I hold in my hand a check I wrote but which was never remitted. It never will be, either. I had written the check out in the car in the parking lot before I went inside, intending to pass it to my trumpet instructor, Dennis Keck, at the end of our time. He refused to allow me to pay.
Through the convoluted process of networking doing its thing, I met with Dennis, a professional musician, for an evaluation. He was for a long time the second trumpet in the Boise Philharmonic. He’s an educator par excellence as well. So much of good teaching is just clearing the floor of pretense and making the complex simple, and he did that for me. But to refuse to allow me to pay? Just wow. What’s going on here?
Allow me to back up a little. I walked into Dunkley Music not long ago, asking about renting a trumpet. They told me, “Hey, why don’t you take one home for a week and see how you like it?” I didn’t turn them down. Then I got a call from the department head, later in the day, asking me if it was the Chris White that had borrowed one of his trumpets. Turns out the department head for brass and woodwinds is an old friend of mine. He wanted to do all he could to help me get started playing again. He gave me the contact info for one Justin Stamps, the current second trumpet with the Boise Phil and trumpet instructor at BSU. Justin agreed to meet with me to discuss strategies for making my way into the professional network here in the Treasure Valley, and he also gave me contact information for some of the premiere players around here. One of them was the guy I met with who would refuse, a month later, to allow me to pay for my lesson: Dennis Keck.
After making the initial contact with Dennis, we finally synced up our schedules and met. I made sure to ask him what his rate was so that I could be prepared. I guess I didn't need to know. We hit it off really well. We didn’t do much “evaluating,” really, because we were too busy talking excitedly about trumpet geek stuff, trying to sight-read some jazz duets and chatting about teaching kids. And at the end of the night he refused to allow me to pay. Did you get that part?!
As we made our way to the parking lot, Claudio Roditi came up. He’s the dude with the Weird Al hair in this video. It's around 5'00" on the timeline. An amazing trumpet player. Turns out Dennis went gaga for him when he heard this solo as well, and went out and bought everything he could find that featured him. So that was common ground.
We also talked about trumpets; which one to buy. He confirmed my suspicions about the intonation problems I’ve been having on the Conn that I’ve been playing (it’s not me, it’s the horn), and also highly recommended the Schilke X3 I’ve been watching on eBay. You can tell yourself you’re smart all day long, but you won’t believe it until someone else confirms it for you, ya know? So that was really cool too.
He also asked me where I planned to teach, and gave me some pointers on the mechanics, the logistics of it. Since he’s changed up his gig (letting the Boise Phil go), he’s also taken up a job at a local middle school. In the process he’s had to let much of his private studio roster go. He now wants to tell these kids to come see me, have me teach them. At least, as many as are able and don’t have another teacher now. Is that crazy or what?!
The best part was this: as we were packing up to leave, he said, “Make sure to send me your contact info so I can distribute your phone number to those students. And also make sure to get ahold of me about once a month so we can get together and jam to some more jazz duets.” I was like, “Really?” I must have looked like a kid myself. So here’s this world class musician who’s inviting me into his circle of influence, not just as a colleague but as a peer who will get together with him to jam occasionally.
I’m still blown away.