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 EddieLewis.com 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 EddieLewis.com.

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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Boys Play, Men Fight – Part I

Andress High School Jazz Band Alumni

A group picture after the concert honoring Al Mendez for his time as band director of the Andress High School band.

Jazz Unlimited – Al Mendez Tribute Concert

Last week, Pearl and I traveled to my home town of El Paso, Texas, to participate in a jazz band concert honoring my high school band director, Al Mendez. El Paso’s Jazz Unlimited Big Band invited several of Mendez’ alumnus to perform as soloists in the concert and I was one of those soloists.

What began as an idea for a concert ended up turning into a full-fledged Andress High School Band reunion. Past students went to El Paso from around the world to be part of the celebration.

In the week leading up to the concert, we did a number of master classes for which we will write about separately. We also did a quick hike to the top of the Franklin Mountains and were the highest two people in Texas still touching the ground. But we will write more about those things in subsequent posts. Right now, I want to spend this time writing about the concert.

Jammin’ with Jawn Glass and Todd Baldwin

Eddie Lewis in the balcony.

Jawn Glass in the balcony.

Roger on stage playing in unison with Jawn and I.

Roger in high note mode!

It was such a pleasure to share the stage with one of my old high school buddies, Jawn Glass. The first two tunes I played were tunes that both of us took solos on. In fact, the opening tune began with Jawn and I in the balcony and Roger Morgan (another high school buddy and the main organizer of the entire event) on stage performing Scarborough Fair in unison.

Then the tune opened up for Jawn and I to do some “free improvisation”…still from the balcony. It was a great deal of fun to do something like that again with Jawn, who has become trumpet royalty in El Paso. The guy works more than I do and when you hear him play, you know why. He puts his entire heart into every note!

Todd Baldwin taking the next solo on the opening tune.

Also jamming on the first tune was Todd Baldwin, the star trombone  and euphonium player when we were in high school.

Drummer Alan Chavez was the fifth Andress Jazz Alumni featured on the opening tune.

I also got to jam with Jawn again on a tune that the students always LOVED when we were in high school, Los Hermanos de Bop by Mark Taylor.

I’m watching Jawn play a solo on Los Hermano de Bop.

Eddie and Jawn jamming together on Los Hermanos de Bop.

Solos Featuring Jawn, Roger and Todd

Most of the tunes on the concert featured each of us as soloists. Jawn Glass was featured on his flugelhorn on a beautiful performance of Come Sunday.

Jawn Glass performing Come Sunday with the Jazz Unlimited Big Band.

Todd jammin’ on The Nearness of You.

Todd featured on Emily.

Roger featured on The Nearness of You.

Behold

The highlight of the performance, for me personally, was having the opportunity to perform one of my original combo pieces with Al Mendez jammin’ right next to me. Behold is a piece I wrote in 2004 for my band to perform in the Kemah Jazz Festival. When Roger Morgan approached me about a combo tune that we could play on this concert, this is the piece that stood out. What a thrill it was to play jazz with my high school band director, the man who basically got me started doing what I do for a living today!

Eddie and Al Mendez playing Behold.

Al Mendez jammin’ on my tune, Behold.

Guest performers playing my composition, Behold. Left to right: Chris Reyman – Piano, Eric Unsworth – Bass, Eddie Lewis – Trumpet, Al Mendez – Alto Sax, Alan Chavez – Drums, Jimmy Olivas – Tenor Sax, Todd Baldwin – Trombone.

Boys Play, Men Fight

The Jazz Unlimited Big Band performing Boys Play, Men Fight

I’m going to break this post into two parts. Part II will talk more about this piece. It’s an original composition I wrote specifically for this concert, as a dedication piece for Al Mendez.¬† I was supposed to introduce the piece, but completely forgot. So the second part of this blog post will talk more about the idea behind the composition and what I was going to say if I had remembered to introduce the piece.

Here I am soloing with the band on my original composition.

Al Mendez – Andress High School Band Director from 1977 to 1984

I have written about Al Mendez before, on this blog. He is one of my mentors, one of the people who helped me become the person I am today. What made this concert so special to me was that it gave so many of us an opportunity to express our gratitude to a man who made a positive impact on their lives.

Roger Morgan Exercising Love

Roger Morgan talking about Al Mendez’ influence on him and the rest of us alumni.

I don’t blog much anymore. One reason is because it takes so much time. I’m looking at the clock on my computer right now and I’ve been working on this one post for over three hours. This time it’s because I’m posting so many pictures, which need to be cropped and edited before they are posted.

Anyway, for those of you who have read my blog, you may remember my posts in the “Love Is” series. [Click HERE to read that series.] I never finished the series, only writing about two and a half of the fifteen points on the list.

I’m telling you this because all week last week I was thinking about how Roger Morgan put my teachings on “Love Isn’t Proud” into action, without even knowing it. I believe that when the word “pride” is used in the Bible, it is describing when we take credit for things that God has done for us, or through us…OR…..when we take credit for things other people have done for us. I haven’t written any blog posts about it yet, but I did that homework many years ago and still have the notes I was using for the series on this blog. Maybe someday I will get back to blogging and finish it.

Anyway….

When I teach about 1 Cor. 13, and when we get to the subject of pride, I suggest that the way to avoid being prideful is to make a habit of acknowledging God and acknowledging those people who have contributed to our success. According to my interpretation of 1 Cor. 13, this is part of what it means to love someone in a biblical sense.

And that’s what Roger did. Not only did Roger acknowledge Al Mendez’ influences, but he also created an environment for all the rest of us to do the same. And for that, Roger deserves to be acknowledged himself.

Our society is so very lacking in people we can hold up as examples of how to live. But in this regard, as an example of how not to be proud, Roger has raised the bar. He has given us a taste of what it’s like to exercise biblical love.

Thank you Roger! Thank you for all of your effort and enthusiasm.

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