I met Rafael Méndez  - Ron Bradley

While a student at Castro Valley High School in California from 1956-60, I played with Rafael four times--3 with my high school band, and once at a summer camp in San Leandro, California, where I received the "Outstanding Music Student" award in 1958 . 
With the award, I received an autographed album of "The World's Most Versatile Trumpeter" (see composite photo below).  During those years many professional photographs were taken, which I subsequently inherited from our band teacher, Eugene Graves, and which I then passed on to the Rafael Mendez Museum at ASU.  One of the photos shows me playing in a trio with him.  I can't remember the piece, but it was composed by Mendez.

I remember one time in the band room before a rehearsal, he was sitting on a stool.  I asked him about his ability to double tongue and circular breathe at the same time, so aptly illustrated in Moto Perpetuo.  To those doubters, he showed me how he could do it, and that it took him five years to perfect.

He was both very humble and demanding at the same time.  I remember him abruptly stopping the band and pointing to one of the third clarinet player and saying "F-sharp".  He also complained about the amount of valve oil his sons used on their valves, then showing us how he applied it, by putting on a couple drops and then spreading it with his finger.  Ironically, during one concert his valve started sticking and he had to interrupt his solo and go back stage and apply some oil.  As for his humility, he was asked by someone at a rehearsal--a little ungraciously--that he must feel pretty superior to other trumpet players.  His response was low key and said, "I just do the best I can." or something to that effect.

I was, and still am, struck by his showmanship.  Unlike Sergei Nakariakov, who seems to have no rapport with the audience, Mendez in many of his performance photos frequently changes his pose, adding flair and excitement to his performance.

Unfortunately, my last recollection of Mendez was a performance in 1969 at Chabot College, in Hayward, CA, where he was struggling mightily to play anything.  It was a sad occasion. 

For many years after his passing, I had many dreams about Mendez.  He is still a big influence on my playing--however, I have never come even close to his extraordinary virtuosity, still highly respected among all trumpet players.

Ron Bradley

Stomvi Master Bb
Bach Strad 37 Bb
Shilke B6 Bb
Yamaha C
Buescher 400 Cornet
Courtois 154R Flugelhorn


Award from 1958

Me and Mendez
Mr. Mendez and me.

Rehearsal with me on left in above photo
You can also see Mrs. Mendez and his two sons
next to my dad on the left.

Castro Valley High
Me on left as freshman at Castro Valley High

More recent photo
Me more recent