February 16, 2004

The Louis Armstrong Jazz Award

Back when I was in high school, the band director had some plaques in his office. One was the Louis Armstrong Jazz Award plaque which showed a dark bronze something - not sure what you call it - a likeness maybe? It was of his head and shoulders, and it had been hanging in the office for quite some time. Evidently, several years before I arrived at the school, the award ceased to be awarded (for lack of a better term). No jazz band - no need for a jazz award.

Louis' likeness on the plaque was a bit loose, too. So, as my own personal amusement, every time I would go in that office and be left to my own devices for a few moments, I'd turn him upside down. He was easy enough to right again, so no harm done. And it was kind of a dead plaque.

But, right before my senior year, my band director retired. That brought in a new band director, one with an affinity for jazz. And, seeing as I was primarily a trumpet player, I signed up. I was okay - just okay. My range on trumpet's not really suited for jazz. But I'll spoil it for you - I got the Louis Armstrong Jazz Award for 1989 - 1990. No, really, I did. Here's how.

We did this rendition of When I Fall In Love - you probably know it as a song from the Sleepless in Seattle soundtrack. It had a flute solo in it, and, well, that was my secondary instrument, the one I actually played when I entered high school (but that's another long story that someday maybe I'll tell). So, sure, I'll play your flute solo, band director...and play trumpet on the rest of the songs.

If you're muscially inclined in the woodwind/brass arena, you'll know this is more difficult than it originally sounds, difficult to make both instruments (especially flute after playing trumpet) sound as they should. The embouchure (or mouth formation) for the two instruments is quite different - so much so that when I played piccolo for the high school's production of The Wiz the year before, I gave my trumpet up for a week before the performances. It was probably that act (the flute/trumpet switch for the solo) and the difficulty thereof that landed me the award.

Now someday I have to go back to see if my name's engraved. And the direction ole Louis faces, of course.



Posted by hln at February 16, 2004 11:56 PM | Anecdote | TrackBack

Yes, it will still be there, engraved. Years later it will still be there, and the students turning the plaque upside down won't remember who you are. Ouch.

Huzzah for SMSU - I worked in Branson for about 5 years. I miss Hartman and Hamm - good guys.

Posted by: Rich at February 18, 2004 10:18 AM

It was probably that act (the flute/trumpet switch for the solo) and the difficulty thereof that landed me the award.

So you won this award because you have nimble lips, am I correct?

Posted by: Victor at February 18, 2004 12:57 PM

Oh, Rich, I have a very, very, very funny Hartman story for you...


Posted by: hln at February 18, 2004 02:50 PM