I took up trombone in 2009, at the Duxford Saturday Workshop, and was learning it for two years. Then, after one-year break, I enrolled to the Fuerteventura School of Music (Escuela Insular de Música). You see, I never went to “proper” music school, so I thought it could be fun to try it at last — some forty years after my first attempt. Back then, the teacher who conducted an interview concluded that I was tone deaf and should not waste my time learning music. Now I know the old hag was wrong, but maybe that was a blessing in a very good disguise. And so, for the last nine months, every Monday I was travelling to Puerto del Rosario with my Steinbach.
Imprinting or not, I think that the Duxford system is superior to what they practice here — and, by extension, to the formal music education in general, be it in Spain or former Soviet Union. (I know! I hate generalising like that. Still.) There, after learning just a few notes I was able to play a simple melody. Every lesson, we were adding a new note and using it in a new song. It felt very organic.
Here, the method is like this: first you have to learn the five harmonics in the first position. You play some exercises with these five notes only. Then you learn how to play the five harmonics in the second position. You play some exercises with those five notes. Then you play some exercises that contain the notes from the first and the second positions. Then, guess what, you learn how to play the five harmonics in the third position. You play some exercises with those five notes. Then you play some exercises involving the notes from the first and the second, the first and the third, and the second and the third positions. Then you play some exercises utilising the notes from all three positions. I am not joking. After that, you proceed to the fourth position. And so on. It was incredibly boring for me, so I can imagine how boring this method must be for children.
By the end of my first year in Duxford, I was able to play, however badly, the Colonel Bogey March, making use of all seven positions. Here, I was not supposed to move beyond the fifth position.
So what. It was not that I forgot everything learned in England. Here I was able to concentrate on technique, playing some useful, if boring, exercises. My teacher (who, by the way, also teaches trumpet, flugelhorn and French horn) told me that I should work on my picado (staccato). The key, in his view, was to play each note as if pronouncing the syllable “tu”. He said that I tend to play everything ligado (legato), which sounded to him like “da-da-da” rather than “tu-tu-tu”. Are you still with me?
A few months ago, my teacher suggested that next year I join a brass ensemble he is leading. Until the last moment, I did not have a heart to tell him that there won’t be next year as I don’t stay on Fuerteventura. But this Monday, when he gave me my final paper (papeleta de evaluación final), I had to.
“Bueno”, he said, “¡mucha suerte! ¡No dejes trombón!”