Our curriculum is based around a modern understanding of the learning process– that the brain absorbs information more efficiently when the subject matter is approached from a positive direction. Because we are experienced professional trumpet performers, we know the grueling work that must be done to achieve excellence on the trumpet. But our experience as teachers has demonstrated that there is another way to learn– by making a game of the subject material, to smile while we practice, and to enjoy the process.
The Brain Game
The trumpet is a physical instrument, no doubt, but because of its mild physical difficulty, young trumpeters often get ‘lost’ in the technique of making sound, pressing buttons, and articulating. While there is some necessity of knowing how these things work, we also know that the brain often mixes signals in the learning phase (like a dog that sits and lays down hoping for a treat). One of our goals at Boston Trumpet Workshop is to ‘reassociate’ these technical impulses to new brain paths based upon a musical need. This means that a student’s ability to play will be fed by a desire to have fun and play music, rather than a number of minutes he or she must practice to get an ‘A.’ In teacher speak, this is called positive reinforcement.
First thing every day, a warm-up game is played. Then, time is spent warming up and establishing a routine. This is often done as a group but just as often in smaller groups to facilitate discussion.
Our primary vehicle for learning is trumpet ensemble. Our music is carefully chosen to fit each participant, with difficulty scaled to be both challenging and possible. Topics covered are articulation, intonation, sound quality, and time. Questions and discussion are encouraged.
After trumpet ensemble rehearsal, the Workshop participants break into duet groups as they prepare for the final concert. This is a chance to apply what they are learning. Participants are paired with a trumpeter they did not previously know, and every effort is made to pair then with someone from a different location.
A central component of the Boston Trumpet Workshop is a morning spent with a world-renowned guest artist– someone whose career has taken them above and beyond the average professional. Our first year, we were lucky to hear from Anthony Plog, a teacher, performer, composer, and thinker who has done it all.