Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Trumpet Times

Some of you may have noticed that a friend of mine posted up images of an old trumpet on his Facebook wall, tagging me in the process. This was my friend Nate, a high school acquaintance from way back in the day. Of course I’m now old and farty; it happens to the best of us. All that aside, it begs the question: what’s up with that old trumpet?

Turns out after I launched the Kickstarter campaign for my new trumpet studio, Nate messaged me on FB the same day. He told me about this old Conn he had kicking around. It’s a Connstellation 36B Lightweight, and it was most likely made in the late fifties (cf. The Conn Loyalist). These old trumpets are quite legendary. Conn made some of the finest back then. The tone of the 36B Lightweight and especially the 38B (which I now want to try, naturally) is dark; powerful at fortissimo and mellow at pianissimo. In essence, just what I’ve always wanted.

The 36B that I received from Nate is wonderful, but not without its flaws. Anything that’s sixty-plus years old is going to have some imperfections, I daresay. The mouthpiece receiver probably broke off at some point, because it was soldered back on, quite inaccurately. The bell and some of the bracing is bent. The proper felts and corks aren’t installed on the valves and I don’t know if you can even get them anymore. These are really just little niggles, because the horn plays really well. When you step to something like this, you have to try not to tell it what it’s going to do for you. You kinda have to ask it how it wants to go about its business; respect your elders. I did and I was rewarded. While the intonation isn’t completely consistent and the valve action is really heavy, it turns out that it all works in context. Having played my new Connstellation 36B Lightweight, I rather like it.

So, you may be asking, does that mean I’m no longer trying to raise money for my new studio? Not hardly. I still want to get my mitts on a trumpet I’ve had a chance to playtest, to choose for myself. While I don’t begrudge the gift of this old Conn, it’s still not exactly what I need as an instructor. It's very very cool, but it's  not something I would feel comfortable playing everyday. It's like an old classic car in that way, and time will tell if it suits me right down to the ground. One of Nate’s conditions on sending the Conn all the way from Ohio to Idaho was that, if I didn’t want it, I send it back to him or “pay it forward.” I certainly want it, and I certainly will use it. One way I could do that would be to allow my students to playtest this ol’ beauty, experience something completely different than the new school of trumpet construction. Trust me, the old Conn is way different; I don’t have the space here to go into it.

Another reason I’m continuing on with the Kickstarter fundraisingcampaign is because, as I said in the videos, this isn’t even about buying a trumpet. I have a close friend who offered to let me borrow one for a while anyway. What the Kickstarter campaign is about is starting up my private studio so I can teach music and trumpet to kids who need something more than they’re getting in life. Yeah, I need a trumpet to do that, sure, and I have one. Actually two, because I picked up an old Bach basher for fifty bucks at Dunkley the other day (fifty bucks?!) which I’ll use as a loaner (or as punishment) for my students. I'm telling you, doors are flinging wide open for me in this endeavor.

My assistant...
Since I last played, there are new method books out there. I need to know them, which means I need to buy them and use them. There are also approved Idaho contest pieces that I do not own, and I need to get all of them if my students are going to compete at state. There’s a list of about a dozen of them, and I need to get cracking on learning them so I can teach them to my students. What else? My daily routine includes stacking various boxes on the bed and propping my case open, stuffing a pillow inside, so I can get my books and music up high enough to practice good posture when I play. It would be nice to have a heavy duty music stand like I used to own. Another practical concern is that I need a diverse collection of mouthpieces, small- medium- large, that I can use with my students to make sure they’re playing on the right equipment. One mouthpiece is about eighty bucks, and I need probably five of them. Seven or eight would be better. I could probably find some for cheaper on eBay, but the list goes on.

So the fundraising continues. Good news: I’m still making connections here in Boise. I’m meeting with the band director at a local private school in Boise this week. We’re going to go over some of the problem areas his trumpet section is having so I can pop in to clinic on them soon. Perhaps I’ll gain some students out of the deal. I already have one verbal commitment from a kid at another school already. So I’m on my way. Thanks for journeying with me.

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