FONT Music Interviews Raymond Mase


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?

I began trumpet at an early age, as my father was an amateur trumpeter and got me started. I never played any other instruments until college when I became interested in historical performance and learned cornetto and natural trumpet. 

Were there recordings in the beginning and even years into learning the instrument that drew you into the trumpet’s sound and possibilities?

My first sampling of trumpet recordings were of my father’s favorite players–Louis Armstrong, Harry James, and Rafael Mendez. That list grew pretty early on to include Doc Severinsen, Al Hirt, Maynard Ferguson, and Maurice Andre. By high school the list was even longer and more diverse. 

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?

I don’t believe the trumpet is the hardest instrument to play. But we are faced with some different challenges than other instruments. For one, playing the trumpet makes a lot of demands on us physically, so we have to be intelligent about how we practice and perform. Trumpeters also face the challenge that we are always heard even in tutti passages, so even small flaws in our performance can be noticeable to the audience. 

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?

I’d have to say Armando Ghitalla, my teacher at New England Conservatory, was a really important mentor to me. Also, as a young player coming to New York back in 1973, I learned a great deal from trumpeter colleagues Allan Dean, Lou Ranger, and Jim Stubbs.

Who are some of the most inspiring trumpet players or composers you’ve come across lately?

Wish I could say that I’m out and around checking out new things all the time, but that’s not really the case with the schedule I maintain. But the most recent ABQ recording—Chesapeake of David Sampson—is some really remarkable brass chamber music. I’ve had the pleasure to perform Sampson’s music for nearly 35 years and have the utmost respect and admiration for his work. I encourage people to get a listen.