|(L to R) Lopez, Sala, Barbara, me, Charlie|
Like Musicians 1st Class David Babich and John Martinich, the Navy Band’s concert this past Monday at Northwestern University was a homecoming for myself and no less than 10 of my shipmates who are also fellow alums. It was quite simply a dream come true to perform for a packed Pick-Staiger concert hall nearly eight years after I left school to pursue life.
Pick, as it is colloquially known, is an amazing performance space for nearly any ensemble, and the Navy Band seized the opportunity with extreme gusto. From the moment our bus pulled up to Arts Circle Drive, to when I stepped in Pick rehearsal room to retrieve my mutes from our equipment cases, to walking out on to the very same stage where I quite literally figured out how to play this thing called music over my four years here, it felt as if I had never left.
Many in the Band loved seeing Mallory Thompson again, as it had been over a year since she came and guest conducted a fabulous Navy Band concert in Washington. It was also an honor to have many members of Navy Band Great Lakes in the audience, including Lt. Pat Sweeten, former fourth officer at the Navy Band.
For me, the real treat came the following day, as Chief Musician Eric Lopez, Musician 1st Class Chris Sala and I taught a masterclass to the trumpet students at NU. This warrants a bit of explanation: the trumpet professors at Northwestern, Barbara Butler and Charles Geyer, besides being world-renowned players, are among the most successful trumpet teachers in the world. There are ‘Barbara and Charlie’ students in highly competitive positions just about everywhere.
They first began their dynasty at the Eastman School of Music, and after roughly 20 years decided to move back to Chicago, their hometown, to replace their teacher, the legendary Vincent Cichowicz, at Northwestern, where they remain to this day. Though MUC Lopez and MU1 Sala are both Eastman alums, they are also ‘Barbara and Charlie’ alums, the latter of which is just as important as the former.
The current NU students who performed for us were nothing short of astounding. It was a pleasure offering tips, criticism (never in any short supply at NU!) and advice.
Playing the role of “guest artist” was an almost surreal reality. As a student, Barbara and Charlie brought in many a great trumpeter to teach a great many masterclasses, and I consider this experience of being on the other side one of the highlights of my career. In my short four years of service, the Navy Band has taken me many interesting places. This is the best, so far.