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'
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
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
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
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 Piece.com
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
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
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.
Find me on