The inspiration for this column and the homonym I invented for the title comes from a comment that struck me in an interview with the trumpet section from The United States Army Band “Pershing’s Own,” published in the International Trumpet Guild Journal. The comment comes from MSG Terry Bingham: “I am never excited to hear a trumpet jock. I’d rather be moved than impressed.” I resoundingly second that opinion.
What is a “Trumpet Jock”?
Merriam-Webster defines “jock” as: “A person who is trained in or good at exercises that require physical skill and strength.” There is a pejorative connotation that implies a narrow focus or single-minded interest in the activity.
A “trumpet jock” (the term could apply to any brass player, but truth be told, it’s most often trumpet players who bear the moniker) would be one who focuses on the physical aspects of playing the horn, mainly high and loud, to the detriment or exclusion of the musical aspects.
Certainly, playing a brass instrument is a physical exercise that requires both skill and strength. Producing a loud double C on a trumpet is an accomplishment to be sure; however, as a singular act, it is like a hockey player who prides himself on his ability to brawl while neglecting puck-handling skills. A basic and crucial ingredient is missing.
A trumpet player who can produce very high notes may be impressive initially—even then only to other trumpet players who appreciate the difficulty of the maneuver—but if the player is deficient in musical application, it is unlikely that listeners will be moved anywhere except out of the room.
Music is a study in contrast. High and loud notes have their place, but so do low and soft notes, which offer every bit as much of a physical challenge to the brass player. A truly impressive player is one who uses physical chops to make music, not to bludgeon it.
I’ll say in closing that the correct usage of the title word also applies. Brass players, regardless of musical proclivity, are a jocular bunch!
About the Author
Chase Sanborn is a jazz trumpet player based in Toronto. He is on the faculty at the University of Toronto and is the author of “Brass Tactics,” “Jazz Tactics,” “Tuning Tactics” and “Music Business Tactics.” Chase is a Yamaha Artist.
Visit his website at www.chasesanborn.com. Questions about all things brass-related can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.