Daniel Levine – Trumpet, Upright Bass/Electric Bass, Drums, Guitar, Piano Teachers

Trumpet, Upright Bass, Electric Bass, Drums, Guitar, Piano
Masters in Composition City University of New York
Jazz and Classical

unnamedI teach Trumpet, Upright Bass/Electric Bass, Drums, Guitar, Piano. I grew up in a musical family with two double-bass playing parents, and picked up many instruments along the way to becoming a professional musician. I started playing the trumpet in the 4th grade when another family member gave me his student trumpet to try out. A few years later, when I started taking the trumpet to jam sessions in my hometown of New York City, I realized that I wanted to pursue a life in music. 

Being a trumpet player in New York meant many incredible opportunities to play with all types of musicians, from popular indie bands like Beirut and The Walkmen, to Afro Beat legend Francis Mbappe, to the avant-garde. I worked with an incredible collection of musicians in Tacuma Bradley’s Unity Band for 5 years, and started my own free-jazz trio “Knuckleball” which performed on WKCR as well as at various presentations of new music around New York.

I did most of my musical studies at City University of New York, earning a degree in Jazz Performance, and a Masters in composition, with a minor concentration in music ed. Around 2012 I began doing more work with young musicians and found I had a real passion for teaching music. With that passion in mind, I moved to Philadelphia in 2015 to build a music program in a North Philadelphia charter school serving the Latinx Community. I found this to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. My students went on to perform at the Kimmel Center and the Clef Club, and many still play and study music.

These days I’m usually going to various schools to help with their music programs, or performing with jazz bands and orchestras around Philadelphia and New York, as I continue to work on my own compositions and develop my trumpet playing (it’s a life-long pursuit!).

Something I love to do in my spare time is play my “other favorite instrument”, the double bass. I also love to cook, play basketball, read good fiction, travel, and spend time with my crazy cat, Bean.


When did you begin playing Trumpet, and why?:
I began playing the trumpet when I was 10 years old. My parents were both double bass players, and we have some actors in our family too. One night at dinner, one of the actors, who I thought was super cool, unveiled his old student trumpet and offered it to me on a long-term loan. I remember thinking it was the coolest looking thing ever. I just fell in love with the mysteriousness of it. This little instrument that made such a big sound, and that you had to do a weird thing with your lips. That night I took the trumpet home and quickly started trying to figure it out. That first night I was able to play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, which was apparently enough for my parents to sign me up for school band. 

What other instruments do you play, and what is your experience with them?:
Growing up in a house full of instruments, I was able to pick some things up along the way. I play the bass (upright, and electric), guitar, drums, and enough keyboard to compose music (but not quite enough to play a gig). I actually played bass and guitar in various bands for years as a way to have fun and take a break from trumpet, once it got kind of serious.

What are your personal goals as a musician?:
I have been extremely blessed in getting to spend my whole life around great musicians, starting with my parents, but seriously extending once i started studying and playing in New York. My personal goal is to honor these folks lit up the path for me in everything that i do, whether it’s playing the instrument, or teaching. 

Do you have a memory of a time when a musical concept or technique really clicked?  Something you’ll remember forever?
I remember going to hear bands play at Smalls (a great jazz club in NY) when I was in High School. I started going religiously to hear certain groups, and I remember how some of the things they would play would just bend my ears. It was a very physical feeling, when I would hear someone create a special kind of harmonic tension in their solo, my body would feel like it was bungee jumping in mid-air. And gradually my ears adjusted to these sounds and now I hear most of what people play at jazz clubs as recognizable jazz vocabulary. 

While I do have many memories of musical concepts clicking for me, I wanted to focus this answer on how it felt, before something clicked. When I was hearing the music without being able to analyze it. This seems to me like a good example of what the process of learning music is like. All those exciting licks and phrases are still exciting to me, it’s just that they are now within me too. 

What is your favorite piece of advice from one of your past (or current) teachers?:
You don’t have to “get better” at music. Everything you decide to do with music is a choice. Develop your awareness of yourself and what you’d like to sound like, and decide what you’d like to do. 

What was your most challenging moment learning an instrument?:
I struggled in college with over-practicing certain kinds of trumpet exercises. I would practice this chop-builders for hours and then try to go play. It was like doing a whole day of weight-lifting and then trying to play basketball. Your arms would be like rubber! I had to learn gradually how to target my practicing and be effective.

What is your biggest musical achievement?:
This is a hard one, so I’d have to say a few. During 2013-15 when I was in the midst of grad school, I co-directed Tacuma Bradley’s Unity Band. We played regularly with some amazing musicians, and dropped an album on the Ropeadope label. I love it. Meanwhile, I was writing a 10 minute long through-composed piece for 5 instruments for my master’s thesis, and started my own groups (a trio and a quartet) to play free jazz and avant-garde compositions of mine. The trio recorded an album on the Gold Bolus label. But I’m equally proud of the next thing I did, which was to move to Philly and build a music program from scratch in a North Philadelphia Charter School. 

Favorite thing about teaching?:
I love seeing students in a moment of discovery. I also love being around the process of discovering instruments and what they can do. it’s all in there. Everything you need to know about life is there in the process of learning music. 

What is a piece of advice you would like to share with anyone learning music?:
Just Do it!!!