"We Strive to Keep Music Live"
Earlier this year Jason and I took a trip to Detroit to put on a series of lectures. Gary Greenfelder welcomed us into his home and his town to us with open arms. Jason and other Harrelson Trumpets clients were asked to be guest soloists with Gary's big band... It was an overwhelming success and we had so much fun. Gary (and the trumpet players he knows in the Detroit area) have an enthusiasm for their instrument that is contagious. I don't think I had one conversation that weekend that didn't have something to do with music or trumpet... but that's why I am in this business... here's what Gary had to say about his latest projects. Thanks again Gary for hosting us and showing us around town.
How long have you been playing the trumpet?
I started playing trumpet in the fourth grade and fell in love almost immediately! I started studying privately in the fifth grade and was one of the lucky grade school students to be brought in to other local schools that need additional support at concerts! This was great fun and especially when we were excused from daily classes to play at school day concerts. Ahhhh... the good ol’ days!
What made you decide to go into music / how did you start out?
Actually I had no intention of going into music until the summer that I graduated from high school. I was enrolled for electrical engineering and decide to jump ship mid-summer to music performance. Mid semester my third year of school I had the opportunity to go on the road with a show band travelling the east coast of the USA. I did that for 1 -1/2 years and then decided to move to Los Angeles to be a free-lance studio player. I moved to LA in 1979 and the music industry was just starting to slow down for horn players. After 3 years, I decided to go back to school for accounting and keep music as my passion. In 1983, I moved back to the Detroit area and went back to school to become a CPA. A few year later I got involved with a big band that is now The Gary Greenfelder Orchestra! Never planned to be a band leader, but it has changed my life… for the better!
If you weren't a trumpet player... which instrument would you play and why?
Huh.... I can't imagine playing anything but trumpet! I guess it may be piano, which I still hope to learn someday... I need to make time for this! Piano is truly an orchestra within itself!
Who are some of your musical influences and why?
Well, I must say that I'm rather mainstream...... like many trumpet players, I fell in love with Maynard Ferguson, not just for his high notes, but for his unique sound, energy and ability to keep moving forward in an ever changing world. Plus he was such a great mentor to so many players! Next would be Freddie Hubbard... the coolest trumpet player around in my books! Of course there are many others too...... Harry James, Bobby Shew, Winton Marsalis, Uan Rasey, Arturo Sandoval, Chuck Mangione, Maurice Andre, Alison Balsom, Tine Thing, etc..... All of these players influence how I approach playing the many styles of music that I perform.
Is music your full time job? Do you want it to be?
Music has not been my full time job... I just couldn't take the risk financially. During my time in LA, I realized one thing, I love playing music too much to put the strain of a career on top of that. Now, I have 4 groups that I lead, GGO (Gary Greenfelder Orchestra), GQ Jazz Ensemble (Jazz Quintet, 2 horns), GQ Music Ensemble (3 horn - different music from quintet), and DRBQ (Dynamic Resonance Brass Quintet). All of these groups perform live gigs and help to satisfy all of my musical tastes! While I do not see music as a financially rewarding career, I am lucky enough to not have to worry about that anymore. So, I can take my groups on the never ending journey of continuous improvement, with the goal of play as many live gigs as we can find. What fun this is for me!
Do you write a lot of music?
I have never written music. There is so much music out there that I love to play that I never took the time to develop this skill. Someday I may!
What type of performing are you doing right now?
My Big Band performs twice a month at CLUB 54, for a few years now. This gig has been great fun and helps to improve the music we play! We also play Weddings, Corporate Events, and Concerts and are working to start doing clinics at local schools to encourage the younger generation to keep this music going.
What's the music "scene' like in Detroit?
The music scene in Detroit has always been good, let me define this! There are so many great musicians in this area, it’s hard to believe there aren't more musical opportunities for these great musicians. That being said, there are quite a few live music venues throughout this area. The problem is the pay for most of these is not very good, especially the Bars and Lounges... However, I have seen an increase is opportunities for Wedding and Corporate events in the past 6 months or so. I am hopeful that I can get all of my groups working regularly!
What's genres/types of music are being performed live most often in the area?
There are many types of music: Rock, Oldies, R&B, Jazz, some Big Band, new music. Frankly, I spend most of my time developing my group and don't get out much to see all that is going on here. I know there are lots of group playing regularly around town.
Tell me about the GGO.
Gary Greenfelder Orchestra (formerly One Beat Back) was the first big band I got involved with after finishing college and starting my CPA career. It started in 1991 with 3 partners. When I joined the group one left and they asked me to be a partner. Eventually the other two original partners both left and I started running the band myself. After some hard thought, I decided to change the name of the band to GGO. It made sense because many client couldn't remember the name of the band and did not associate the band with me. Plus by this time I had moved from lead trumpet to fronting the band. I never thought or even considered being a band leader.... but it has been a great ride and I hope it goes on for many years to come! We have great fun playing together and I keep adding new music to our library.... I just finished putting together out 5th book of music! Each book has about 220 to 250 charts, so we have lots of music and we just keep learning more. www.ggmusicentertainment.com/
If you could share the stage with anyone... who would it be?
Wow.... never thought of that! With the big band at CLUB 54, I have had the honor of playing with many great musicians from this area.... and the list just keeps growing! So that said, I think Walter White would be at the top of that list! Not because I'm that good, but because we are sending a great message..... big band music is awesome!! We have already talked a bit, so I am hoping this will happen sometime soon!! We just keep growing our audience at CLUB 54 and that tells the story for us!
What else is in the works for you in the coming year?
Well, I am not trying to conquer the world, so for me, it will be creating a new website, adding new video and audio music and giving the site a completely new look. The goal is simple..... more Wedding and Corporate Events! Other than that, it will be business as usual.... keeping our music better than it was last week!!
What's your current gig schedule like? Where can we see you play?
The only group I currently have playing regularly is GGO at CLUB 54. Actually this 3 hour gig twice a month with guest artists and vocalists takes considerable time, as we are always adding new music to this venue. My second goal for this year is to get the new GQ Music Ensemble up and running. With this group, I am working to have a good mix of Jazz, Standards and R&B to create a group with a wider musical appeal. We may take this group to CLUB 54 for a twice a month event soon.
Musical highlight of your career so far?
Wish I had something with which to impress all of you!! lol The highlight of my musical career is leading 4 groups and finding a path to allow other musicians (and myself) to satisfy their dreams of taking music to the next level! Hopefully, my musical highlight is somewhere in the future yet!
If your trumpet were an animal which animal would it be?
That's easy........ a chameleon! I am not looking to create new music or even a new trumpet sound! I play the music of other greats, from Harry James to Arturo Sandoval, from Maurice Andre to Chuck Mangione! I am playing a broad array of music that hopefully has my own unique sound... let's say..... a touch of Gary Greenfelder.
What do you listen to... when you're not practicing or performing? What's in your cd player?
I listen mostly to the music that I perform or hope to perform sometime. Currently: Count Basie, Arturo Sandoval, Alison Balsom, Bobby Shew, Jack Sheldon, Lincoln Jazz Orchestra, Jim Rotundi, Patrick Williams (big band), Tom Kubis, etc....
Where do you hope your music will take you in the future?
I believe I have already said it.... to the next level (continuous improvement) is always my goal. I am not trying to make some big name for myself.... I'm trying to promote the music I love to play so others may learn to love it as I have.
4/30/2014 03:57:50 am
what a wonderful interview you did a great job I'm so proud to be in this band and organization with Gary he's a great guy and band leader!
11/24/2017 12:00:05 pm
Gary is a great guy and a great player, willing to help anyone with a passion for music! His motto says it all "We strive to keep music Live" . Gary has given countless Detroit area players a voice with his many bands. Always a pleasure to hear Gary play. Then, you MUST hang out with the band after :)
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I am the PR, Advertising, Marketing, Web and Social mind at Harrelson Trumpets. When I am not at work- I paint: