"My trumpet is some sort of wild beast. Maybe a dragon?
It is persnickety and untamable, proud, powerful, chaotic, handsome yet sultry, deadly.
It does what it wants and I go along to enjoy the mad ride."
Every day from 9-5 (actually that's not true... I am usually late) I sit across the room from Christine Palmer. She has proven to be nothing short of a miracle in this office. Harrelson Trumpets is a labor of love... Jason and I started this company in a tiny office... and cleaned the first trumpets in our bathtub. So... we have a real personal investment for our "baby" ... after all... this has been where we put our hearts and time... for longer than either of us can remember. We nurture this business and truly care for it like we would a child... So, it follows suit that we can be quite protective of who we entrust to look after it for us. Often times over the course of this company's history... we have looked at one another with our hands up in the air and resolved that if something had to be done... we could do it better ourselves. So... we often did. Everything ourselves. Simply put... that is exhausting. Christine is not only the best employee we've ever had helping us in the office... she really loves trumpets. And has a sincerely curiosity about the way they are built. And, I think she really cares about Harrelson Trumpets. As if it were her own... which she should... because now she is part of it too. And we truly could not do this without her. I know that not a day goes by where I don't personally value her help and unwavering positive outlook and enthusiasm.
So... I have had the pleasure of getting to know this awesome woman over the course of the last year. And I am thoroughly impressed. Friday night she performed at The Dakota for the late set with her band Prior Avenue. The band has a solid funk sound and an awesome energy. Christine dazzled from center stage with a beautiful sound... flanked by a solid sax player with a perma-smile and the trombonist with enough enthusiasm to fuel the room. There was a sprinkling of originals by Sean McGee, Prior Avenue's band leader and guitar player... who was on bass that night. The evening was high energy and classic funk poured off stage with such numbers as Superstition by Stevie Wonder and Unchain my Heart by Joe Cocker. Friday night featured 2 guest vocalists that revved things up and really got the crowd excited. Prior Avenue is one of those groups that you can count on to deliver... and they have so much fun! They'll be at Schueller's Apr. 26 ... if you're looking for some funky fun... don't miss it!
I asked Christine to tell me a little bit more about how she got into music... and what she's up to... here's her interview:
How long have you been playing trumpet?
I started playing trumpet in 6th grade band like many other people – and just never quit. We were allowed to try 3 different instruments. I could make a sound on the trombone and trumpet but not the clarinet, plus my dad still had his Olds trumpet around that I was able to use. Decision made!
How did you get started in music... what other instruments do you play?
Both of my parents put a high value on the power of music, and the house always had tunes playing – whether Tchaikovsky or the Eagles. My mom is a musician also, and has been a music teacher for pre-K through high school students wherever we lived (we were a migrant Army family). She started me on piano early and like many others, I still envision notes in my head the way they look on a keyboard. In high school I took guitar lessons and then taught beginner guitar students as a way to earn some spending money. I’ve done some singing too, but the trumpet has always been my beast of choice.
Where did you go to school?
After living all over the US and abroad, I decided to go to college near my family at the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph, MN. I was lucky enough to study trumpet with Dr. Dale White – who became a peerless mentor and close friend. I then received my Master’s degree from the University of Colorado, studying with the supremely talented Terry Sawchuk.
How did you come to decide to be a music major?
That is a good question, considering I thought I was going to be a math teacher at the end of high school. I think I just couldn’t NOT play trumpet, and took every opportunity I could to keep playing, eventually adding a trumpet major onto my physics major. Towards the end of undergrad I faced a conundrum that most musicians likely face at one time or another: should I try to continue (perhaps selfishly) pursuing this inspirational but cutthroat trumpet path, or should I try to get a “real” job? I was even told by multiple musicians that if I can be happy doing ANYTHING besides music, I should do that instead. I’m kind of a stubborn person though, and decided that I needed to push myself with music to see how far I could take it. I could always fall back on my physics background or get a “real” job if things didn’t work out. I'm still pushing.
Would you like to make music your full time job?
I have a monumental amount of respect for every musician who is making his or her way with talent, gigs, and teaching alone. That takes extreme confidence, dedication, gumption, risk-taking, failure-survival skills, and soul-searching. I happen to be one of the luckiest people in the world, who can work with these people and the instruments we love every single day, and still perform and become ever more fluent at speaking through my horn at night. There is a tangible freedom with this arrangement, where both pastimes nurture and feed off of each other, spiraling outward into something denser than either could encompass on its own. I wouldn’t choose to change that for the world.
How long have you been working with Harrelson Trumpets?
Jason hired me at the end of the summer of 2012 to help out in the office. I worked a little bit from a distance that next year, then started full time in May 2013 when I graduated.
Tell me about how that came to be.
I don’t completely know that one myself. But I’ve always been interested in the mechanical side of trumpets, completed a physics thesis about variations in trumpet intonation etc… I vaguely entertained ideas of finding a graduate program in musical acoustics, only to realize that barely any exist. Harrelson Trumpets were first introduced to me at the Minneapolis ITG in 2011 and I became extremely excited. Like many others, I pored over the detailed website and drank in the pioneering spirit of the company.
Fast forward to my time in graduate school, where I was performing daily and wondering how I could ever compete in a music world so saturated with unique and talented trumpet players who are all run through essentially the same training program in schools around the world. A friend encouraged me to find the ways my trumpet playing background was different from everyone else's and sharpen that focus point. I ended up working on a research project to investigate trumpet manufacturing and find what innovation was currently happening in the world of trumpet builders. This involved sifting through a deluge of Schilke's notes on microfilm, Bach handbooks, Monette videos, more websites and books than I can remember, and I kept coming back to Harrelson. This was the one company that really explained how its trumpets were built, and what they were changing from everyone else's now-dated methods. No trumpet company responded to my requests for interviews (and why should they – a request from a random student...), but I knew I needed to find a way to get involved with Harrelson. I went to the Harrelson shop one day and picked Jason's brain about his trumpet methods, and had a job a few months later. I couldn't describe a better place to spend my days.
Tell me about prior avenue. what kind of music do you guys play.
Prior Avenue is all funk/soul, it's music to make you groove the whole night! We play the killer hits everyone knows: Earth, Wind, and Fire, Tower of Power, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Steely Dan, the Gap Band... with a healthy dose of kickin' original funky tunes by our talented band leader Sean McGee. There are a lot of bands out there playing music like us, but we have an absolute blast doing it.
Are you guys in a regular rotation to perform at the dakota? where else can we see P.A. Play?
Prior Avenue will probably play at the Dakota around once a month at least through the summer. We play all around the twin cities area... We'll be back at Schueller's Apr. 26, and Hanger 45/Tasty Pizza May 3. http://prioravenueband.com/
What other groups are you in right now?
I'm also in a slower soul/R&B group called Soul Accord that is just getting off the ground. We've done one show so far at the Dakota, and look for us around the twin cities soon! http://soul-accord.com/
I also love joining my friends the 4th Liners once in a while for some classic rock (https://www.facebook.com/The4thLiners?fref=ts), and it's always fun to get back to my classical roots at weddings and church services around town.
If your trumpet was an animal which animal would it be?
My trumpet is some sort of wild beast. Maybe a dragon? It is persnickety and untameable, proud, powerful, chaotic, handsome yet sultry, deadly. It does what it wants and I go along to enjoy the mad ride.
Who are some of your musical influences?
Music influences are all over the map. I tend to become semi-obsessed with one artist or composer for long periods of time, spending months trying to dance like Michael Jackson or learning to emulate the nuances of Eminem's raps. (I have irritated many a roommate...) I am entranced by Alice in Chains. My mind is dissected and then blown apart by Between the Buried and Me. I've had long flings with Mahler and Shostakovitch. Really the only genre I can't tolerate is country music.
Back within the trumpet realm, I've probably been the most enthralled with Phil Smith, Allison Balsom, Maurice Andre, of course Miles Davis... really I try to soak up every trumpet player I hear because they all have different nuances and characteristics to teach me.
Where do you see yourself going musically in the coming year.
Hmm... I've definitely been enjoying the commercial side of things lately, but I would like to get back into a classical brass choir or quintet again at some point. There is really nothing juicier than a perfectly in-tune brass chord where you can feel those crazy harmonics pinging around your brain. I absolutely love arranging music - it's literally one of my favorite pastimes - so I can't wait to find more genres to meld together into new arrangements. Long term, I really want to dig into symphonic rock and find ways to integrate the complexity of an orchestral symphony with the power and contrast in progressive rock... where both the lyrics and the music work together to access ideas that delve deeper into our psyche. I haven't really found anything out there yet that fits the bill and uses brass instruments, but I'm fascinated by the possibilities.
I am the PR, Advertising, Marketing, Web and Social mind at Harrelson Trumpets. When I am not at work- I paint: