Benny Goh graduated from the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts in 2006 with a Diploma in Performing Arts (Trumpet). He held the position of Brass in Charge and Trumpet Section Leader from 2007 – 2009 in the Singapore Armed Forces Central Band. He is currently serving his final year in the forces. He also actively performs with music groups such as Brass Kinetics, SparksWinds and The Summertimes Big Band.
Benny has also performed with ensembles like the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, Singapore Wind Symphony, West Winds, The Philharmonic Winds, Bugis Village Brass Band, Magnetic Band and the Singapore Lyric Theatre Orchestra.
Benny’s experience in jazz music has brought him around the world, learning from and playing alongside jazz masters such as Wynton Marsalis.
(This interview was conducted in January 2011)
Tell us about the people who have inspired or influenced you greatly.
My greatest influence in trumpet was my secondary school conductor, Miss Chan Peck Suan. I have had good teachers throughout my trumpet career – Mr Chen Jia Ming, Mr Pek Sin Chuan, Mr Richard Adams, Mr Samuel Hyken and Mr Jun Ikebe. I would also like to mention great trumpet buddies like Mr Kenneth Lun, Mr Shannon Chng, Mr Winston Goh and Mr Low Jiahua.
What quality of the trumpet do you admire most? (Eg. Tonal quality? Versatility in terms of style? High notes?)
It has to be tone quality. I would rather listen to a trumpeter play a slow tune with good tone and intonation, then a trumpeter getting all the high and fast notes without good tone quality and intonation.
Versatility of style is important too, being able to switch styles regardless of music genre.
Quoting the late Maurice Murphy ~ “Keep listening to all different styles, not just symphonic styles, but jazz styles, big bands. I’m 73 and I’m still learning.”‘
We all know that Wynton Marsalis is a phenomenal player and heard that you’ve played beside him. How was the experience like?
We were very lucky. Thomson Big Band was scheduled to perform with a few members of The Lincoln Jazz Orchestra without Wynton Marsalis, but he popped by to listen and decided to join us for a few tunes. He really let his trumpet do all the talking, communicating through music. It was a mind blowing experience. He even taught us techniques using the plunger mute. To have been able to share the same stage with him was a dream come true.
We’ve heard about your passion for Jazz music. What do you think the scene for Jazz music in Singapore?
It is bustling! I have a couple of good friends that just came back from Berklee College of Music and they are forming their own jazz groups and composing new jazz pieces. The big band that I am performing with, The Summertimes Big Band, has a line of performances and concerts this year! Do check us out at www.bigband.sg!
What is your equipment set-up like? Any favourite brands or specifications?
I am currently using a Bb trumpet Kanstul Model 1503 and a C trumpet Schilke X3.
I am using a Giddings & Webster Dave Hickman Signature “Big Boy” Orchestral Mouthpiece for symphonic band and classical music and a Curry 1HZ for big band and jazz music.
What are you listening to now?
I am listening to Carmen, as I will be performing it at the Esplanade Theatre later this month.
Warm-up exercises are always emphasized. How about cool-down exercises? Are they important for musicians?
It depends on individual musicians. Some cool down by just taking the horn off the lips and put it away. Some play pedal notes to relax. Some put ice on their lips. If I played for the entire day and I need to perform again the next day, I usually just remove my leadpipe and buzz on it. The method is from “Buzzing the Leadpipe. The Bill Adam Daily Routine.”
I see you have been a tutor for many schools and individuals. What issues do you think are more prominent among novice players?
All the issues are interlinked; any issues not corrected may cause bad tone production. From proper breathing techniques, embouchure, tension in the body, restricted air flow by tightening the throat and wanting to play high and fast as soon as possible.
Many schools engage tutors during Band Camps which usually consist of highly intensive practice sessions. What is your opinion in regards to intensive practice over a short period of time?
It depends. The advantage is that the students will get to meet their tutor daily and have better attendance and focus training session during camp, rather than the weekly weekend tutoring. The disadvantage is that the students may over-exert themselves, from sectional to concert rehearsals by playing continuously.
As long as there is ample rest for the embouchure, it is alright to have intensive practice over a short period of time. Remember to rest as long as you play.’
Any other words of advice for budding trumpeters out there?
There is no shortcut in music. Practice smart and hard! Be a sponge and never stop learning. Listen to great trumpet players. Most importantly enjoying making music; it is a gift.
Quoting from the late great saxophone player James Moody; “My goal is that I want to play better tomorrow than I did today, because I’m not in competition with anyone else,” Mr. Moody noted in a 2005 Union-Tribune interview. “If you try to do that, to compete, you’d better give up, because there’s always somebody, somewhere, who has more going on. And that’s what makes jazz so beautiful, that’s what makes the world beautiful.
“If you’re practicing something you’ve played before, you’re not practicing. You have to play something new. There are hundreds of ways to play a major scale, and then when you add a harmonic minor and a natural minor and a natural minor flat fifth, you get something new. You’ll never get it all, but you keep trying.”