Q&A

How do you pronounce your name?

It's pronounced VEE-veck puh-TELL.

 

Where are you from? 

I grew up in Porterville, CA, an ag town in the San Joaquin Valley. 

When did you start playing the trumpet? 

I started playing in fourth grade...around 1995.

Do you play any other instruments? 

I can play piano, drum set, guitar, euphonium, mellophone, trombone and French horn, but not to performance standard. I use them primarily as tools for composition. The computer is also a powerful musical instrument. I use it to sequence backgrounds for the trumpet.

How can I improve my sound? 

Play long tones with a tuner and aim for the resonant center of each note. Also listen carefully to master musicians who have good tones. This provides a sonic template to project from.

You use vibrato sometimes. How did you develop it? 

I'm not sure. It seemed like the natural thing to do and my jaws started moving to accommodate the impulse.

How can I improve my rhythm?

Play slowly with a metronome and focus on subdivision, swing and groove.

How can I learn to improvise?

Transcribe solos, play along with recordings, go to sessions and jam with musicians who are better than you.

How do you approach composition? Do you start with melody, harmony, rhythm or form?

It isn't a hard and fast rule but I typically start with a harmonic progression and come up with a melody later. Sometimes I get lucky and everything falls in place simultaneously. 

What brand trumpets/mouthpieces do you use?

Trumpet: Bach Stradivarius 72 with Parduba 7.5 mouthpiece.

Flugelhorn: Kanstul ZKT 1525 with Monette FLG 4S mouthpiece.

How can I improve my articulation?

Play through classical etudes and exercises with a metronome.

How can I improve my finger speed?

Many musicians swear by running through chords and scales, but I've found more luck learning melodic fragments in all twelve keys, slowly at first and progressively faster over a week or two. Do it with a metronome and a chromatic tuner.

Who is your favorite jazz trumpet player?

Freddie Hubbard was the best ever, IMO. As far as living players go, it's a toss up between Nicholas Payton, John Swana, Wynton Marsalis and Tom Harrell.

Why did you choose the trumpet?

I originally signed up for drums in elementary school but the band had already met its drummer quota, so my mom took me to the local music store and I chose the cheapest instrument: a student model Bach trumpet.

How can I improve my sight-reading skills?

Find and play through new music with a metronome and tuner as frequently as possible. Try sight-transposing music in different clefs and keys as well.

How can I improve my range?

Here is an exercise John Swana learned from Jon Faddis. Set your metronome at 60 bpm. At the softest dynamic you can manage, begin at middle C and ascend chromatically in quarter notes until you reach high C. Hold high C until you run out of air. Rest for four bars and repeat the exercise, but transpose it up a half step---start at middle C#, ascend chromatically in quarter notes, hold high C# as long as you can, then rest for four bars before repeating the sequence for D, then Eb, E, F and so forth. Continue upward until you encounter a note that you can't play. Give it three attempts and if it still doesn't come out, you can call it a day.

Do you listen to instruments aside from the trumpet?

Yes, of course. I don't listen to much trumpet tbh. It's usually saxophone, piano or guitar. They seem to have a lot more going on harmonically.

How can I strengthen my embouchure?

Try some combination of mouthpiece buzzing, lip flexibilities, long tones and articulation studies.

What is it like to be a professional jazz musician? 

I can't say. I haven't made a living as a musician. I funded my music career by working in unrelated industries including retail, sales, construction, hospitality, education and healthcare. In my view and that of many leading virtuosos, the term professional musician is an anachronism. There aren't enough resources to sustain gainful employment in music at this time, not to mention that the industry is controlled by a half dozen criminal interests. This shouldn't deter you, however. You can accomplish your musical goals without a single penny. All you need is intelligence, willpower, passion, courage, grit, resourcefulness, confidence and the capacity to sacrifice everything for the art.

You keep a low profile on social media compared to other musicians. Why?

I rarely if ever post on social media because I've been hacked and cybersmeared on many occasions in the past. I do not enjoy access to justice, equal protection, liberty or free speech, so a low profile is my best and only option to keep predators at bay. It's a matter of survival.

You stress the importance of daily practice, breathing and playing in tune. Are you referring to Eastern spirituality or religion? 

No, I've been a nonspiritual atheist for 20+ years save for two weeks in my early twenties. By practice, I mean honing your skills by playing your instrument every day. Breathing exercises are designed to maximize the inspiratory and expiratory capacity of the lung only, and playing in tune refers to producing sounds that are recognized as in tune by an electronic tuner. 

My son/daughter is a profoundly gifted musician and is considering conservatory training. Is this a wise decision?

An evil man would say, "Yeah, go for it. The world is your oyster, the sky is the limit," however I can't parrot these words in good faith, particularly in light of pervasive crime, collusion, corruption and abuse in the music industry. Crime is the primary currency---the very lifeblood, no less---of the music industry, including high art genres like jazz and classical, so investing in a conservatory education is like paying someone to rob you now so that you are prepared to be robbed by someone else later. Please don't do it, even if you are a musical genius, especially so. Your gifts will only widen the target on your back. You will be the ripest berry on the vine, and all of the beasts in the jungle will line up to consume you.