Professional Instruction Post report

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by Eclipsehornplayer, Oct 20, 2005.

  1. Eclipsehornplayer

    Eclipsehornplayer Forte User

    Sep 14, 2005
    Metro Detroit
    Greetings to all interested:

    And to PhatmonB6 and pwillini specifically.

    Well, I met last night with my new Trumpet teacher. What an interesting expirence that was. Dr. Williams is a very humble and easy going man whom I have great respect for.

    So here's how it went, I sat around all day trying to keep in mind the advice that I was given. When I arrived at the Schwob School of Music where Dr. Williams instructs I was early so he had me go to a practice room and warm up. I found it funny as I entered the room there was a full length mirror on the wall, I'd never played in front of a mirror before. It was interesting to be able to see myself play, which is why I assume the mirror is there in the first place.

    I spent about 10 minutes just slurring scales and tooting around when Dr. Williams came and got me. We went to his office and got set up. We shared some idle chit chat during the interium and I gave him my background which can be found here on TM in Manny's fourm "Who are you"

    Then those dreaded words,"Ok play a bit for me" I was suddenly reduced to a quivering pile of dog doo. I had brought some intermediate material with me to play, nothing super hard "Phantom of the Opera" and some of my Community band pieces. Some fanfares theme from Battlestar Galactica, Rocky etc. He had told me we'd do some sight reading with some material he had but that he'd just like to hear what it is I normally play so as to be able to gauge many things about how I play. He used the anology that it's like your walking into your Doctors office and saying it hurts, but being no more specific then that. Man I was all over the place! I was squeeking notes like a 1st timer and I had a natural vibrato that was irratating. I was blowing key signatures and yuck!

    After about 5 minutes of this he stopped me, realizing I'm sure that I was intimidated to be playing in his presence. He said to me, "John, nothing that is going to take place in this room today will decide life or death." He was trying to get me to relax, I admitted to him that after reading his bio on the university website I was very intimidated. He then surprised me and said, "You know your not the first student to walk in here and react that way, I'm very flattered that you feel the way you do."

    Wow, what a thing to say. After a few minutes of some more idle chit chat, wives, kids, etc... He had me get back after it. I played a few songs out of my material much better this time, and then he had me sight read from Arban's which was a total disaster, but fun! Once I relaxed I made fewer mistakes and I think that my true playing started to show.

    So the results!

    After we went through those pieces this was what he said to me. "John based on what you told me, and what I've witnessed here today you probably were an excellant trumpet player in high school" He then said, "You have a lot of potential, you do a lot of things well, but mostly wrong."

    Oh boy, here we go!

    The first thing he wanted to change was my mouthpiece. He noted that my Embouchure looked just fine but he was concerned that my choice of mouthpiece was degrading my Embouchure in the upper register. He noted that it also seemed to be making me very sharp!

    The mouthpiece I was playing on was a Jet Tone MF. Dr. Williams laughed when he realized this and said, "That mouthpiece is great for Maynard, but not for John Sheets I think." He told me that when his high school band students come in with such a mouth piece he usually takes them. So he recommended that I stay away from it and get back on my Bach 3C at least for now. He noted that speciality mouthpieces should be fitted to the player if your really going to do it right. But for where I'm at now, Back 3c should be home.

    Sure enough I went back to the Bach 3C with him and my tone was closer to center pitch and in general he thought I sounded much better. I did loose a little in my upper register, couldn't seem to get above a "A" above the staff but he felt that with practice and time my chops would get me back to my high "C" in no time. I was having trouble getting above that high "C" anyway so what did I really loose?

    Next was the real surprise for me, Breathing. I see Manny and so many others talk about this and I thought I was doing it Ok.

    I'm a big guy, 6'3' 305Lbs, he told me that I should be shattering glass! He noted that as I was playing, I would take in a good amount of air but not put it into the horn. It's like even at FFF I was playing Piano. This is an area that he said we would work on. He noted that it was like I was preparing for the trip, IE seeing the music, noting it's requriments, and filling up the tank with the proper air to get me there, and then not using it. So I'd run out of gas on my way up the scale.

    He then told me that I have some basic fundementals that I need to address; counting being the big one. He noted that when I was playing my music from the Phantom I was not playing what was on the sheet. I was playing what I heard on my CD or at the movies, or the show when I saw it. I'd see a passage that was maybe a dotted quarter followed by a sixteenth and then two eights into a half but instead I'd play it as all something entirely different. I had not even realized that I had been doing this. What a rookie mistake!

    He noted that more then likely my blowing the key signatures and "natural vibrato" were more then likely just nerves and seemed to improve the more we got into our session.

    Over all It was a very humbling expirence and I feel that I got a lot out of it. Now I have some choices to make. I like this guy, he is a straight shooter, and in my current place in life I have no time for B.S. so this appeals to me. He told me that as I knew he was a bit pricey, he felt that his grad student, a fine trumpet player and less expensive instructor, would be able to teach me just fine as I need work with the fundlementals and there is nothing that he would instruct me on right now that could not be handled by his grad student.

    Or I could stay with him and he'd do his best to make time for me in his crazy schedule. He told me that I have good potential, and a degree of natural talent which have served me well. He said, " I think that we'd have a lot of fun."

    Wow, I was humbled and honored at the same time!

    I'm thinking that I'd really like to stay with him, I like him and personality means a lot to me. I'm sure his grad student is a great guy to be fair, but I really like this guy.

    The difference is that I can afford to see his grad student once a week and him twice a month. So I guess I need to weigh that into the equation as well.

    Anyway, that's my story. Thanks so much to those of you who gave me advice, and to Alex (Trompetvrouw) for hooking me up with Dr. Williams.

    I'm sure as I come along I'll post more about it. For now, I have a concert tomorrow. My first one since 1981 and I'm going to nail it!

    Best wishes to all.
  2. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003
    It sounds like it was a very positive experience for you, and I'm happy that you found a teacher that you are comfortable with.

    My only other comment to you is this - while you can afford to go once a week from his grad student, I think your time, money and efforts would be better spent sticking with Dr. Williams.
  3. Eclipsehornplayer

    Eclipsehornplayer Forte User

    Sep 14, 2005
    Metro Detroit

    I was hoping you'd weigh in on this. Your one of the folks that I mentioned in my previous post as, "an opinon that I respect" or something to that effect. I read a lot more then I post ;-)

    I was thinking the very same thing. I'm sure his grad student is a fine player and a good person.

    But having got the inital session out of the way I feel that I will only become more productive with Dr. Williams from here on out.

  4. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003
    Thanks! I'm flattered. Now if I could only take my own advice and hook myself up with a good teacher too. :D Yeah, I'll just do it in my unlimited spare time. :roll:

    Something that really sticks out about your lesson with Dr. Williams is how he really worked to put you at ease so that he could genuinely assess your playing. This speaks volumes because it shows he really cares and wants you to be comfortable with him so that the learning process is unfettered.

    Good luck with it - I'm looking forward to hearing your progress reports.
  5. oldlou

    oldlou Forte User

    Aug 28, 2005
    Grand Rapids, Mi.
    your teacher

    This is not to cause an argument with you or Patrick. I disagree with both of you, but, for a reason not mentioned by either of you. I wonder if it is wise to make a decision on whether to stick with the good doctor with a few sessions, or with his grad assistant that you have yet to meet for many more sessions. My feeling is that the good doctor would not make a reccomendation to you if he was not convinced of the abilities of his assistant. If he were to advise that you see his grad assistant with the knowledge that that person was not going to properly instruct you, then, what good was the good doctor? My feeling on this one is that you, in fact, take the advice of the doctor. Isn't that what you went to him for?

  6. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003
    Lou, I guess it's a matter of perspective. While I suppose the grad student might be just fine as an instructor, why would you want to get the information secondhand? Would you rather study with a master, or with an apprentice? My advice is based on what John said:

    1.) The doctor made a point to calm him
    2.) John felt comfortable with the lesson and with Dr. Williams
    3.) There was good communication
    4.) It's obvious Dr. Williams knows what he's talking about
    5.) Dr. Williams already made an assesment, and most likely already has an approach for how to fix some issues - why would you want to restart that process?

    I realize that the guy is busy and in demand, but you know, there is a reason for that - the reason is that he knows his stuff both as a player and as a teacher.

    To me, experience of the teacher where private instruction is concerned always wins out. I just think that it would be better to stick with the Doctor who is probably going to be better and quicker at catching errors before they can build into bad habits, and probably better at assessing bad habits and prescribing methods to fix them than his grad student would be.

    The truth is, the grad student probably would be ok, but given the choice, in John's shoes, my gut instinct would be to stick with Dr. Williams.
  7. Tootsall

    Tootsall Fortissimo User

    Oct 25, 2003
    Yee HAW!
    Maybe the good Doctor is so busy with other students and duties that he doesn't feel he has the time at this point to put into King's comeback and that there are enough basics to be covered that a grad student would be more appropriate (and possibly less costly?).

    I'll agree that there must be a *fit* between the grad student (we'd call them "student instructors" here) and the student or it won't work. But perhaps it's worth giving it a shot.
  8. Manny Laureano

    Manny Laureano Utimate User

    Sep 29, 2004
    I'm with Toots on this one because a regular, weekly (less expensive) lesson with a recommended teacher would be preferable to an occasional lesson even with a teacher whom you enjoy as much as the good doctor.

    With some serious "comebacking' the student would likely, at some point, say "I think you should get regular lessons with Dr. Williams now."

    This is all predicated on the idea that you can practice every day or close to it.

  9. Eclipsehornplayer

    Eclipsehornplayer Forte User

    Sep 14, 2005
    Metro Detroit

    All wonderful advice from everyone. Thank you all so much.

    Manny, thanks for chiming in as well. I watch your forum more than any other and am so honored to have a place to communitcate with professionals such as yoursefl and the many others whom often post here. I hope you'll never take for granted just what you inspire "the rest of us" to do everyday!

    I really wish such a thing existed in 1980!

    All fine points, and I must admit I'm torn on what to do. Dr. Williams is a fine player/teacher and a surprisingly humble man! I feel at ease with him. This is important to me no doubt. However, he did point out to me that nothing he'd be working with me on for about the next year would be anything that his grad student could not handle. Patrick, I omitted that, don't know if that changes your opinion or not.

    He did seem very interested in me on many levels which I found surprising, so I'm torn. I'd like to stick with him, as Patrick pointed out why work with the apprentice when you have the master who may already have conceived a plan to progress with me from here.

    Ultimately I believe it will boil down to what I can afford to pay. The grad student is more affordable for me, so I've got some thinking to do.

    Thanks really to everyone!

    I'm thankful for having a place to communicate with my trumpet playing brethern!
  10. MGTrumpet

    MGTrumpet New Friend

    Nov 18, 2004
    Maple Grove, MN
    If I might add my own two cents --

    I think you should go with the grad student as well.

    If you're going to be working on basics and trying to change old habits, it would seem advisable to have regular, weekly lessons. At least early on, that constant reinforcement of what your aiming to do will surely help. If you practice regularly and sufficiently, you should see some great improvement.

    If you study with Dr. Williams, and because of his schedule the lessons aren't as regular, you might lose time because of the lack of reinforcement. That could get really frustrating. And, by that time, the grad student could be booked up should you decide to change during the year.

    I'd recommend you study with the grad student for a year and check things with Dr. Williams in another year. Perhaps, by then your finances might improve. Besides, once you get some more of the basics solidified, you'd get a lot more for you money (and have a lot more fun) when you study with the Doctor.

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