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I'm changing the format of this page and focus of my music towards something a little more traditional and of historical value for me - Concert Band.

When I hit the 6th grade, I decided to take a Beginning Band class in Junior High.  I had intended to play my Grandma's old Clarinet, but it was in need of some major renovation just to be playable.  One of life's little blessings, if you ask me.  I don't think I could've been a good 'woodwind' player.

So, we looked into renting an instrument from the school.  All they had left was a Baritone Horn, which even though it was huge and looked kinda funny, I found it to be a lot of fun to play.  Of course, some of my enthusiasm was worn away after the first time I decided to take the horn home from school for the weekend to practice.  The horn wasn't so bad, but the case it came in was huge - I could've used it to mail myself anywhere in the world, and been quite comfortable during the trip.  Lugging it home was also quite the feat... but I got used to it.  I got pretty good with the horn - as well as any teenager could be, I guess, and always had a strong presence in the band while we played.  I guess you could say that you could depend on hearing my part being played.  The old school horn I had looked a lot like this - except a little more dented up.

When I got to high school, I discovered how much fun being part of the band was and was blown away by our first rehearsal.  It was the very next day after leaving Junior High and the first time I'd ever been to a Marching Band practice.  It was so cool.  I had never heard such confident sound coming from a bunch of kids my age and a little older.  I was hooked, once again.  I still remember the tunes we played like it was yesterday: Firebird Suite, Bit o' Rhythm, Las Suerte de Los Tontos, and Jupiter - all adapted for Marching Band.  We had to memorize the music so we wouldn't have the luxury of carrying flip-folders while we were executing the formations on the field.  What a blast.

After Marching Band season was over, we'd turn to regular Concert Band music, usually in preparation for the upcoming Christmas concerts put on by the school.  We also had opportunity to compete in the State Solo and Ensemble Festival competitions, although I never did.  I was an average player with a school rental horn - I was OK, but didn't feel good enough to play solo or mess up an ensemble for anyone else.

During the years in high school, I also played in a few of the other bands - Pep Band during basketball games and Jazz Band during the year as well.  For both of those, I learned to play the Trombone - which although a lot different configuration, not so different from playing Baritone Horn.  The Bass Trombone I played for Jazz Band was lots of fun, but I think I enjoyed the Trombone for Pep Band even more - I would play my Baritone part on it... which I'm sure used to drive my band teacher nuts.

We also had some occasion to get together with some of the local ensembles during the Holiday Seasons and play for the public in the malls - that was a total blast and I enjoyed it thoroughly.  My favorite event was playing on a Saturday afternoon at Crossroads Mall in Salt Lake City, Utah.  We had a 9:00AM rehearsal at Abravanel Hall, home of the Utah Symphony - what a rush playing on the stage of the same house the Utah Symphony plays at.  Then an 11:00AM show time, play for an hour... then play again at 2:00PM.  Tons of fun and it was cool seeing the people in the mall gather while we were playing and then offering applause when we were done.  Good for the soul.

After Marching Band season during my Junior year, I had a tough decision to make - continue in the band or take my drafting more seriously.  After a few months of juggling both classes, I decided to quit the band... I just couldn't hang with missing the drafting and although I enjoyed being in the band - it wasn't going to be a career for me.  So, I left the band and unfortunately, never looked back.  I can't remember why I didn't play in the Marching Band during my Senior year - probably some issue with the band teacher not letting me play unless I signed up for the regular class.  I don't know.

Fast forward to a couple years later after I'd joined the Air Force and had the opportunity to join the Drum & Bugle Corps squadron.  I took the chance and discovered that a lot of people thought that the Drum & Bugle Corps had it easier through Basic Training because they just played music during parades and Retreat ceremonies.  Well - I found out differently.  Our TI's were a lot tougher on us that the TI's from our old squadron for that very reason.  No biggee though, because just about every other day, we got to get away from the usual and play the music we had for the Retreat ceremonies and parades.  I had the opportunity to play a 2-valve Bb Baritone Bugle - very cool.  It was worth it.  During the course of Air Force Basic Training, trainees are required to participate in 2 Retreat Ceremonies and 2 parades, in addition to their Graduation parade... our Drum & Bugle Corps flight provided the music for no less than 8 Retreat ceremonies and 7 parades, along with a Retirement ceremony for a General over at Kelly Air Force Base.  We were that good, and actually requested often.

I finally found a picture of one of the horns I played.  No... not the exact horn, although they were kept very nice being government property and all... wouldn't surprise me in the least if it were still in service.  Anyway, here's a shot:

I wish I would've been good enough to try out for one of the Air Force bands... but those people are professional-grade musicians, and I'm in awe of their skills and talents.

And finally, we're up to present-day.  After having issue with the local 4-wheel drive club I was a member of, I decided to quit and turn my attention to something I've been neglecting for so many years.  I've had this pipe-dream of buying my own horn and seeing if I still had the skills to play.  A friend of mine had mentioned playing for the San Angelo Community Band a few years back and I had given it some serious thought.  But, not knowing if I could even still play, or what level the band members were playing at, I never paid enough attention to the thought of that.

Finally, I decided to go to one of their rehearsals and see what it was all about.  Just sitting in with them and sight-reading the music had almost the same effect as that first day of Marching Band rehearsal so many years ago in high school.  I was hooked.  So, I decided to finally pick up my own horn and started scouring eBay for prospective candidates.

I found the horn I picked up that very night and made the purchase.  It was a 2006 Selman 4-valve Bb Euphonium for $329.00.  The picture on the site showed a gorgeous horn... and brand new - not a school rental, like I was used to.  Here's what I saw:

Looking almost exactly like the Yamaha YEP-321 that my friend Stuart Rice (and mentor of a sort) from high school had, I was excited that I finally was going to fulfill a dream of having my own brand-new horn.

It showed up a week later and was as beautiful coming out of the case as the picture showed.  I oiled up the valves and played it - which took awhile to get used to again.  The horn has a good sound, but something I noticed a few days later - the valves began sticking after some use.  I decided to pull the valves and inspect them a little more closely and discovered that they are really cheap metal and were scored from some burrs left in the valve bores.  Too late to send it back, I'm now stuck with this horn that has issues with the valves cycling properly.  So begins the challenge of making this polished turd work as advertised.

Meanwhile, I'm on the hook to play with the Community Band now, so I borrowed a horn from Angelo State University - who kinda sponsors the band by providing us a place to rehearse.  The director is also a professor in the music department as well.  Bonus.

After making it through the Summer Concert series, I was disappointed to find out that the next rehearsal doesn't take place until the second week in November in preparation for a Christmas Tree lighting event in town.  I'm going to bug some of the other brass players and see if we can't put together some ensembles and play in the mall during the Christmas season.  During the past few weeks, I've been able to buff out the burrs in the valve bores on my horn, which I've lovingly named "El Cheapo," so it's at least playable now.  Here's a picture of it on its own stand I purchased from the same people I ordered the horn from.

in the middle of August 2005, I found another horn on eBay that I thought would be a good candidate to pull the old switcheroo of the cases.  The one that came with El Cheapo is junk, so I was looking for something better.  One of the guys at work loves musical instruments and agreed to buy the new horn with my old case for the cost minus shipping.  The pictures of this horn (and more importantly its case) looked like a good prospect - so we picked up the horn and made a huge discovery when it arrived - it was a proper (English) Baritone Horn.  So very much NOT the same size as El Cheapo.  You wonder what the difference between a Baritone and Euphonium is - look no further.  The person that sold it didn't know what they had and I got it for around $150 shipped.  Once it showed up, I polished it up and discovered a perfect instrument underneath all the tarnish, and I kinda wanted to keep it for myself at that point.  But - Steve still wanted it, so he's got it now.  I really wish I would've kept it now... oh well.  Here's a picture of the Yamaha I borrowed from ASU, the Baritone Horn (on the stand) and El Cheapo on the right.  I could only wish this was my 'arsenal,' but you can only play one at a time, and we still haven't figured out if this whole deal has been a good investment yet, despite the fun I've been having with the Community Band.

And that brings us to around Christmas of 2005.  When we started rehearsing for the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, I had finally worked all the bugs out of El Cheapo and was using it full time (finally).  I only had minor valve sticking problems, which a couple more drops of valve oil would cure on the spot.  Things were looking up.  Until I noticed that all of the lacquer on the cross-pipe (where you hook your thumb to use the valves) had all but worn off.  What the Hell?!  Already?!  I was pissed.  The horn's not even 6 months old yet and already showing years of age.  I was mad.

When the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony was over, I took the Yamaha I borrowed from ASU back to the school, along with all the Christmas music... so I'm pretty much stuck with my brand-new horn that's already starting to fall apart.

So a few nights later, I was checking stuff out on e-Bay again (I would periodically see what horns were available for both pricing and an idea of what was out there) and happened to notice several Yamaha YEP-201s (like the horn my friend Keith has), an Amati AEP-231, a Blessing M300 Marching Baritone, and a Jupiter 470 (4-valve).  They had a few days to go and were really low-priced, so I decided to start doing some research on the horns listed - just because I could.  I already knew what was going on with the Yamahas, so not much convincing was needed there beyond a good price.  I found out the Amati was a nice entry-level horn at roughly $1300 new, but people either loved or hated it.  The Jupiter was a low-end intermediate horn, coming it around $1800 new... and people were talking about how much this model was better than they used to be and they were surprised at how nice the horn is.  I found out the Blessing was also around $2000 new, and it's the same horn I played in high school marching band - so I found it interesting as well.

After some discussion with my wife, she agreed that I had earned and justified the opportunity to get a new horn since I was really enjoying the band and did everything I could to make El Cheapo work.  So I got serious about these horns I was watching.  My plan was to see what happened with the Amati, keep an eye on the Jupiter, and keep the Yamahas as a back-up plan.  I really wanted a 4-valve, so the Jupiter was the best candidate, in my opinion.  The Blessing was really just a pipe dream... why would I need a Marching Baritone after all?

I continued to watch the prices run up on the Yamahas and it began slowly creeping up on the Jupiter and Blessing as well.  Nobody bid on the Amati though.  But since it was the first auction to finish, and it was the great unknown, I let it go by.  I was really more interested in the Jupiter... and still curious to see what would happen with the Blessing.  When the time came to bid on the Jupiter, it was hovering in the $490 range, up from $350 when I first saw it.  My wife (the professional eBay Sniper) got on with like 30 seconds to go and placed a bid of the $900 we had agreed on.  She won the auction by confirming the bid with 12 seconds or so, and the automated bidding ran up to $663 when the other bidder's limit ran out.  SWEET!!! I have a new horn!!

Here's the pictures I saw of the Jupiter 470 on eBay when I was 'shopping':

I was really happy that we'd won my new horn... but I was still curious to see what was going on with the other horns I was watching.  The Yamahas were still going up - as pretty much everybody knows that Yamahas are 'the' brand name in intermediate instruments.  The Blessing had only run up to $300 with about a day to go.  So I kept tabs on it the next day.  It only made it up to $385 with an hour to go, and I decided I wanted it.  So I followed my wife's example and waited until there was less than a minute to go and placed a bid of around $500 on it, then confirmed with around 10 seconds left.  SCORE!!! I 'sniped' this auction and won the Blessing for $407.

Here's the pictures I saw of the Blessing Marching Baritone on eBay when I was 'shopping' for it:

I payed for them and while I was waiting shipment, I went to Boston for a maintenance course... but they were waiting on me when I got home.  Unfortunately, my back was kinda messed up from the flight, so I was less than enthusiastic about playing them the next day.  But two days later, I had a Brass Band performance, to which I took the Jupiter.  I cleaned the Jupiter up the afternoon before the Brass Band performance for a local Christmas Party at Fort Concho, and it made me sound really good. It has a much warmer sound than El Cheapo and the valve action is a lot cleaner and smoother as well. It almost seems to be a lot more efficient with the air as well. There really is a difference between playing a junker and something much nicer. I'm so happy I was able to 'trade-up.' I think I'm all set now for many years of enjoyment.

I played around with the Blessing a few days later and cleaned up it as well.  I discovered some scratched up lacquer in the usual wear points, but the brass underneath polished up fine.  There's also a small dent in the lead pipe right under the third valve crown, hardly noticeable.  I'm amazed that with all the collateral damage, that the bell has only 1 small scratch in the lacquer... no dents whatsoever.

Anyway, I've decided (with the help of a good friend) to name the Jupiter "Nacho Horn." (Who's horn is that? It's Nacho Horn.) I know, it sounds dorky... but I affixed the monniker on everything I owned while in the Air Force so I could retrieve it quickly (ex.: Nacho Stapler, Nacho Hat, Nacho Computer, et. al.). I'll probably start referring to it as 'Nacho' for short.

And the Marching Baritone is now known as: "Not So Wee." My wife held up her Cornet next to it and called it a 'Trumpet on Steroids.' And then she reminded me that another close friend of mine had told us a joke involving a Scotsman explaining that in his land they didn't have Small, Medium, and Large sizes... they had "Wee, Not So Wee, and F00ken HUGE!" So in the spirit of keeping it clean in mixed company, 'Not So Wee' it is.

Heck, even Not So Wee has a warmer sound than El Cheapo. I'm amazed that there's none of the fuzzy tone I remember the one from High School having. Maybe I was just over-blowing it way back then or something. But it has an amazingly mellow tone for something that's designed to knock down buildings.

The other players in the band really loved the mix of nickel and brass on Nacho and said the horn sounded a lot nicer as well. They were astonished when I told them what I paid for it, and I suspect there will be a few logging onto eBay soon as a result.

Here's a couple of more shots of the horns.  I purchased a Yamaha Silent Brass SB-29 practice mute system for Nacho, and I took the pics for the folks at The Mouth forums.  Plus, these are the first pics of my new horns that I've taken.


These pics were all taken at the same time, but the lightning messed with the camera a little bit - plus, the processes I used through Paint Shop Pro didn't help either.

I was also able to sell El Cheapo to my pal Steve - the same guy that bought the Baritone Horn.

One of the guys I play with in the Community Band and Brass Band asked me if I'd be interested in having some more opportunities in he way of some ensembles and other projects, to which I jumped and said 'Yes!'  Then he asked if I could play Trombone... to which I replied, "yes... why?"  He told me he might get some more stuff together and need a few Trombone players.  Which sounds like Jazz or Big Band ensembles to me - SWEET!  So I jumped on eBay and searched around 'til I found a nice Bundy-Selmer Tenor Trombone - which I snagged for $107.50.  It's not here yet (15 July 06), but it should be here sometime around the 18th.  I'm stoked and can hardly wait.  I played Bass Trombone in high school Jazz Band, to which I had a blast as well.  I also had rented a Tenor Trombone during my Sophmore year from Riverton Music and took it to all sorts of Pep-Band and other cool high school functions.  So yeah... I should have some fun with this one too.  I'll post pics when it shows up.

So far so good though.  I'm having an absolute ball playing with the band so far, along with the Icehouse Brass Band as well.  Whenever the events and rehearsals come and go, I can't wait until it all starts up again.  I'm still working on my sight-reading and getting used to all of the weird key signatures again.  Hopefully, I'll be able to be an even better player than I was in high school, since this is now more for me, than just a grade.  My range has improved dramatically - I'm hitting high 'A's now with no effort (Bass Clef), when an 'F' would've been it for me.  I can even squeak a Top Bb now and then... but it's still tough so I keep practicing.  Plus, having that 4th valve on Nacho opens up the pedal notes so I can get down in the weeds with the Tubas when I need to.  It's all good from here.

Meanwhile, I've volunteered to be the band's webmaster, unofficially for now - until they decide if they like the site I made for them.  I'll know more in November, but for now I think they like it.



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Copyright 2016 - Eric Hansen Unlimited