Trumpet Lesson at the Metropolitan Opera, pt. 2

29

March
2011

Mel Broiles, former principal trumpet of the Metropolitan Opera orchestra. (photo: International Trumpet Guild)

[Read part one here.]

I walked from the hotel all the way to the Met on the day of my lesson and looked for the musicians’ entrance.

Once there, the receptionist called Mel, who came to get me.

The walk from the reception area to Mel’s studio was uneventful until we arrived at a space unlike I’d ever had a lesson in. In fact , it was no studio at all but a landing deep in a stairwell at the back of the Met. There he had a desk and some other furniture (mostly sparse).

If I tried to find it today, it wouldn’t be possible—that place is nothing less than a labyrinth. (I might as well have been blindfolded at the reception desk.)

I’m not sure what I played during the lesson, but I can recall one exchange.

At one point I stopped playing in the middle of a phrase out of sheer nervousness. Mel asked me what was wrong and I said, “I’m nervous,” to which he responded, “nonsense, just play.” And just like that, my nerves disappeared. Mel was stern and encouraging in equal measure.

In all, I had a good lesson.

Afterward, Mel led me back to the reception area with a slight detour—the famed orchestra pit. Along the way he pointed out a piece of set from the opera Francesca da Rimini. I didn’t know the opera, yet was impressed with its gigantic size. The Met only does things big.

In the pit, I remember taking in its cavernous space, as well as looking out into the theater and its thousands of empty seats.

It was all very impressive, to say the least, and helped to burn the day into my memory.

I have to admit that I’ve never actually seen an opera at the Met (yet), but my lesson with Mel was much more than just a lesson.

For me, it helped to deepen my love of the trumpet and understand that there are great places and ensembles which you can aspire to. Visiting the Met drove the latter point home much more than watching orchestras on TV or listening to them on the radio.

Side note: I never kept in touch with Kiku after that year, but she’s still in New York City, still beautiful, and still talented. Check out her website here.

Learn more: Mel Broiles obituary (International Trumpet Guild)

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