Over the past four years, I’ve consulted many chop experts and fellow brass players who’ve experienced a lip injury similar to mine, and the help I’ve received from them has been tremendous. I would not be playing today if I’d had to go this road alone.
A few months ago, I contacted many of these people and asked if they would be okay with my sharing their names on The Lip Rip Blues. Chop injuries are a very personal thing, but many were happy to share their stories.
Some of these players/chop experts have their own website or book relating to their own experience, and the players listed here whose stories are not public knowledge have given me permission to post their name here. While I haven’t provided contact info, I can put you in touch with any of these players – just click on the Contact link at the top of the page to email me. Many of these folks have web presences of their own, too, and can be contacted through their own sites.
When I first realized I might need surgery, I contacted every brass player I could find who’d had lip surgery or had considered it. Chris is a fellow trumpet player I had run into on trumpetherald.com. He gave me a lot of his time, both over the phone and through email, and he was instrumental when it came time for me to choose a surgeon. I’m grateful I was able to speak with Chris before making my decision.
James is a pro trumpet player in Las Vegas, and he was the very first player I contacted after my injury. He spent a lot of time on the phone with me, telling me his story and listening to mine. He’d had a sucessful surgery with Dr. McGrail and was able to return to full-time professional playing afterwards, so I was very interested in what he had to say.
Dr. Richard Cox
Dr. Cox is medical doctor and trumpet player, and he’s one of the few people on the planet with extensive experience on both the performance and clinical sides of trumpet playing. In May 2013, my surgery was a year and a half in the rearview mirror, and though things were slowly progressing, I’d lost momentum and was convinced (due to some lingering pain at the site of the injury) that I’d be unable to regain my playing abilities. I’d heard of Dr. Cox here and there over the years, and I was able to dig up his contact info with some Google-fu. In one 30-minute phone call, he got me completely turned around, mentally and physically.
Denver’s injury and recovery have been written about fairly extensively, and he’s got his own website and book chronicling his experience. He was great to speak with on the phone as well, and his book, Still Playing, is a must-read.
His approach to embouchure rehabilitation is refreshingly original, and he recommends and advises on changing basic embouchure technique as a method of recovery. I took a lesson with him in January 2011, and his ideas about embouchure firmness have majorly informed my own recovery.
Lucinda Lewis is the dean of embouchure rehabilitation. She has been principal horn of the New Jersey Symphony since 1977, and following her recovery from a severe embouchure injury, she developed her own method of working through lip injuries. She maintains embouchures.com and has written two essential books on healing damaged lips: Broken Embouchures and Embouchure Rehabilitation. She has helped over 5000 injured brass players and has given hours of her time corresponding with me over the phone and through email (are you noticing a pattern yet?).
Dr. Simon McGrail
Dr. McGrail performed my lip surgery in December 2011, and though he’s mostly retired now, he still sees lip patients at a clinic in Nova Scotia. He’s operated on over 100 brass players with torn lip muscles, far more than anyone else. For help with a torn orbicularis oris, he is THE person to contact.
Bobby Shew certainly needs no introduction from me. When I was living in Albuquerque, I took intermittent lessons with Bobby, and he had a lot to say about chop injuries from personal experience and from helping hundreds (if not thousands) of trumpet players. He was very helpful both in terms of recommending specific exercises to strengthen chops and helping me deal with the injury mentally. There’s a reason everyone calls Bobby when playing issues arise.
Alan Siebert is Professor of Trumpet at the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati. A fellow surgical patient of Dr. McGrail several years prior to my surgery, he was able to make a full recovery and resume his playing and teaching career.
Prof. Siebert has been a great help to me over the phone, through email, and through several lessons in person. He’s helped me keep my focus on my sound, as opposed to only on how my chops feel. It’s easy to obsess over mechanics when healthy, and it’s even easier when you’re hurt. Eventually, you have to trust that the muscle is healed and get back to making music.