My trumpet journey led me to Jeff after frying my chops on a cruise ship gig. I had been playing for almost 12 years up to that point, and was a good player, with many self acknowledged faults in my playing. I never had amazing technique, range, or endurance. My practice sessions were always a struggle to organize when I would look at all of the exercises I had. Creating a routine was about as successful as riding a skateboard for the first time.
I began taking lessons with Jeff in-between contracts to try and fix the plethora of issues I had/have with my playing. Weeks of frustration, sounding like I was a beginning band student all over again while we worked through changing my approach to playing, led to me going out on my next contract with utter terror. After coming home early from seriously messing up the chops, I made the decision that this setback would not be the end of my career. I looked to some of my idols, Marsalis, Blanchard, and Brownie, saw how they had come back from similar problems stronger than ever and decided that all of my focus and attention would be towards reprogramming my playing to the concepts Jeff advocated. Failure was not an option.
The brilliant thing about Jeff is that he is a patient man. Imagine him listening to me week after week struggle to just play Colin 3, an interval study, or part two of the systematic approach. Jefft approachable and is completely fine with being stern when needed. I vividly remember a lesson where we were working on the colin exercises and I wasn't "kicking" the top note enough. In my mind I felt like I was blowing my brains out, Jeff just dug in and said (paraphrasing) "You've got to get this idea in your head or your never going to progress." I dunno if it was my frustrations or his, but that hit home. Jeff has never said anything just to say it. Everything I did from then on was geared towards "kicking the top note."
In addition to his almost paternal like nature to teaching, Jeff realizes when its time to add another building block or stay on the same level. A great example are the Daily Trumpet Routine exercises. Early on I was so out of whack with my playing that I was struggling to make it through No.6 (C to C jumps.) Now through time and patience we've made it to No.11 and I look back and just say "wow." Moral of the story: Heed every word from the Jeff. The man knows what he's saying.
The second key to this whole story is becoming a better student of the trumpet. When I was in college I was asking the wrong questions during my lessons, or I wasn't asking any questions at all. I didn't get excited when suddenly, for seemingly no reason at all I played an exercise effortlessly. I never really thought about what I was working on while I was working on. Part of Jeff's approach is to always be thinking about what your working on while you develop the proverbial "knack" for something. This is not a mindless endeavor. Especially when you're trying to break old habits. I think a lot more when I do my routine, I get excited when something clicks once, because I know that all I have to do is replicate it.
Here I am a few months down the road and I don't even think about colin 3 anymore. I don't think about contorting my face into some weird shape to play. I don't think that playing trumpet should be a constant daily struggle. Is it effortless to play you might ask? No, not yet. But I know that if I have made the strides I've made in the short time I've taken lessons with Jeff, that the only limits to my playing will be the ones I put on myself. Let us dwell on that for a moment. Me, you, anyone can truly attain the tools and skills necessary to be among the greatest trumpet players on earth today, and its a matter of having a great teacher and an unwavering desire to attain your goals. The amazing thing is, one of those keys is literally a phone call or an email away!
I cannot recommend Jeff enough if you're seriously considering improving your trumpet playing. If you truly follow his advice, and instruction, you will have no choice but to become a better trumpet player.
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