Rockwell Valentine – Trumpet Teacher


Rockwell Valentine


Jazz Performance, Temple University

Jazz, Classical

I am a multifaceted trumpet player in the middle of the musical vanguard of New York City, Philadelphia, and Connecticut. I spearhead a myriad of projects that encapsulate my genre-bending and collaborative sound. Devoted to upholding the Black-American musical tradition, my projects are equally as enlightened by the works of Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker and Miles Davis, as they are by Kendrick Lamar, Bobby McFerrin, and Jimmy Hendrix. I posses a never-ending reservoir of love for the music I create and wish to share my futurism, history, joy, pulse, and honesty with the world. 

Born in Los Angeles, California and raised in Woodstock, Connecticut, I was immersed in an artistic family and made the trumpet my muse at age 11. Throughout high school, I studied under the tutelage of New York City-based trumpet player Tony Glausi and was honored to be accepted into the Jazz at Lincoln Center Summer Jazz Institute of 2019 and the National Association for Music Education All-National Jazz Band of 2020. I continued my musical education at Temple University’s Boyer College of Music; during which time I studied with contemporary musical masters such as: Terell Stafford; Joe Magnarelli; Jon Swana; and David Wong. I am now currently a disciple of New York City’s fabled trumpet player Bruce Harris.

I believe that lesson times are a space dedicated entirely to the student and their needs. I am extremely accepting of my students’ background, prior education, and personal relationship with music; I welcome all with open arms. I dream to be a stepping stone in my students’ musical career, and I hope to help them achieve their goals. I strive to build a mentorship with my students that will last a life time.

When did you begin playing trumpet, and why?

I began playing trumpet when I was 11 years old as part of my middle school concert band. My family had bought a trumpet from a yard sale in the 90’s and had been using it as decoration. When the school encouraged me to choose an instrument, I took this trumpet off the mantel and began to play it—worked just fine. I quickly fell in love with the instrument and started to foster a relationship that would last forever.

What other instruments do you play, and what is your experience with them?

Although not my primary instruments, I enjoy playing drums and piano. I have no professional experience with these instruments; however, I find they enhance my trumpet playing as well as my musical concept. I started playing drums and piano during high school simply because of the enjoyment they give me.

What are your personal goals as a musician?

As a musician I aim to become a virtuoso trumpet player and use the trumpet to express the music and sounds that I love. I use every live performance to create beautiful and honest music that uplifts the audience. For me, trumpet is a means of life, and I wish to continue living this life with a trumpet in my hands.

Do you have a memory of a time when a musical concept or technique really clicked?  Something you’ll remember forever?

At age 19, I had the immense pleasure of beginning my studies with New-York-City-based trumpet player Bruce Harris. He continues to teach me a myriad of invaluable lessons; however, there is one lesson that is particularly impactful. For context—It is the tradition of Black-American improvisatory music that an aspiring improviser must replicate the improvisations from their musical ancestors before them. Although this is the main tradition of this music, I didn’t fully grasp what this meant—not until this particular lesson. Harris was able to see I was merely approximating the improvisations of my ancestors and explicitly told me that I need to replicate them verbatim. This lesson changed my concept of improvising, so much so that I can differentiate a clear improvement in my playing from before to after this moment.

What is your favorite piece of advice from one of your past (or current) teachers?

During my high school career, I was fortunate to be studying under the tutelage of contemporary trumpet player and producer Tony Glausi. His advice to me was to always live in the moment and invest in the intrinsic value of the task at hand. Whenever I am feeling discouraged or not good enough, as we all do, I rely on this advice; Glausi’s words reassure me that what matters most is simply my love for playing trumpet.

What was your most challenging moment learning an instrument

My most challenging moment learning trumpet was my first year at Temple University’s Boyer College of Music. I suddenly became surrounded by musicians with varying musical concepts, so I was inclined to rethink and strengthen my own approach. Studying with Terell Stafford in my first year, I invested much of my energy into redefining my fundamental trumpet technique. These 8 months subverted my previously conceived idea of music school and encouraged me to improve my technical facility alongside my musicianship.

What is your biggest musical achievement?

My hardworking habits that I developed throughout high school quickly paid off my senior year as I was accepted into the National Association for Musical Education’s All-National jazz ensemble. I was one of five high school trumpet players in the United States to be selected for this honor and had the opportunity to participate in masterclasses, recording sessions, and Q&A’s. I am eternally grateful to have seen the fruits of my labor at such a formative age. This honor encouraged me to work even harder, and more importantly gave me hope of a career in music.

Favorite thing about teaching?

My favorite thing about teaching is paying back the universal debt I believe I owe to my past and present teachers. I am a direct product of my teachers’ time, consideration, and energy; I would be nothing without them. I feel as though the only proper way to return their investment in me is to invest my own time, consideration, and energy into my own students. I strive to emulate the passion and persistence of my mentors and utilize my experience with them as a model to conduct myself with my own students. There is a spiritual aspect about this continual cycle that makes me feel as though I have a proper place in the lineage of the music in which I believe.

What is a piece of advice you would like to share with anyone learning music?

“Writing about music is like dancing about architecture”. This popular quote by an unknown author is meant to blatantly display the indescribable qualities of music. I think anyone learning music needs to understand that music exists on scale that is not measured by words, music theory, or anything except the music itself. Music is simply yet complexly music. This understanding breeds a more honest and accurate result from the student. Words, music theory, and anything else are certainly useful tools in helping to understand music; however, they are not music. Music is music.

Personal music projects:

I am part of a Hip-Hop/Dance collective based in Connecticut called “STATTIC”. This group is comprised of musicians I’ve known since high school; we play primarily in Connecticut and have been branching out into New York City, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. In Philadelphia, I lead a jazz quartet that plays music inspired by the 1950’s era of West Coast Cool Bebop Jazz. I also lead a string quartet combined with a jazz quartet as well as a group that plays my original compositions. As a sideman, I am a member of the Andrew Gioannetti Quintet–where we play Gioannetti’s original music–, and the Gabriel Meyer Creative Orchestra–where we play the music of Anthony Braxton. All content for these projects is available on my Youtube channel.


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