tesol toronto

2015-03-26 TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA -- Noriko and I gave a poster presentation at TESOL-2015, a conference for teachers of English language. The timing and location of the conference gave me the perfect opportunity to visit the city where I spent my early childhood.

Between the Union Station (equivalent of Hofbahnhof) and the CN tower lies the Metro Toronto Convention Center, with a sculpture of woodpeckers.

A black snowman greets visitors.

We knew we arrived at the correct venue when we saw a frog blessing the building.

Registration was fast and painless. Other conferences should take note!

The conference was well attended.

I enjoy poster presentations because I get to interact with my audience more than a lecture session. The questions and comments that people give me are often valuable.

I prefer printing my posters the old-fashioned way, because (1) I can mix and match the sheets based on the people I see at the conference site before I give my presentation, (2) I can add or correct sheets of paper without having to re-print a large expensive poster, and (3) I am never sure that the poster panel will have the dimensions promised by the conference organizers.

Noriko always cheers me on. I owe my success to her.

Lots of people stopped by. Thanks for coming, folks!

my primary school

2015-03-25 TORONTO, ONTARIO, CANADA -- Noriko and I visited my primary school in Toronto, Ontario, Canada for the first time since my family moved away in summer of 1970. A vice principal (they have more than one now) generously gave us a tour of the school, which has grown considerably during the past 44 years.

There were probably 250 pupils back in 1970. Today they have 240 teachers! This number excludes kindergarten, now a separate school, although located on the same grounds. The 1400 pupils (plus 650 kindergarten kids) take turns having recess and lunch because the schoolyard is over-crowded. We never had to play in the front lawn. In fact it was forbidden because it faces the street. Now a fence keeps children inside.

Thorncliffe Park is an area surrounded by a ring road lined with densely-populated high-rise apartment buildings. Mine was across the street from the school front door, where I am standing. Because the school is located in the center circular area, and because that area has no place to grow (it is hemmed in by apartments) the school has become crowded over the years.

I recognized my 3rd grade classroom, and with horror, the room they kept me for pronunciation practice. ESL (English as a second language) was an emerging concept at that time. I spoke English well enough to function in class. Somebody decided that Alice (who was born in Canada, and was wearing braces) and I spoke "funny" and required pronunciation training. So we got detention! That windowless gloomy storage room is now a brightly-lit photocopier room.

The school building added wings and floors. The new library does not seem more spacious. The colors are vibrant though.

What have they done to the schoolyard?! It's a quarter of the size it used to be, and completely paved save for a patch of turf at the edge (note the green belt in the photo in front of the apartment buildings in the background). In 1970, each winter the yard was hosed over and allowed to freeze for ice skating. Today kids are bused over to a 365-day indoor skating rink.

Mr Scott was our principal. He knew every pupil by name, and their parents' as well.I was ignorant until today that he was the founding principal of my school. Nor did I know that the school and I are the same age.

goh's 2nd trumpet

2015-03-02 LINCOLN CITY, OREGON -- I am ecstatic with my new instrument! It costs double of my 1st trumpet, and even to my novice eyes the difference is apparent. No, it doesn't make my playing better. But it does make it easier, because the notes slot better, especially in the higher registers.

Favorite things come in brown paper packages!

I knew exactly what the case would be like, because I have another one for my Zorro trumpet that I play in Japan.

Silver is a good color for me. The bell reflects the view around the room too.

Noriko congratulated me for producing good sound from the get go.

Carol Brass uses stainless steel pistons. The pistons and valve casing must be thoroughly cleaned daily for the first 3 weeks. Note the dark residue on what was a bleached white towel. California Music Supply (CMS) sold me a soft and easy-to-use valve cleaning brush. Highly recommended! I am scared of those cleaning rods because they might scratch the inside of the instrument.

CMS gave me spare parts for free!

My new horn is considerably louder than my other horn. I need to stand away from the window and mirror to avoid reflection of sound.

The view out of my music room (spare bedroom). Sometimes deer walk past.

All those goodies piled up in my trumpet case. Handkerchief, audio recorder, spare parts, tuner with metronome, mouthpiece, valve oil and grease.

goh's 2nd and 3rd trumpets

2015-02-25 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- Noriko and I split our time in 3 places: our school in Hokkaido, Japan, our home in Oregon, USA, and with our families in Tokyo. Because flying with a trumpet is not recommended (my teachers had negative experiences) I decided to own 3 trumpets.

Trumpets are expensive. While they are considerably less expensive than other brass instruments, and ridiculously cheaper than woodwinds, the absolute cost makes me hesitate. Somewhere between 500 and 4000 US dollars would get you a respectable brand-new instrument. My first trumpet (that I ordered on my mother’s birthday last fall) cost 750 dollars. That felt pricey.

After becoming numbed to the cost of music, we twice visited the Yamaha music store (which sells many brands including Yamaha) to choose which one I should get for playing in Sapporo.

I was surprised to discover that different makes and models felt quite different. Some were easier to play than others. After comparing 6 models plus my rental and my $750 horn for Tokyo, my choices narrowed down to a Bach
180S37 (the world’s best-selling professional trumpet) and a Yamaha 8310ZS (developed with input from the jazz trumpeter Bobby Shew). I chose the Japan-made Yamaha over the USA-made Bach partly because in Japan it is slightly more convenient to have the trumpet repaired or serviced. Besides, American instruments are less expensive in America.

I ordered the 8310ZS with O-shaped finger rings on the leadpipe and 1st slide instead of the factory-standard U-shaped finger saddles. O-shaped finger rings allow me to carry part of the weight of the trumpet on my left thumb. Japanese businesses including Yamaha are not as open as European or American firms regarding modifications (try substituting an ingredient at any restaurant in Japan) so the seemingly simple change of 2 pieces of metal necessitates a 4-month wait. The paperwork for the special order went through a few weeks after Noriko's birthday. It feels auspicious to make positive decisions on birthdays of my loved ones.

The Yamaha will be delivered shortly after my birthday and 1st anniversary of embarking on my musical adventure. What a nice present! My Sapporo teacher Izuru Konishi plays a 8310Z himself, which he let me try. The higher notes came easier compared to the Yamaha 3335S I was renting at the time.

In parallel to choosing the Yamaha, a few days before Bruce's birthday, I ordered a
Carol Brass 6580, sight unseen, untested, purely based on reputation and reviews. I hated to do that but there were no music instrument stores that carried them. This horn took 80 days to be delivered to Oregon. It should be waiting for me when we return home next week! I can hardly wait! I will ask my Oregon teacher John Bringetto to play it, and breathe life into the instrument. A high-performance sports car must be driven by a capable driver at least once, in order to bless it and to show the student driver what the vehicle is capable of.

I tested 6 trumpets on 2 occasions at the Yamaha music store near Sapporo central station. Each time, they gave me a large soundproof room and plenty of privacy. They’re expensive but provide excellent service.

California Music Supply sold me the Carol Brass 6580 (a CTR-6580H-GSS-S to be exact). They took a picture of my purchase before shipping it to our home in Oregon. The trumpet comes with a bunch of extras, including an alternate tuning slide and valve buttons. I swapped the hard case with a soft backpack. They use UltraPure oil and grease, made in Philomath, Oregon, a few hours from our home.

trumpet factory visit

2014-08-19, CORRECTED 2015-02-25, CANBY, OREGON -- (Editing note: This article was corrected for factual accuracy regarding the affiliations and job titles of the people mentioned. I apologize for the delay in effecting the corrections.)

Noriko and I visited
Marcinkiewicz Co. Inc., which manufacturers trumpets and mouthpieces the old-fashioned way.

Zack Marcinwiekicz grew up in the family business and now is the general manager. (His father Joe owns the company, and his older brother Yasha is the production manager.) Zack graciously told us stories and gave us advice for well over an hour.

We also met John Duda, owner of
Calicchio, which rents factory space from Marcinkiewicz. John 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 worked at Marcinkiewicz for a short time in the early years.

I don’t have pictures of these illustrious gentlemen, mostly because we were so enthralled with Zack and John’s 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!

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.

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.

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. (Calicchio 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.

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.

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.