Len Bergantino

Every Trumpet Player’s Quest

Published in the International Musician Vol. 99, Iss. 7, (Jul 2001): p.20

By Len Bergantino, Ed.D., A.B.P.P, member Local 47

The Trumpet high register has always been a problem for me. My quest began with Jimmy Gozzo, in 1962. Jimmy was Conrad Gozzo’s father, the greatest lead player of all.

Throug*1 p: Author of br: Lead in several house shows in Branson MO.h much diligent work and study with some very excellent trumpet players among them Frank Szabo and Charlie Davis; I was able to develop to a point of a good high E on the stand and an F sharp every day when practicing, with a once in a while G above high C in the practice room.

In a rehearsal band, I had the unusual experience of sitting next to a very likable and benevolent lead trumpet player, Rex Merriweather, who played second while I played lead, so as to develop his capacity to solo. I said to him, “Look, I like high notes and I have no problems with you playing as high as you want to keep your own chops in shape, even though I am playing the lead book” Invariably, whatever I played, he could take up an octave whenever he wanted to. I used to delight in his ability to do this.

Rex said to me, “I went to study with Pops McLaughlin in Grand Prairie, Texas, and he increased my range an octave in about two 8-hour days.” I told him I didn’t think I had the endurance to have such long sessions. He said, “You ought to do it. He increased my range by an octave and I have no mental limitations as to how high I can play. High register is a state of mind.”

Then he said the key motivating words, “Hey, Pops McLaughlin is very sick He may not live too long If you are going to do it, it had better be soon.”

I had previously called Clint McLaughlin and sent for three books he had written. My experience as a clinical psychologist for 30 years told me that he was obsessive and had devoted his life to figuring out more details about the high register than anyone had exposed me to.

Yet, others who had heard of him were skeptical. “Well, he isn’t a great trumpet player like the others you have studied with,” they’d say. “What makes him think he can teach?”

I called Pops and set things up for Wednesday through Sunday. He turned out to be good company, too.

As a psychologist, trained in the ’60s and ’70s, I had attended marathons which were intended to break down the resistance by having group psychotherapy for long hours, and sometimes for three days. This trumpet experience was like those marathons in that it was dealing with my mental and physical resistance.

I had heard of people who were great teachers who were not particularly great trumpet players, such as Carmine Caruso a saxophone player from New York; Clint McLaughlin is one of these and maybe one-of-a-kind in this day and age.

He had a double major in college of music and physics. The physics part, I think, was a major factor in his ability to pay attention to problems and resistance as they arose through about 26 hours of lessons in five days and to find “immediate relief”; in terms of a solution to the problem.

This was very different for me. He knew what to do to fix it right on the spot and then I played differently.

The highest note I ever hit was an A above high C prior to working with Pops. During these five days, I hit three double high Cs, one screaming double E flat and one double D.

Further, he gave me the tools to carry on the work and develop the range and power from that point, and to do it in the context of actually playing music and songs, something I hadn’t done in the five years since I took on the task of trying to be a superman in my mid-50s.

I am writing this short article about Pops McLaughlin and it was unsolicited; because the trumpet high register he helped me achieve is something that a person would be unlikely to come upon of their own accord, and if they did, they wouldn’t believe it was possible.

Just a side note he went up to triple high C several times while I was there.

P.S. Another unusual thing was that Clint McLaughlin took lessons from Don “Jake” Jacoby . . . on giving trumpet lessons, not on playing trumpet!

Posted in Testimonials.