Tuesday, June 19, 2018
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Music as Part of Our Life

by Vince DiMartino

What does this mean?

There is a small minority of people who spend their whole life doing one thing. This is not necessarily a good or bad thing, but it is a fact. I might add that I am probably to be included in that other majority. I mainly teach for a living and perform for fun. My contact with people like myself who are not in this minority group is the main the subject of this article. That includes young and old alike. Most people will do more than one thing, either simultaneously or changing main jobs over time.

Statistics say that most people change jobs at least twice during their lives. For most people, that means retraining of some sort like returning to school, attending a program to learn new skills, etc. This can be time consuming, expensive and/or almost impossible to accomplish in today’s fast-paced and complex world. We all have commitments to our families, bills to pay and other responsibilities. Most of us change jobs because we are unhappy with some aspect of the profession: pay, work environment, lack of progressive personal advancement or achievement, routine nature of your work life, etc. We WILL pursue a different course or enhance what we are doing with some other “important” activity. This could be music part- or full-time!

What is there to do about this?

People of any age must take charge of their personal development right from the start. Just like planning our financial well being, we must invest time and a great deal of energy into our development if we will reap the benefits of musical success in the future. This should start as early as possible, so this lecture is not only aimed at individuals my age, but also at the very youngest of trumpet enthusiasts. It is never too late to start!

I was not planning to be a “trumpet fanatic” when I was growing up. I wanted to be a dentist so I could live in a big white house like my dentist across the street from my subdivision. But for some reason, that did not stop me from practicing a great deal on trumpet, as well as working hard on other school activities like academics, sports, yearbook, clubs, etc. Whether young or old, you might be very busy with family, work, etc. There STILL is time to develop or keep up skills on trumpet. Eventually you will cut out some of the activities hopefully ending up with music as one of these chosen items.

What is the plan for success?

In order to do anything well, you must finely tune your skills with the tools of the trade, in our case the trumpet. We must undertake an orderly plan of skills development that enables us to use these tools to express our musicianship. Most people are dissatisfied with the difference between the way they sound on trumpet and what they actually want to sound like. You can and should study style, music history and so forth but it alone cannot enable you to put together a mechanical device that will enable you to express this. Therefore we MUST learn to play trumpet better each day as well as develop our understanding of what music we are trying to perform. In a master class with the great Timofei Dokshitzer, his point of the day to the class is paraphrased, “You can never practice technique without practicing music and visa versa. Any practice must never lose sight of these two elements. They are both important and ever present.”

How do we achieve it?

Did you ever wonder why two people studying with the same teacher, starting at about the same level end up so differently after some time? Study with a teacher for at least a few years and subject yourself to what they say. Get on a basic diet of skills and music development.

Even though I started early, I did not address many basic things at first. Luckily, my desire got me part of the way. I listened to music every day–both classical and jazz–and practiced lip slurs, scales, and arpeggios. Even so, the list of what I could not do was even bigger! No low notes, no soft playing, and no slow playing–the list goes on. Due to my continued desire to improve, I am constantly chipping away at that list even today. I continue to be in awe of what I hear others do and to find out how they do it. Each day brings new questions and revelations as well. You never run out of things to improve. I can’t begin to tell you what standing next to Al Vizzutti, Doc Severinsen, Armando Ghitalla, Phil Smith and others has done for my work ethic! There is something to learn at every turn in the road.

Competitions are great places to go, but you can’t stay there! Do not practice solos alone and/or things you can already do! If you practice fundamentals and listen to great music as well, you can use your trumpet “tools” to play solos in a much shorter time. There are many “competitors” who quit long ago because they lacked certain basic skills. You must eventually have the “tool” skills finely tuned to assess any job and do it on the spot or you will not be a functional musician. Also, try playing with people that are more experienced than you. It will always prompt thought and work.

When you have these skills, you become an asset to some musical group and start to enjoy musical life. Since we do not perform trumpet alone regularly, the skills acquired and developed over many years enable us to interact with other musicians and enjoy a musical life that can move easily from concert hall, to solo recital stage, to community orchestra, to church, and to brass band. You will not be trapped into a musical situation that only allows you to play alone or what you have previously learned. You will not end up with your horn in the attic. The pleasure of being a musician for life will then become a reality.


What I have described is a prescription for a long and prosperous musical life. The exact dosage needs to be tailored to the individual needs as you travel forward in life.

There are many methods, syllabi, books, teachers and other aids that can assist us in this journey, but none that can achieve the desired result without constant daily discipline. When you decide to take on music as a second career, you will be more than ready because you never left school.

Vince DiMartino is one of the most sought after trumpet performers and educators. Since graduating from The Eastman School of Music in 1972, professor DiMartino taught at the University of Kentucky until 1993. At that time, Mr. DiMartino began a new appointment as Distinguished Artist in residence at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky and retired in 2012. There he taught trumpet, brass and jazz ensembles, and jazz history. He has served as the Music Chair and is currently coordinator of the Centre College Instrumental Program. He was also a distinguished Matton Professor of Music at Centre College. Mr. DiMartino is the recipient of The Governor’s Lifetime Achievement Award for 2008–2009 for the State of Kentucky. He has served twice as President and Vice President of The International Trumpet Guild as well as a member of its Board of Directors for two terms. Mr. DiMartino is a Shires Trumpet Artist.

About the Editor: Lisa Blackmore is Adjunct Professor of Trumpet at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and Adjunct Professor of Trumpet and Horn at East Central College in Union, Missouri where she also teaches Music History and World Music. She is a member of “Cadre” at Missouri Baptist University, teaching trumpet and assisting with the concert band. Lisa earned a Doctorate of Musical Arts (D.M.A.) in Trumpet with a minor in Music History at the University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign, where she received the Graduate College Dissertation Award in Musicology. Dr. Blackmore also holds degrees from the University of Missouri-Columbia and SUNY-Stony Brook. She previously served on the faculty at Lindenwood University and under her direction, the Lindenwood Trumpet Ensemble performed at the 2007 ITG conference at the University of Massachusetts―Amherst. Her private studio teaching has resulted in students performing in the St. Louis Youth Symphony and various Missouri All-State ensembles.

Lisa is a member of the Stonehenge Brass Trio and Confluence Brass. She was a bugler with the Missouri Military Funeral Honors Program from 2008-2013 and performed Taps at over 350 military services for Missouri Veterans. She performs with the Compton Heights Concert Band, and she is principal trumpet in the St. Louis Wind Symphony. She serves as a trumpet adjudicator for the Missouri All-State groups.

Lisa lives in Wright City, MO with her husband, Mark (also a trumpeter!) and their two cats, Chet and Ella. In her spare time she makes practice mutes and also enjoys reading and traveling.

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