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Interview with Dallas Brass Trumpeter Brian Neal
Brian NealLast evening I had the privilege of attending a concert by the Dallas Brass in Wausau, Wisconsin. The concert was entertaining, creative; and a wonderful example of how those with talent should use their platform to encourage other musicians, especially the youth.

As they performed their concert finale with about 80 of the local high school musicians, it brought back memories from my childhood when our high school band performed with great musicians like Doc Severenson and Clark Terry. I still remember like it was yesterday (I am now 50 years old) being able to sit in their clinics and shake their hands, and dream of the day I might be able to play my instrument like them. (I still wonder, at my age, if that will ever happen!)

After the concert I stood watching the members of the Dallas Brass as they encouraged the high school students, answered all their questions, shook their hands, and offered compliments on their performance. Needless to say, in this day when many musicians, especially lead trumpeters, have the reputation of being prima donnas, I was impressed to see the gracious behavior of these very accomplished musicians.

One in particular, was trumpeter, Brian Neal. His playing was flawless. His tone was warm and beautiful. I did not hear one cracked note the entire performance! He seemed to play with ease and with a sense of enjoyment. I had an opportunity to visit with Brian after the concert.

Following is a bio I borrowed from the Dallas Brass web site (www.dallasbrass.com):

Brian is a native of Miami, Florida. After earning music degrees from the Manhattan School of Music in New York and the University of Miami, Brian earned positions as principal trumpet of the Miami Symphony Orchestra and the Miami Bach Society Orchestra.

Mr. Neal has been a fellow recipient at Tanglewood music festival, Waterloo music festival and Norfolk Chamber music festival. Equally at home as a composer, Brian's compositions have been performed at both the Aspen and Waterloo Music Festivals. He has also received a commission to write music for the opening of the Bayfront Park outdoor amphitheater in downtown Miami, and for the opening of the Miami Symphony's tenth anniversary season.

Besides performing with the Dallas Brass Mr. Neal was seen most recently as soloist with the Florida Philharmonic, Miami Symphony, Ensemble Monterey, California Symphony, Palm Beach Symphonic Band, and the Miami Bach Society. Brian has performed professionally throughout much of the United States Mexico and Europe.

He resides in Miami with his wife, Karen, and their three children.


As a performer myself, (on a much lesser scale) I was curious to know how he keeps his chops in shape, especially while on extensive concert tours. He explained that he has a routine which consists of a combination of methods, Mouth piece buzzing, lip bending long tones and Clarke studies tongued and slurred. Brian said that one of the things that we lose when just playing gigs with little practice time is accuracy and good intonation. Practicing a maintenance routine everyday leads to better intonation and less cracked notes. I asked, “How important is warm up before a concert?” He said warm up before a concert is not as necessary as long as I have done my hour practice routine at some point during the day. We are playing so much on the road that that the embouchure is usually always ready to go.

Most impressive to me was Brian’s statement that he still considers himself a student. He is still learning and trying to find ways to improve in all aspects of his playing. He began to quote the advice from other trumpet masters and offered examples from different exercise books. James Thompson "Buzzing Book" and Jeremy Irons "lip drills" were a few that he mentioned.

A few years ago I attended a Doc Severenson (Tonight Show Band) concert. I tried to shake Doc’s hand as he and his entourage walked by. I couldn’t even get a hello. His relationship was strictly from the platform and his availability to the crowd afterwards was non existent (unless you paid a fee to go to a private reception). Things have changed since those days in high school. To give him the benefit of the doubt, there may have been reasons for the snub, but it still hurt. As a trumpeter that always looked up to the man and his talent, I left that evening feeling rejected, depressed and embarrassed for even attempting to meet him. After experiencing the Dallas Brass concert and visiting with Brian Neal, I was inspired to go home, get the horn out, and once again become a student of the craft that helps me to pay my bills. Thank you, Brian, for your words of encouragement and your impeccable performance! I look forward to our paths crossing again.

Submitted by Don Shire December 6, 2005

I would like to encourage our Raw Brass members to submit articles that will benefit and encourage the trumpet playing community. This website is dedicated to helping trumpeters at all levels improve in their trumpet education as well as their skill level. Your participation is welcomed.
 
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