We routinely decry the death (or near death) of music education in public schools, slowly and incrementally over the last few decades. However, if my experience is any indication, I would suggest we temper our outcry in the unvarnished light of reality. Growing up in the South Jersey township of Willingboro and attending public schools there from Kindergarten through high school (1959-1972), my experience was that classroom instruction in “music appreciation” was a joke; no teachers or subject matter were treated with greater, more extravagant disrespect than were these.
However. I do (and always will) rue the demise (or near demise) of band and chorus programs in public schools. In my experience, these were taught by no-nonsense professionals who by their teaching and personal example had a tremendous impact on their young charges. Every fourth grader in my school district (and I imagine in pretty much all public-school districts at the time, nation-wide), had to choose and play an instrument through fifth grade. Even the delinquents got into it, and for at least that (brief) period of time, every one of these kids had the opportunity to personally make some sort of music, which I believe to be among the greatest, most humanizing gifts we can give any child.
Even at that tender age, I/we understood that the trumpet and the flute were the elite instruments, the “glamor” instruments. The purity and brilliance of their tone and the fact that as soprano instruments they were always “on top” guaranteed their place atop the musical pecking order.
(This “glamor-thing” is still true today. And while there are – today – lots of male flute players and female trumpet players, the flute/trumpet cachet still holds, to the degree that trumpet players and flute players still tend to date each other to a degree more frequent than any other instrumentalists. This is not anecdotal info but my personal experience. My tragically departed wife Diane Elizabeth Clymer-Greenberg was a professional-grade flute player. At our wedding, her father – my father-in-law Rich Clymer – held his glass aloft and offered a toast “I always expected her to marry a trumpet player, certainly not a composer!” In attendance was her ex-boyfriend and still good friend, a wonderful guy and trumpet player named Scott Miller. Scott was not the first trumpet player she dated, though he was the last.)
A rhetorical question: what sort of soulless misanthrope doesn’t love the bright, brilliant (and equally soulful) sound of a well-played trumpet, one in the hands of, say, Louis Armstrong (1900-1971); Harry James (1916-1983); John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie (1917-1993); Miles Davis (1926-1991); Carl Hilding “Doc” Severinsen (born 1927); Maynard Ferguson (1928-2006); Chesney Henry “Chet” Baker (1929-1988); Don Ellis (1934-1978); and Wynton Marsalis (born 1961)?
We would observe that all of the above (excepting Marsalis, who can play anything) are all jazzers, and we are particularly aware of them because they all led bands. But we should also be aware that the world of concert music is filled with extraordinary trumpet virtuosi as well, virtuosi better known to their fellow trumpet players than to the general public, people like Maurice André (1933-2012); Håkan Hardenberger (born 1961); Terry Everson (born 1962); Alison Balsam (born 1978); David Guerrier (born 1984); and Tine Thing Helseth (born 1987). The list goes on; I will not, because it is time to cut to the chase and introduce you to the miracle that is the Russian-Israeli trumpet virtuoso Sergei Nakariakov (born 1977).…
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