with Martin, I truly believe he really would give you the shirt off of his back if he knew you needed it more than he did.

But it’s the “go the extra mile” side of generosity where Martin truly shines. That’s what he always did for me when I lived here. Martin was the one I could always count on to give me a ride, or work on some music together for our quintet. Martin always included me in things that others would normally not. Things that seem like nothing to other people, but to an extreme introvert like me, it’s nice to be included.

I wish I had more actual examples to cite here, but we are talking about 30 years ago, so the memories are a bit foggy. But yes, that’s how I remember Martin from those days. He actually lived the way Jesus told us to live.

Kindness, Martin and This Series

This series is sort of a spin off from a parent series. I haven’t been keeping up with it much, but I am also writing a series about 1 Cor. 13, the famous love list. The second word on that list is “kind.” According to my study of how the word “kind” was used elsewhere in the Bible, kindness is when you give what is undeserved and/or cannot be repaid.

It’s a nice coincidence that I am writing about this right now because Pearl just shared the following graphic on facebook:

These Life Builder posts are not just a way to compliment the people I write about. They are all wonderful people. But this series is also about describing how their wonderfulness influenced me, and changed my life for the better. And on the topic of kindness, according to the Biblical definition that I derived from the Bible, Martin sets a wonderful example for me to follow. I want to be as kind as generous as he is.

This is my good friend Martin. He didn't know why I wanted to take his picture. I had already begun writing his Life Builder post and needed a picture of him to post before I left El Paso.

This is my good friend Martin. He didn’t know why I wanted to take his picture. I had already begun writing his Life Builder post and needed a picture of him to post before I left El Paso. I’ll post another one when I get home.

Embouchure Example

Another VERY important thing that Martin Huerta contributed into my life was his influence in my embouchure change (I don’t like to call it an embouchure change). When Martin and I met, and for most of the time that I lived in El Paso, my range was extremely limited. I could barely play a high C, and when I did get up into that range, it was a physical nightmare. It was a painful, miserable experience.

Martin, on the other hand, had a wonderful sound in that register and seemed to execute it effortlessly. For me, someone who worked so hard to get that upper register, it was mind boggling to me how he did that.

So I began studying Martin’s embouchure in earnest. I reasoned that, if I could analyze precisely how our embouchure’s differ, I could use that information to improve my own playing.

Studying his embouchure is not the only thing that helped me get to where I am, but I can promise you that I would not have the chops I have today (and I am known for my chops) if I hadn’t done that.

Keeping In Touch

One more thing before I close this post, out of all my dear friends in and from EL Paso, none of them put as much effort into keeping in touch with me as Martin does. Martin has been an advocate for me here in El Paso. He believed in me when few others did. My connection to this, my musical birth town of sorts, may have been severed if not for Martin working to keep that connection alive.

I don’t say so to insult or offend any of my other very dear friends here in El Paso. I understand people get busy, and life happens (something for which I am equally guilty). But that’s all the more reason to acknowledge Martin for, once again, going the extra mile.

Thank You Martin!

So thank you Martin. You are a dear friend and I am honored to have shared so much of your life with you. Thank you for being a giver and teaching me how to be more of a giver myself. Thank you for your beautiful musicianship and the example you set for me thirty years ago. And finally, thank you for keeping in touch. It means more to me than you can know.

It was great to see you on Tuesday. Thank you for coming out to hear us do our thing.

Posted in Life Builders | Tagged , | Leave a comment

A Perfectly Sincere Point of View

Bensonac

 

“I have lately come to perceive that the one thing which gives value to any piece of art, whether it be book, or picture, or music, is that subtle and evasive thing which is called personality. No amount of labor, of zest, even of accomplishment, can make up for the absence of this quality. It must be an almost instinctive thing, I believe. Of course, the mere presence of personality in a work of art is not sufficient, because the personality revealed may be lacking in charm; and charm, again, is an instinctive thing. No artist can set out to capture charm; he will toil all the night and take nothing; but what every artist can and must aim at is to have a perfectly sincere point of view. He must take his chance as to whether his point of view is an attractive one; but sincerity is the one indispensable thing. It is useless to take opinions on trust, to retail them, to adopt them; they must be formed, created, felt. The work of a sincere artist is almost certain to have some value; the work of an insincere artist is of its very nature worthless.”
A. C. Benson

If you are one of the regular readers of my blog, you may recognize the similarity between the quote above and what I have said in previous posts about striving for originality. The quote is over a hundred years old and quite frankly says what I’ve been trying to say all along, but with far more eloquence.

Click here to read one of my old blogs about originality.

Posted in Composition, Jazz, Music Business, Thinking Aloud | Tagged | Leave a comment

Harlem Renaissance 101 – Cesar Chavez High School

One of the nice things about my career is the variety of different types of gigs I do. Being a self employed, freelance trumpet player means that I need to be ready for anything.

Harlem Renaissance 101

Last Wednesday I had the privilege of participating in a program for and by students at Cesar Chavez High School. The school’s Black History Club hosted a program they called “Harlem Renaissance 101” and hired me to perform some jazz compositions from that era.

I would like to thank Ariann Burley for the invitation.

In Harlem Renaissance 101, the students held class on stage. Three of the students played the role of teacher while the rest of the class sat on the floor of the stage awaiting their turns to recite poetry, sing, give short history lessons, play music or dance.

Meeting New People

I do my share of school performances. Sometimes I work with the students and sometimes I don’t. But when we do work with the students, it is almost always in the context of their band class.

This time it was nice to work with students outside of that environment.

For me, one of the highlights of the performance was sharing the stage with up-and-coming trumpeter, Jacob Newsome. Jacob and I performed In a Mello Tone with an accompaniment track.

Not a typical gig for me, and like I said, that’s one of the things that I like about my career. It’s nice to do something totally different now and again!

Posted in Jazz, Performances | Tagged | Leave a comment

Life Builder: Pastor Don Nordin

The next Life Builder I want to write about is Don Nordin, our current pastor at C.T. Church (C.T. stands for Christian Temple). After Pearl and I left Quail Valley Church in Missouri City, our plan was to look into some of the Assembly of God churches in the area, beginning with the closest. We began with CT Church because it was closer than all the other AOG churches. We went there a few times and knew right away that this was the right church for us. That was about five years ago. So yes, we’ve been there long enough that the church has made a difference in our lives and I feel it’s time to write one of these Life Builder posts about our pastor.

Pastors Don and Susan Nordin

Pastors Don and Susan Nordin

My Life as a Christian

For you to understand why I have chosen to write about Pastor Don as a Life Builder, you have to know at least a little bit of my past as a Christian. I gave my life to Christ at a very young age. I cannot be exactly certain how old I was, because it wasn’t at a church where they document that sort of thing. It was most likely when I was in first or second grade, living in Pennsylvania while my father was teaching electronics at Army school in Virginia. Because I was so young, I have no memory of a life without Jesus.

I’ve been studying the Bible since I was first able to read. In fact, reading the Bible has been a life style that I neglected only rarely since I was a youngster. Because of the fact that my father had to move so often for the army, I never attended one church long enough to assimilate into the local church culture. That means my faith as a Christian is almost 100% Bible based, not cultural. My Bible was the only constant in my life, outside of my parents, moving from one army base to the next.

That’s why it is important to me, extremely important, that any church I become a member of must be in line with what the Bible says. I don’t need a “motivational message.” I don’t need someone to make me feel good about myself. I don’t even need to go to a church where I “enjoy” the music. None of that matters to me. What I need is an oasis where I can “come home to” and be nourished by the Word.

Word Based Preaching

Part of how I make my living is playing at different churches. I’ve been playing professionally at churches since the early 1980’s. I have heard messages/sermons from probably more than a hundred different pastors from all of the major denominations. I know from experience just how far some preachers can stray from the Word. I often walk away from a church shaking my head and thinking, “I could never become a member here.”

It’s funny. Some churches remind me of that old saying, “a nice place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there.”

In contrast, I often say of Pastor Don Nordin that every message I have heard him preach has been in line with what the Bible says.

I am not suggesting that I agree with everything he says. Ha! I’ve never met ANYONE who I agree with everything they say. And really, this is not about agreeing with him or not agreeing with him. It’s about Pastor Don’s messages agreeing with the Bible, and his do! End of story!

Yes, that’s a big part of what I need from a church. No one has read the Bible enough times that they can say “I know it all already.” The more I read the Bible, the more I realize that I need to dig even deeper than I already have. And where I am at this place of my Christian walk, Pastor Nordin has been feeding me at the maturity level that I need to be fed at. He is giving me the so called “meat”, instead of the milk, and as a result I have grown in my walk.

That’s the main reason we are at CT Church and also the main reason I am writing about Pastor Don as a Life Builder. I am not close to our pastors. I don’t want to give that impression. But you don’t have to be best buds with someone for them to make a difference in your life.

Walking the Walk

Another requisite I have for finding a church home is walking the walk, putting things into action. I could not be a member of a church that only preaches, but never actually does what a church is supposed to do. Put your money where your mouth is, right?

CT Church is, as Pastor often puts it, “the most givingest church.” When you look at just how much this church does for the community, it is staggering. Really, in all my life as a Christian, I’ve never seen anything like it.

I couldn’t possibly list all of the things CT Does for the community, but they include giving food to the needy, not just during Thanksgiving or Christmas, but several times per year (I just learned that we give food to the hungry three weeks out of every month – praise God!!!!). Along with giving food to the needy, we also provide free health care. On other days we provide free services to the community. The attitude of giving to the community is a constant buzz throughout the year, not a seasonal thing. And all of this is over and above the typical church stuff, like the special seasonal programs and celebrations, offerings to missions, the bible studies and various life groups (cell groups).

These are people who are making a big difference in this community and in the world at large. I don’t know about the inner workings of the church, but I assume that Pastor Nordin is a big part of the reason why CT Church does all of those things.

So yes, these were always the two most important things for me in finding the right church: the message needs to be Word based and the church needs to be walking in God’s will. CT Church fits those two criteria very well, in my opinion.

Pastors Don & Susan Nording on Christmas Eve 2014

Pastors Don & Susan Nording on Christmas Eve 2014

Thank You Pastor Don Nordin!

For readers who are unfamiliar with my Life Builder series, this is my way of putting into practice part of the famous “love is” list from 1 Cor 13; “love is not proud.” In my two year study of 1 Cor 13, I discovered that pride is when we fail to recognize how God or other people have contributed to our success (when we take credit not due to us). For years now I have been trying to exercise love by acknowledging the people who helped me get to where I am today. Part of the way I do that is through these Life Builder posts.

And yes, Don Nordin is one of my Life Builder. I sometimes work at other churches, so we are not there every week, but we knew that going into our membership here. When we became members at Christian Temple, the Holy Spirit told me that we needed someplace to come home to between adventures. So no, we don’t really know the Nordins very well on a personal basis, but this church has been our home for a little over half a decade. We’ve been here long enough that it has grown to occupy a very important place in our hearts.

So thank you Don Nordin! Thank you for staying true to the Bible. Thank you for your commitment to honoring the fruits of the Holy Spirit. And thank you for leading this Church to be an example of what Churches should be doing in their communities.

Posted in Life Builders | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Trumpet Player Advice from Luther Didrickson

The following is a post I recently stumbled on from the TrumpetHerald.com. I wanted to post it here because I agree with it 100%. I took one lesson with Mr. Didrickson in the late 80’s. The lesson lasted two hours and it ended up being a pivotal moment in my career.

I would also like to thank John Urness for posting it (in 2002):

Luther Didrickson was co-trumpet professor with Vince Cichowicz at Northwestern University for many years. Each year new trumpet students were given a handout entitled “The Trumpet Student at Northwestern – A Supplement to the Departmental Orientation Meeting”. A friend of mine who studied there in 1992-93 gave me a copy of this handout from 1992. Here is some excellent advice from Mr. Didrickson reagarding practice habits and self-judgement.

“It is normal to compare yourself to others, many of whom will appear at first to possess daunting skills and talent. Later, you will find they, like yourself, have areas of weakness alongside their obvious strengths. With the right attitude you will be able to learn much from your colleagues, as they surely will from you…

Eventually we all learn to expect and accept differences (especially as regards varying abilities and weaknesses) in players. What is important for you to do is to focus more on your personal progress and program to develop and improve. In other words, you compare your current playing with your own past history and judge yourself more in this way. What others may have accomplished is sometimes useful for reference but by no means to be used in self-evaluation, especially the negative kind. You, in truth, have the rest of your life to become the performer you wish to be…

One last thing: BE PATIENT. Complex mental and physical skills used in playing music on the trumpet take time in developing and refining. They cannot be forced in any known way that will deliver reliable results. All worthwhile things of this sort in life take time, and therefore so should you. Relax, enjoy your wonderful tone as you play the notes on the printed page with security and confidence, at a tempo that doesn’t cause you to lose concentration or to lock up in some way. You’ll do just fine.”

Words we all can learn from.

John Urness

Posted in Music Business, Students | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

ELM Level Chart

Here is a great chart Pearl made that shows the different levels of the ELM modules.

Here is a chart Pearl made that represents the eight levels of the ELM modules.

Here is a chart Pearl made that represents the eight levels of the ELM modules.

The module system at our store basically gives the students access to the exercises they need without forcing them to buy an entire book of exercises, most of which they may never use.

The levels are as follows:

0) Trumpet Hopeful
1) Trumpet Pioneer
2) Trumpet Tyro
3) Trumpet Player
4) Trumpet Apprentice
5) Trumpet Pro6) Trumpet Master
7) Trumpet Virtuoso

For now, the modules are a work in progress. God willing, we see there being as many as a hundred or more exercise and etude types for each level. For now we are focusing on lip slurs, articulation and scales.

For access to these modules, we invite you to check out our store at TigerMusicStore.com.

Posted in Music Business, Tiger Music | Tagged | Leave a comment