It’s official: two ten-hour car rides and several sleep-deprived nights later, I have successfully taken a prelude ensemble to an ITG conference and back, without suffering any casualties.* It was truly an honor to be able to conduct members of the Ball State University Trumpet Ensemble, in what I think may have been the school’s first-ever appearance at an ITG event. Special congratulations to composer Devin Fanslow, whose piece our group performed.
For those who weren’t able to attend this year’s event and might be looking for a recap, here are the takeaways from my own experience:
1) Is it just me, or do American trumpet players play more loudly than everyone else? For my money, the most stunning performances at this conference came from: Luis González and Pacho Flores, who both performed superb solos on the piccolo trumpet on Wednesday night; Tine Thing Helseth, whose set of seven Norwegian folk songs (available on her Storyteller album) was breathtakingly expressive; Trombamania, who may have given the best all-around concert of the conference; and Terry Everson, whose performance of Puck on the Saturday New Works Recital was memorable as much for Mr. Everson’s superb stage presence as for his outstanding playing. The non-American soloists in particular performed much more softly than I would have anticipated, and I’ve since wondered if American players tend to emphasize projection because so many of our full-time playing jobs are orchestral. (This thought is not intended as a reflection on Mr. Everson’s playing, but on my own.) Lots to think about as I’m practicing.
2) I need to invest in custom earplugs. Seriously. I generally spend much of my ITG time visiting the exhibit halls, and this conference even more so because I had three students trying horns. For some reason, this year’s displays seemed worse than normal when it came to screeching high notes. I loved the suggestion made my an audience member at one of the events: set up a separate room for lead playing, and require players to hit a double G in order to gain access. In the midst of the high Gs, however, I discovered the following products which I would gladly endorse:
- Torpedo Bags. Okay, so this wasn’t a new discovery. I owned a Torpedo Classic before the convention and I purchased a Torpedo Coyote Snap first thing on Wednesday morning. These are expensive but the user experience is worth it; everything about that case feels high-quality. I got a lot of questions and compliments toting it around–perhaps because it has wheels, which was definitely the way to go. If you buy a Coyote, though, get the mute bag that goes with it; I find that the horns fit so snugly that there isn’t a lot of room for oil, mouthpieces, etc. You can always detach the mute bag if you have to gate-check the case.
- Osmun Music. These guys are fantastic. They made minor adjustments to three of my instruments free of charge and have a modification for the Bach 229/25H that I will seriously consider pursuing. The modified horn that they had on display plays better than almost any Bach I’ve tried. This could just be that particular horn, but I have a student who left his C trumpet with them to undergo the “blueprinting” process. If we both like his modified instrument when he gets it, I’ll probably send them mine.
- Stomvi piccolo trumpet gear. The best part of this line for me is the brass-bottom picc mute. I haven’t bought one yet, but I’ll order it in the near future, since I already own the copper-bottom straight and the harmon for my large horns and love both. Instead, I bought one of Stomvi’s piccolo mouthpieces, which is working out great so far with my Schilke P5-4. I also spent a lot of time listening to the Titan model piccolo trumpet. For my own playing, I prefer the horn I own, but I can’t argue with the sound of the Titan when I’m listening to my students trying it out (or when I’m listening to Luis González play it). If we are ever in a position to order another picc for the studio here, I’ll seriously consider one of these.
- Getzen C cornet. Another purchase I’d like to make for the Ball State studio. If we didn’t already have a beautiful Mt. Vernon C cornet on campus (no, it is NOT for sale), I would seriously consider buying a Getzen custom for myself.
3) I heard several thought-provoking pedagogical presentations. Of greatest interest to me were Lynn Asper’s books (published through Wavesong Press) and Lucinda Lewis’s presentation on embouchure overuse (you can read about some of her main points in this article). Look for further reflections on pedagogical developments later this month in the Trumpet Pedagogy Project blog.
4) As always, I loved listening to the students who performed in this year’s ITG competitions (hopefully some of mine will want to enter in 2015!). Special congratulations go out to the youngsters who performed in the under-14 division (and their teachers!!); I heard a lot of great trumpet playing and it was exciting to see how well those students in particular are doing at such a young age.
5) I was pleasantly surprised by David Hickman’s new five-valved orchestral C trumpet (manufactured by Blackburn Trumpets). Having studied with David Hickman, I had some idea what to expect, but I was particularly impressed by the resonance of the instrument. It plays evenly in all four keys (B, C, D-flat, and D) and seems to have great potential. As a teacher, I will watch with great interest to see if it gains any traction.
All in all, it was a great experience and one of the most international ITG events I’ve attended. Congratulations to the hosts on a very successful event, and thanks to all who came out to hear our ensemble. We had a wonderful time!
* Unless you count my bank account. Got to stay away from those exhibits.