I met Rafael Méndez  - Ronald E. Dishon

I first meet Rafael  at his home in Culver City while in High school.  I was 15 at that time and in the high school band where I sat next to Ralph and Robert Mendez, Rafael's twin sons; Ralph and I shared first chair.  It was through this acquaintance I meet Mr. Mendez one summer day in 1953.  I went over to the twins' house to pick them up and go to the local
park to play Basket ball.  The two boys were not ready when I arrived so I was told to go wait for them in the back yard on the back steps.  While waiting, I could hear Mr. Mendez warming up with long and low peddle tones and it seemed as though he never stopped to take a breath.  I was awed by what I had just heard.  Of course, I knew of his greatness, but had never heard him play before. As I sat there listening to him practice his warm up with single, double and triple tonguing exercises, I was totally taken in at his greatness. All of a sudden the sliding glass door to his studio opened up and there he stood!  Right away he beckend me to come in and as I was entering the room, he asked me if I played the trumpet. He said that Ralph or Robert had mentioned it to him.  Then he resumed playing his exercises some more and as I listened and watched him, I noticed a strange thing he was doing with the trumpet that I had  never heard of or seen  done before.

I started playing the trumpet when I was 8 years old back in grade school and was a avid follower of Harry James. I  auditioned for a place in the "Culver City Boys Marching Band" and became a member where I started out as one of six players in the third chair.  Later I took some basic music reading lessons and worked my way to first chair. I thought I had heard all the great trumpet players by age 14, until that summer day in 1953.

Rafael Mendez is and will always be, to me, the worlds greatest trumpet virtuoso. There has never been any one who can match him or better him then, or to this day and he will forever be untouchable.  In my opinion he was truly a God-sent person to entertain the world with his Genius, and a humble man, one who loved teaching younger aspiring musicians; he gave of him self always.

Now, back to where I left off... As I sat there in awe, watching and listening , he suddenly stopped and asked me to approach where he was standing.  In the middle of this room, suspended from the ceiling, was a trumpet on wires. He detached it and asked me to hold it and play a single note--any note--for him.  I was so taken by his presence that I was reluctant to play and sheepishly declined his offer. However, he immediately assured me that it's okay and he just wanted to see how I held and played the horn.  Little did I know, he was about to teach me some things I have never forgotten and lacked the ability to perform well then and now.

What he was about to demonstrate was non-pressure blowing. Most student trumpet players press the mouth piece somewhat hard against the lips to make the sound come out of the horn.  What he demonstrated to me was that this method was not necessary to make a solid tone emanate from the trumpet.  So he asked me to now try his method. Of course,  I had lots of difficulty making a strong sound, but  got the idea that he was trying to show me. He then placed the trumpet once again in the wire hooks suspended from the ceiling and asked me to try to play a note not touching the horn with my hands, but only with my lips.The trumpet went swing back and forth, every which way, for I lacked the ability to smoothly control my embouchure. After my attempt, he then told me to go practice all that he had taught me.  Before leaving, I thanked him many times during that short stay for his kind and gentle instructions.  After we were through, he  went back to blowing low notes, some loudly, some quietly, from this trumpet suspended in air, never touching it with his hands. 

Another  skill he demonstrated that day was circular breathing through his nose while playing a single note. This was the ultimate in amazement for me, as the tone never wavered.  It was as though he could play for ever and ever  without stopping to take a breath.  He also showed me how he did this, which was an impossibility for me! 

This was a day in my playing career as a young man I will never forget and I'll always cherish the time he so graciously gave to me from his very busy life.

I am so sorry  the world lost such a great musician, truly a "trumpet virtuoso extraordinaire"  and most of all, a very kind  and thoughtful man who gave of his time and experiences to other younger players...
for there are literately hundreds of young people back then and even now, who benefited from his tutelage and advice...

I also knew Ronnie Manning in Culver City High School band
Ronald E. Dishon
Class of 1955