Happy Birthday Armando Ghitalla!

Discussion in 'Orchestra / Solo / Chamber Music' started by brewblue1, Jun 1, 2005.

  1. brewblue1

    brewblue1 New Friend

    Nov 2, 2003
    Albuquerque, NM
    Someone posted at TH about this, so I though Id bring it here.

    Today would have been Armando Ghitalla's 80th Birthday.

    I am among the extremely fortunate people who got to study with this great trumpet player and musician. Those of us who worked with Mr. Ghitalla remember him with GREAT fondness and reverence!

    Happy B-day Mr. G!
  2. dizforprez

    dizforprez Forte User

    Nov 2, 2003
    is there anything you( or any one else that knew him) could share with us about lessons with him?
  3. Paul Randall

    Paul Randall New Friend

    Jun 2, 2005
    Happy Birthday Armando Ghitalla

    Since Jason asked for info on studying with Ghitalla, I thought I would relay the story of my time with him. Mine was not the positive experience that so many players have related over the years. I tell it now not to annoy anyone, and I mean no disrespect to Ghitalla, who certainly enjoyed a fine career as a performer and teacher. However, my story shows a different light on this renowned player that helps complete the story of who he was.

    In 1971 I attended the Tanglewood Music camp in the high school division. I was a talented 15 year old who had progressed rather quickly and was already studying the orchestral repertoire with my teacher in Detroit, Irv Sarin. I was assigned to Ghitalla for private lessons for the 8 week camp.

    At my first lesson I showed up with my C trumpet and my excerpt books and he asked me where my "study" books were. When I asked what he meant he said "Arban, St. Jacome, Clarke technicals, Brandt," etc. He told me he was there to teach me to play the trumpet, not teach me excerpts. He instructed me to have my study books sent from home immediately (I had left them in Detroit) and threw me out. End of lesson 1.

    For the rest of the summer he gave me huge lesson assignments every week. As often happens to a young player, I was rather overwhelmed by the daily schedule of playing at a summer camp and was soon suffering from very banged up chops. Eventually I just did not have chops left to practice all the things he assigned me. This ticked him off greatly, and he seemed to have no patience with the fact that I was struggling. None the less, I learned alot from him that summer and by the end of the camp felt that I was on OK terms with him.

    The next summer, 1972, I returned to Tanglewood. This time I was ready, having packed all my study books and looking forward to picking up where we left off. I searched him out at the opening ceremony and hurried up to him to say hello and tell him how much I looked forward to working with him again. He immediately told me that "he did not get a lick of work out of me last summer", and refused to teach me again that summer. I was crestfallen to say the least! For the rest of that summer I had no contact with him and ended up studying with Roger Voisin, whom I really was very happy with and learned alot from as well.

    In the spring of 1973 I auditioned for the Fellowship Program at Tanglewood in hopes of returning once again. I traveled to Washington DC to audition for Ghitalla while the Boston Symhony was on tour there. He did not accept me for the program. Later that spring I auditioned for the New Orleans Symphony and was hired as 2nd Trumpet.

    I am certainly no longer bitter about the experience after all these years. Ghitalla was a human being after all, and now that I am an adult and have students of my own I understand how certain things about them tick you off. However, I don't feel that he treated me fairly and have always wondered why no one else seemed to have a problem with him. Perhaps the answer to that is obvious to everyone but me.

    Paul R
  4. Bob Odneal

    Bob Odneal Pianissimo User

    Jan 5, 2004
    Houston, Texas
    Armando and the clinic request

    Armando asked me to do a clinic for him at Rice University. I don't think I had named it "Casual Double High C" yet. He said we would have to wait for a new budget. I told him I would do the clinic for him for free. He wouldn't hear of it. We never got to present it. What a nice guy!

    Happy Birthday!!!
  5. Manny Laureano

    Manny Laureano Utimate User

    Sep 29, 2004

    That's a rather fascinating story. While I don't think I would have been as curmudgeon-like as Mundi was, by your accounting, I likely would have had a similar reaction to having even a talented 15 year-old come armed with a C trumpet and orchestral excerpts and no method book material. Perhaps he mistakenly took it as a display of arrogance. Even today, I find myself teaching excerpts sooner than I want to because if I don't, my students wind up in the hole because of the demands made these days.

    Mundi had his share of occasional chop problems a couple of times in his career and it surprises that he wasn't a bit more sympathetic to you as a result of his own experiences. The one and only time I met him he was a complete gentleman and very encouraging to me. I have also had students who went to take a lesson with him and had only the best regard for him.

    Oh, well... as you say, we're all human and I'm sure we've all had our share of misstatements and acts we'd like to take back.

    Happy Birthday, Mundi.

  6. Robert1

    Robert1 New Friend

    Feb 8, 2005
    I very clearly remember my first lesson with Armando Ghitalla. I had written and sent him a tape to him, in my effort to persuade him to accept me as a part-time student.

    I was somewhat of a non-traditional student, since I had received my BM in Trumpet Performance ten years prior to that, and I wanted to drive out to Ann Arbor, MI once a month to have a lesson with him (a 12 hour drive!). Had I pursued it, I might have had the opportunity to study with one of the symphony players only a couple hours from where I lived, but I wanted to expand my horizons farther from home, and see what Mr. Ghitalla had to offer. At that time, I just played trumpet in a community orchestra 5 or 6 concerts a season, and also had a brass quintet. I had no intention of going back to school, or even making trumpet my full-time career.

    I brought 5 different trumpets to the lesson. Bb, C, Eb/D, G, and picc. He asked me to play something, and immediately got on my case BIG TIME about my sound. I couldn't believe that he was saying this. I asked him what was wrong with it. He said something like it was harsh, angry, and like a sack of nasty rats. I was flabbergasted by this. I thought I had a very good sound, and that perhaps it was the best attribute of my playing. I asked him if he thought that way about something on the tape that I had sent him. It was a flawless performance of "The Trumpet Shall Sound" I had given with the orchestra. He didn't like it. He was VERY hard on me the entire lesson, and I only got to play Bb trumpet. At the end of the lesson, he told me, "Next time, leave all that hardware at home. Just bring your Bb."

    I thought about everything, and it really bothered me. But the next time I went, I displayed as much humility as possible, and things gradually got better. After a couple of years of doing this, I really got the desire to make trumpet my life. I asked him if I could come to Michigan to do my MM, and he said that I could. I graduated in 1992. From that point, I have gone on to a moderately successful professional trumpet career, and remained close to Armando until he died. Meaning no disrespect whatsoever, I feel badly that Paul did not have the same experience with Armando as I.
  7. john daniel

    john daniel New Friend

    Sep 20, 2005
    appleton, WI
    During the time I studied with Ghitalla I had to practice about 6 hours a day to prepare my lessons. I can't imagine what it would have been like to go into a lesson unprepared. He was dead serious in lessons and wouldn't hesitate to tell you if you weren't meeting his expectations. He wasn't the least bit interested in teaching anyone who wasn't disciplined.

    The flip side was how generous he was with his students. He cooked for us all the time, and many of us learned to cook as a result. He was always willing to loan you equipment for an audition or gig, including great mutes, mouthpieces and trumpets. My first shot at Brandenburg wouldn't have been possible without his c pic.

    When I taught at Penn State he was retired from U of M for awhile before taking the Rice job. He was living near Tanglewood. He came down and played a couple of two trumpet pieces on my faculty recital, practically for free.

    I remember a few discussions with fellow students who felt Ghitalla was hard on them in lessons. These were the same folks who came back from vacations out of shape and weren't "that into" all the transposition he made us do.

    At one point, after I had finished my formal study with him I was visiting him in Ann Arbor on my way to a Detroit S.O. audition. I played several mock auditions for him and probably only scratched one or two notes over several days of this. But he had heard me warming up and practicing downstairs and wasn't that thrilled with how I sounded. He told me to only play the excerpts and not let the committe hear me play anything else, even a chromatic scale, because they wouldn't be impressed.

    Mr. Ghitalla was one of the warmest and most sympathetic people on the planet. In lessons, he was definitely "old school".
  8. Anonymous

    Anonymous Forte User

    Oct 21, 2003
    I never had the opportunity to meet Mr. Ghitalla, but my teacher for three years of undergrad worked with he and Voisin extensively. The stories above about how it was to work with him are indicitive of most any great teacher of that era.

    I think that teachers have been forced to "nice'n' up" by institutions. If they aren't nice to students, the students simply leave for another teacher that treats them well, but never raises their blood pressure. I really don't understand this! Students remember experiences, including getting thrown out of a lesson for not being prepared. Maybe that will light the fire under them to work!

    I would much rather have a teacher that is always on my case and extremely invested in me than one that is "nice."

    P.S. While in high school, I wrote to Mr. Ghitalla, and he sent me a letter back and an autographed picture. His last line was, "Perhaps someday I shall have a chance to hear you play." I wish that had happened!
  9. Mzony

    Mzony Pianissimo User

    Nov 14, 2004
    Honolulu, Hawaii
    These are really interesting points. I only half agree with them.
    On one hand, having a teacher who is hard on you prepares you for the real world of playing. I think the students who studied with these type of teachers are less likely to freak out in a playing situation of any real pressure.
    On the other hand, if your teacher is constantly slamming you (which is unlike any story have ever heard of Mundy), and not showing you any sign of belief in your abilities...you may end up feeling beaten and playing from a weakened position.
    I think there are many fine teachers who are aware of this fine line and make an art out of walking that line in lessons.

  10. Anonymous

    Anonymous Forte User

    Oct 21, 2003
    Well put, Mike! I was going to include something about how ideally, a teacher could find a middle ground and be demanding yet personable. I've been very lucky to work with such teachers!

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