"Raising the bar" for a high school trumpet section

Discussion in 'Trumpet Discussion' started by akinsgre, May 19, 2017.

  1. akinsgre

    akinsgre Pianissimo User

    Nov 16, 2012
    Pittsburgh, PA
    I'm not sure if I'm thinking about this the right way, so bear with me.

    My children attend a small school district that has a good music department. For a small district, it seems like many of the kids are very enthusiastic about music and go on to college for music. Several of the sections (low brass and saxophones, in particular) are pretty driven and the standards are high. However, the trumpet section just doesn't play at the same level.

    I've talked to my trumpet playing friends and they all talk about when they were young and in high school; it was all about playing high and fast.

    It feels to me like it will take a particular type of player, or a director, to light a fire under the trumpet section.

    How do you all feel about that? Do my thoughts make sense, or am I just "projecting"?

    On a related note, my own children are pretty enthusiastic about music and two of them play trumpet. So I want to make sure that the two trumpet players, as they get involved in high school band, don't get caught up in that culture of mediocrity. Any thoughts on helping keep them motivated and providing them with a spark?
  2. OldKing

    OldKing Piano User

    Aug 20, 2016
    NW of San Antonio
    Selection of the proper private instructor for your children is very important. Get them in the community orchestra, or something similar, to counter the higher-faster syndrome. I don't think there's a way to eliminate young trumpet players having fun. Band is supposed to be fun.

    You've reminded me of my high school band director (a pretty respectable Latin trumpet player in his own right) conducting surprise inspections for anyone having a 14a4a. They were verboten!
  3. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003
    I'm not sure he wants to counter the higher-faster-louder syndrome. I'm pretty sure he wants to promote it.

    I understand this based on my experience working with a high school jazz band the last couple of years. My saxophones and trombones are rocking it. My trumpet players? Not so much. I've got one kid who has some natural chops, but none of the rest of them had any range or consistency above a top of staff G. It's this unfocused, anemic sound, and I just haven't been able to get through to them to get them to work on stuff that will build their chops foundation.

    When I was in HS, virtually the entire upper crust of the high school band trumpet section could play a 2nd ledger C - some of us were stronger than others, but no one was struggling with G's and A's. By the time I was a freshman, I was pasting A's, B's and C's on the far gym wall in pep band. I'm not saying it was the prettiest sound, but it was loud, and it was strong. I can't seem to get my current jazz band trumpet section to blow and produce any kind of real sound.

    I think part of it is the feeder programs in the grade schools and middle schools. I know that by the time I was in 7th grade, working the upper range and learning to play louder was already something we were doing, possibly because in my hometown, with it being so small, the kids in grades 5-8 were well award of what the HS kids were doing, so we knew that if we wanted to hang with the band at that level, we needed to step it up.

    As for that 14A4a, I had one kid who was using one. I even had a kid last year who was trying to use a 6A4a. I gave the 6A4a kid my 13A4a (he could actually play on it and had some range - just not a lot of control) and I gave my 14A4a kid my old 14A4 and a straight Schilke 14. Kid #1 graduated a year ago, and kid #2 will be an 11th grader next year, and I'm trying to get his folks to let me work with him 1-on-1 so that I can maybe direct him a bit better. I figure that if I can get him to a point where he's just slammin', then maybe it will inspire some of the other kids to step up.
  4. akinsgre

    akinsgre Pianissimo User

    Nov 16, 2012
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Right. If they were doing too much of that, and not working on quality sound that would be a different issue.

    Agreed on the feeder program. The Elementary teacher is young, enthusiastic and a trumpet player. The Middle school teacher is a saxophonist approaching retirement.

    I think the thing that might get my kids motivated, and as a side-effect, start raising the bar as they get into high school, will to get them playing together some. If I can get some good duets that match their skill level, it might incent them to start playing together and create a little inter-family competition.
  5. TrumpetMD

    TrumpetMD Fortissimo User

    Oct 22, 2008
    Great advice. Worth repeating.

    I'll add one more. Along with a good private teacher and playing in community groups, encourage them to do things on their own. I was most happy when my kids starting doing things with music outside of adult supervision. It showed me they were doing things they wanted to do, and personalizing their musical experiences.

  6. jimc

    jimc Mezzo Piano User

    May 21, 2009
    Spokane, WA USA
    My son's middle-school band had a truly dreadful clarinet section, clearly the worst in the band. My wife volunteered to take them to a side room for weekly sectionals, and by the next concert they were clearly the best section. Louder, better tone and intonation, no squeaking. Perhaps direct action here would not go amiss?
  7. akinsgre

    akinsgre Pianissimo User

    Nov 16, 2012
    Pittsburgh, PA
    I've thought about that. Not sure I'm the right person though. I have taken lessons, but don't really think I'd make a good teacher.
  8. operagost

    operagost Forte User

    Jan 25, 2009
    Spring City, PA, USA
    If a young player sounds good on a 14A4a, I don't see in any point in inspections. If they sound thin or have trouble centering pitches, then by all means make sure they aren't trying to use equipment as a crutch.

    You could just as well ban Bach D and E cups, or cushion rims.
  9. trickg

    trickg Utimate User

    Oct 26, 2003
    I think that the biggest culprit here is time. HS kids these days are spread so thin, and they just aren't putting the time in on their horns.

    As an example, the year I was a freshman in HS, this was a typical day for me:

    7:45 - got the band room for 1st period band class and started to play and warm up (also socialized as everyone came into the room)
    8:15 - 1st period band
    Immediately following lunch - back to the band room to do some playing before 6th period
    6th Period - Jazz band/Show Choir on an alternating M, W, F/T, TH Schedule.
    Immediately after dismissal at 3:15 - back up in the band room to play my horn
    During winter months, pep bands for home games, so more playing

    It wasn't that I was practicing good stuff - I really didn't - but I played my horn ALL THE TIME, every chance I got, and I was pushing my boundaries the whole time - how high could I play? What was the most difficult passage could I play cleanly? It's no wonder that I built my chops up that year, although my 9th grade year wasn't too much different from my 8th grade year - I was constantly going to the band room after school to play my horn after school let out.

    I pressed one of my jazz band kids this year about how much time he was putting in on his horn. He admitted to me that he was only "practicing" 25-30 minutes a week. You simply cannot build chops with so little time on the horn. I told him that 25 minutes barely got me through the basic fundamentals BEFORE I practiced.
  10. Bob Grier

    Bob Grier Forte User

    May 4, 2007
    Greensboro, NC
    One of the best things for young trumpet players is to hear a really good player "live". One of the biggest problems for young players is that they have never heard what their instrument sounds like from a good player. Have a good player come play for the class. Not just once but several times. Take the section aside and work with them. Telling students to work when they don't know what to work on is like the blind leading the blind. They need to see and hear how it's done.

Share This Page