Archive for the 'Artist' Category

Mike Vax Joins the Getzen Team

Wednesday, September 14th, 2005

Tom Getzen welcomes Mike Vax to the Getzen Family Tom Getzen welcomes Mike Vax to the Getzen Family

For more than forty years Mike Vax has wowed audiences with his trumpet playing, performing lead and solo work with the Stan Kenton Orchestra, the Clark Terry Big Bad Band, and the United States Navy Show Band. He’s had the chance to perform and/or record with such greats as Art Pepper, Al Grey, Freddy Hubbard, John Handy, The Glenn Miller and Jimmy Dorsey Orchestras, and the list goes on and on. Through out all those years and during all those shows Mike has learned one major lesson. A great player needs a great trumpet and that is what he has found with his new Getzen Custom Series.

Together with Byron Autrey and the dedicated staff in the Getzen ProShop, Mike put into effect the design ideas that he thought would make a great trumpet. What he came up with is the all new, 3001MV Custom Artist Mike Vax Model trumpet.

This new trumpet is based off of the tried and true 3001 Artist Model with a few tweaks. The first, and biggest, is the new #172 hand hammered, one piece bell made of light weight gold brass. This combination creates a wonderfully rich and colorful tone with outstanding response and projection. This makes the 3001MV perfect for anything from solo work in small settings or lead play in large concert halls. The second new feature is the addition of a lower tuning slide venturi tube. This helps focus and concentrate airflow before it enters the valve section reducing turbulence and adding response.

Mike Vax at TMEAMike at the Getzen booth at TMEA

During his week long visit to the factory in Elkhorn, Mike had a chance to watch the skilled Getzen craftsmen at work. The most impressive thing to him was the people. As Mike put it, “It’s great to see instruments being built by hand again. To see actual people doing the work.” Mike had a chance to see the fruits of this labor himself when he play tested the entire Getzen line of small brass instruments. From top to bottom, the entire line of small brass impressed Mike, especially when he found out they were all production horns taken off the shelf. He was particularly surprised with the quality of the 390/490 Student trumpets. During this play testing, Mike decided that in addition to the new trumpet, he needed a new cornet and flugelhorn. After trying them all, Mike went with an 800 Eterna and prototype 3895 small bore flugelhorn with a gold brass bell.

All in all, Mr. Vax was very pleased with what he saw, heard, and played during his visit. And now that he’s had a chance to perform on the new trumpet, his audiences and band mates are pleased as well. Often taking the time to comment on Mike’s fantastic “new” sound. A great player has indeed found himself a great trumpet.

A Valuable Air and Breathing Exercise

Wednesday, September 14th, 2005

by Mike Vax

The most important aspect of playing any wind instrument is getting air through that instrument. I believe that one of the best ways to practice proper use of the air is to do it away from the instrument. When you are practicing with your instrument there are too many other things to do, therefore you don’t concentrate enough on your airflow.

I have some exercises that I really believe will improve the student’s conception and use of the muscles of the diaphragmatic area. These exercises are designed to make the student completely aware of how to obtain the best use of the air column.

Please remember that when breathing, we make use of the diaphragmatic area to facilitate the in and out of the air. The diaphragmatic area includes the muscles of the upper abdomen, but not really the lower abdomen. The diaphragm muscle is located just below the center of the rib cage. It follows around the contour of the rib cage and connects with the back muscles. This is why a player who is breathing properly will have their back expanding when they inhale. When doing the exercises discussed here, I try to think of the center of my diaphragmatic area. This is the area just below the sternum. I try to center all my thought and feeling right in this area. Also remember that the lungs don’t do anything by themselves. The diaphragm makes the move. You should not think of breathing from your chest area. The lungs are only reservoirs that hold air and filters to clean the blood, not the means of getting air into the body. The only sensation you should feel in your chest is that of “filling up” with air.

Now that we have learned how we breathe, let’s work on how to control the air to make it work for us as wind instrumentalists. The following exercise must be done with complete concentration. Forget everything around you and just concentrate on proper breathing.

There are five steps to this exercise. I call one time through all five of these steps one cycle of the exercise.

  1. Lie down on the floor on your back with your legs straight out and your arms at your side.
  2. Concentrate on isolating your diaphragmatic area from the rest of your body. At first, you can put a heavy book on it or have someone apply light pressure with his\her foot over the center of your diaphragmatic area. Later, you can just put your hand over the area and use that to push against. Work toward the point where you can really feel the location of the center of the muscle. When you can feel this area and have it isolated, you are now ready for the third step.
  3. Take air in slowly through a small hole in your mouth by raising the center of the diaphragmatic up towards the ceiling. With your hand on it you can actually see the movement. Keep taking air in slowly until you feel as if you are full, and then make yourself inhale even more air. In essence, stretching your lungs. Another way to think of raising the center of the diaphragmatic area is to pretend that there is someone standing above you with a string attached to your diaphragm and they are pulling on the string.
  4. When you are completely filled up with air, don’t hold this air in for a long period. Start slowly pushing it out through the same small hole in your mouth. You need to do this by keeping the diaphragm muscles flexed. Even though you have raised the center of the area to take the air in, you still keep the raised sensation going. Still think of raising it up toward the ceiling as you push the air out. Try to stay flexed and remember that flexed does not mean tense. Try not to tense up during the exercise. You flex the muscles for control, but try not to over do it and overtax your muscles. The only difference in the exhaling process is that you should now get a feeling that the upper abdominal wall is pushing in to force the air out. After you think that you have pushed all the air out that you possibly can, make yourself push out even a little more. Really empty your lungs. When you have done this you are ready for the final step.
  5. This is another relaxation step. It is not the deep relaxation of the first step, but simply a relaxing of the diaphragm as well as the whole body to let your diaphragmatic area rejuvenate itself and get ready for another cycle of the exercise

When you start this regimen, go through only 4 or 5 cycles at any one time. Doing any more may strain your muscles. As you progress, gradually increase the number of cycles. You will get the most out of the exercise if you do it twice a day. Ideally doing five cycles in the morning and five at night. Since the technique gives you a greater amount of oxygen than regular breathing, you’ll notice a nice energy boost in the morning and you will actually wake up faster. No more need for the coffee kick start.

If you do this exercise faithfully everyday, it will help your sound, endurance, flexibility, and even your range. Don’t be too impatient with the exercises since improvement will not happen overnight. Nothing worthwhile comes without hard work and constant practice. Remember too, your diaphragmatic area is always there with you so there is no excuse to skip the exercise. Also remember that your breathing while playing will not match exactly the way you do during the exercise. However, aspects of it will creep into your playing making your use of air much easier and more efficient as well as expanding your overall lung capacity.

Becoming the Smart Musician, Part II of Series

Friday, May 23rd, 2003

by Robert Levy – Professor of Music, Lawrence University
Getzen Artist & Clinician

While Part I of this series addressed an approach in practicing by isolating Musical Elements, I’d like to backtrack a moment in Part II to the very beginning of our journey.

When starting out, young players have most likely been drawn to the trumpet for having heard someone play it – maybe a friend or relative. Or, perhaps they attended a concert and heard a soloist and were captivated by the glorious sound ringing throughout the auditorium or concert hall. At any rate, there was something captivating about this instrument for each of us from the very beginning and we made a conscious decision to get one and learn how to play it. Little did we know this would be on long journey!!

After many years I’m still amazed when I see raw beginners taking their very first steps as they learn the fundamentals of good hand and finger position, get their lips buzzing on the mouthpiece, and produce their beginning level tone qualities. They have such boundless enthusiasm and a yearning desire. They just want to get blowing the horn as quickly as possible with little regard for how they might sound. And this is understandable and I believe quite okay in the first few weeks of this learning process. I think the number one priority for teachers is to take advantage of this great enthusiasm that exists. All too often I see young teachers giving detailed lectures on the refined points of embouchure development, the importance of musical notation, and even a theoretical analysis! While all of these things are not only important and essential, I truly believe for a young student, age eleven to thirteen, the priority should be allowing them to play as soon as possible and take advantage of their desire to create a sound. Johnny and Susan don’t get this kind of opportunity in math or English class. We can work on refinement and all the other important concepts later as the long journey continues.

To hold the young student back from actually playing the instrument is like giving a four year old a new toy and keeping him/her from playing with it while you tell them all you know about it. He wants to play just as our new young trumpeter is excited about making those first sounds. In most cases they won’t be very beautiful, but they will be their own.

There is all too often a high attrition rate with young musicians and I believe this occurs because they become bored. If we can capture their excitement and enthusiasm it will get them up and running and many more young students will stay motivated playing their instruments.

Lastly, I believe very strongly in even the youngest students hearing models as early as three or four weeks after they’ve begun. They then have a long range goal before them. They’ll remember THAT sound and begin to formulate sound concepts. It can be done with the teacher making a point to play with the student (rather than strictly talking), by bringing in guest players, or by regularly playing recordings of outstanding players. Let’s remember the wonderful success with Suzucki teaching where the emphasis is on playing; reading comes later. I think there is a considerable amount to be learned from that technique.

Part III of this series will address the importance of sound concepts. Meanwhile, let’s keep our youngest students turned on to playing their horns!

Becoming the Smart Musician, Part I of Series

Friday, November 8th, 2002

by Robert Levy – Professor of Music, Lawrence University
Getzen Artist & Clinician

While I have spoken in previous issues of choosing the more beneficial aspects of playing and selecting a good daily routine, there are some additional thoughts I’m pleased to share. First, I want to thank those hundreds of trumpet students I’ve worked with over the past, nearly forty years, and my many musician friends who have given their time to share their thoughts and ideas in teaching.

I believe we sometimes simply take many things for granted including the belief students will be able to sort through an approach to learning on their own. If learning is, according to Webster, “the acquiring of skills or knowledge” there is a process we must go through to acquire those skills. I’d like to view this whole idea within a framework that leads to developing total musicianship. Yes, we all are continually learning new ways and new skills, and better ways of doing things, but I think we can find easier ways and possibly save time. This is what I refer to as “becoming a smart musician” rather than simply becoming a tongue and blow player. Perhaps this is oversimplification, but I have seen and worked with both types of musicians and seen my students make many mistakes that they could have avoided.

The “smart musician” can learn an approach to playing and practicing that is direct and concise and gets to the heart of the matter. It also ties in with reducing the complex to the simple. One non-musician friend many years ago was sitting in the audience with me attending a symphony concert. He remarked, “how is it possible for all these players to do all which is necessary to play together as they do?” I thought that was a fascinating comment, and as I thought about it, the idea is rather amazing. How many other fields or occupations are there where one person will multi task or think about so many things simultaneously: pitch, rhythm, intonation, balance, blend, style, articulation, releases, hand and finger positions, breathing, embouchure, trying to make a beautiful sound. Add to that phrasing, watching the conductor, and listening to everyone else on stage. When you stop to think about it, that’s truly amazing. Yet, we do it and many do it in terrific fashion.

Now, how might we approach things in the learning process? If an etude or musical composition appears difficult, we want to somehow “reduce the complex” to make it simpler and easier. This begins not just with slow practicing, but also by isolating the elements one at a time. First get your pitches, then get the rhythm (you can even speak it without playing), the work on the articulations, add the dynamics, accelerandos, retards, etc… Finally add phrasing and musicality and begin combining all of those elements while practicing it slowly and gradually increase the tempi as the passage becomes more comfortable for you. Last of all, listen carefully for good tuning and play with your best sound. The key is to isolate and learn each aspect separately when working on something difficult.

With these tips, you’ll learn the piece BETTER and FASTER. It’s another example of how you can become the “smart musician”.

World Class Brass Band Joins Getzen

Friday, April 12th, 2002

Doc Severinsen
Göteborg Brass Band with their new 3850 Custom Series Cornets
Click image for larger view

When the Göteborg Brass Band stepped off the bus in Eau Claire, Wisconsin for their Midwest USA Tour, they were attempting something that many groups would not think of trying. They were receiving an entire new set of Getzen Cornets. This in itself is not so daring but deciding to leave their old cornets back in Sweden was. After spending time testing the instrument, principal cornetist Victor Kisnitchenko decided that the Getzen cornet significantly outperformed their current cornets and wanted the band to play them as soon as possible. Göteborg’s Brass Band Director, Bengt Eklund, also believed “the quality of sound in the new Getzen would greatly improve the concept of sound for the entire ensemble.”

The Göteborg Brass Band recently won the 2001 Swedish National Championship. Mostly made up of professional musicians and very highly skilled amateurs, the brass band has been in existence since 1982. Founded by its director Bengt Eklund, the brass band quickly gained an international reputation by participating in orchestral festivals and contests. These successes paved the way for new concert tours, which have encompassed four continents. Göteborg Brass Band has held the position as Swedish Champions for many years (as recently as 2001) but the band’s greatest success came in 1988 when it won the World Brass Band Championship and Entertainment Titles in Australia.

Doc Severinsen
Bengt Eklund

With a wide variety of musical genres (from Mozart’s Magic Flute to Thelonious Monk’s ‘Round Midnight) the brass band dazzles all who listens. Their Midwest tour took them through most of the state of Wisconsin and Minnesota. They were one of the spotlight performances at the Wisconsin Music Educators Convention in Madison where they amazed the audience. There were countless comments about their performance during the remainder of the conference. Most felt it was the highlight of the conference. Getzen is proud to be associated with such a world class organization. In Summer of 2002 the brass band will be receiving a set of Custom Series Trombones which they are awaiting anxiously.

Bengt Eklund, former trumpeter of the Göteborg Orchestra, and currently Professor at the School of Music and Musicology, Göteborg University and Professor of Trumpet at the Norwegian State Academy of Music in Oslo. He held the position of President of the European International Trumpet Guild from 1994-2000. His inspiration has lead the brass band to four CD’s – World Champions, The Magic Flute, Versatile Reality, and Ambassadors of Brass.

A Night of 1000 Trumpets

Friday, April 12th, 2002

Doc Severinsen
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Doc SeverinsenDoc has done it again! The night of 1000 trumpets was held at Southern Mississippi University on October 9th 2001. The challenge was to assemble 1000 trumpeters in one arena for a spectacular performance that involved all. This idea was turned into an event complete with masterclasses and exhibitors along with a performance by the Southern Mississippi University Symphony Orchestra. Doc Severinsen was not only the featured artist at this great event but was the master of the ceremonies.

The event, sponsored by the University, achieved a total of more than 700 trumpeters playing at one time during the concert. Players from all over the USA and at least four other countries around the world attended. The event was scheduled to have well over 1000 players attend but the September 11th tragedy had a large effect on the turnout. All that did attend enjoyed a wonderful day of entertainment from Doc. The concert opened with a fanfare written especially for the mass trumpet ensemble.

Doc last visited Hattiesburg, MS in 1996 with the USM Symphony orchestra. According to the USM news report “prior to Doc’s long-running gig with the Tonight Show, Severinsen performed in the then-small college town of Hattiesburg in 1969. In his return in 1996, Doc pledged he would return every 30 years!” For our sake, it was great he returned in 2001.

Doc Returns to Where It All Began

Wednesday, October 17th, 2001

by Andrew Naumann

Doc Severinsen
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When Doc arrived at the Getzen Co. this past June it felt as if a long lost family member found their way home. Many workers for the company remember the days when Doc was a regular around the old factory. His sense of style and flash has not changed and his interest in trumpet playing and designing seems to be even stronger. As he toured the factory, he took extensive amounts of time to sit with the craftspeople and watch their expertise. Many times he would comment on the fine work he was witnessing, which would always draw a smile. In fact, at one point he said to one of the employees in the Valve Department, “Do you realize how important you are? This is where the heart of the trumpet begins. You are responsible for starting this instrument’s voice. What an important person you are for all Getzen trumpeters!” His humility was seen by many of the workers which brought and immediate respect for his love of the trumpet.

Doc Tours Getzen FactoryEight months earlier, I contacted Don in hopes that he might be interested in discussing his return to the Getzen Co. Twenty years has passed since Doc has endorsed Getzen instruments. When we met and discussed what he wanted in a trumpet, I knew we could offer him what he has been looking for. Mainly, he was interested in having trumpets made with quality in mind. He felt most firms have gone the route of trying to build trumpets as fast as possible with Wall Street driving the company. It was difficult for Doc to talk with this type of company because it would mean the company would need to slow down and research better designs. This approach is costly and time consuming – two things corporate America hates to hear. But at the Getzen Co., we still have a single owner and a small company atmosphere that thrives on new ideas and craftsmanship. This attitude has always been with the Getzen family.

The Getzen Co., owned and operated by Thomas Getzen, has strived to improve its product line for the past ten years. Achieving new developments such as the Thayer Valve (trombone axial flow valve) has been an integral part of improving Getzen instruments. This forward thinking has led to the development of improved valve sets and bell manufacturing for both the trumpet and trombone lines. Doc realized that the Getzen Co. was on the fast track for some of the best instruments offered by and brass manufacturer. In fact, he stated, “Getzen is not mass producing brass instruments, they are mass customizing top quality brass instruments.” The Getzen Co. also offers some of the best warranties in the business which includes a lifetime warranty on all trumpet valve sets.

Doc’s return is both an honor and a sign of the good things to come for the Getzen Co. Many plans are currently in design for even more developments and improvements in the product lines. Doc will be an important part of the Getzen design team by offering advice and testing new instruments. Commitment, courage, ability, and resources are all necessary elements in success. Getzen realizes these elements and uses them to drive forward to a bright future.