Category Archives: Trumpet for Beginners

Motivation- Where Does It Come From and How Can I Get Some? Part 2

I have found it interesting working with many musical groups each year and as I observe each ensemble I have mentally noted the results of motivated directors as well as less motivated directors. Each ensemble seems to reflect the influences of their director. The most proficient and musical ensembles will always have an energetic and inspired director on the podium. The bands which exhibit respect and professionalism in their performance will invariably have directors who reflect these same characteristics. The only exceptions were the bands who had recently replaced less than adequate directors with improved models. It will take a couple of years to undo damages done by bad band directors. Did I say BAD DIRECTORS? Trust me, they are out there.

Motivation is infectious and the attitude of the director is most often seen in the students in their bands. The first indication that the band will perform well is the respect and control exhibited by their director. Most band members are respectful and polite. Some members are rude and unruly and in most cases, their poor playing is a result of this fault. After meeting their director, I usually see the same faults as are in the students. It is obvious the influence every band director has on his/her students.

As an example of this influence, I worked with a group which was the most difficult to handle. The students were constantly talking and playing their instruments as I addressed them in my clinic. It was obvious that they were not used to being respectful or even under control in their rehearsals. During their rehearsal, little was accomplished and at one point, I thought there was going to be all out fight between the director and one of his/her students. The director accused the student of playing the wrong note and the student responded with “no I didn’t, that was a figment of your imagination”. As the rehearsal continued, tensions increased and I was caught in the middle. Needles to say, the band did not perform well.

Another example of how the director’s attitude can motivate his/her students happened this year also. As the band mounted the stage, each performer was quiet, polite and focused on what was expected of him/her. During the rehearsal, their director spoke softly with constructive comments and as each comment was made, the ensemble continued to improve. Was the difference between the two directors a result of their education? Was the difference because of an age differences? The reason was obvious. One director was motivated in his/her position as an educator the other hated every minute of his/her job. If the director enjoys working with students, the students will feel it and work harder to please him/her.

These two examples were used to describe the effect a director can and does have on their ensemble but there is also a level of motivation which I have recently observed. While working with another band, one student in the percussion section caught my eye. Everything this student did was thought out and for a reason. During their rehearsal, I made a mental note of his actions and later in the afternoon I called the director to the side to question him/her about this student. The director told me that this young man was the most involved student in the band. Later, I pulled him aside to visit and was very impressed with his decisions for his future. He wanted to be a musician and had been looking into schools for his post high school days. Visiting with him was like visiting with a very intelligent adult for his motivation to become a great musician was evident. His director was of the same mind set for the director ran his/her band with purpose and confidence, unlike the previous example.

I was reminded of a Jazz festival I judged many years ago in Iowa. At that time we were expected to make our comments on audio cassettes (remember those?) and as the first band mounted the stage, my eye again was caught by a young bass player. As she prepared for their presentation, I knew that she was a player. Even before this young lady played a note on her bass, I mentioned on the tape that there was something special about this musician and at the end of the contest, we presented her with the “outstanding musician” award for the day. Before she played a note, I knew she was motivated. If I remember correctly, the band was also outstanding.

In closing, I would like to share my observations on how to motivate students. Band directors and teachers in general who love their job and enjoy working with students will instill motivation in their students to a tremendous degree. Teachers who moan and complain all the time will drive our good students out of music. Even if the student is not interested in music as a career, a bad teacher will negatively influence that student’s general appreciation of music and thus lessen many more people’s appreciation of our art form.

Motivation- Where Does It Come From and How Can I Get Some?

Motivate-verb

1. inspire, drive, stimulate, provoke, lead, move, cause, prompt, stir, trigger, set off, induce, arouse, prod, get going, instigate, impel, actuate, give incentive to, inspirit His hard work was motivated by a need to achieve.

2. stimulate, drive, inspire, stir, arouse, get going, galvanize, incentive How do you motivate people to work hard and efficiently?

Most teachers are familiar with this term and are striving daily to prompt this action in their students. Everyone’s life is effected by the amount of motivation they posses. If you are on the low side of this characteristic, you are said to be lazy. If your actions indicate that you are more to the top of this scale you are accused of being an “over achiever”. It is not my intent in this post to make any distinctions as to where a person should be on this measurement for that is up to each individual. My reason for today’s material is to address the more important issue- How are people motivated and how can we as teachers do a better job at inspiring our students. A second benefit from this material may be helpful to understand what motivates us as individuals.

Before we can start to understand how to improve motivation in our students and ourselves, we must first understand the causes for motivation in our lives.

Is motivation instinctual?

No! The act of over eating may be an environmental or a habitual problem but the action of choosing to loose weight is caused from a deep motivational decision. Some may argue that animals instinctively hunt for food to which I would argue, animals are motivated to hunt because of hunger.

What are the reasons we are motivated?

• Fear/ embarrassment
• Financial needs
• Self gratification/ improvement
• Pride
• Lack of self respect and confidence
• The desire to please others
• Ego
• Competitive attitude
• Guilt

Before we address the student in this discussion, we need to first look at ourselves. Most people who know me would agree that I am a very self motivated person. While writing this post, I became more aware of the reasons for my limited focus and drive. I have enjoyed many activities in my life and for that reason; I have worked extremely hard to achieve my goals in each area. As a young boy, I became interested in archery. Eventually I placed 2nd in my division in the Illinois State Field Archery Tournament. Later, I became interested in wood carving and most particularly carving birds out of wood. I soon became, as stated in the The Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum’s Birds In Art Catalogue, “One of the premier bird artists of the Western World”. My interests in trumpet playing eventually took me twice to the stage at the International Trumpet Guild’s festival of trumpets and my interest in teaching students the art of Dixieland music ended in Chicago when my student Dixieland band, “the UNI Bearcats” were one of three university Dixieland bands to compete for “the best college Dixieland band” in the nation. Everything I have seriously undertaken, I have done well in. Even this blog illustrates what motivation can do if directed in the right direction. I began this and another blog approximately four years ago and from then on, I have dedicated between eight to fourteen hours everyday to their success. I am not sharing this information because of my ego for in every area that I have done well, I still feel that I never really reached the top. The real question at this time would be what motivated me to work so hard in these several areas in my life and I have to admit I was influenced by every item listed above.

How does this relate to instilling motivation in students?

For a student to become motivated, they must have the following attributes-

• Interest- Without interest, there will not be motivation.
• Talent- Without talent, motivation will be difficult.
• Inspiration- Each student must have a role model to look up to and respect.
• Instruction and direction- Enter the band director.
• Time and energy- Both are required to reach the goal.
• Support from close friends- This would include fellow students as well as family.
• Determination- This is almost synonymous with dedication.

For music teachers to be able to motivate his/her students they must have the following attributes-

• Interest- You must let your students know that you really enjoy working with them.
• Talent- Know everything you can learn about your craft.
• Inspiration- Be an example of what a musician and teacher should be.
• Instruction and direction- Enter your classroom each day with a definite goal to achieve and achieve it.
• Time and energy- Use your time wisely and make every minute count.
• Support from close friends- Communicate with other teachers on more effective ways to teach.
• Determination- You are under paid! You do put in long hours! You aren’t given the respect you deserve! If these things are more important to you than your students, GET OUT OF MUSIC!

Don Smith- One Of The Greats


Don Smith passed away February 13, 2010 after an extended battle with cancer. Don was born July 15, 1934 in Los Angeles, California. To the younger trumpet players, the name Don Smith may not register, but to the veteran musicians, the name is spoken with great reverence for this was one of the greats who played with such big bands as Les Brown and Harry James, and backed celebrities such as Ann-Margret. He also performed with the Air Force “Airmen of Note” and the N.B.C. staff to name but a few.

I first met Don shortly after he moved to Branson to perform with the Les Brown Orchestra. Don’s history with the band dates back to the Les Brown Sr. days which means that Don has been playing “Leap Frog” (the orchestra’s theme song) for over 50 years, and even up to his final performance, Don made sure that frog was still leaping strong.

I recently visited with Betty Smith, Don’s wife of 49 years and enjoyed many stories and gained more insight into what she and Don had experienced in their lives together. Don was a dedicated husband and father of four providing for his family through what he did best and as Betty shared, “My husband got to do what he wanted to do his whole life and took care of his family”.

I asked Betty what Don’s first trumpet job was and she told me with her charming manner, “Don was ten years old and played bugle for the local Boy Scouts”. It reminded me of the beginning of another great trumpet player, Louis Armstrong who also began on a bugle. She laughed when she remembered when Don was performing in a Latin band. She was pregnant with their first child (Brian) and throughout the evening the “soon to be born” kept kicking to the beat of the band.

A good friend of mine who played with Don while performing in Branson shared that Don had performed in nearly every chair in the trumpet section of Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show Band. Don was best known for his rock solid lead playing and from a section player’s point of view this is the best kind of lead player and Don was one of the best. When you played in Don’s section, you were never in doubt as to how it was to be played. He always played it the same way and he always played it right.

He also had a dry since of humor as I remember from a rehearsal we played together. We were in the middle of the rehearsal when suddenly he picked up his lead part and tossed it onto my stand. I looked at him puzzled and he shot back at me “here kid, it’ll be good for you”. That sounded strange for he and I were not that many years apart in age. But when you think of his achievements and mine, I guess I would be considered a kid, comparatively speaking.

Watch and listen as Don performs “Nutcracker Suite”

Don is gone but will never be forgotten in the world of music.

What Is The Difference Between New Orleans and Chicago Dixieland Jazz?


What Is The Difference Between New Orleans and Chicago Dixieland Jazz?

The quickest answer to that question would be 930 miles.

From a musical standpoint it is much more complicated and for that reason I will try to simplify it for you.

Traditional New Orleans style of Dixieland usually include these characteristics

• Strong marching band history
• Instrumentation which is more mobile (banjo, brass instruments, woodwinds, marching percussion (bass drum player, snare player, etc.)
• Strong emphasis on all four beats
• Generally a more ensemble approach to performance
• Use of solo performances is limited
• Literature generally derived from well known marches

Traditional Chicago style of Dixieland usually include these characteristics

• Smaller number of players (5-8)
• Instrumentation includes piano, drum set and many times acoustic bass
• Accents are placed on beats 1 and 3 (hence the term two beat)
• Ensemble playing is less important than individual solos
• Literature is derived from all forms of popular music including tin pan alley
• Individual players enjoy more attention than the band

The above lists are only part of many characteristics contrasting the two styles but with the information above, you should be able to recognize the unique styles from each other.

Notice that I have listed these as traditional characteristics for what was typical at the beginning of each, has now been mixed to the point that many Chicago style bands play in a traditional New Orleans style and New Orleans bands incorporate elements of a Chicago style. Even the word Traditional has it own meaning. When speaking of a traditional Dixieland band, we are generally referring to one with a New Orleans characteristic. The term “new” or “modern Dixieland” will refer to a Chicago style.

To illustrate a traditional or New Orleans style of Dixieland, please view this video-

Notice at the beginning the attempt of the band to simulate a marching ensemble. Each instrument was easily carried to the stage by its performer. Even the drummer marched in with his drum and the cymbals were played by the trombone player. Please take note that the drummer and the banjo player are both giving equal accents to all four beats in each measure as Traditional or New Orleans bands are known to do. Another important feature of this band is the absence of a piano player. The banjo in this band is functioning as, what will be in Chicago, the piano player’s responsibility. The spoken information shared on this video is also important.

A Chicago style of Dixieland is shown in this video-

This video of “When You’re Smiling” is typical of a Chicago rendition. Notice that the band opened with a vocal feature followed by individual players taking solos. Also present is a piano player as well as a banjo player. More time is spent featuring solos than we had in the previous recording. Notice also the “two beat” feel which is accenting beats one and three, differing from the even four beats in the first example.

While searching for examples of both New Orleans and Chicago Dixieland, I came across a video of one of the best known Chicago style bands and that would be the Dukes of Dixieland. This is a very interesting performance for it not only features the Dukes of Dixieland but also performing the same number is the Woody Herman band. As you watch the two group’s trade back and forth on the same number, notice the more aggressive solo playing of the Dukes compared to the structured and well rehearsed performance of the Thundering Herd.

Now enjoy the Dukes of Dixieland video