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Pro musicians know their way around the horn

Brass masters visit district schools to show students how trumpets, trombones and others work.

April 12, 2008|By Angela Hokanson

Tim Divers put his trumpet to his lips and blew. Nothing came out but a faint whistle of air.

Then he sputtered his lips, a technique that brass instrument players call “buzzing,” and played it again.

Clear, strong notes emerged.

“The magic happens when you put that little vibration into the trumpet,” he said.

Divers was at Mark Keppel Elementary School with three other professional musicians to play songs and explain how musical instruments work during the Women’s Committee of the Glendale Symphony Orchestra Assn.’s Ensembles in Schools program.

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The Women’s Committee has been sending musicians into Glendale Unified schools for more than 30 years, said Mary Rough, who leads the ensembles program for the committee.

“What we want to do is expose the children to music,” Rough said.

This year, musicians who play brass instruments will make 10 visits to eight Glendale schools. Each year, musicians make the rounds at schools.

Friday’s ensemble at Keppel featured musicians who played the French horn, the tuba and the trombone, as well as Divers and his trumpet.

Each musician explained how their instrument works, and then played a few snippets of solo music.

“Trombone a lot of times represents the evil character,” trombonist Amy Bowers said.

She proceeded to play a few lines of “The Imperial March” from “Star Wars,” a song played frequently in the movie when the villain, Darth Vader, appears.

Divers showed students how trumpet players can use mutes — plug-like devices that fit into the bell of the instrument — to alter the sound.

A mute made of aluminum makes the sound more metallic, Divers explained, and a mute made with a sink plunger is commonly used by jazz musicians, he said.

“This is my wife’s favorite. It’s called the practice mute,” Divers said, putting on an attachment that greatly reduced the volume of the instrument.

The quartet played a variety of pieces, from standard classical fare like “Ode to Joy,” to kid-friendly music from the “Harry Potter” movies. Students sang along to the final song, a shortened version of the theme song to the popular children’s television show, “SpongeBob Square Pants.”

Ten-year-old Madison Cassidy’s favorite song was “Linus and Lucy,” from the television show “Peanuts.”

“I like that song because I hear the trumpet the most, and I really like the trumpet,” she said.

Teacher Jon Bales commended the musicians on their entertaining and informative presentation.

“I cannot begin to tell you what kind of interest you have sparked with these kids,” he said.


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