Trumpet Challenge Week 5.3

Today I have managed to bring up a third day of practice in a row. This might not seem like much to many people, especially considering that music is my career, however, finding the time to regularly work on a new instrument has been an incredibly difficult task. Any success in this I see as being progress, no matter how small.

Today I started focusing on the development of my range, particularly the higher notes in pitching them accurately when my lips are fatigue from the phrase. There’s a lot of work that I will need to do on this in the coming week, hopefully with consistency in practice I’ll be able to strengthen the lips and keep the correct embouchure to maximise the air flow and buzzing technique.

I might look into some advice from trumpeters that I know and even see what resources are on-line that may prove useful in improving this technique. I do have a strong feeling that all it is going to take is me spending more time on my instrument.

I am still working on the videos and getting the practice sessions up for people to view my progress. The teething problems are continuing due to me not wanting to upload them to YouTube. I am sure that I will eventually do this but I do want to wait until I have improved a little more so that viewers can see my improvement from beginner to “just after beginner phase”.

Trumpet Challenge Week 5.2

I have managed it! Consecutive days of practice (geez I love school holidays). Today’s session went really well. I still had some mismatched notes, but no where near as many as yesterday’s. I managed to get up to my C in the 4th space today in the book and whilst there are a number of issues around tone, intonation and consistency I feel that it is heading in right direction.

One area that I will start to focus on is the pitching of notes on the same valve. I am going to start trying to regularly incorporate a couple of minutes of moving between the notes as whole notes, half notes, quarter notes and ventrally eighth notes.

I am looking forward to tomorrow’s session to see if the improvement can continue.

Trumpet Challenge Week 5.1

I’m another week into the challenge and this one I fell will prove quite interesting. I have had over a week of due to blisters on my lips, the first practice back after this was always going to be “interesting”. Who much form and ability would I have lost?

Considering I have only been working once a week in reality I wasn’t sure what the final effect would be. To my surprise the overall practice wen quite well. My cops really started to hurt by around the ten minute mark and I have had a lot of problems mis-pitching, especially the lower notes, towards the end of the practice.

I am hoping that these next two weeks will show some considerable improvement as I am in school holidays and I’m sure that there will be a lot more time to get practice in on a regular basis.

I am still recording all the session and working on finding a way to get these uploaded. As I type this I am uploading the first week’s efforts to the ftp server that I use, it seems to be a way around the 64MB limit. I do want to avoid putting these on YouTube for now, it would make it easier for em but I am still feeling quit self conscious about the way I am sounding…who know, another coulee of months and this might change!

Cannington Hillbillies play “The Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1”

Newport Hotel – 23rd March 2017.

I had the absolute pleasure of being asked to join the Cannington Hillbillies as a cameo performer for the gig at the Newport Hotel as a part of the Roadshow Record Club when they performed “The Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1” on Thursday the 23rd of March 2017.

The Cannington Hillbillies are a band that was put together specifically for this evening, consisting of some of the finest and most well known original song writers and performers currently living in Perth. The band, consisting of Steve Parkin, Timothy Nelson, Justin Burford, Chris Murphy and Mike Hagerty, was a combination that brings energy, life and entertainment to what has become known as an iconic album featuring some of the greatest songwriters / performers of the 20th century.

I received a text message from Timothy Nelson on Monday the 20th of March (three days prior to the gig) asking if I’d be available to come and join them. The advantage being a saxophonist is that I’d only have three songs to learn, however it was important that the solos were learnt note for note to give the authenticity of the album. I would need to spend some time learning the tenor saxophone solo in “Heading for the Light”, the alto saxophone lines for “Margarita” and the horn lines for “Got My Mind Set on You” which was being done as an encore.

The preparation for the gig went well, however, due to the commitments at school I didn’t really get a good chance to start listening and learning the songs until the morning of the gig. I got up at my usual 5:30am but rather than heading for the gym I headed for school where I got in an impressive two hours before the school day started. In this time I managed to learn the solos for “Heading for the Light” and the lead lines for “Margarita” fairly accurately. Later in the day I managed to get the time needed to revise these two songs and learn the horn parts for “Got My Mind Set on You.” My lips have copped a little bit of a hammering from this preparation, not necessarily due to the amount of time on the horn but also because of the range with most of it played at the very top of the tenor range and into the altissimo register.

The gig itself was an absolute blast. I arrived down at the Newport in time for the sound check and straight away found it so easy to slot in and play along with the Hillbillies. The energy and vibrancy of every member lead to an entertaining and memorable performance.

My songs were a part of the second set, the first song being “Heading for the Light”. This proved to be one of the highlight songs of the evening, the saxophone contributing an additional layer to the guitars and vocal harmonies. Throughout the evening I was blown away by drummer Mike Hagerty, the  sense of time and feel this man has is phenomenal, he is a joy to play with and listen to. Margarita followed on from “Heading for the Light” with “Got My Mind Set on You” occurring as one of the encore songs (this was also received incredibly well).

I’d like to give a huge thanks to the boys in the Hillbillies as well as everyone from the Record Club. I had an amazing night and hope to be able to do it again some time soon.

Gregory and Nusjaree Catholic Wedding Mass 1st of April 2017

I recently had the pleasure of organising the music for a Catholic Wedding Mass that was celebrated at the Parish I used to regularly attend, Holy Spirit in City Beach, Western Australia on Saturday the 1st of April, 2017.

I was contacted by the groom, Gregory Hall, two weeks prior to the wedding to enquire about various options that music could be included in his Wedding Mass. Gregory had initially approached my Father in-law after morning Mass at Holy Spirit with him thinking of trying to get the choir to sing. Unfortunately, the choir was not available so I was suggested as a good alternative to get excellent quality and prayerful / liturgically correct music in the short period of time left.

In the initial conversation with Greg he mentioned that he was thinking of just using recorded music and needing an operator, the main reason for this was related to volume, both Greg and Nusjaree didn’t want any of the focus taken off the importance of the commitment they were making to each other before God in front of their family and friends. They had concerns that live music might overpower the intimate atmosphere they were trying to create.

I made the suggestion that a piano with solo vocalist would be an option for live music which would be intimate and enhance the overall Mass rather than detract from it. After a few days consideration Greg made contact with me saying that they ad decided they’d like to have live music. The only stipulation was that the bridal entrance was a specific recorded traditional Thai song, “Love” which was important to Nusjaree to show the connection to her Thai heritage.

Over the next week Gregory emailed the various song names for the Mass through to me for me to source the music and prepare for they special day. I contacted the wonderful Stephanie Ryan to provide the main vocals while I did piano accompaniment and backing vocals. The songs they selected were:

  1. Pre-Music – Pachelbel’s Canon in D (performed by Simon Montgomery)
  2. Instrumental Music throughout the lighting of the candles (performed by Simon Montgomery)
  3. Here We Stand Lord (Traditional Hymn) for the lighting of the Unity Candle.
  4. Take Our Bread (Traditional Hymn) for the Offertory.
  5. Eucharistic Mass Parts.
  6. The Lord’s Prayer (Sister Janet Mead).
  7. One Bread One Body (Traditional) for Communion.
  8. Here I Kneel Before You (Traditional) for after Communion.
  9. Fields of Gold (Sting) Signing of the Register.
  10. Wedding March (Mendelssohn) Recessional Hymn.

The entire ceremony was one of intimacy and beauty. It is clearly evident that Gregory and Nusjaree love each other deeply and it was a pleasure to be able to contribute to the celebration to mark the beginning of their life together as husband and wife.

A huge thank you to Gregory and Nusjaree for entrusting me with the responsibility of organising and providing the music. In my conversation with Gregory at the conclusion of the wedding he was delighted at the quality of the music and how it was “just as he had imagined it.”

That is the biggest compliment a musician at a wedding can be paid.

I am available for booking as a musician or to organise musicians for your next event. Contact me for more details.

Trumpet Challenge Week 4

The challenge continued to throw up some interesting problems to overcome, this week’s I have not experienced for over a year –  numerous blisters.

The additional playing and stress placed on my chops in the previous week due to the amount of time and also range playing in (mostly on the tenor in altissimo) has resulted in mu lips being totally split and blistered up. I decided that it would be best to rest my lips and give them time to heal rather than try to play through the pain. I have tried to do the play though thing before, and even this week had to for a Musical Rehearsal, but if I can rest a little then it the blisters pass a lot faster and I can get back into it. Plus, let’s be honest, no one really likes spitting blood continuously.

I am hoping that this approach of resting will serve me well and next week will be a fresh start. It will be the beginning of school holidays next Saturday, here’s to hoping that with this comes two weeks of more than once a week practice. I still have a lot that needs to get done both school wise and actually getting some time with the family, which I really am looking forward, so hopefully there’ll be a little amount more regularly thatch be spent on the trumpet and my more established instruments.

Come on lips, time to heal up quickly!!!

Trumpet Challenge Week 3

The difficulty of the challenge has continued throughout this last week, especially in finding regular time to practice my instrument.

This week proved even more difficult due to some of the other gigs I had scheduled on top of my usual school teaching commitments. I received a phone call from Timothy Nelson, from Timothy Nelson and the Infidels, to ask if I would be able to join a band that had been put together to play at the Roadshow Record Club, the album being “The Travelling Wilburys Vol. 1”. It was a great gig but it meant that the 2 days I had to prepare the solos, needed note for note, put everything else on the back burner.

Another downside to this is I blew my lips out from this gig, I now have some splits and blisters coming up…hopefully these won’t last too long.

All of that aside, I did manage to get my practice down on the Saturday, the same 20 minutes as I have managed to commit to. This week’s session was quite a but better than the previous ones. I’m putting this down to a lack of lip fatigue. My Saturday morning is my big private teaching day, usually I have played throughout lessons for 4 1/2 hours prior to doing the trumpet practice. Due to my split lip this week I did not really play during lessons, the difference in tone and clarity of notes was quite good.

I would like to think that I’ll be able to get some more done this week…I suppose only time will tell.

I am still trying to work on getting the videos up, I’m having some trouble uploading files as they are so big. With holidays coming up in a few weeks I should have the chance to maybe workout how I can do this effectively…as always, it seems everything comes down to that one precious word – TIME.

Trumpet Challenge Week 2

This challenge is proving difficult for me to find a regular routine and flow of momentum regarding regular practice. The business of my teaching schedule at school when combined with my private teaching, practice on other instruments and then (somewhere in there) some family time is not leaving a lot of room for trumpet playing.

I have found that my range and consistency of notes has improved a little (despite the lack of practice). I am comfortably hitting from my Low A (beneath the staff) to my high A (one octave in total). I can play my Bb, B and C above this but not comfortably every single time. I am still finding that there’s a lot of mis-pitched notes which hopefully my dedication to long notes will assist in correcting.

My students at school know that I’m undertaking this challenge, they’re already asking for em to bring the trumpet in so that they can see my improvement / how far I’ve gotten. I think I might hold off on this until after the school holidays, this should give me enough time to get a little more confident!

My videos of the once a week practice are proving a little difficult to upload! As soon as I have worked out the bugs I’l get them attached to each post for people to have a listen to…hopefully the improvement will be heard in my playing!

Trumpet Challenge – Week One An Overview

One of my goals for this year to learn the basic trumpet. I’m not a brass player, I have no desire to move into being able to perform brass instruments at a professional (or even super high) standard. My intention behind setting this goal for 2017 is linked to my role as an ensemble director and educator.

I direct a number of ensembles at the school I currently work at, two of these are middle school ensembles that have brass players as members (a Concert Band and Jazz Big Band). I want to grow in understanding of brass instruments (fingerings and technique) to assist them in both their individual and ensemble musicianship development and I feel that one of the best ways to have more knowledge on the instruments.

I am hoping to try to practise my trumpet for 10 to 15 minutes, 5 days a week. This is the requirements that I place on my beginner students so it seems only fair that I try to apply the same principle to my own development!

I will be recording my sessions and posting the videos in post updates. It is going to be quite confronting for me to do this but my hope is that this will keep me accountable as well as show, over time, an improvement in my ability (if I do actually do the practise required).

If any trumpeters or band directors have any advice to give me in how to improvement please feel free to comment. I would ask that all comments are kept positive, after all my aim is to grow as a musician and educator rather than trying to showcase my ability on the trumpet…I know it’s very average at best!


A Chance to STOP and breathe.

I have tried to get better at regularly doing a lot of reading across a broad range of subject areas. I really enjoy reading a good Science Fantasy novel (yes, I know it’s a bit geeky) but I also try to read a variety of non-fiction books, various biographies from inspiring people. One of the concepts and actions that a lot of these inspiring people have in common is the importance laced on being able to take the time to stop, breathe, enjoy the current moment and reflect on the journey that they are currently taking. This concept is not just a secular or modern view on life but rather can be traced back to most of the large religions and spiritual movements through either meditation, prayer, pilgrimage and retreating.

Unknown copyTo be honest, I really am not the greatest at this whole stopping, enjoying the moment and reflecting on how I’m going emotionally, spiritually, mentally, physically, relationally or accomplishments. I don’t think that makes me unusual in this fast paced world that we live in, taking time to try stop and “unplug” from our society is increasingly challenging in the digital age, however, I am trying to correct this. After all, a life not reflected upon is life that has not truly been lived and I want to be able to look back in one, five, ten, twenty, fifty / sixty years time and be able to see growth due to taking time to reflect and breathe.

My desire of wanting to consciously take the time to stop and breathe, enjoying the moment and my current state of life might seem contradictory to reflecting on the journey so far and also where it is I want to end up…however, I don’t see that these three ideals are mutually exclusive, but rather all interconnected.

Firstly, I am a product of what I have done and experienced in the past. My thoughts, actions and interactions have helped shape who I am to this point in time…the stopping and reflecting on who I am and what has occurred allows me the opportunity to see who I am truly am and why I am experiencing what I currently am…this gives me the power to change those things that I am not content with, enabling me to align my thoughts, actions and behaviours to become and achieve the various goals I have for my life. If I don’t go through this process then nothing will change…if nothing in my behaviour, thoughts and actions changes then the end result won’t change either.

Unknown-2This doesn’t mean I shouldn’t also be able to enjoy where I currently am. The point is me trying to enjoy the journey as I continue to move through life. Stopping and taking the time to spend with those who are most important to me, being my wife and children, enjoying the everyday interactions and celebrating who I am and who we are together should always be at the forefront of my mind. Having a gratitude for what I already have and experience is a definite necessity in this time of stopping and reflecting, I live a very blessed life and I should be grateful for what I have whilst having a desire to continue to grow and become the man I was created to be.

I am fortunate enough to be able to take some time over this weekend to do exactly this, stop and breathe. The school that I currently work at is a boarding school, we have a lot of country boys. Once a term, in the middle of it, our boys have a four day weekend to allow our boarding community to return home to their families, to stop and breathe. This post is me trying to do the same…how am I going at this half way point in Term One? Do I have the right balance in all areas of my life? Am I happy with how my students are progressing, if not, what do I need to do to help them become all they were created to be? Am I being a good father and good husband? Am I hitting my health targets? Hopefully this taking time to breathe this weekend will help with this and recharge the batteries at the same time as I am feeling a little depleted at the moment.

This day has gone a long way to helping already. A morning with my wife and children out at a really fun place was definitely the right sort of medicine. I cherish the times we get to spend together.

One thought that I have been having recently is try to get back into the habit of writing more. Maybe not just on m fitness posts as before but more about other goals, successes and aspiration that I am trying to achieve. I have thought from an education point of view I’d like to use it as a way to reflect on some of the different approaches I have been using with my students to teach Music during this year. Maybe I could do the same for some of my other goals as well…it’d be a matter of trying to find that right balance…always the concept I struggle with the most…balance.

Let’s see how I go!

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