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.

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.