One of the first questions I ask a new student in my private studio is to name five professional musicians that play his or her instrument. I am going to use trumpet in this blog entry but the same concept applies for any instrument. When asked this question, young trumpet players might throw out names like Satchmo, Diz or Miles. Then I ask for five classical musicians. I often get a blank stare. Some of these students are coming to me for the first time seeking help on their college scholarship auditions. It concerns me that they will enter their first year of college without knowledge of a single professional trumpet player.
I firmly believe that establishing a beautiful tone on any instrument begins with practicing the art of listening. This is something that students can start to learn on the first day of beginning band. It is difficult for a student to produce a mature sound on trumpet when they have never heard a characteristic trumpet tone.
The best way to remedy this is to encourage students to attend live performances whenever possible. I know from experience that not all communities have ongoing access to live classical music. In which case we must rely on recorded music (CDs, DVDs, MP3 downloads, music subscription services, online videos, etc.).
Using the idea of keywords (sonata, concerto, suite, etc.) I ask trumpet students to find a few trumpet recordings. Students often come to the following lesson having listened to a recording of Maurice Andre or Wynton Marsalis or the like. The other interesting thing that happens is that students will return to my studio and give me a list of trumpet players often with extensive bios, discographies and more. They want me to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they can now name five professional classical trumpet players. On a personal note, I love it when this happens! I simply smile and enjoy the enthusiasm with which they share their new musical finds.
It’s good to follow up on this discussion by suggesting recordings of musicians that might not be readily available at a local music store. Also, in addition of sonatas and concertos, this could open up a dialogue about recordings of standard band and orchestral excerpts for specific instruments, chamber music, etc.
I have provided a list of recordings by instrument. My aim is not to create a comprehensive list but to give instructors and students a starting point for building a personal or school music collection. Fellow wind conductors, I encourage you to unwind after a long day of rehearsals by listening to great orchestral, chamber and choral recordings. Follow that up with some Grainger and Holst (or Maslanka and Schwanter if you prefer) and call it a day. Students, I hope this list will inspire you to actively listen to great recordings and to truly reflect on the quality of sound coming out of the other end of your horn. Enjoy!
*This list is a work in progress. I will continue to add new music and potentially new categories as time allows. If you have discovered new music you would like to share, please comment below. I might even add your suggestion to the list!