Modern Etudes for Solo Trumpet - Cameron Pearce

Ara Music Arts tutor Cameron Pearce talks to us about his recently completed project ‘Modern Etudes for Solo Trumpet’.

What is an etude?

1. a piece of music for the practice of a point of technique.

2. a composition built on a technical motive but played for its artistic value.

Merriam-Webster

Encyclopedia Britannica

Idea

My aim was to compose a collection of solo etudes carefully crafted for jazz trumpet. These etudes would be published as a brass text. The text would come with recordings of each etude and it was my hope going into this that I could secure some “big names” in the jazz trumpet world  to get involved in this  project and record these etudes for me.

The plan was to compose etudes that were completely practical throughout for the jazz trumpeter. These new compositions would not only be technically demanding but importantly, the etudes were to be based on and inspired from jazz harmony. This was the key point of difference between my project and the many classically influenced etude books currently available and I felt that if everything came together there could be significant interest in the outcome of this project.

Writing stage

I composed the etudes off and on over a period of about six months. I found this to be a really enjoyable process which involved plenty of analysis of existing solo etudes which were predominantly classical but I was also able to look at what was already on offer for jazz musicians under the banner of “jazz etudes”. These nearly always ended up being written out improvised solo lines which could be played along to a backing track. These are a great resource but quite different to the type of pieces that I intended to create and it was encouraging to see that my compositions, once completed would be relatively unique to the jazz trumpet community.

Big names

While I was still in the middle of writing the etudes, I began contacting potential trumpeters to see if they might be interested in recording an etude or two for me. In a couple of cases the musicians were in the  “friend of a friend” category but essentially I was contacting them out of the blue and so I went into this stage with not overly high expecations but at the same time I figured I had nothing to lose.

As it turns out the response was very positive and I soon ended up with a stellar lineup of with internationally renowned, New York based, jazz trumpeters who were keen to be involved including Dave Douglas, Ingrid Jensen, Scott Wendholt, Terell Stafford and Nick Marchione.

The Bunker Studio – NYC

Once the etudes were completed and the performers confirmed, I flew to New York to record performances of the etudes at The Bunker Studio in Brooklyn.

This was an amazing studio to record in and is co-owned by New Zealander Aaron Nevezie who I played with in the New Zealand Youth Jazz Orchestra back in 1997 – sometimes it really is a small world.

That recording session was something I’ll never forget. I did my best to “play it cool” as one trumpet hero after another walked in the door to play my original compositions. It was all a bit surreal.

With the recordings all completed I returned to Christchurch where I tidied up the tracks before sending them off for mastering with Dave Cooper.

At this time I also put the finishing touches to the scores for each etude and sent them off to Michael Story who did a fantastic job designing the book.

Sher music 

With the design work complete and the audio tracks edited, mixed and mastered, all that remained was to contact potential publishing companies to see there was any interest in publishing my work.

As with the trumpeters who had come on board, I decided that I had nothing to lose and that I should aim as high as possible in regards to the quality and reputation of the publishers.

The name right at the top of my list was Sher Music Co.

Sher Music are one of the top (if not the top) publishers in the world of jazz and latin publications. Many, many key resources used at Ara Music Arts and in countless music schools worldwide come from Sher Music including the Real Book Series, the bestselling ‘The Jazz Theory Book’ by Mark Levine, ‘The Jazz Piano Book’ by Mark Levine and ‘The Jazz Musician’s Guide to Creative Practicing’ by David Berkman to name just a few.

Within a couple of hours of emailing Sher Music, I received a reply from Chuck Sher expressing interest in my book. He was going to send it around to a few people to get their opinion on it and then he’d get back to me. Chuck emailed a few days later to say that the response had been very positive and that he’d like to publish the book. I was pretty rapt.

The book ‘Modern Etudes for Solo Trumpet’ is due to be released in October, 2016. You can keep an eye you for it at www.shermusic.com

I would like to thank all of those at Ara whose support made this project possible, in particular those at the Ara Research office.

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