Date: Sun, 21 Apr 2002 02:09:11 -1000
From: "Mark Minasian" <>
Subject: RE: [TPIN] "Bud" Herseth

Ok, it's 12:35 a.m. in Hawaii, I just read Kristin's post and I'm also still buzzed over this day as well as a little drunk on a combination of cocktails, wine and spending three days calling a man I've idolized since childhood "Bud". I'm not going to get much sleep tonight, so might as well recount some of what has happened.

First, his clinics of Thursday and Friday:

A key point of his clinics and lessons was that "All music should tell a story". Don't just play the notes, communicate to the listener. He demonstrated this multiple times, playing orchestral parts flawlessly, but blandly, then playing again but with a clear mental image of what he wished to communicate.

In every clinic, someone would ask him who his influences were. He pretty much said that he played the trumpet as he wanted it to sound but that musically, his favorite people to listen to were operatic tenor Jussi Bjorling and jazz singer Frank Sinatra. Bud stated that the voice is the greatest musical instrument and both of these artists truly communicated through their music.

Over the two days of clinics, Bud performed excerpts from Pictures at an Exhibition, the Lenore calls, Lt. Kije's wedding, Mahler symphonies 1, 3, 5, Brahms' Academic Festival Overture, Shostakovich's concerto for piano and trumpet, Dvorak's New World Symphony, Debussy's La Mer and Fetes, Scriabin's Poem of Ecstasy, Strauss's Don Juan, Wagner's Prelude to der Meistersinger, Gershwin's American in Paris and Rhapsody in Blue, the Haydn and Hummel concerti and songs from when he was a child, military marches, multiple tonguing sections from various cornet solos. All was  supremely musical, played from memory and each a demonstration of why he's such a legend.

An example:  Promenade from Pictures, he said that you should imagine a man strolling through an art gallery. Hear the footsteps with each quarter note of the trumpet solo. He also told a story of one time Georg Solti asking him to come over to a grand piano. Solti played the original version of the promenade on the piano and asked Bud to listen to the sound of the piano. Listen to the sound of the hammers striking the strings and the decay of the vibrating strings. "That's how I want the promenade to sound" said Solti. I heard Herseth play the promenade several times over the past few days and he does it with an articulation that is hard to describe. Not really an accent, not an sfz or fp, but every note "pops" out of the horn in a fashion similar to the sound of a piano being played.

On breathing, he said that "there has to be flow. Keep the air moving but don't make a big deal out of breathing." He used the analogy of breathing when you are talking. If you are going to state a long sentence, you take a big breath. If you're just going to say something succinct, you take a smaller breath. In either case, you don't think much about the process, just do it.

On vibrato: in Germany and when playing Germanic works, little to no vibrato is expected. Gershwin works should have lots of vibrato. Understand and play the style and context of the music.

Practice music in different styles and tempi so you have the flexibility to provide whatever a conductor may ask of you.

For each clinic, George Nomura, the organizer of Herseth's trip, arranged for brass ensembles to perform for and with Herseth. On Thursday, The Royal Hawaiian Band's trumpet section was suppose to perform but passed (The Hawaiian spirit of Aloha is all fine and good, but sometimes people around here are a little too laid back!). The organizer made some last minute calls and I and two other free-lance trumpeters performed a trumpet trio arrangement of Prelude to Der Meistersinger and received some coaching from Bud. On Friday, the full brass section of the Honolulu symphony performed Der Meistersinger, with Bud conducting in a parody of Fritz Reiner that left Honolulu's principal trumpet, Mike Zonshine laughing so hard he was unable to play. The brass section played through the entire prelude, with Herseth coaching not only the trumpets but also the horns, bones and solo tuba on their passages. The brass left except for the trumpet section and Herseth worked with the Honolulu Symphony trumpets on several excerpts, demonstrating the use of different mouthpieces, mutes and rotary horns on various works.

On trumpets: Herseth brought with him the Bach large bore 229 C that was made by Vincent Bach and purchased by Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony back in the early '50's. He said that Reiner liked Herseth's sound, asked him what he was playing and then ordered a dozen identical horns from Vincent Bach. When the horns arrived, the section tried them out. All the horns played differently and each player found a different horn that he preferred. Herseth has used the same horn throughout his career. There was a short time when he did play a horn made for him by Monette but Bud said he started getting comments that he no longer sounded like himself so he went back to the Bach.

At dinner, I asked Bud if the Selmer Bachs were comparable to the Mt. Vernon or NY Bachs. He just said "NOPE". He went on to say that Vincent Bach was a close friend and when Bach sold to Selmer, Bud told him "You're not my friend anymore."

After my lesson with Bud, I had him play my Bach C. Now, I'll tell you I've played C's by Bach, Yamaha, Kanstul, Monette, Blackburn, Scodwell, as well as modified Cs by Malone, Scodwell, Akright and Monette. My Bach, which I recently purchased from Dr. Karl Sievers, is the best C I've ever played. Bud played my horn and said that it was a very good horn but a bit stuffier than his horn, which stunned me as my horn is one of the most open, free blowing C's I've ever played. Listening, I could hear that his vintage Bach had far more core to the sound than my horn. Old man Bach must have been doing something right with his horns!

Well, it's now 2:00 a.m. Guess that's enough for now. Perhaps tomorrow I'll talk about my lesson with Bud.

Subject: Bud part 2

Ok, here's bit more about the past few days.

First, Jussi Bjorling.  Adolph Herseth calls this operatic tenor his all time favorite musician to listen to. After hearing that, of course, I had to go out and buy a Jussi Bjorling recording (The Ultimate Collection, RCA 74321 63468 2).  I have been listening to Jussi in my car for the past few days and what first struck me was how much his singing, the intensity of his voice, the vibrato, reminds me of Maynard Ferguson! I mentioned that to Bud and he agreed, saying that as a boy, Maynard listened to great opera singers and violinists and that was his concept of sound when learning the trumpet. As Bud said, "That's what it's all about!"  Well, from now on, any students of mine that aspire to be principal or lead players are going to be listening to Jussi Bjorling! I brought my Jussi Bjorling CD to dinner last night and Bud was kind enough to autograph it "My Favorite! Bud Herseth".

My lesson with Bud. For many reasons, Bud was only giving half hour lessons. I repeatedly asked for a full hour or more, but was only able to get 30 minutes with him. So, to make maximum use of the limited time, I went in with a plan and was able to get quite a lot accomplished.

First off, I have been asked to perform Robert Russell Bennett's "Rose Variations" for trumpet and band with the Honolulu Community Concert Band sometime in late June. So, I played through the work and had Bud coach me on the solo. For the opening lyrical theme and the lyrical passage just before the dbl tonguing variation, he asked me to play softer and softer and softer, treating the tunes as would a vocalist. I don't think I've ever played so soft or used such light tonguing ever before but the effect on the work, especially when contrasted with the more bombastic and technical movements was really something special.

Playing so soft, occasionally the high notes or notes a wide interval away would not speak. Bud said that for him, placing a bit of emphasis on the lower note provides the support for the upper note of the interval to sing out. Oh, but not too loud! (My God, he can play softly with no apparent loss of finesse)

The technical single tongued and hummingbird movements went fine with little comment other than some discussion of our mutual respect for Raphael Mendez. He again did have me really work the dynamics, contrasting the softs with the loud climactic moments. I'm not sure how being that soft will work when accompanied by a 60 piece band, but musically, I can see how his suggestions can raise me to another level of musicianship.

The Valse, he liked my use of rubato in some places but had me play in strict time through the syncopated passages, saying that it creates almost a 2/4 feel against the waltz.

For the double tonguing mvt, he suggested I "aim for the 16th notes". Emphasizing those downbeats actually allowed for a cleaner and faster articulation and made the high A's pop out of the horn effortlessly. He mentioned that a similar approach works on the similar passage in Sheherazade.

After finishing the Rose Variations, I said that I am primarily a commercial player and asked if we could work a bit on C trumpets. First thing was transpositions. He said he still practices out of the Sachse transposition studies book and said of intervallic or clef transposition that clef transposition was far better. I told him of my practicing of transposition using Solfegio and he said that yes, That's the whole point of aural training studies and that solfege gives you a clear picture in your mind of the melody, it's harmonic and key relationships, everything. Having a clear image in your mind of how the piece should sound is of utmost importance. So, I guess I'll continue on singing my trumpet music.

We finished off the lesson with me playing some of Mahler's Blumine movement on my C. Bud said that he only had the opportunity to perform it once, but thought it was a lovely piece of music. Again, he wanted it softer, softer softer. less tongue, more lyrical. Always think how a singer would do it. He played the work for me and demonstrated the difference in sound between his usual Bach 1 and a custom piece with a flugelhorn-like underpart. He says he uses that mouthpiece for works like Blumine or the Mahler 3 post horn solo because he likes a darker, richer sound on those works. Again, his control at soft, lyrical playing is awe inspiring.

After my lesson, I hung around and chatted with George Nomura, the organizer who brought Herseth to Hawaii. After my lesson, a friend of mine had his. Through the door, I could hear them working on the Chocolate solo from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker. Bud repeatedly flew through that solo effortlessly. What amazing command of the horn he has. (I Guess that's why he's Bud Herseth!) My friend's lesson ended with he and Bud playing mariachi music! (He has a Cinco de Mayo gig and wanted help with his tonguing. Bud was game for anything and always has fun with the trumpet)

Next, was Kristin Kohler's lesson. She repeatedly asked us to leave, as she was nervous enough without us hanging outside the door. We intended on giving her privacy, but my friend, George Nomura and I all started talking and never moved. I don't know what Bud did in Kristin's lesson, but there were several moments when George, my friend Greg and I would stop talking and turn towards the door wondering was that Bud or Kristin? He had her really sounding great in very little time!

Well, that pretty much summarizes my experiences over the past few days. Bud has today off so he and Avis are checking out museums. Monday, Bud does a private master class at the Punahou School, a private k-12 school that put up a lot of the money to bring him here. I have several private students attending that school and have told all of them that if Bud asks for volunteers to come up on stage and play during his masterclass to jump at the opportunity. I'm looking forward to hearing my students' impressions.

Mark Minasian