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.
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.