It has been quite a while since I've written a blog. I've been busy with redoing my big band library, arranging for musicians to play my first big band rehearsal, preparing to be a band leader for the first time in decades (in a big way, that is), practicing and gigging, so I have not felt in a position to sit down and do this. I have a bit of quiet time this week, so I thought I would share my experiences, as of late.
Last week I had a BAD WEEK as a trumpeter. For several days it was just flat out unpleasant to even play my horn. It took immense concentration to make anything come close to happening as I usually expect them to. What was the old Gillespie line: sometimes you win and sometimes the horn wins!
Unfortunately for me, one of those really lousy nights was the night of my exploratory rehearsal with my new big band. I'm sure many of the newer musicians were wondering, "what the heck! Who is this guy!" The thrill for me was the fact that the band sounded GREAT. I did stink the place up a bit, though.
It some ways it was a blessing in disguise. One of the things the exploratory rehearsal was dealing with was, how would I personally handle running a big band, rehearsing it AND playing heavy solo parts. The difficulties I encountered gave me much to think about in preparing for future endeavors. I was also very distracted by some issues that arose with a phone call ten minutes before the rehearsal telling me that there might be an issue at my house up north. As frustrating as my playing side was for me that evening, I actually learned a lot.
The difficulties extended into a gig I had on Wednesday night. I did NOT expect to play lead, but was actually asked to do so when I got there. My head was not sufficiently into the game, yet. I was asked to play Maynard's Maria, and I actually prepped the old Sebesky chart. I could have done that just fine, however, when I got there, not only did they ask me to play the lead chair they handed me the Jay Chattaway disco version of Maria. I could have nailed the Sebesky, but I ran out of gas with the challenges that evening on the Chattaway. The disco Maria just doesn't lay well for me, personally, even when I'm feeling up to my game.
I got through the evening and it was OK. I sort of redeemed myself on a Doc chart and a Harry James chart and a couple of solos. However, on Thursday AM, I was pretty bummed out. As an experienced player, I've been down that road before, and I knew I'd shake it all off, but I still don't like it much when it happens.
I am NOT going to go into details about the occasional chops issue that sneaks up on me from time to time. Suffice to say, by virtue of experience, I now well how to cope and hide the issue.
So here is how I deal with adversity like this when it happens.
The FIRST thing I do is reaffirm WHY I do this thing called playing MUSIC. I do do it because I LOVE it. I also love SHARING it. Love trumps discomfort and anxiety.
The next thing I do is I really focus on LONG TONES, and I mean EXTREME long tones. By extreme, I mean I use circular breathing to stretch the holds out for very long periods of time - over a minute each. I spend the first hour of my practice day doing just long tones. The other thing I do I make sure they are VERY quiet - ppp! I find this way of practicing is VERY relaxing - zen-like.
Next, when I work on my high chops during tail-spin times like this, I keep them quite quiet as well, using as LITTLE air as possible - highly CONTROLLED and FOCUSED squeaks, you might say.
Finally, when I get to some actual music, I still keep it soft and I don't play high stuff, outside of the soft focused practice, for a few days.
Working this way, I can shake off most rough patches.
Now, another aspect of adverse challenges like this is professional damage control. My rehearsal went well from a leadership point of view, even though my trumpet playing sort of stunk the place up. Most of the band members know me and spotted the off day. Those who were on for the first time were probably perplexed. I'll deal with that later. As long as I am OK with myself, I'll be OK.
As to the gig on Wednesday that was a little rough, but, again, I'll be OK. One bad day does not a career make or break.
To allow discouragement to creep in during circumstances like this is to give into the problem. Instead, lean into the fixes with love and anticipation of progress. There is NO problem that can't be solved. Take joy in finding the solution, and you'll be more likely to find it!
That's it for now!