Jason Lewis has been Associate Principal Trumpet with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra since 2019, having previously been principal Trumpet with Scottish Opera. I am grateful for his time to speak to us here, about all things ‘trumpet’ including his new Adams A2 that he has been playing:
What first drew you to the trumpet?
My first memory of trumpet playing was at my primary school in Aberystwyth (Wales), I must have been about eight years old and I listened to the school band one lunch time and that was me hooked. I think I went home asking for trumpet lessons and that’s how it all started…..
Can you talk a little about your early influences and inspirations?
My memory isn’t the best… but I certainly remember my first trumpet teacher very well, Mr Alan Philips who was the local peripatetic brass teacher. He was a fabulous teacher and a great inspiration to so many brass players from that part of Wales. At the age of about fourteen I also started having lessons in South Wales with Philippe Schartz who is the Principal Trumpet at the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Philippe was also a great influence on me, and I remember that after lessons I would immediately want to go and practise… My greatest takeaway from lessons with Philippe was to always listen. I must have listened to the old Chicago recording of the Mahler symphonies with Solti many many times over.
What styles and genres of music were you into as a child?
As a child I listened to so many different genres of music. I’m sure I went through a phase of most genres, from Jazz, Soul, RnB, HipHop to Classical, but I must admit trumpet playing was at the forefront of it all, mostly Maurice Andre, Wynton Marsalis and Reinhold Friedrich.
And now? Who are your biggest influences?
Now, I still listen to a lot of classical music, Mahler, Strauss and Bruckner. I was lucky enough to do a fair amount of opera work between freelancing and I held the Principal Trumpet seat with Scottish Opera for a while – I really love listening to opera, I think it’s fantastic music and I have many great memories. My favourite would have to be Ariadne Auf Naxos.
When did you realise that you wanted to play the trumpet for a career?
To be honest, I have always loved playing the trumpet and from a young age I loved practising too, and so I guess I always worked hard at it, although I don’t think it ever felt like work…and it still doesn’t! It wasn’t actually until I started my undergraduate course at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff that I really focused on orchestral playing and working on auditions. I was lucky to continue studying with Philippe Schartz at the RWCMD so this was straight into hard work as we had already developed a good teacher/student relationship. I started to get some freelance work with the local orchestras in Cardiff (BBC NOW and Welsh National Opera) and this is when I realised maybe making a living from playing the trumpet might actually be possible….
Do you have set, regular practice routines that work for you? Do these play a big part when you are teaching too?
I really like having a set routine and I always have. The exercises change every few weeks as I like to try and keep it fresh, but the outline of the routine stays the same. I basically do some sound work to start with, anything from Chicovitz, Stamp or Claude Rippas (these are just long notes to concentrate on my sound), I then do some lip flexibility, this can be Bai Lin, Charles Colin or Arban. Following that I’ll do some tonguing exercises from the Arban, Clarke or any study from Brant etc.. I think it’s important for me to touch on everything a little each day. I know so many amazing trumpet players who don’t have a routine at all and I admire this, but that doesn’t work for me personally. I find my routine rather therapeutic in a strange way. I always advise students to have some sort of routine to cover all these fundamentals of brass playing daily.
What advice can you offer to aspiring young players, just hopefully starting out on a professional career?
I know its a difficult time at the moment with such little work about for musicians but I’m hopeful that things will get better soon, so my advice is to not lose hope and to continue to work hard, use the time you’ve got now to get the practice done and get to know the orchestral rep you’ll be needing for auditions. Apply for every opportunity that presents itself, every little bit of orchestral playing is experience in your bank and that all becomes very useful when you start freelancing or trialing in different places. If you’re playing a excerpt in a audition that you’ve already played in its entirety somewhere, for me the excerpt makes much more sense and becomes less stressful to play.
Can you talk a little about the your relationship with Adams and Fultone Brass, and the process of selecting your horn?
Neil Fulton has been absolutely great, I used the time last summer to ask Neil to send up a few Adams Bb trumpets as I had some time to really decide what I wanted…. Obviously I was awkward and wanted something in between what Neil had sent up, but Adams where straight on it and offered to make a trumpet for me. So I’m lucky enough to be playing on a Adams A2 0.50, with a Silver plated body and a raw brass bell. I love it!!I have been in touch with Neil about a C trumpet and am looking forward to trying one out in the coming months….
How has the COVID lockdown affected you and your work? Have there been any positives that you can take at all from this?
As for everybody in the world it’s been a strange, strange year. Unfortunately the orchestra wasn’t able to do any concerts from the end of March last year until September, but luckily for me the RSNO have a media team for recording concerts and so once restrictions were lifted we were able to put a season of online concerts together, going out each Friday evening. This new recording/filming schedule consisted of about half of the workload we are use to, as we normally do a couple of concerts each week across Scotland. I’m very exited to get back to a full schedule as soon as it is safe to do so. Throughout lockdown I’ve used the time to concentrate on my personal practice, I’ve done some form of fitness each day and tried to get out on my motorcycle as much as I am allowed to. I’m sure everyone feels the same but some days feel better than others, but I’m trying to keep positive for better days ahead.
What are your plans and ambitions for the future?
Plans for the future… I’d like to continue to try and improve my trumpet playing, I think thats always going to be on my list, as is working on being a better orchestral musician. As far as hobbies, I’d like to tour as much of Europe and the UK on my motorcycle. I’ve just applied to become a volunteer biker with Scotservs which is a transport charity for the NHS, so I’m hoping to use some of my days off to help transport essential equipment/blood for the NHS whilst getting to ride my bike.
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