Monthly Archives: December 2014

“Tooting my own horn”

I rarely receive mentions in reviews for concerts I play, so had to share this (see below). I IMG_0628have been playing Handel’s Messiah with the Apollo Chorus of Chicago for many years at Symphony Center and Harris Theater. It is truly an honor to play with such a fine chorus and orchestra. Next performance is at Harris Theater (205 E. Randolph Drive) on December 20, 2014 at 3:00pm. Here is a picture of me with my friend and colleague, John Burson at last Saturday’s performance at Symphony Center.  Happy Holidays!


Chicago Music Review: HANDEL’S MESSIAH (Apollo Chorus of Chicago at Orchestra Hall & Harris Theater)
Talk about a 135-year labor of love! This all-volunteer choir—founded in 1872 after the Great Chicago Fire and performing at the opening of the Auditorium Theatre in 1899 and the 1893 World’s Columbian Exhibition—must sing. Since 1879 they’ve devoted untold hours of rehearsals and performances to their signature rendition of Handel’s masterpiece, performing mostly at Orchestra Hall in Symphony Center. Now, along with last night’s sterling presentation, The Apollo Chorus will offerMessiah on December 20 at the Harris Theatre for Music and Dance in Millennium Park.
It’s a princely and beloved tradition. And in many ways this incarnation harks back even longer—to the first charity performance in 1741. With a 28-member chamber orchestra (including a vintage harpsichord) as intimate as the original, and the 110+ chorus (the mixed voices, interestingly, not separated into sections), the performance on December 6 was as faithful as forceful. With 16 poinsettias flanking the stage, and glorious wreaths and garlands hanging above, Orchestra Hall was a festival in itself. Add to that music director Stephen Alltop’s masterly conducting and four spirited soloists, and a great work found fulfillment.
Alltop brings a disciplined, confident brio with a brisk but never hurried pace to the 160-minute work—so many good tidings from 273 years ago. Dressed in black but as colorful as four voices can range, the chorus proved flawless in attack, diction, blend, precision, dynamics, and range, achieving hushed reverence and remorse in “Behold the Lamb of God” and full-throated glory in the “Hallelujah Chorus.” As for the unimprovable orchestra, the “Pastoral Symphony” never sounded so tender or “The Trumpet Shall Sound” more triumphant in its Handelian magnificence. Wonderful turns by concertmaster Jeri-Lou Zike and principal trumpet Chris Hassselbring were manna for the master.
Radiant in red, Elizabeth Marshall brought a bell-like purity to her soprano solos, none more endearing than “He Shall Feed His Flock.” Beautiful in beige, J’nai Bridge’s mezzo-soprano brought out all the original excitement in “O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings to Zion.” A tenor with an unforced and constant smile, Samuel Levine was well-contrasted with David Govertsen’s magisterial bass, the voice of God by proxy.
Utterly accessible, Messiah belongs to everyone with ears. But it seems strange that, since two-thirds of the text chronicles the Passion and Resurrection, that it’s not more often performed at Easter than Christmas (but, of course, not to be done in installments).  In any case it’s an oratorio for all seasons and, displaying Handel’s skill at taking the best from Italy, at times it’s also an opera. Last night, the accolades of a grateful audience proved a very public payment for services rendered, a grateful acknowledgement, and—after 135 seasons—a promissory note.

photos of previous concerts courtesy of Apollo Chorus
Handel’s Messiah Apollo Chorus of Chicago reviewed December 6, 2014 at Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center then plays Saturday, December 20, 2014 at 3:00 Harris Theater for Music & Dance, 205 E. Randolph Drive.

The Salpinx Project

Volume One of the Brass for Beginners™ (BFB) curriculum will soon be available in print. It is the first brass method for beginners that utilizes the natural trumpet as the primary teaching tool, and it is the first curriculum, perhaps for any instrument, that intertwines history and pedagogy, resulting in a truly interdisciplinary approach to learning. For example, the book discusses the Greek salpinx, and pedagogical activities focus on what we know about the instrument through Greek literature, iconography, secondary sources, and finally by examining the only existing complete salpinx in the world, which is held at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston (see illustration right). In addition to its well documented use in warfare, we know that the salpinx was used for ceremonial purposes and even for entertainment. Perhaps most interestingly, playing the salpinx was an Olympic event in ancient Greece, and a very important one, because the winner announced the important events for the duration of the games and attained a very high status in Greek society. The BFB curriculum includes a lesson entitled “Trumpet Olympics,” which teaches students how to excel at different technical and musical aspects of playing the trumpet. Students sign up to compete in specific “Trumpet Olympic” events, train with the help of their coach, and then evaluate and refine their skills and performance.


(Terry Everson, Thomas Moscinski, Sasha Boutilier, Katy Rose O’Brien, and John Kinne, April 2011)

Another element of the Brass for Beginners™ curriculum designed to bring the history of lip-blown instruments to life for young learners is called “Trumpet Tales” which include stories, original illustrations, and accompanying sound files. When I learned that the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston had a replica of the original salpinx that could be played, I contacted the curator of musical instruments, Darcy Kuronen, to see if we could record on it so students could hear an authentic sound of a salpinx. One of the best documented trumpeters of ancient Greece was Herodorus of Megara, who was able to play two salpinx at once, won ten Olympic contests, and was credited with helping achieve great military victories. If anyone fits the description of “Olympian” as a trumpeter in 2014, it would be my friend and long time colleague, Terry Everson, Associate Professor of Music at Boston University. Some of you may remember that Terry gave a master class at MIC in 2011 (see above photo). Mr. Kuronen generously offered to make the instrument available, and Terry agreed to come and record on it, so I traveled to Boston just before Thanksgiving 2014 with BFB co-author, Kirsty Montgomery. The experience was amazing for all of us, and we will have lots to share in the coming days on the Brass for Beginners™ Blogsite. We will also have a special page under the “Curriculum” page called “Salpinx Project,” where we will post more information, photos, video, and audio clips. I want to express my gratitude to Darcy Kuronen and Terry Everson for making this possible, and I am delighted that we can share this amazing experience with current and future MIC and Brass for Beginners™ students.

(Darcy Kuronen, Kirsty Montgomery, and Terry Everson playing the Greek Salpinx)

(Darcy Kuronen, Kirsty Montgomery, and Terry Everson playing the Greek Salpinx at the musical instrument gallery of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Nov. 25th, 2014)

Brian Shaw

One of the greatest pleasures of being a musician is the inspiration that comes from performing with gifted musicians. I consider myself very fortunate to have had the opportunity to perform with Brian Shaw for concerts in November, including Schutz’ Christmas Story with Rockefeller Chapel Choir at the University of Chicago, and for Messiah Performances with Bella Voce at St. Clements in Chicago and St. Luke’s in Evanston. These concerts were performed by period orchestras, using authentic replica’s of historical instruments. In our case, we played on natural trumpets, and Brian was brought to play the solo parts for both concerts. Brian is the Associate Professor of Trumpet and Jazz Studies at Louisiana State University and is known to be equally accomplished as a classical, jazz, and baroque trumpet soloist. Brian happened to be with me at MIC when Jack Fay was having a lesson, and offered to spend a little time working with him (see below). He is very enthusiastic about what we are doing with natural trumpets, both in ensembles and with the Brass for Beginners™ program, and I am hopeful that he will come back to collaborate with us at MIC in the near future. Brian has recorded a solo CD of Virtuosic Baroque Concertos that I HIGHLY recommend. You can find it here. I sincerely hope you will have the opportunity to hear Brian play – a truly fantastic musician!



Members of MIC Advanced Trumpet Trio at NEIU Brass Festival

Congratulations to members of the MIC Advanced Trumpet Trio, Filip Czarkowski, John Kinne, and Victoria Seliger, who performed with outstanding high school brass players from the greater Chicago area at Northeastern Illinois University’s Festival Brass on November 24th, 2014. Momoko Hasselbring, former Brass for Beginners™ student and current Sophomore French horn player at E.T.H.S. participated as well, and they all received a glowing report from NEIU’s Associate Professor of Trumpet, Dr. Travis Heath. More will be posted on the Chicago Brass Festival’s Facebook page in the coming days. You can see two videos posted on youtube by clicking here, and here.



Angelina Escobar solos with New Horizons Band

Last summer, in July 2014, Angelina Escobar was selected to perform as soloist with the New Horizons Band under the direction of Paul Hefner at the Music Institute of Chicago. She performed Trumpeter’s Lullaby by Leroy Anderson, and her parents were kind enough to provide a video recording to share. Angelina is currently a freshman at ETHS performing in the Concert Band.  Congrats Angelina!

Angelina MIC Program





2014 MIC Graduates

In Spring 2014 there were three student graduates from the MIC trumpet studio, all of whom performed in the annual Spring studio recital. MIC(5.9.10)018

Julian Newman, who started trumpet in 5th grade in group lessons at Baker Demonstration school, is now attending University of Wisconsin- Madison. While at E.T.H.S., Julian performed with the ETHS Marching band, Symphonic, and Jazz bands as well as for the “Yamo” Production in his senior year.


Jerry Sun is attending University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. He performed as a member of the MIC trumpet quartet for several years, and as Principal Trumpet with the New Trier Chamber Orchestra in his senior year. Here is a link to his performance of the first movement of the Kent Kennan Sonata for Trumpet from the 2014 Spring MIC studio recital.

Michael Werner, currently a Junior at Evanston Township Highschool, studied at MIC for about 10 years, performing in the advanced ensemble by 7th grade. He is now concentrating on Jazz performance, and has been extremely active, taking part in some of the top jazz programs in the country, including Birch Creek  and thmichael trumpet chris hass. (1 of 1)e Vail Jazz workshop which wrote the following about Michael:

MICHAEL WERNER, 16, Trumpet | A native of Evanston, IL, Michael picked up a trumpet at six and focused on classical playing, adding jazz to his repertoire six years later. He has played with the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra and with a variety of other award-winning big bands and combos at various venues and competitions. Michael has also toured France and the Netherlands with Midwest Young Artists playing in a brass ensemble, symphony orchestra, big band and combo configurations. He was awarded Outstanding Soloist at the Purdue Jazz Festival, Evanston Jazz Festival, and New Trier Jazz Festival. He won first prize in the Billy Strayhorn Composition Competition held by the Music Institute of Chicago, where he also won a merit scholarship. Michael is also involved with outreach community service for the Music Institute of Chicago. He enjoys playing many styles of jazz and lately has gravitated to hard bop and modern playing styles. Michael especially likes the playing of Woody Shaw, Clifford Brown and Vail Jazz Workshop alumnus (2000) Ambrose Akinmusire. He looks to the Vail Jazz Workshop for learning a lot of new tunes, going beyond bebop, and absorbing everything he can from the Workshop’s first-string students and instructors.

All three of these students can be found in the photo below – in their formative years! Congrats to all our MIC Grads! Please keep in touch!!IMG_5818 2

Back to Blogging! Sawyer and Katy Rose

I want to first offer my apology to those who offered information on the musical activities from the past academic year. I am finally able to start working again on the MICTpts blog site and have lots of great news to share from our alumni and current students. Starting with:

Last academic year I received news that both Sawyer Lindland and Katy Rose O’Brien were performing leading roles in ensembles at their colleges. I wonder what they are doing this year?!

Enjoy pictures of Katy Rose (click here to see her MIC graduation post) with the Amherst College Symphony Orchestra performing Rachmaninoff’s Second Symphony, and Sawyer Lindland (click here to see Sawyer’s MIC graduation post) performing Principal Trumpet with the Beloit Wind Ensemble:

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Congrats Katy Rose and Sawyer!! Please stay in touch…