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There is one defining moment that stands out in my memory as the time I not only decided that I would be a trumpet player, but that I would set the goal of some day playing lead chair in the Maynard Ferguson Band. It was the first time I saw Maynard perform. He was on the Mike Douglas Show, the band playing “Birdland” and “Maria,” with Jerry Lewis and the Boss playing the blues together. I was so excited I could not contain myself!

I had always been aware of the studio bands on television and in the movies and watched shows just for the music — especially the trumpet. I fell in love with that sound! I recorded the “Theme to Masterpiece Theatre” and transcribed it in the seventh grade, the same year that I started playing the trumpet.

I had to fight long and hard to get that trumpet. In the first place, my Dad was totally opposed; he said, “You're not going to be a bum musician!” He had the full support of my Uncle Jim who was of the opinion that it would be a waste of time and money; I would just lose interest, as his Son had done.

So, I started taking every job that I could find to make enough money to buy my dream instrument. It took some time, but finally my Dad saw how much I was willing to go through and he relented and bought me my first trumpet — a Bundy II.

Around this time I was also working on becoming an Eagle Scout. As soon as I achieved that goal, I left the Scouts to concentrate on my trumpet playing. I participated in all the musical activities in junior high and high school as well as playing at St. Mary’s Cathedral where my Grandmother, Mary Hession, was organist and my Dad, relatives and friends were all in the Choir. Since I was performing in church during this period, my main trumpet influence was Maurice Andre. I developed my chops by trying to imitate the piccolo trumpet on my B-flat trumpet.

In the summer before my senior year of high school, I suffered a collapsed lung. The bad news was that I was off the horn for two months and had to start all over again; the good news was that I had two months to listen to Maynard’s recordings which not only gave me the inspiration to keep on with the trumpet, but also gave me insight into some of his techniques. When I got my chops back, I was able to play Maynard’s opening cadenza on Gospel John — which I then performed with my high school jazz band.

This same cadenza won me a three~year (1987~1989) summer job at Cedar Point Amusement Park my freshman year at Ball State University. The next two summers I played at the Walt Disney World Theme Park Resort, followed by the All~American College Marching Band in 1990 and the All~American College Show Band in 1991. I also got to play with many great jazz artists in the Jazz Ensemble at Ball State — great training for the real world of a sideman.

I then worked on a cruise ship for four and one~half months before getting the third trumpet gig with Lionel Hampton’s Band. Tony Barrero, Hampton’s lead trumpet player at the time, taught me the lead book — which I played on the very next tour — and on and off for the next four years.

After my first tour with Lionel Hampton, I got a full music scholarship to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, which I attended for about four years. After working in Vegas for a while, I got the lead trumpet gig with The Glenn Miller Orchestra. I was referred by Stan Mark and Tom Porrello.

Two and one~half years with the Miller band, then I headed back to the cruise ships, helping take out the VOYAGER OF THE SEAS, the world’s largest cruise ship, for the Millennium.

Stan Mark and Walter White, two great trumpet players who played with the Boss, gave me a referral. I was called for the third time to join Maynard’s band and this time it worked out. So, after all these years, I have come full circle, realizing my dream of playing with Maynard Ferguson, the man whose music started me on this voyage in the first place. I am loving every minute of it!
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