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trumpet factory visit

2014-08-19 CANBY, OREGON -- Noriko and I visited Marcinkiewicz Co. Inc., which manufacturers trumpets and mouthpieces the old-fashioned way.

Zack Marcinwiekicz, who grew up in the family business and now runs the company as well as being its public relations person, graciously told us stories and gave us advice for well over an hour. We also met John, who followed his father and became a brass instrument craftsman, including years at Benge, Olds, Kanstul (where he made tubas -- didn’t know they made them) and joined Marcinkiewicz when they opened for business. I don’t have pictures of these illustrious gentlemen, mostly because we were so enthralled with their stories, and also because we thought taking their photos would be inappropriate.

However Zack did give us permission to photograph their building and their lobby. So here they are!

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Above: Marcinkiewicz is located in Canby, a community with nice houses surrounded by farmland, located between Portland and Salem. Oregonian pilots will be familiar with Aurora state airport, situated several miles away, and home to kit plane manufacturers. Perhaps the region’s build-it-yourself, self-reliant spirit plus a labor base of skilled metal craftsmen accustomed to tight tolerances is why we find trumpets (Marcinkiewicz, Monette), aircraft (Van, Sportcopter), and bicycles (Comotion, Bike Friday) being manufactured in Oregon.

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Above: Marcinkiewicz prefers their customers to visit the store in order to custom-tailor instruments. Clients are typically advanced players who know what they want. The trumpets in the glass showcase shown in the picture are prototypes -- trumpets that were made by combining various bells, lead pipes, and materials. The black flat boxes on the shelves behind the glass showcase contain mouthpieces, some differing in dimensions at merely half the thickness of a hair.

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Above: Marcinkiewicz started out similarly to Vincent Bach in that in both cases their founders were trumpeters who chose to augment or stabilize their income by making trumpet mouthpieces and instruments. Today, many trumpets are mass-produced in factories. Some musicians insist on hand-made instruments, however, leaving a niche market for companies such as Marcinkiewicz. John told us of a trombonist who could accurately distinguish hand-hammered bells from machine-made bells. (Marcinkiewicz also produces trombones.) John also told us that where the seam of one-piece bells goes -- bottom or the side -- makes no difference. But two-piece bells do suffer from uneven thickness. John can make tubas with one-piece bells, but the price is prohibitive.

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Above: The lobby is adorned with photographs of trumpeters holding Marcinkiewicz instruments. We smiled when we saw a picture of Bobby Shew as a young man, already hairy and beardy if not more so. In the picture above, located in the center below the blue whale is Herb Alpert, my idol, who was a business partner with Marcinkiewicz from 1983 to 1989.

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Above: Zack gave us 3 Marcinkiewicz pencils. One goes to Izuru Konishi, my trumpet teacher in Sapporo. Another goes to John Bringetto, my trumpet teacher in Seal Rock. And I get to keep one, too.

our trumpet teacher performs

2014-08-16 NEWPORT, OREGON -- Noriko and I listened to my trumpet teacher John Bringetto and his buddy Jim Cameron play music at the Cecil’s Dirty Apron restaurant in Newport, about 25 miles south of where we live.

John is a sailor, musician, and
teacher. We are just starting to learn of his extensive adventures. Tonight he and Jim entertained us with favorite jazz tunes.

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Above: Cecil’s is off US 101. Live music is offered frequently. The box on the wall next to Noriko (seated at the far left) is a modern jukebox. Insert your credit card and apparently your song is downloaded to the jukebox in case it’s not already stored locally.

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Above: Cecil’s serves Louisiana cuisine. Their gumbo is a complete meal in itself. Next time, we won’t order the hamburgers!

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Above: John and Jim have been playing together for 4 years.

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Above: Both John and Jim sing. John switches instruments -- trumpet, flugelhorn, saxophone, flute. While he sings, he plays bass on the keyboard with his right hand, so that the keyboard has 3 hands playing on it simultaneously.

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Above: My eyes were glued to John’s lips. Embouchure (the configuration of primarily the lips and secondarily the cheek, jaw, and tongue) is paramount to playing brass instruments. I need to learn the embouchure appropriate for me.

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Above: Between bites of food, I would breathe with John’s playing -- that is, while he was playing notes, I would try to slowly exhale. I couldn’t keep up! John seems to have an endless supply of air. I’m in trouble!

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Above: After the 2-hour performance, Sirokuro “flying puppy” and Kero “pink frog” were introduced to the artists.

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Above: It was a mesmerizing night. Thanks John and Jim! We’ll see you here at Cecil’s on 2014-08-30!

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Above: We’ll be attending more performances by John Bringetto and his band. Y’all come and listen!

remembering a friend

2014-08-08 MARGATE, FLORIDA -- Noriko and I visited Edith, the sister of our late friend Bruce Lowerre, at her home in Margate, Florida.

Bruce lived 5 houses away from Edith. We visited them several times after Bruce moved there to be close to his family.

As we had in the past, we stayed in the guest bedroom at Bruce’s house. The house was empty without him. I could barely bring myself to take pictures.

Noriko and I intend to return when I can play a few songs on my trumpet for Bruce and Edith. I would like to play “Gonna fly now” (the theme from the movie “Rocky”) for Bruce, because grieving for my friend is so hard now, and because he should be flying. For Edith, I would like to play “Anchors aweigh” because she is USN, Ret.

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Above: Bruce’s study. Most of his books and equipment are gone. Hanging on the wall is his CMU PhD diploma.

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Above: Bruce’s belongings are slowly being given away to his surviving relatives.

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Above: Edith, Pat (a neighbor), Noriko and I had lunch at the Big Bear Brewery, where we once had lunch with Bruce.

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Above: Edith rescues injured or neglected pets. Sassy is one of her most recent house guests.

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Above: Edith formerly played the French horn for the US Navy. She took me to a local well-stocked trumpet store, where a trumpet instructor suggested I try the Bach 3C mouthpiece. He and Edith believe that the Yamaha 1335 mouthpiece that came with my rental trumpet is too small for my mouth. They may be correct, given that most players of the rental trumpet are Japanese middle school students (who tend to be smaller than adults), and I am larger than most Japanese adults. The Bach 3C has roughly the same rim size but a shallower alpha angle (the angle between the rim and the cup). I did notice a slight improvement in producing notes. The white ornament is a toy I got at the Moomin art exhibit in Sapporo, Japan.

death of an admired artist

2014-08-03 TOKYO, JAPAN -- Obi Hiroshi (帯ひろ志), a manga artist and teacher whom I respect and admire, died this morning due to a sudden illness.

A year ago yesterday we met for the first and last time at the Sapporo Clock Tower. Obi Hiroshi chose his pseudonym from his birthplace Obihiro city on Hokkaido island. He left Hokkaido when he was a toddler, grew up and lived on Honshu island, and opened his manga studio in Sagamihara (a city in Kanagawa, close to where I spent my adolescence). The day we met, he had returned to Hokkaido island for the first time in 50 years.

Obi Hiroshi earned fame in soft-porn manga for teenage boys. I approve of his manga because his work is full of loyalty, friendship, and happy endings. There is no violence or broken promises. His heroines are healthy, optimistic, extroverted, and courageous.

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Above: My favorite character Chisato from “Miracle lingerie”. Chisato gains super powers by wearing lingerie sent to earth by aliens. Her bra and panties are activated only when exposed to sunlight and to the full view of men transfixed at the 14-year-old saving the world. Obi Hiroshi softened the sexual aspect of his story by drawing Chisato as if she was wearing a bikini swimsuit, and by assigning Chisato humanitarian missions to overcome her embarrassment. Contrary to what amazon says, the books are available for purchase. (This cover artwork is identical to the books I own.)

Another reason why I respect Obi Hiroshi is his generous, sincere love of his students. He was an assistant professor at an
art school. We talked about teaching techniques and student psychology. He taught at various off-campus venues including Sapporo. I believe he was teaching a manga clinic at Tokuyama University (in Yamaguchi) when he suffered a brain stem hemorrhage that killed him within hours.

Overwork must have caught up with him. He mentioned his hectic schedule and health problems. Manga artists are rarely paid well for their artwork. Obi Hiroshi supplemented his income by illustrating corporate instructional material. He was proud of his fast turn-around times. I wish I had paid him to draw for my online courseware. If only I could have afforded to pay him enough so that he could have worked less.

It is so unfair for such a super-friendly artist and ultra-caring teacher to leave us behind.

Obi Hiroshi was 54 years old.

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Above: Obi Hiroshi signed his book for me. It occupies a treasured display position in my office.

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Above: Obi Hiroshi and I exchanged messages over the past few years on twitter.

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Above: Obi Hiroshi’s wife announced her husband’s death on
his twitter account.

trumpet lessons

2014-08-03 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- I started taking trumpet lessons.

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Above: The Yamaha YTR-3335S trumpet for beginning students. $800 to buy new, $200 to rent for 7 months.

I have no musical training whatsoever. Never learned to play an instrument, nor read sheet music, nor sing. I can’t even whistle in tune.

Listening to music has always been a pleasurable yet passive, unconcentrated activity for me. I would turn on an internet radio station, perhaps in the smooth jazz or easy listening genre, and let the music play. I wouldn’t pay much attention, and wouldn’t miss it if the music turned itself off.

During childhood I fantasized over playing the trumpet at a level of seriousness similar to becoming a superhero. Knowing this, Noriko took me to a free trumpet lesson at the Yamaha music school for adults on my 53rd birthday.

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Above: The Yamaha school moved to its Sapporo-station-front location 12 month ago. We live 5 minutes away.

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Above: While waiting for lessons, students study by the window overlooking the train tracks.

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Above: Yamaha manufactures all sorts of musical instruments. I don’t know yet which make or model of trumpet would be best for me. I’m renting until I know what I want. It would be a wonderful Christmas or New Year’s present.

During our free trial lesson, we interviewed Izuru Konishi (a big band jazz trumpeter). We liked his life experience, personality, and teaching style, so we signed up for lessons. I say “we” but Noriko isn’t taking lessons -- she’s my adult guardian. My mental age is around 8. I would fall apart if I went to lessons alone.

We’ve had 4 lessons so far including the first (when we learned about the teacher, not the instrument). Each lesson is just the 3 of us (teacher, guardian, student), lasts 30 minutes, and meets 3 Tuesday evenings per month.

During the first 4 lessons, I’ve changed my embouchure (lip and mouth shape) 3 times already -- we’re looking for what is best for me. The one I’m practicing now seems like a winner, at least for high notes. I produce C6 fairly consistently, although I still hunt for notes. My low notes suffer though. Now I can’t produce C4 (middle C).

Today at the time of this writing my trumpet is in a suitcase traveling to America. I’ll take
lessons in Oregon, too, because Izuru recommended it, and because I want to be bilingual in music.

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Above: The mouthpiece I’m using feels tiny to my big lips. Practicing the trumpet improved my whistling.

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Above: Izuru signed my textbook. At that time, I didn’t know it was forbidden to place items on the piano. Sorry!

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Above: The trumpet has 3 piston valves. I incorrectly imagined that the valves create 8 notes (2x2x2=8). Turns out they lower the note in 6 half-note steps (0, -0.5, -1.0, -1.5, -2.0, -2.5, and -3.0).

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Above: My goal is to play “Happy birthday” on Noriko’s birthday. I have 7 months to hit G5!

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Above: I bought a bunch of books. I started to read and listen a lot about music theory and trumpet playing on the internet. I also subscribed to a bi-weekly magazine for jazz appreciation. Being an academic, hitting the books is something I know how. Translating that information to mouth, breath, and fingers is an entirely different challenge.