Meet the H.N. White Company’s King Liberty model. This particular specimen left the factory between 1918 and 1925. I hope I look as good and work at all at her age.
Some background. I have played the trumpet since I was in the fifth grade. Despite all of these years with a horn in my hands, I have never become a stellar player, but I can hold my own at times. The feel of a good piece of brass in my hands just makes me happy.
Now, back to the beautiful lady you see in these pictures.
Growing up, there was always an old lady in town with boxes burying her home. She died when I was in high school, and her family came to clean out the old house. In it, they found this trumpet. The woman’s husband had been a professional jazz musician. She never could bring herself to get rid of anything after he died.
My mother stopped by to express her condolances to the family as they sifted though the memories of parents lost. By chance, one of them asked her if she knew anyone who played a trumpet. She told them that I did and asked why they were curious. They then opened the case sitting on a table containing their father’s old trumpet. None of them knew how to play one. Rather than have it sit neglected in an attic for the years to come; they gave it to my mother. The only stipulation was a promise that it be played and cared for.
When I first opened the box, I fell in love. When she told me the story of the man who raised a family with the horn before me, I almost cried. I was not worthy to hold, let alone keep, this instrument. The missing valve cap, a sign that he actually removed them to clean the valves. The dings, the dents, from gigs long before I was born. The wear on the finish from an artists own fingers. The careful soldering of a patch over a hole from a missing finger stud. Evedently, the man had an overbite, and had a custom mouthpiece crafted for his horn. If any instument has soul, this is it.
I am still not worthy, but this trumpet is loved. She is played, held, cleaned, oiled, and stored right in the living room. Some day, I hope my children, and even grandchildren get to play her. And I assure you, she sounds like heaven as she cries out the notes.
I only wish I could have heard the man who loved her before me play. After I die, I hope I do. That, would be heaven.