The Cuban-American trumpet player, who performs tonight at Spaulding Auditorium in Hanover, answered questions and conducted a music clinic for the Claremont Middle School band Monday. For over an hour, he gave them tips helped them rehearse. He demonstrated his technique and played with them.
He then worked with each section of the band individually – note by note, bar by bar.
“Pay attention to intonation and pitch,” he instructed the saxophone players. “Hold your flutes straight,” he insisted, demonstrating by tilting his trumpet sideways.
“See there? The first and the fourth are short notes,” he told bass clarinet player Gabby Cutts.
“You have a lot of homework to do,” he finally said, urging them to “cut 15 minutes of Xbox and practice” every night.
Though the students seemed a bit surprised at the rigorous workout, CMS Band Director Seth Moore insisted that he’s just as much the taskmaster.
“They hear it from me all the time,” said Moore.
“It’s good to get a second opinion, though,” he continued. “Especially when that second opinion gets paid two hundred thousand dollars a year to play the trumpet.”
Teaching comes naturally to Sandoval, who is a tenured, full time professor at Florida International University. But he usually works with older students. Dartmouth College’s Joe Clifford, who helped arrange the event, called the CMS clinic “unique.”
When Sandoval was asked why he decided to instruct such a young group of musicians, he joked, “It’s a gig. I never say no to a gig.”
During the Q&A session, a student asked Sandoval if he’d ever thought about playing other instruments. He listed drums and timbales, and then said, “piano is our best teacher to understand music,” he said. “To write, arrange, orchestrate – all those things.”
Later, he played so well on the school’s upright piano, it was hard to believe it was his second instrument.
When another student wondered if Sandoval ever expected to become famous, he quickly answered no. In Cuba, he grew up in a house with dirt floors and had to quit school to work at age 9. No one in his family was musical, he said. Just being able to play was satisfaction enough.
“My first instrument was the silverware,” said Sandoval. “Banging them on the counter, it drove my grandmother crazy.”
The first horn he played was cornet, in a marching band, mainly because there was no trumpet for him to use. Ignoring a would-be teacher who told him he was wasting his time, “I went and played my cornet all day, and I knew this is what I had to do.”
“Music saved my life,” he said. “It’s a blessing from God that helped every member of my family.”
After nearly an hour of picking apart “Feliz Navidad,” which they plan to perform later this year at a holiday concert, Sandoval asked the band to choose another song.
They agreed on “Swinging Jingle,” a jazzed-up version of the holiday classic “Jingle Bells.” Sandoval joined in, occasionally giving words of encouragement. “Get your groove on!” he shouted to drummer Dan Seaman. “See that title? Swing it!”
The smile rarely left his face.
“I’m still in love with music after 49 years,” Sandoval said. “I’ve played with so many others, on so many records I’ve lost count.”
“I don’t need drugs, I have the music.”