Trumpet Challenge Week 37

Trumpet Challenge Week 37 – Five Days and some Progress.

Despite a slow start to the week I managed to get in my target of five days practice, some thing that I am definitely please about considering my track record over the past few weeks! Being totally honest, I was a little worried at the beginning of the week, not having practiced on Monday that I would struggle, the pressures of work and meeting reporting deadlines with my marking had the potential to take a lot of my time away from the challenge. I guess that this proved to be a real life challenge that a lot of my students face every day, conflicting time commitments. I successfully managed to navigate this though throughout the entire week, something that I have not always managed to achieve!

My focus for this week’s sessions has still been on my range and trying to improve the consistency of pitching, intonation and just being able to play the higher notes with ease (C#, D, Eb, E and F). I would like to push this range up to my G above the staff, I do think that I’m a little way off achieving this goal though!

My long notes and lip slurs practice was a lot more consistent throughout the week, something that I am quite happy about! I am finding that there’s still a lot of work needed on improving my embouchure and preparing for the notes prior to playing. It has made me think back to the brass workshop I attended earlier in the year with the Principal Horn of the Berliner Philharmonica, he placed a lot of importance in air flow and preparing positioning of embouchure for the higher notes rather than the lower notes. There were some sessions that some of the higher slurs took a little longer to perfect, but overall they were an improvement.

As previously mentioned, my main focus this week is on improving range. I need to strengthen the higher notes and be able to play them consistently. I decided to incorporate a new range exercise for this week which I feel has helped. I started on my 5th of each position (e.g. G in the open position) and moved to the note above on the same valve (e.g. C in open position) and back to the 5th before moving down to the tonic, back to the fifth, resolving to the tonic. I did this tonguing, every valve position. This was then repeated starting on the tonic up the octave (e.g. C in space open position) with a movement up to the 3rd (e.g. E in space open position). My eventual aim is to continue to increase the overall range as my lips get more comfortable.

My session continued with major scales and arpeggios in all twelve keys. As I am getting increasingly comfortable with these, I decided to include playing the scales in thirds. This was quite a challenging undertaking and will definitely need more attention over the next few weeks.

One element of my sessions that did not receive as much attention this week was the Accent on Achievement work. I continued to play through the exercise on Pages 42 and 43, alternating odds and evens. I did not spend much time working on American Patrol, I feel that the range issue I am having will be corrected through my technical exercises, until they get stronger there isn’t much benefit in repeating the same errors every session.

This coming week will be an interesting one with many challenges. I haven’t gotten to practice on Saturday (today) as I have been at school doing testing. There are no students at school in the coming week, this means the discipline of doing what is required with a change in everyday routine kicks in.

 

I am looking forward to the challenge!!!

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Trumpet Challenge Week 36

Trumpet Challenge Week 36 – High Note Frustration.

There were many positives to come out of this week’s practice; I managed to get four of my expected five practices in (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday & Friday); my tone is improving in the lower to middle range; the strength and consistency of lip slurs is improving. However, there are still some of my on going problems that are proving a continual challenge, specifically my range and the consistency of notes from my C in the third space moving up to the F on the top line. I’d like to say that my ability to play these notes is improving, but it’s just not, I have stagnated on them and it really depends not just on the day, but the time of practice as to how success I am with these.

One of the ways that I have been working on developing these notes is through a new technical exercise. I am staying in the same position and moving (with tonguing) up and down the selected notes. I am starting on an open G, moving to an open C, back to open G and down to open C. I will repeat this starting on F#, F, E, D#, D and C#. I am then moving back to open C (third space) and repeating the process, the first interval moving up to my E in the fourth space. I am hoping that by committing to this over the next few weeks I might see the growth and development I need in my playing.

My ability to play my scales and arpeggios has not progressed further, especially the range for my C#, D, Eb, E and F Major. I am still finding that at times I don’t concentrate fully and, as a result, make some silly errors with finger positions, this is something that I’ll continue to try and work on in the coming week.

I have continued to work not he technical work from Pages 42 and 43, alternating between odd and even numbers. This seems to bed working effectively in developing a consistent tone. Some errors are happening in the latter exercises where the range is larger, again I hope that this will naturally improve as I work on the various technical exercises.

I am hoping in this coming week to be able to get back to my five days practice, it has started well with me getting my Saturday done and dusted. Other goals for this week that I would like to achieve include discussion my range issues with one of the trumpet teachers at school (there might something to correct about my embouchure) and getting to the music shop to purchase some new books.

Let’s see if I can achieve these three simple goals for Week 36! Making my goals small and achievable always seems to be beneficial to my personal growth and development.

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Trumpet Challenge Week 35

Trumpet Challenge Week 35 – A Wasted Week.

The past week has been nothing short of disappointing, a missed opportunity, to put it bluntly, a waster week. After all of the good work that I have achieved in setting up a good routine, committing to regular practice and seeing growth and development I hit a week with virtually no practice sessions at all. The only time I managed is a twelve minute session on the Saturday at the beginning of the week.

Looking back on the week and what could have possibly caused this slump, I can’t really put my finger on it accurately. I have been busy at school, but no busier than usual…I just haven’t gotten into eh practice room first thing in the morning. I did get a bout of food poisoning which knocked me out for a couple of days, but apart from this there’s really no excuses.

This next week is going to be busier at school, there’s only a couple of weeks left and I have a lot that needs doing regarding reporting and preparation for next year. Hopefully I can make a conscious effort and turn around this poor week, make it an aberration and not a new habit!

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Trumpet Challenge Week 34

Trumpet Challenge Week 34 – Four is the New Five.

It has been an “interesting” week of practice for the Trumpet Challenge. I have managed to complete four sessions for a second week in a row, a positive is that all the sessions were quite strong in their consistency and length. On the side of needing to improve I need to get my sessions back to the five day mark that I set for the challenge and also improve my range, I am still struggling to find consistency in notes D, Eb, E and F. As this post marks the beginning of my 34th week in the challenge I am hoping that I’ll be able to report some positives on both of these fronts come the beginning Week 35.

Wednesday Morning.

It’s been a late start to the week’s practice regime this week, which is disappointing. I didn’t manage to get in a before school session on either Monday or Tuesday due to various school events (meeting on Monday and setup for my school band’s Melbourne Cup gig on Tuesday).

Despite this, the session went reasonably well with my long notes and slips having good consistency in tone and pitch through to my High D. I managed to play my scales quite well with only a few slips up on my F# and Ab Major Scales, I’m still getting confused with some of the fingerings, especially when descending. One big positive to come out of today’s practice was my ability to play the full range of my F Major scale and arpeggio. The top E and F were thin, but they were definitely there! I also managed to push higher with long notes, getting a thin F# and G out of my trumpet.

I continued with my repertoire routine, focusing on the technical exercises on pages 42 & 43 of Accent on Achievement. There’s progress in the tone development and ability to lip slur between notes in the context of a song. I am mismatching some of the exercises, especially in Number 8 where I continue to not resolve the exercise to an F, hitting a Bb instead.

Thursday Morning.

I have managed to complete the second session for the week. There have been a number of positives out of this session as well. It was consistent with my Wednesday one in the long notes, scales and arpeggios although the range wasn’t quite there.

I made the decision to change my approach to repertoire yet again, I am really keen to nail this version of “American Patrol’ but am continuing to struggle with lip fatigue through playing. I have reduced the number of technical exercises, only playing five of the ten, to try and give myself an opportunity to play American Patrol before my lips are too fatigued. This seems to have been a good idea as I did manage to play more of the song, the latter parts still need more attention.

Friday Morning.

I had a lot of other things on my mind of various tasks that I needed get done when I went into my Friday session, not the ideal place to practice from! I did manage to get a reasonably good twenty minute practice in, something that I really shouldn’t sneeze at!

My long notes, scales and arpeggios were a mirror of the Thursday results. I did try something sightly different today though, adding in my lowest lip slur positions as well (F#-C#; G – D; Ab – Eb; A – E; Bb – F).

There were not really any changes in my repertoire ability to Thursday’s session. I think I may need to look into getting that new book and just pushing ahead to really help continue to develop my playing.

Saturday Morning.

I ended up being a little strapped for time for this morning’s practice session. Usually I jump straight into it after one of my students’ lessons in the half an hour break that I have. I didn’t do that this morning as I had a larger break and I got some sax practice done first. By the time I finished the sax practice I only had about 15 minutes to spend on the trumpet.

The quality of the practice was no where near as strong as my earlier week sessions, largely due to the sax practice tiring out my lips. It was, however, much better than the previous times I’ve played my sax right before practice sessions.

Moving Forward.

I would really like to get back to the five days a week quota of practice days. The length of most of my sessions has been good, just that extra one would be nice. I think I’d like to try to get the new book for me to continue to progress during this week. I’ll keep working on American Patrol, but some new repertoire would probably prove beneficial.

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Trumpet Challenge Week 33

Trumpet Challenge Week 33 – A Slow Start

This last week has definitely been an interesting one from a practice perspective. The week started exceptionally slow, I didn’t get my usually practice in on Saturday due to  a school function or even on Monday morning (I got to school late). This meant that my first session was on Tuesday morning before my first student.

The interesting occurrence for the week is that I then managed to rack up rehearsal sessions on Wednesday (I usually don’t), Thursday and Friday meaning I managed to get four in for the week.

I have continued to encounter problems with some of my higher notes, to counter this I have started working on a slightly different embouchure, more focus on the positioning of the top lip in the mouthpiece cup. We’ll wait and see how the change goes over the next few weeks, so far I’m feeling confident.

Tuesday Morning.

I managed to get in approximately 20 minutes worth of practice before my first Clarinet student for the day. I continued the focus on long notes, lip slurs and scales in all twelve keys before playing through some of the additional exercises in the back of Accent on Achievement Book One (Pages 42 & 43).

As with my previous week, the higher notes caused me some difficulty, especially from the lip slur between F-Bb and higher on the instrument. I am trying to adjust the embouchure to accommodate the different ranges, this is still proving inconsistent. I also have made a conscious effort to play all valve positions for my lip slurs. I started with the open C – G then each time I got back to the open position I would make sure my next position would be all three valves closed. I am hoping that this focus will assist in the upper range later on.

My scales are staying rather consistent. The higher position ones (Eb, E and F Major) are still causing a lot of trouble. My C# and D Major are slowly getting more consistent.

I didn’t get a lot of time in Accent on Achievement, managing only the first five exercises and these were quite rough.

Wednesday Morning

I agreed to see one of the young trumpeters who is auditioning for our Intermediate Concert Band for an additional lesson to assist with his audition that is occurring next week. I managed to get into the tutorial room 15 minutes prior to his lesson time to do a warmup which consisted of long notes and lip slurs.

Once the lesson commenced we worked solely on the audition piece. It was interesting watching this young man’s embouchure, particularly in the upper range. I noticed that he is putting a considerable amount more top lip into the mouthpiece cup than I currently am.

I think that I will try to apply this positioning to my own playing over the coming weeks to see if it assists in my higher notes.

Thursday Morning.

I managed another 15 – 20 minutes practice before my first Saxophone student. The session mirrored my Tuesday session although I did try to use the different embouchure that I observed yesterday. Some more time is going to be needed to get my lips used to this position as it still isn’t in my muscle memory.

Friday Morning.

Friday mornings have been a successful session for me over the past few weeks, coming in around the 30 minute mark with a lot of improvement each time. This session was no exception.

My lips felt more comfortable in the new position and some of the higher notes managed to come out easier in the lip slurs, long notes and scales.

My repertoire was also a lot stronger, getting through the entire ten additional exercises. I slowed down the tempo to really work on accuracy and whilst there is still some work to do on the lip slurring exercises in the book, I am happy with where everything was.

I also managed to give some time to the repertoire that I have struggled with from earlier in the book. I managed to play Pomp and Circumstance perfectly, including the movement from an A to a D, this means I have marked it off as complete. “American Patrol” still needs more attention, hopefully in the next week it will be done.

Saturday Morning.

I have managed to complete another good twenty minute session today between two of my private students. The work from yesterday has really managed to be consolidated and I even managed to get out a High F with some reasonable tone while playing the F Major Scale. I think the new embouchure is working.

Moving Forward.

I am hoping to have another consistent week of practice. Now that I have proven it is possible to find time on a Wednesday I will endeavour to do every week day onto of the Saturday, meaning six sessions for the week. Hopefully by next Saturday American Patrol will be done and dusted!

 

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Trumpet Challenge Week 32

Trumpet Challenge Week 32 – The Challenges Continue…

This past week has been another one of immense frustration and difficulty. The frustration has not necessarily been regarding the number of sessions I managed to get in, but rather the quality of practice to the extent that I made a conscious decision to change my routine and focus on the final day of practice for the week (Friday).

I continued with my routine of warm-up exercises followed by repertoire. As discussed in previous posts, my biggest challenge since beginning back this term has been the consistency of embouchure to accurately play the higher notes in my range. The embouchure for my reed playing is causing havoc with my beginner trumpet chops – it’s a continual struggle for me to overcome this.

A positive out of this week’s practices is that I did get on my trumpet on five days, something that I am really proud of. Some of those sessions were not very long (some only five – eight minutes in length). This meant that I needed to do additional focus on my long notes and warm up exercises.

The sessions later in the week (Thursday and Friday) I did manage to have a break through, largely due to a change in my routine. I had been reflecting on my repertoire section of practice and why all of a sudden I was struggling to play some of the pieces and the answer hit me, I am not warm enough. Despite all of the long notes and scales that I have done my chops weren’t ready for pieces, especially Pomp and Circumstance and American Patrol and the interval leaps up to my high D.

I made the decision to leave these pieces and focus on the additional technical exercises provided int he back of the book. These I have found challenging but there seems to be improvement in my ability to move around the instrument and play own the higher register towards the end of my phrases.

In the coming week I will continue this routine to try to work on improving my endurance further. I am still hopeful of getting the final two songs complete to a satisfactory standard before the end of this term.

Time will tell whether I manage to meet this goal.

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Trumpet Challenge Week 31

Trumpet Challenge Week 31 – Ups and Downs.

The week just gone has definitely been one of mixed results, some fantastic practices and some quite average ones. I have managed to keep an update on my progress throughout the previous week (see my Thursday post) so I will skip and focus solely on my Friday and Saturday sessions.

Friday 20th of October.

The session proved to be one of contrasts, some real positive developments and definitely some frustrations. The frustrations continue to revolve around my pitching of the higher notes in my current range (Bb, B, C, C#, D, Eb, E and F). This frustration in pitching is particularly noticeable when I am playing repertoire and the notes are occurring in the middle to the end of pieces…something that will definitely need my continued attention.

I did manage to commit to a twenty five minute session, lots of mistakes has not made as beneficial as some of my earlier ones.

Saturday 21st of October.

This session was quite short and very rushed. I did not get anywhere the amount of time that I would like to give towards my practice due to other events we had on in the afternoon and my need to rush home.

Hopefully the coming week’s practices can be more consistent and a better standard in quality to what this session was.

Sessions in Review

Whilst I am finding myself increasingly frustrated at not being able to develop and extend my range further, or get consistency in my pitching / tone for that matter, I am happy with the commitment to practice throughout the week. I have on a whole gotten on my instrument every day that I wanted to which is a huge positive.

I am looking forward to this coming week (Term Three of the School calendar) and my hope to continue to develop the good habits of effective trumpet practice.

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Trumpet Challenge Week 30 Thursday

Trumpet Challenge Thursday Week 30 – A Challenging Week.

My midweek practice sessions this week have been incredibly difficult in every way. It’s been difficult to get up early enough to practice, when I do I have found my lips have been increasingly tired and I have struggled adapting my embouchure between saxophone & clarinet to the trumpet. Having said this, I have managed to spend time on the horn on both Tuesday (only briefly) and Thursday (a little longer).

Tuesday Review.

My Tuesday session only went for approximately ten minutes. It was difficult to get to school in the aftermath of the College Presentation Night at the Concert Hall the night before. I did, however, get to school with enough time to pull out the trumpet and work on long notes, lip slurs and scales. There was minimal repertoire work.

I found that I experienced a similar problem to Saturday, my embouchure was inconsistent. This lead to many problems on my higher notes both pitching and getting a full sound. I will need to spend some time researching ways I can continue too develop this and also move between instruments with greater ease.

Thursday Review.

Today’s session was a little better than the previous two although I still am struggling with the movement to my higher notes, especially in repertoire including “Pomp and Circumstance” (A to D) and “American Patrol”. I am pulling out the difficult phrases to work on them separately, which I can do, it is hard to get the accuracy when playing in the context of the piece as my lips are a little more fatigued by the time I reach the passage.

My practice started with the usual long notes, lip slurs and scales. These all went reasonably well. There were a few problems with my higher slurs (Bb – D; B – D#; C – E; C – Eb; C# – E; D – F) but they are slowly getting more fluent. The tone is still quite thin at the top, I need to stay focused on not using pressure when playing to get the high notes. I can tell when this is occurring as the notes sound strained and thin in their timbre.

I continued the session with scales, playing my Majors in all Twelve keys, one octave. There are still some errors with remembering fingerings for my notes but these are gradually improving. Some of my higher starting scales need a lot more attention including the F, E and Eb Major Scales. The arpeggios are a little less polished but slowly improving. I will continue with these scales for another week before introducing my Harmonic Minors.

I did manage to spend some time on repertoire, however, as previously mentioned, struggled with consistency in pitching. My main difficulty is having fatigued lips in the middle to end of phrases and having to play up high. I’ll keep working on developing and strengthening my embouchure further to hopefully overcome this.

I am looking forward to tomorrow’s practice. I managed to get a good half an hour in last week on the Friday, hopefully I can replicate that for a second week in a row!

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Trumpet Challenge Week 30

Trumpet Challenge Saturday, Week 30 – Finding the Balance.

It has been a fortnight since my last post on the current progress of my Trumpet Challenge, not due to a lack of practice but more due to trying to find the right balance between home, work and professional development…I think I’m slowly getting there.

Before moving onto this previous week I will recap on Week 29 briefly.

Week 29 was another productive week of practice despite a number of interruptions / priorities that were of greater importance than spending time on the trumpet. I managed practice sessions on the Saturday, Tuesday and Wednesday of the week all of which continued to show improvement in the strength and consistency of my higher notes and lip slurring abilities. I did not practice on Monday as it was my birthday and there were a number of celebrations planned. My practice took a hit in the latter part of the week due to me being called for a fill-in sax gig last Friday night with a band that I hadn’t played with before. I had to learn by memory 50 songs in three days, this took priority being a paid professional gig. As a side point, I managed to learn all 50 songs and the gig went really well. I will try to write a post about it separate to this one at a later date.

Moving onto the week that has just finished, I am happy with the progress that I have made. I have finished the first week back at school, in the past this has resulted in my practice quality and quantity taking a significant hit due to the amount of tasks that I have to get completed. I had, however, made a concours decision to be at school early enough to get practice completed before the rigours of the everyday life of a Music educator began. I managed to achieve this on three separate days (Tuesday, Thursday and Friday) with all sessions being quite productive. My overall time on the horn also increased with the Friday session coming in at just under 25 minutes, this is something that I am quite proud of. Throughout these weekly sessions I have continued to see improvement in my ability to pitch notes and the range is gradually increasing sometimes being able to hit “F” on the top line of the staff. I have started incorporating scales and arpeggios into the regime, playing my Majors in all 12 keys around the Cycle of 5ths. I am still making some errors with the valve positions, especially on the scales that use the same valve in close succession on the higher notes. I am sure that this will be overcome with continued practice.

Today’s Practice Session – Saturday 14th October.

Today’s practice was quite frustrating, I felt like it was a definite step back from where I had managed to get to over the last few weeks. In reflection I think that the quality of my practice has been effected by the time of day it was done. I have been practicing first thing in the morning while my its are fresh. Today’s session occurred after four and a half hours of private teaching over three different instruments (sax, flute and clarinet) and from the first long note everything felt tired and out of sorts.

Technical Work.

The session started with technical work which lasted for approximately 8 minutes. During his time I worked on my long notes and lips slurs. I had some problems today with some of the slurs from the note “F” upwards. I did managed to push through to eventually get up to the C – E slurs but it took a lot of work and there were a number of mis-pitched notes.

I continued with scales and arpeggios. This went reasonably well with me getting more comfortable with the scales in all twelve keys. Some more work is needed in the upper range with a number of errors in pitching / nothing able to hit notes and also valve positions.

Repertoire.

My repertoire today was a real struggle, this is disappointing after having such a strong day yesterday. I managed to play the warmup piece “Las Manzanitas” reasonably well but then I struggled with the next two pieces “Pomp and Circumstance” and “American Patrol”, particular the transition up to my “D” in the staff. I have been doing really well with this over the last week, I guess it shows that it is always possible to have a bad day.

I am hoping that I can continue to find a good balance in all aspects of my life as I head into this week. There are some big events on including my school’s Academic Awards Night which could throw a spanner in the works, it’s going to take discipline and a positive attitude to ensure I get the outcome I want.

Bring it on!!!

 

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Trumpet Challenge Week 28

Trumpet Challenge Saturday Week 28 – Signs of Improvement.

When I reflect back on the week that has just passed it has definitely been a roller coaster ride of successes and failures on the trumpet. Overall though, I do feel that significant progress has been made. My high notes are slowly becoming more consistent, as I experienced throughout today’s session.

I successfully have managed to complete five practices inside the week, a goal that I set for all my students from a practice perspective. I cannot remember the last week that I managed to reach this goal myself personally on the trumpet (yes, that is shameful).

I also had an amazing experience where I got to watch a symphony orchestra performer demonstrating buzzing to children as a part of a workshop. I noticed that his embouchure was slightly different to how I have been forming mine, particularly the top lip position. I have been working on trying to incorporate this into my playing since this experience and it seems to be showing some improvement, especially in my high notes.

Warmup / Technical Exercises.

I commenced today’s session in a similar manner to other sessions; long notes, lip slurs and scales. I worked on readjusting my embouchure to have more top lip overhanging / in the mouthpiece cup. This proved successful with being able to slightly adjust for the higher notes in the slurs and made for a more consistent tone. I also managed to push higher in my lip slurs than previously with me managing all lip slurs up to the C in the third space comfortable. The slur from the C to the E did work but there was significant breaking and mismatching, I could not manage the C# to E or D to F slurs, hopefully int he next week these will work a little better.


Today proved be a real good day for my scale exercises. I managed to complete my C Major, D Major, G Major, Bb Major, A Major without many problems. I had some difficulty with the Eb and E Major Scales (top few notes) and tried to be adventurous by playing the the F Major (this didn’t bode well at the top end). Hopefully I’ll be able to continue to stretch myself in this coming week and have an even better outcome by this time next week.

Accent on Achievement Repertoire.

I started at the same place that I have been throughout the week, Page 30. I was hesitant with how the first few pieces would go as I have had some difficulty with the high notes in both “Crossing the Break” and “Kum Ba Yah”. Interestingly, today was probably the best I have played these, there’s still some work to do but it was an improvement, especially “Crossing the Break”.

I played Trumpet Voluntary quite well, I think that this will be dropped from my routine during this week as will “Finlandia” as both of these are being performed nicely.

I continued with Page 31 with some good success on the first few songs. “Shepherd’s Hey”, “Botany Bay” and “Reuben and Rachel” were all performed well, this means that I will drop these during the coming week. Some additional work is going to be needed on “Amazing Grace”, particularly the movement between C and A at the start of the second line. I did not attempt the technical exercise at the end of the page. This is a really good exercise that I want to look at adopting into my practice routine, I will make a note of this for me to use during the coming week.

My session continued with Page 32 and the song “Syncopated Rhythms”. This was played well and will be dropped from the regular routine to allow time to focus on more difficult repertoire. The songs “Russian Sailor Dance” and “Ye Banks and Braes of Bonnie Doon” have both shown some improvement but a greater amount of time is needed on my higher notes, especially the transitions to and from the High D. “Tom Dooley” at the end of the page needs a lot of work, especially the movement to the High D and High C.

Unfortunately, my session was needed to be cur short at this point due to my next Saturday morning student arriving. This is just a reality of my life as a musician, I’m not phased by, rather grateful that I get to live the life I do teaching, playing and writing music.

The coming week should be an exciting time for me and the Trumpet Challenge. Hopefully I’ll get the remainder of the book completed and maybe have all five days under the belt again. I know that there will be some changes to schedule during this week, hopefully I can smash out another great and progressive week…bring it on!

 

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