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 slideinstead 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 6850, 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 6850 (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.

the night train "cassiopeia"

2015-01-21 SAPPORO, JAPAN -- A raging snowstorm repeatedly canceled our flights. We wasted 2 days at the airport waiting for flights that kept getting delayed and delayed until they finally told us to go home. We needed to travel so we took a night train from Sapporo to Tokyo.

JR (the Japan Railways group of companies, formerly state-owned Japan National Railways) sells tickets in an inconvenient manner that encourages unethical behavior. Tickets are often hard to get ahead of time but easily obtained immediately before departure. This is because people buy tickets to resell them at a hefty profit. When no buyers are found, the tickets are sold back to JR for a refund. We bought ours at the airport after they canceled our flights for the 2nd time.

The Cassiopeia is a sleeper car that runs between Ueno (serving the Tokyo area) and Sapporo central station. It was named because the W-shaped constellation points to Polaris (the symbol of Hokkaido) and reminds passengers of the double nature of some aspects of the train (double-deck, double rooms).

Our room sleeps 2 in an L-shaped configuration. The chair backs slide down to form a bed. The room has a private sink and toilet. We got a single-story room (that is, not double-decked) with a higher ceiling.

The Cassiopeia departs Sapporo shortly before sunset.

The Seikan tunnel connects the islands of Hokkaido and Honshu. The tunnel is 53.85 km long, and takes about half an hour to cross. The trip feels longer because there are several other tunnels on either end of it.

A lounge car offers views and refreshments.

We dined in splendor in the privacy of our cabin. Before leaving Sapporo, we stocked up on goodies at the department store next to the station.

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