Anthony Prisk has been the 2nd trumpet in the Philadelphia Orchestra since 2013, after previously spending eleven seasons with the Houston Symphony. Tony is an Ultimate Brass and Yamaha artist, and kindly shares his thoughts with us here:
What first drew you to the trumpet in the early days?
I distinctly remember listening to my Dad’s Star Wars soundtrack over and over again. When I went to my elementary school’s band program I was drawn to the cornet and was successful at making a sound. Then as I went along, I really began to enjoy practicing and hearing improvement and performing for my friends and family. It was the ultimate trill to eventually work with and study with Maurice Murphy and John Williams. It came full circle for me!
Who or what were your early musical influences?
My biggest influence in the early days was my high school band directors, Ross Kellan, Greg Cunnigham and Steve Hoffman. Ross was such a positive and encouraging teacher, he instilled pride and artistry in everything we did. I went to the University of Illinois with the goal to follow in his footsteps and influence students in a positive and inspiring way. Eventually, Ray Sasaki took over with this great influence and encouraged me to pursue a life in musical performance and supported my goals and progress. To this day, he is still supportive and helpful in my development as a player and teacher.
Do you have any particular practice regimes? Does this change a lot depending on what repertoire you are covering in the orchestra?
I am an avid practicer. I have a daily fundamental routine including many concepts from the Sach Daily Fundamentals to Stamp, Schlossberg, Cichowicz, Plog, Vizzutti, Bai Lin, Zauder, Gekker, and more. I do try to stay in shape away from the orchestral repertoire playing etudes and solos from Bousquet, Arban, Concone, Snedecor, Brandt, Charlier, Bitsch, etc…to Bohme, Tomasi, Jolivet, Arutiuinian, etc…If we are playing big rep I will prepare for the week by blowing down Bordogni/Rochut, Brandt, or Smith Top Tones to get ready and then the week of, focus on fundamentals and lighter repertoire to balance my playing. When I am doing a lot of low playing in the orchestra I will turn to playing more piccolo at home and softer solo repertoire. I keep a daily practice log most weeks to keep track of my routines and progress. This also allows me to take notes on what is working and what isn’t. I bring this into my teaching to help students achieve their daily, weekly and life goals.
What do you think are the most important elements of music and trumpet playing that young players should focus on?
First of all, SOUND! Finding a Resonant, Brilliant, Rich, Warm, Complex, Flexible, Dominant, Sweet, Singing sound or tone that moves a listener is most important. Finding an efficient way to do this should be a daily goal. Then, for the music, it’s great TIME! Not just playing the correct rhythm but feeling the music and creating the style out of time feel and pulse. If you have these two things, the others will come. Everyone wants great range and speed and loudness but Sound and Time come first.
How have different teachers through your life shaped the way that you teach?
I have studied with more teachers I can count but every single lesson had something in it that was helpful. I can remember little tips from each lesson from Bud Herseth showing me how he practiced Arban’s and Bobby Shew showing me his wedge breath. There are endless amounts of tools to help students solve issues and achieve their goals. I try to get them to hear the issue, figure out what might be causing it and then create a routine or practice regiment that will nip it in the bud. I also encourage my students to work on their fundamentals to serve the music. For instance, if they are working on Mahler, then play your Concone with a Mahler like sound or work on the Gekker Articulation drills in the tempo and style of Ravel. This all comes from the many teachers that help me along the way. Thanks to Ray Sasaki, Dr. Mike Ewald, John Hagstrom, Paul Merkelo, Charlie Geyer and Barbara Butler, Mike Sachs, Ray Mase, Chris Gekker and so many more.
Can you talk a little about your Ultimate Brass mouthpieces, why you play them, and the process of selecting them?
Sun He and I worked on finding a replacement for my longtime Parke mouthpiece. The mouthpiece was wearing out and I always thought it was leaving something on the table for me and my playing. I needed a mouthpiece that was flexible in sound production in my role as second trumpet but also allowed me to step out of the ensemble and lead at times or play solos with brilliance. The mouthpiece line we came up with takes the mouthpieces I played and improved the playability and resonance by finding a better balance of throat and back bore along with adjusting dimensions of the mouthpiece. They are derived from Bach, Parke and Reeves elements but really are unique to Ultimate Brass. We spent a couple years of testing in the orchestra and sending videos back and forth to land on our final product. We are also continuing to develop better versions and more horn specific sizing.
Can you also tell me a little about your relationship with Yamaha?
Ever since Yamaha introduced the Gen 1 Chicago C trumpet I have been playing Yamaha trumpets. I actually had a Yamaha Piccolo way before but I really switched around 2005 or 2006 cold turkey to mostly Yamaha trumpets. Now I am a Yamaha Artist and I play exclusively Yamaha trumpets. The support you get from Bob Malone, Wayne Tanabe and all the folks at Yamaha are unmatched. They are in constant development of new instruments to serve the needs of their customers and artists. It’s a pleasure to work with and represent Yamaha. And the Ultimate Brass mouthpiece works very well with my Gen 3 instruments.
What are some career highlights to date?
Playing for John Williams was an absolute highlight. I had goose bumps when he walked out on stage the first time. But I really have to say, almost every concert I play with the Philadelphia Orchestra, something special and moving happens on stage. I am absolutely lucky to be playing with so many great and inspiring colleagues, highlights happen every week. I’m looking forward to making more career highlights as we start this new season!
I guess that there were some periods of long lay-off through the pandemic? Is working life starting to get back to normal now? Are there any lessons that you can take out these past 18 months?
The lessons I learned from the past 18 months are many. Mainly, to appreciate your friends and colleagues. Learn from everyone around you. Take the good and leave the bad. Positive influence and encouragement goes a long way to help others rather than negative talk and thoughts. I learned a lot about how to be a better colleague, teacher and friend. On the trumpet side of things, I experimented with different ways of playing, warming up, equipment, etc. It was time to reflect on weakness in my playing and coming up with new ways of tackling those issues. I also created lots of online content that you can see on my Facebook/Instagram and YouTube Channel. I actually didn’t take any time off the trumpet…I looked at the pandemic as an opportunity in the middle of my career to practice like I was in college again and try to develop better habits for second half of my career. It was a productive time for me that helped me to stay in a positive and productive mindset.
Any projects that you have coming up that you would like to talk about?
I continue to work on projects for social media and my YouTube tutorials. I am looking forward to a more regular performance schedule and teaching in person. I get so much energy from teaching, sharing my knowledge and inspiring younger students. My hope is to transition from performing to full time teaching in the next 10 years. So my goals currently are to get the most from my playing experiences and build a great trumpet studio at Peabody and Temple University.
Thank you for asking me to contribute. I enjoy sharing my experiences and stories with the music world. I want people to know I am accessible for questions on social media and look forward to hearing from everyone. Let me know what you think of the Ultimate Brass mouthpieces…I’d love the feedback.
SIGN UP HERE FOR NEW BLOG ARTICLES EMAILED DIRECT TO YOUR INBOX: