Timothy and his grandpa would sit in the living room and listen to Jazz records. Grandpa’s favorite trumpet player was Louis Armstrong. He had a lot of records by him. He also liked Miles Davis. “Seven Steps to Heaven” was his favorite. Timothy liked it too. He loved the way Miles played each note like it was nothing.
Each time he would hear Jazz, Timothy dreamed of playing the trumpet. He imagined himself playing with the band. He would play the tootity-toots, while the rest played the rattity-tats and whompity-womps. He pictured the crowd cheering after each song. But right now, all he could do was pretend using a ruler he found on grandpa’s desk.
On his next visit, grandpa had a surprise. Timothy looked at the rectangular box, wondering what it could be. He tore off the wrapping and lifted the lid. Inside was a bright shiny trumpet. Timothy hugged his grandpa so hard he nearly fell over. “Thank you, grandpa!”
Grandpa took the trumpet and showed him how to hold it. Timothy had seen pictures of trumpet players on grandpa’s record covers. One picture he liked was of Dizzy Gillespie.
Dizzy was holding the trumpet just like grandpa. But Dizzy always made him laugh. He had his cheeks blown out and looked like a blowfish.
“Okay, Timmy. Now you know how to hold it. Next comes learning to blow. I’ll show you the notes later,” grandpa said.
“I know how, grandpa,” Timothy said with pride. He drew a breath, puffed out his cheeks, and blew into the mouthpiece. Nothing but air came out. It sounded nothing like Dizzy, Miles, or Louis. “Hey, what happened?”
Timothy’s grandpa laughed. “Close, but that’s not quite right.”
“But that is how Dizzy does it,” said Timothy.
“Yes, but he played for years. He got used to doing that.”
“Oh, okay,” said Timmy.
Grandpa took the trumpet and held it the right way. He drew a breath in, but he did not puff his cheeks out; they looked squished. Then he put his lips on the mouthpiece and blew. One note, a beautiful note.
Timothy leaped with excitement. “You can play the trumpet?”
Grandpa smiled and played. Timothy did not know the song, but it sounded good.
“The key to playing the trumpet is how you make your lips. You don’t blow like a bubble. You have to pucker your lips like you are holding your breath.” Grandpa made a face; it looked like he was tasting a lemon. Timmy laughed.
“Now you try,” grandpa said, handing him the trumpet.
Timothy copied every face his grandpa made. He drew a breath in, with no puffy cheeks, and puckered his lips. Then blew through the mouthpiece.
“Toot,” said the trumpet. A note. A weird sounding note, but it was a note.
“I did it!!” Timothy said, jumping up and down.
“Very good, Timmy,” grandpa said, clapping in approval.
Timothy bowed and said, “Thank you. Thank you.”
Grandpa showed him how to press the valves. It was difficult because Timmy’s hands were small and could barely reach the keys.
“As you see there are three valves, each one will play a different note,” grandpa explained.
Timothy pressed the one valve he could reach. He drew a breath in, puckered his lips, and blew through the mouthpiece.
“Toot,” said the trumpet. This note sounded different.
“Great, that sounded like a ‘D’ note,” said grandpa. “The first one was a “C” note.”
“I know two notes, grandpa,” said Timothy with excitement.
“Yes, you do. Now all you need is practice,” said grandpa.
“Can I play with your records?” Timothy asked.
“Who do you want to play with?”
“Hmm,” said Timothy thinking. “I think I want to start easy.”
Grandpa walked over to his record player and put on a record. As it began to play, Timothy listened for a little bit, listening for the trumpet player. He drew a breath in, puckered his lips, and blew through his mouthpiece.
“Toot,” said the trumpet.
It may not have been the greatest ‘toot,’ but to Timothy, he was playing with the band. He danced around to the rattity-tat of the drums. He wobbled to the whompity-womp of the horns, and Timothy provided the tootity-toots. And the crowd cheered every song.