One of the most foolish and embarrassing musical moments for me came in my senior year of high school at a music festival in Alaska for which I played (mangled is a more appropriate term) this piece that Maurice André plays below so beautifully below: The Concerto in Eb by Johann Nepomuk Hummel . I was unprepared for the demands of this very difficult piece, attempted it without help or a teacher (there were no accomplished classical trumpet players in Sitka), and with inadequate practice (I was still flailing away at the piece just before the performance, yet another lapse in judgment). Anyway, the poor adjudicator complimented my accompanist, the wonderfully helpful Peggy Brandt, but that’s about all he could say. It still stings. The only good thing is that I learned a thing or two in the process. It reminds me of a hilarious recording of the Hummel sent in for pre-audition to the Boston Symphony. Hear it here. (from trumpet bloopers)
There’s a reason jazz musicians (and other musicians, and actors, chefs, etc.) move to NY City, Chicago, or other large metropolitan areas. They are places, as Russell Malone says in this short vid, where there are more opportunities to get your behind kicked. And when you’re learning and striving to get better, that’s exactly what you need.
Ever since I picked up the trumpet, practice has been a never-ending search for privacy. Mostly a failed search, too. When I was a kid learning to play, my parents banished me to the garage, and this was a great thing, even though the garage was unheated and we lived in Alaska. It gave me a space to explore without fear of annoying the hell out of anyone within earshot. It also let me escape fear of judgment and gave me the freedom to really explore the instrument and my relationship with it. Now I live in Chicago. No garage. Not even a house. I’m in an apartment and have neighbors on five sides.