FONT Interviews Jonathan Saraga

_DSF3097 copy

How did you become a trumpet player? Did you play other instruments before the trumpet? If so, did those instruments inform how you played trumpet? Or did your view of how music is played change once becoming a trumpeter?

The trumpet was the first instrument I actually practiced. My mother had a piano in the house, and she played it for fun, as did my two older brothers, who didn’t live with me, but who would be over often enough, at least until I was about 10 or 11. I would say, this had no influence on my conception of music or trumpet playing though. Around that time, I was assigned trumpet in my middle school band class, I did not choose the trumpet. It turned out that I was able to produce a good tone and sound on the instrument, and was section leader for all three years. My parents decided I should stick with it, and after a much needed embouchure change early on in high school, I began to like playing more and more, second only to video games.

Were there recordings in the beginning and even years into learning the instrument that drew you into the trumpet’s sound and possibilities?I hadn’t really understood why I was playing the trumpet until sophomore year of college when my mother picked up a free copy of Clifford Brown with Strings from some store, I can’t remember the name, but they were just giving copies of this record out for free.. She hadn’t heard of Brownie, but she saw that he was a trumpet player, so she brought it home. As soon as his sound came through the speakers of the boombox at home, I felt that I had been hypnotized. I couldn’t believe that the trumpet could sound that way; it was angelic, deep, and passionate. I can still remember how it felt to hear his sound for the first time. I knew then that I wanted to be able to sound that way, like Clifford, and that was how my journey into jazz, and music that wasn’t high-school-band-material came about.People often talk about how the trumpet is the hardest instrument to play. Do you feel this is true? What doesn’t the general public understand about playing the trumpet that you wish people would realize?

The trumpet is a paradox within itself because there really are so many variables that factor into how someone will sound on it. Mouthpiece, air, the instrument, posture, facial features, jaw and tooth alignment, mental and spiritual states, and the list goes on. The instrument is hard to master, but what instrument isn’t. The trumpet is definitely not one that you can just pick up and sound like a master on. It takes consistent, diligent, focused practice, and sacrifice to play the trumpet at a high level; and again any musical instrument has the capacity to be played at an infinitely high level. There is no limit to how good one can get at anything in life. I don’t wish that the public would realize any of this though. That is not necessary. All I want from them is the same thing I want from myself: to be present and to listen.

If you had to identify with one or two gurus, trumpeters or otherwise, who had the greatest impact on your musical journey to date, whom would they be?

It’s hard to just thank one person, because there are hundreds of people, both living and not living, that have made an important impact on me, and each one as important as the last. So, I will go with “otherwise” and say that the consciousness that has brought all of those people into my life, that I have learned from and been touched by, is a great and powerful force that I depend on for my abilities as a trumpet player and musician, and for my time on this earth. I thank this force for directing me towards the musicians and teachers of many kinds that I have learned from. I am thankful to have the opportunity to repay them by offering people the best version of myself I can embody, and playing music from that place within me.

Who is your favorite trumpeter today (as in today, the day you are writing this email) and what recorded song available to the public best exemplifies why this trumpeter is so badass?

There are so many incredible trumpet players out there today. I am going to go with Wynton Marsalis Live at the House of Tribes. Just put on any song from that record. His playing on that record, and truthfully all times that I have heard and seen him play, is just at such a high level, and his intention that is behind what he is playing is so real and truthful, and coming from this very deep-rooted place. It’s hard to think of a present day trumpeter that touches me as deeply as de does.