On Grade 5 Jazz Trumpet and much more
I’m Hattie, a 12-year-old trumpeter. I have been playing the trumpet for four-and-a-half years and have recently taken ABRSM’s Grade 5 Jazz Trumpet exam. I usually blog at mytrumpetandme so writing this guest blog is a new experience for me ... In October 2014, I was lucky enough to hear Alison Balsom perform at the Albert Hall in London. I was particularly struck by the mellow mood of Autumn Leaves and think this was the moment I became drawn to jazz. A few months later, I was invited to perform at a family jazz concert alongside jazz trumpeter Mark Armstrong which was a great way to pick up tips for my Grade 4 exam in which I was playing a couple of jazzy pieces. Having decided that I’d like to explore jazz trumpet, my teacher Dave Howell got me started on learning to improvise and other basic jazz skills before looking at the Jazz syllabus. Whilst at primary school, my trumpet lessons were provided by Lewisham Music Service but since starting Year 7, I’ve been taught by Bruce Nockles at Junior Trinity in London. The plan had been for me to take Grade 4 Jazz Trumpet in the autumn session but we missed the deadline so Bruce started preparing me for Grade 5. When practising, I tend to start with about ten minutes of technical warm-ups, lip slurs and semi-tone exercises. The next fifteen minutes is spent on learning scales and arpeggios, selected at random from a ‘lucky dip’. I then spend twenty minutes or so either working on sections of pieces that I find technically challenging or on developing improvisations. By March, I was ready for the exam but on the day, was surprised by how nervous I felt even though I was well prepared and had had a very positive experience with the Grade 3 Jazz exam 12 months before. I enjoyed performing the three pieces and was pleased with how my improvisations turned out – I genuinely improvise in the exams so never quite know what I’m going to come up with beyond a couple of ‘go to’ riffs. The examiner seemed happy with my performance as he awarded me 27 marks for each of them. I feel very fortunate to have been taught the trumpet by three teachers who have each pushed and challenged me to develop as a player. I’ve also benefitted from Lewisham Music Service’s ‘stage not age’ approach which meant that aged 8, Simon Suter moved me to have lessons with children much older than me, and at the Saturday Music Centre I was invited to join ensembles not usually open to my age group. My parents aren’t brass players but are very supportive of my trumpet playing. Among other thing, they help me with practice if I need it, find workshops and courses for me to take part in and encourage me to practise ... even on days when I’d rather not! My advice to beginner musicians includes:
- practise every day – even 5 to 10 minutes is better than nothing.
- join an ensemble as soon as you know a few notes.
- listen to different recordings of the pieces you are playing.
- take up opportunities to attend workshops/courses that will introduce you to different genres.