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An Interview


Paul Baron

Who was your first influence in music/trumpet? 


My very first influence was my uncle. He played hobby trumpet. I never heard him play but he had a trumpet laying around that I just couldn't help trying one day. He claims my first note was a perfect middle C but I suspect that was probably just a perpetuated family myth. After that, my influences were Al Hirt (my parents took me to see him in 1969). We watched Lawrence Welk every Sunday so the guys on the show were also influential. Then when I started playing with a community band, since elementary bands didn't start until 5th grade and I was just six, so my influences were the kids who were all four years and older than me. I call it the apprenticeship program where I was holding onto their coattails trying for dear life to keep up. By 12 I'd been introduced to Maynard and Doc recordings and I was hooked. Just a little later I heard "Tutti's Trumpets" and was knocked out by all the players on the record but my hero, and still to this day a very influential player in my sound and style, was Conrad Gozzo. After that, there are so many players to mention that had an impact on me like, Clifford Brown, Maurice Andre, Herseth, Diz, Miles, Blue Mitchell, Lee Morgan.......

Where did you go to school? 


I went to school in Langley, Canada just outside of Vancouver. My first year of college was in Vancouver and then the next three years were at Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA where I live now. I graduated with a BA in Performance from WWU although, and this is a long story, I didn't know I'd graduated till 2015.

What was your first real gig? 


My first real gig I suppose, since I joined the union and everything, was at the age of fifteen for a Vancouver big band playing at a fully locked down mental institution. After that, I played with various groups, brass quartets and quintets for weddings and churches, clown bands for football games and parades, rock and R&B bands in night clubs when I was still just 17, and lots of big bands for many different events.

What are some notable highlights from your career? 


I was very fortunate to be in Vancouver when the music scene was very good. Some of my recording highlights were playing for Aerosmith albums and a ton of other recordings. I loved being in the studios and played many hundreds of jingles which were always highlights for me. A couple very memorable gigs come to mind. When I was sixteen I got a chance to play with Louie Belson on last trumpet and I was both terrified and thrilled. I think the most memorable gig was actually for Natalie Cole's show "Unforgettable" just after her album came out. We rehearsed the orchestra in Vancouver without her and without the tracks of her father. Since the album had just come out I hadn't heard anything of it and had no idea what was coming up in the concert. The next day we heard they had strapped a twelve foot Steinway underneath a helicopter to fly it dangling the whole way up to the TOP of Whistler Mountain for the concert. We drove to Whistler and took open chair lifts to the top where the concert was to take place. On the way, we saw black bears, a mountain lion, and various other critters. When we got to the top it was spectacular scenery. The stage had been built in tiers up against the mountain facing the ski hill where bales of hay were set out for the audience to sit on. The trumpets were in the back row as usual and the backdrop was a huge valley with glacier-capped peaks on the other side of the valley. I remember the first tune was "Unforgettable" with the tracks of her father mixed so incredibly well it seemed he was right there on stage. We were all so moved and I think that was the most surreal and beautiful musical experience I'd ever had.

What are you playing on? How did you make your equipment choices? 


I'm playing on all Pickett Brass Paul Baron signature mouthpieces. Peter Pickett does such amazing work. It all came about from a suggestion from Allen Vizzutti. We were playing a recording session and he was so happy with what Peter had made for him that he suggested I check it out. I told him I hadn't been happy with my mouthpieces for years but the sound was what I was after. He said I should see what Peter could do for me. So what I did was send him the rim that Jon Lewis had made for me when he was working for Marcinkiewicz. I loved the rim but the underpart was too much of a V-shape and it never really worked. I also sent the cup from the Reeves I'd been playing for about nine years. Peter came up with a prototype that was the perfect copy of each component. I played that for about a year until I was able to go see him in person at which time he made about five prototypes with increasingly larger backbores and throats which each mouthpiece. They were all great but the ones I was most happy with harkened back to a larger backbore like I'd played through most of my twenties and thirties. That's the one we call "Lead" and I use for almost everything. The "Studio" model only differs in that it's got a throat one size larger. It's amazing how that one drill size changed the sound. To me I immediately had the sound I grew up listening to from the studio days with Conrad Gozzo when things were not close mic'd but they were being recorded in a large sound stage. The mouthpiece feels like it could fill that space. All my horns, piccolo, Bb's, flugel are all Jupiter and I love them. Great sound, intonation, workmanship. They've got everything I need. 

How did you hear about The Silencer? How does it help you? 


A good friend introduced me to The Silencer and I have quite literally used it everyday since. I have always been conscious, and I guess sympathetic, to the other players who have to sit in front of trumpets. Consequently, I try to do my warming up early so my chops are in working order but I can also keep the peace with the other players. With The Silencer, I can play the entire range of the horn comfortably and without much restriction, to feel confident that when the downbeat is given, I'm ready to go. I also use it practicing and it's quiet enough in hotel rooms that I don't feel like I have to hold back on my blow. I can play like I normally would with open horn and not bother anyone. 

What projects are you involved with now? Anything we should keep an eye out for? 


I am very excited to have my first book coming out with Bugles Media called, "Trumpet Voluntarily - A Holistic Guide To Maximizing Practice Through Efficiency". Wayne Bergeron wrote the forward so I'm even more thrilled. 

It seems like I'm lucky to have pretty steady show work going so coming up I have "Man Of La Mancha" at The 5th Avenue Theater and "Singin' In The Rain" both for a month each in Seattle. After that, I'll be touring with "Kinky Boots". 

Another avenue I've been getting much more involved with again is doing clinics and teaching private lessons so look for my schedule to book a private lesson or clinic. I've discovered that I really missed teaching. All through my late teens and into my thirties I taught a lot privately. Then touring got in the way of maintaining a steady teaching studio so I had to give it up. Now with the internet, I'm enjoying teaching Skype and Facetime lessons. 

Another thing I've got on the go is a Masters in Performance degree from the University Of Memphis. What's exciting to me is that this program is using me as the guinea pig to design the program for busy professionals wanting to use their experiences to share and teach at the college and university level, but haven't got the degree. Along with my performance work will be writing papers about what works or doesn't to design a degree that fits into a professional players career schedule and goals.

One piece of advice to someone who wants to be a professional musician? 


Here are two bits of advice. Something I believe very strongly in, and something I always talk about in lessons and clinics, is the need to be a "Chameleon", musically speaking. What I mean by that is immersing oneself so fully into all styles of music so that we are stylistically comfortable with everything we might encounter. I also believe we can take the lessons learned from one style and bring that experience to everything we play. Respect the music and the players around you. Aside from all the obvious things we need as musicians, technique, sound, etc... Another thing often overlooked but I think that is essential to be a successful working musician, is the ability to get along with other people. I'm not only referring to the ability to get along personally but also musically speaking. This means being respectful of the music and other musicians, listening and blending with everyone, and the openness to play in whatever style is put in front of you and the desire to play it as best as possible. That also means taking verbal and musical direction from the music director as well as section leaders. This second point is one often underestimated in schools and colleges but in the real world of a working musician, this is something that is really noticed and appreciated by peers, musicians, and music directors. This is something that can really make or break a career and something that if it's really understood and applied, can help make a very long and enjoyable career. 

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