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Meet Marvin Stamm

By Published: March 25, 2005
Soloing with symphony orchestras

I have a library written for trumpet soloist, rhythm section and symphony orchestra, not big band and strings, but orchestra instrumentation. There are no saxophones—it's all woodwinds. The arrangements utilize a typical orchestral brass section—three trumpets, three trombones, and four horns. I enjoy playing with orchestras very much. When it comes to standing in the middle of a large group as this and hearing what a real orchestra sounds like, it's absolutely magnificent, particularly when the musicians are interested in what you do and want to be a part of it.

The music these orchestras are typically required to play when they're performing music other than classical music (I hate to say "pops concerts ) is usually junk. They hate it unless they are playing for someone like Maureen McGovern, who has really fine arrangements. My arrangements have been written for me by Jack Cortner, Bill Mays, Jerry Ascione, Jack Cooper, and several others, and they know how to write for the orchestra, keeping it all in perspective. They don't ask them to do things they are unable to do, like swing. They also know how to integrate the Jazz quartet into the orchestral setting. These orchestrations are excellent.

That being said, once in a while at the beginning of a rehearsal, the typical attitude toward a "pops concert carries over. I have had to stop an orchestra a couple of times and say to them, "I am as serious about my music as Yo-Yo Ma is about his music. The music you're playing is beautifully orchestrated, and if you just put yourself into it, you'll probably find that you enjoy it very much. That stops that attitude right there, appealing to the orchestra members' pride, and as they open up to the music, they warm to it and accept it. Then they start having fun! This is so nice to see!

Also, the guys who travel with me—Rufus, Ed, and Bill—are such open people and marvelous players that it doesn't take long for all of us to establish a rapport with the orchestra members. When Rufus Reid walks on stage and sets up with the quartet, all the other bass players know him because they're all members of the International Bass Society. Every summer they have their conferences, and all these players mix. On breaks, the orchestra bassists are all around Rufus. When Bill Mays sits down at the piano and starts to warm up, he plays Czerny, Hanon, and Chopin from memory. The violinists are looking at him like "Who the heck is this guy? When Ed plays, he doesn't try to overpower the orchestra, but rather helps them with time and feeling of each piece. They begin to hear how we integrate with them when we play together. The four of us show a lot of appreciation for what they do. The respect becomes mutual, and we build on that.

I've never walked away from a concert where the people in the orchestra didn't express how much they enjoyed having us with them—violinists, bassoonists, percussionists, whoever. We've also never played a concert where we didn't receive standing ovations at the end. If the people who program symphony concerts—executive directors and musical directors—would think more creatively about Jazz, more "outside of the box, trying to integrate programs like this into their "pops series instead of some of the junk they put out there, they might find their audiences would be building instead of diminishing. Too many of these people are still trying to carry on with programming the same way they were forty-five years ago, and you know what? It doesn't work any more. I go to symphony concerts. I'm sixty-five, and I'm among the youngest group of listeners. That's also many times true at Jazz concerts. A lot of criticism could be leveled at the venues in the Jazz area as well. If we want our music to survive, we had better start doing something to build our audiences.

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Trumpet designing

Over the years, I designed trumpets for three companies. There were a lot of innovative things going on at that time, and I enjoyed being a part of it. The company I've worked with longest is the French Besson Company owned by The Music Group. Ten years ago, I designed some trumpets for them, one of which remains their main B-Flat trumpet model. I'm no longer as involved as I was at that time, but it is nice to occasionally get e-mails from players who say, "I just bought one of the trumpets you designed, and I'm really enjoying playing it.

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My website grew out of the printed version of my newsletter, Cadenzas, which I did for about five years. I was encouraged to do this by a friend and neighbor, Bret Primack, who also happened to be a very busy Jazz writer. As it was becoming more expensive to do a printed version of the newsletter and Bret was into the Internet and designing web sites early on, he suggested his building a web site for me, encouraging me to get into this new area. Now—rather than a printed version of Cadenzas—a new issue appears quarterly on my web site. I just let my e-mail list know it has been posted, and they are able to access and read it at their convenience.

Bret also taught me how to edit the web site myself, and I continually update and edit it—adding things, deleting other things, and learning more about it all the time. Recently, for example, as a result of the release of our new CD—The Stamm/Soph Project Live at Birdland—I realized that people needed to be able to buy the CDs by credit card directly from the website. Some people no longer care to purchase anything by check or money order. I opened a Pay Pal account, and now anyone who wants to purchase a CD can do so directly from the web site with their credit card. I receive the order immediately, and the CD is usually in the mail to them by the next day.

Bret Primack is a very creative guy and is usually in the forefront of new developmental things with Jazz on the Internet. When he designed and built my website, one of the things he wanted to do was make sure it was easy to navigate. I believe he achieved his goal because, even though there is a lot of information on my site, many people remark about the ease of navigating it.

Since you (Craig Jolley—the interviewer) have been on the site, I've put the areas for my CDs, my Discography, the CD reviews, and my performance reviews all on separate pages with separate links to each. Once I did that, I had to edit every page because I wanted links from each page to every other page. That way, you can easily get from any page on the site to any other page. You remarked that you thought it was one of the best websites you'd been to. I think that is quite a high compliment. Other people tell me it's one of the easiest to navigate, also a high compliment.

As I said, I now have my online newsletter on the website. Rather than send people the newsletter (I have about 1,200 people on my e-mail list), I instead send them a notice that the new edition of the newsletter has been posted. I inform them of the featured articles, give them links, and hope they'll go there to read it. I write a lot of articles about Jazz and culture, about all areas of music and music education and what I see going on today pertaining to these things. I'm preparing to write the next one as we speak. One of the articles will be about the January tour I did with Bill Mays, the concerts we performed, some of the musicians we met, and so on. I'm also interested in having guest writers. For example, in this next issue, there is an article by Steve Budiansky, a writer of books dealing with national security, which was originally in the Washington Post. He played music as a kid, and now his children are in school. He wrote a most interesting article about what he observes going on in music education. This article evoked tremendous response from musicians, educators, and parents nationwide, and he has given me permission to reprint this article with a link to the follow-up article on his web site.

There is also an "In Response page where anyone who reads an article I've written is welcome to express their own thoughts and opinions—pro or con. If it's intelligently written, I will format it and post it on this page for my other readers to see. In every notice that the new issue of Cadenzas has been posted, I encourage people to respond to my articles. If people disagree with me, that is fine because the idea is not just to put my thoughts up there, but rather to create a dialog among people. I would like the site to be interactive with the people who visit the website. The funny thing is that you rarely know who or how many read something you write. The payoff is when you run into somebody in Oshkosh, Wisconsin or Ludlow, Missouri who says, "You know, so-and-so sent me the link to your newsletter, and I went to your website and read it. I really think you have something to say.

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