reflecting on 2014

2014-12-31 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- The year 2014 felt long for us. 2014 started great, with a relaxing vacation at our home in Oregon, followed by a train trip from Sapporo to Kagoshima and back. In the same month of January I was stunned to learn of the loss of my close friend, mentor, and aviation buddy Bruce Lowerre, and in August, of the manga artist Obi Hiroshi whom I had met just once almost exactly a year before his death and whom I hoped to develop at least a professional relationship if not a friendship.

Noriko sympathized with my grief and suggested that I take a free trumpet lesson because she knew I always harbored a fascination for the instrument (I had drawn a trumpet for my college freshman class T-shirt and sweatshirts, and had purchased but not pursued an electronic trumpet shortly after joining Hokudai in 2003). I surprised myself for registering for trumpet lessons. I received my rental trumpet on 2014-07-01 and as of today 2014-12-31 exactly 6 months have passed.

I immensely enjoy my music adventure. My only regrets are that I have not much to show to my 2 teachers Izuru Konishi and John Bringetto. Although these 2 gentlemen may have remotely possibly seen students worse than me, those hypothetical students were probably children forced against their will by their parents to learn music. In my case, however, I signed up for lessons. I have been committed, recently practicing 2.5 hours daily, which is considerable for a person with a full-time job. Yet those precious 2.5 hours are simply insufficient. A middle school or high school band member might practice 4 hours a day. A college music major would practice 8 hours a day. At my rate of practice, I would never become even half as good as 9th grader.

I see myself as at best a beginning-level trumpeter that no band or ensemble would want. I accept that with rational dismay, because after all music is a hobby, a sideline to my arguably successful occupation as an associate professor at a major university -- this year, 2 graduate students of ours were hired by prestigious universities, our paper won an outstanding paper award, and we won a few grants. Yet as a novice student of music who happens to be an overly logical adult I foresee a limited future akin to homeowners who are justifiably proud of their real estate and yet realizing that they would never own that 7-bedroom 4-car-garage house with 2 swimming pools on 10 acres. My musical journey will allow me to appreciate the equivalent of the majesty of Chomolungma (Mt Everest) and the achievements of the people who summitted it. I myself will enjoy walks in the city park.

Today I watched an interview with Arturo Sandoval, who exhorted trumpeters to spend 3 seconds before each practice session expressing gratitude for the exquisite opportunity to enjoy music, despite life’s numerous obligations. I am delighted that I am allowed to engage in my new pursuit.

Hence I find it fitting to close this year with a sense of deep happiness and intense good fortune that our 4 parents, 2 siblings and their families are relishing their lives in excellent health.

goh's first trumpet

2014-11-11 TOKYO, JAPAN -- I’m getting my own trumpet!

Since 2014-07-01 I’ve been renting a Yamaha YTR-3335S. I’ll return it to the Yamaha store in Sapporo on 2015-01-31. Because Noriko and I often travel to Tokyo (partly for work, and partly to visit our parents) and because flying does no good for musical instruments, I ordered a trumpet so that I can practice in Tokyo.

My trumpet should arrive the evening of 2014-11-13. I can hardly wait!

There were a few minor hiccups but the trumpet arrived and I showed it to my parents. I wonder when I’ll become able to play the trumpet instead of playing with it.

Carol Brass Zorro II

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halloween party

2014-10-29 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- We celebrated Halloween 2 days early in our wed[1234] classes.

Noriko was a bat. Kero was Robin Hood. I was an original youkai spirit named Siranubasu, that lives in Ohno Pond and preys on students who foolishly register for classes without reading the course offerings. That’s supposed to be a lily pad and a lotus root I’m wearing.

Students, download your group photos from Glexa!

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classroom change

2014-10-07 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- From 2014-10-08 until 2015-01-14, our wed[1234] classes will meet in S10, a regular (and warmer) classroom on the 2nd floor of S building. Tell your friends!

more trumpet lessons

2014-09-20 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON -- Learning the trumpet has become a major part of my life. Trumpeters practice religiously. I aspire to do the same. Since renting my instrument on 2014-07-01, I have not missed a day of practice.

We use a spare bedroom as a music room. During the day I practice without a
practice mute. I prefer no mute because the air flows differently with the mute on. The mirror reflects the image of my embouchure (the configuration of the lips, cheek, tongue, and jaw). The mirror also reflects the sound projected from the trumpet bell. The sound bounces off the hard glass surface, giving me strikingly different acoustic feedback compared with the sound heard directly from the horn that I would hear were I playing in an open area.

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On Saturday mornings we drive 35 miles for trumpet lessons at
John Bringetto’s house. We want to arrive a few minutes early so as not to make John nervous (“Are they coming?”) but not too early as to be a nuisance (“Would you like some tea?”). So we leave home way early, and park and practice for half an hour at the Brian Booth State Park (formerly known as the Ona Beach State Park) across the highway from where John lives.

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This morning we brought John and Amanda cookies from Japan. Plus a lot of questions written in my notepad. John patiently answered each one.

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We finally established a good embouchure! I was set back 2 months. Think that’s bad? John spent a year in high school re-learning his embouchure that he had for 2 years.
Louis Maggio (whose method was incorporated in the practice book that John uses daily) was forced to re-build his embouchure following a terrible accident that destroyed his lips and teeth. Compared to them, I am phenomenally fortunate. My mistake (at least this one) was nipped in the bud. Thanks John!

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Many people strengthen their “chops” (muscles in the lips and cheeks) by holding a pencil between their lips. Another training method is to pass a piece of thread through a button, putting the button between your lips and your teeth, and pulling the button with the thread.
One manufacturer sells a specialized training tool called the “P.E.T.E”. I fabricated my own with a bolt, washer, and nut. I use it when I get bored.

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After lessons, Kero insists we have a nice lunch in Newport, roughly halfway between John’s house and ours. Today we went to
Mollie’s Food Follies, near the Hatfield Marine Research Center. Big buttery veggie omelet!

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Our next lesson with John will be in March. Until then, I’ll study with Izuru Konishi in Sapporo.