I spent a wonderful final year at the Royal College of Music studying trumpet with Stanley Woods. Stan was Co-Principal Trumpet with the London Philharmonic Orchestra at this time. Although he had previously been a principal trumpet he had a reputation as the best second trumpet in the business. He could turn his hand to anything. During lessons Stan could just walk over to the grand piano, in the Ernest Hall room, and accompany the trumpet part to Gershwin’s ‘American In Paris’ or Bartok’s ‘Concerto For Orchestra’ from memory. A brilliant player, former cornet champion, and composer. Stan seemed to find music so easy.
He also had a morbid hatred of trumpet books, too. His thinking was that a good trumpeter should be foremost a top musician. A trumpet player should be able to play his own exercises ‘by ear’ and not play out of loads of tutor books. It has taken me a long time to realise that he was correct. I spent years buying and spending many hours playing this method or that. What a waste of time and money! I now realise that after getting the lips going I need to get to playing music as soon as possible. Stan was a keen advocate of mouthpiece practice and admitted that he felt he had to disguise his mouthpiece playing at the traffic lights as he drove to work!
Anyway, I had one of those rare days when nothing I did on the trumpet seemed to work. Stan said, “… I can see there’s no point in continuing with this concerto just now Brendan. Have a go at this study I thought of.” It certainly worked! Try this exercise of Stan’s for size and see how the results grab you…
If you find the range a little daunting, then don’t go as high. Be sensible!
Stanley Woods played for everyone. He had been the second trumpet for Elgar Howarth, David Mason, John Wilbraham and Lawrie Evans, amongst many others. His playing can be appreciated on a Mahler 5, conducted by Klaus Tennstedt, where Lawrie Evans went off sick at the last minute, or the LPO’s account of Lieutenant Kije, where Stan is the featured cornet soloist.
Stan is 81 years old this year, just a few years younger than Doc Severinsen. Stan played on the album Doc recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra. Alan Vizzuti was there too, because Doc was playing a concerto by him, I think. Apparently, Doc Severinsen kept playing all day long, even when the breaks were called. Maurice Murphy went over to him and requested that he stopped practicing as everyone would expect the LSO trumpeters to behave similarly!