For the majority of the students returning to UMass, it was a normal first week back into the Spring semester. For the UMass trumpet studio, however, it was a completely different story: with professor Eric Berlin playing with Gustavo Dudamel and the LA Philharmonic that week, the trumpet studio was excited to have the first studio class of the semester headed by the great Charlie Schlueter.
To the whole of the trumpet world, the name “Charlie Schlueter” needs no introduction. The esteemed student of former principal trumpet William Vacchiano held the principal trumpet position of the Boston Symphony Orchestra for 25 years, has released 4 solo albums, and started his own non-profit organization in 2001. He was also the teacher of our very own Eric Berlin back at the New England Conservatory!
For the Schlueter studio class, we had 3 of our own studio members performing for Schlueter. First up was Scott Nichols (Graduate Student) performing the Fasch Concerto, a 3-movt. work for piccolo trumpet. Next was Dan Fleury (Senior) playing the Jean-Francaix Sonatine for Trumpet and Piano, a rhythmically complex French work for the trumpet. To round off the end of the class, Mike Valerio (Freshman) performed the 3rd movt. of the Sonata for Trumpet and Piano by Eric Ewazen. All 3 performers did an excellent job representing our studio for the retired Boston Symphony trumpeter.
Schlueter’s vast experience with orchestras and the audition circuit in general allowed great insight into one of the biggest demons we face in our career: anxiety. He talked about the 2 types of anxiety: acute and chronic. Acute anxiety comes based on a situation, like when you come close to crashing your car or when someone runs right at you, while chronic anxiety are the little fears that come with however we grew up from past experiences. Schlueter proclaimed that in an audition setting, the majority of anxiety felt is chronic rather than acute, so the best thing to do is to make sure you take big breaths before you audition and not worry about what happened in the past. He reminded us that ‘no one is perfect’ and ‘whether a note sounds good or bad, it’s already gone’, so it’s best to just forget about it and keep moving on.
His knowledge about music and expression was also at a world-class level, which is paramount to being a great musician; it’s about as important as technical virtuosity. Schlueter was quick to dispel the notion of ‘terrace dynamics’ in baroque music, stating that musicians back then were competent enough to express themselves without writing crescendos and decrescendos everywhere. He also touched on the concept of note groupings, which better clarifies the arrival point of a group of notes, almost as if creating a collection of mini-phrases within a run of fast notes to better express the pulse in a technical piece. Schlueter suggested checking out the book “Note Grouping” by James Morgan Zimmerman for more information on the subject.
In further enhancing our abilities to perform in an expressive manner, Schlueter also talked about the 3 different types of dynamics. There is decibel dynamics, which deal with volume based on dynamic markings. There is acoustical dynamics, which is volume based on range (the higher the note is, the easier it’s heard). Finally, there is intensity dynamics, which is based on how much intensity we put into the sound through use of our air and vibrato, our rhythm and our articulation.
Even with all of this knowledge that he shared among the trumpet studio, his best quote still holds true: “Never lose sight of the fact that you’re making music.” If you want more information on what Charles Schlueter spoke about, feel free to track down a member of the UMass trumpet studio for more details.