Interview with Mr Rodney Mack

RodneyMackA graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, Rodney Mack has worked under the guidance of world renowned conductors such as Leonard Bernstein, Michael Tilson Thomas, Gerard Schwarz, James DePreist, John Williams, Jesus Lopez- Cobos and Christopher Hogwood. He was awarded a fellowship at the Tanglewood Music Center where he was invited to return for a second summer during which he was awarded the Seiji Ozawa Award for outstanding musicianship.

Mr. Mack was born in New Orleans, Louisiana where he began his musical studies at the age of six. When he was eleven years of age, he began taking classical trumpet lessons with his cousin, Wynton Marsalis. Referred to as a “trumpet prodigy” Rodney Mack’s solo debut was at the age of fifteen with the New Orleans Symphony. After having won various solo competitions, he received national attention at the age of nineteen performing as soloist with the Boston Pops Orchestra. He has also performed as soloist with the San Diego Symphony, the Tenerife Symphony, the Orquestra Sinfonica de Barcelona i Nacional de Catalunya, The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia and many orchestras throughout the United States and Europe.

In the course of his more than twenty years as an orchestral musician, Mr. Mack was the winner of several national and international competitions for titled orchestral chairs including positions with The New Orleans Symphony, The Colorado Symphony Orchestra, The San Diego Symphony Orchestra, The Orquestra Sinfonica de Tenerife, The Barcelona Symphony, and The Richmond Symphony. After completing a one year trial period he was awarded the Principal Trumpet position with the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia. During his tenure as Principal Trumpet with the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra Mr. Mack was appointed head of the trumpet department at the Escuela Superior de Musica de Catalunya (ESMUC) Spain’s leading music conservatory. He has recently been invited to give master-classes at the Julliard School, The North Carolina School for the Arts, the National Trumpet Competition and the International Trumpet Guild Conference. He has also been invited to teach at the Eastern Music Festival and the Interlochen Music Academy.

Rodney can be heard as Soloist and Principal Trumpet on more than thirty different recordings with labels such as Decca, Naxos, Koch International Classics, and Albany Records. His year is split between his duties as Principal Trumpet with Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia and various master classes and solo engagements in the United States and abroad including touring with the Rodney Mack Philadelphia Big Brass.

1. Hi Rodney and thanks for talking to us today. First question:What was your approach to music practice as a student?
As a student I had a basic routine that was given to me by my teacher. This routine covered all aspects of playing. Once I became an older student I realized how important it was to cover every basic aspect of trumpet playing every day.

2. How has your approach to practice changed over the years and how do you find the time to fit it around your schedule?
Over the years I have become much more efficient with my practice because I often do not have enough time in the day to practice as much as I did during my student days. I write my practice times into my schedule book each day. I also write down exactly what I will be covering for each session. I tend to do a total of at least four to five hours each day. I achieve this by waking up very early in the morning…usually around 5:30AM.

3. Describe your typical practice session/routine?
I have a pre practice routine that involves warming up my body with exercise like yoga. I then do breathing exercises and mouthpiece buzzing with a tuner or piano. Then I do my regular routine. I focus on keeping the sound soft and controlled for most of my warm up session. I tend to practice in forty five minute intervals and I constantly rest as much as I play. A few times a month I take a day off to allow my chops to recover.

4. What is the best advice regarding practice that you received and who was it from?
The best advice that I received about practice came from my cousin Wynton Marsalis. When I was a kid he noticed that I was getting a bit too contented with my progress and he let me know that if I wanted to make any further progress I would have to humbly admit to myself that I had a long way to go and begin practicing my butt off!

5. What advice would you give to a budding musician regarding the type of practice they do?
Young musicians need to get used to using a metronome and tuner when they practice to develop their sense of time and intonation. Also they should listen to great music performed by their favorite musicians. Lastly, they should simply observe the beauty all around them in the world and let that inspire them to play their hearts out.

6. If you had to pick a top practice tip what would it be and why?
My top practice tip is to be organized about one’s practice. Set small achievable goals for each session and get them done by slowly working on difficult passages.

7. Last but not least, do you have any final bits of advice to offer about Music Practice?
Be like a scientist when you practice. Do not judge yourself while you are practicing, simply set goals and observe how your practice is going as if you were an impartial scientist doing an experiment. Also, have fun while you are practicing and performing and never lose track of that original excitement that inspired you to be a musician in the first place!

Thank you very much Mr. Rodney Mack.

Leave a Reply