Monday, April 20, 2009

Happy Birthday, Charlie

Everyone deserves a mentor at some point in their life. With luck, it’s your father, and I was very lucky in my selection of both parents, either of whom is always ready to help out with the immediate problem, and to guide me in a direction to make similar situations less likely, or more easily handled, in the future.

I was doubly fortunate on the mentor front when Charlie Schlueter became my trumpet teacher at New England Conservatory. Yes, Charlie Schlueter made me a better trumpet player, and a much better musician. Not good enough to make a living at it, but he didn’t get a lot to work with. Turning me into an orchestral musician was like trying to make bricks without straw.

So what’s the big deal? You pay him to make you a professional trumpeter, and you don’t make it. Where’s the mentoring? Be not hasty, Grasshopper. The mentoring is in how he taught me to be a trumpet player. Understanding there’s more to playing trumpet than sitting behind the mouthpiece. Not just what to think, but a method for deciding what to think about, and how to approach it. Breaking a problem down to its component parts to separate out what’s relevant, what isn’t, and to prioritize the parts that need to be worked on. Giving yourself permission to fail, and how it’s not the same as permission to quit.

Not a day goes by I don’t do something I learned from Charlie Schlueter. Today is his seventieth birthday.

Happy birthday, Charlie, and many more.

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