Joshua MacCluer | Elevation

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by Joshua MacCluer

Versatile trumpeter Joshua MacCluer's album covers a wide range of styles, from classical to jazz.
Genre: Jazz: Chamber Jazz
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Méditation from "Thaïs"
5:04 $0.99
2. Tryptique
3:58 $0.99
3. Mendelssohn Concerto
4:09 $0.99
4. What a Wonderful World (feat. Bob Mocarsky)
3:37 $0.99
5. Variations On the Carnival of Venice
4:01 $0.99
6. Piéce en Forme de Habañera
3:04 $0.99
7. Zigeunerweisen
7:45 $0.99
8. An Sylvia
2:48 $0.99
9. Vocalise-Étude
3:19 $0.99
10. Amazing Grace
4:27 $0.99
11. Music for Trumpet and Djembe (feat. Aziz D. Barnard Luce)
4:20 $0.99
12. Prélude
3:01 $0.99
13. Stardust (feat. Bob Mocarsky)
3:44 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Trumpeter Joshua MacCluer is a versatile and virtuosic performer in demand worldwide as a solo artist, chamber musician, and orchestra musician. Joshua currently holds the Principal Trumpet chair of the Hong Kong Philharmonic, and previously was a member of the world-renowned Saint Louis Symphony for nine years. Joshua has also held principal trumpet positions with the Colorado Symphony and Baltimore Symphony. As a soloist he has performed with the Hong Kong Philharmonic, Saint Louis Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, and Colorado Symphony.

Equally comfortable in a concert hall or jazz club, MacCluer has performed in 23 countries in many styles and has appeared on stage with many of the world’s finest artists. He is an active record producer, composer and arranger with experience in jazz, pop, classical, Latin, and electronic music.

Joshua is also committed to excellence in coaching and education and is Director of Peak Performance Coaching at TransVolve, as well as a faculty member at the Hong Kong Academy for the Performing Arts. He is a daily practitioner of yoga, chigong and meditation and considers his most important job becoming a 1% better person each day.

Josh writes about the content:

This diverse album is the result of one and a half years of work and contains works in a variety of styles, originally written for voice, violin, and trumpet. I hope you enjoy listening to this music as much as I enjoyed making it.

First on the album is the Méditation from Thaïs by Jules Massenet. Originally for violin solo with orchestra, it's one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written. I had a torrid love affair with this piece for the three months I worked on it. I practiced and listened to recordings obsessively and I had this melody running through my mind repeatedly. It's fair to say I tuned my mind in to this beautiful work. It's a very nice way to start an album, just like meditation is a great way to start the day.

20th century composer Henri Tomasi wrote several very difficult works including a famously difficult concerto, his even more difficult Second Concerto, and a concertino that I played with the Colorado Symphony several years ago. Here, I play the Tryptique for trumpet and piano. It is in three short movements, containing a cute one minute first movement scherzo, a nice melodic largo, and a difficult muted saltarelle final movement. I had to log a lot of practice time on this one. While I don’t feel that I mastered it, I am happy that, after much work I figured out how to navigate the numerous tricky passages in this short work.

The next work, the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, was originally in E minor and a full length violin masterpiece with orchestra. In this arrangement it has been adapted for trumpet and piano and reduced to four minutes by the great Mexican trumpet virtuoso Rafael Méndez, who was once known as the “Heifetz of the trumpet”. In my preparation I spent a lot of time visualizing him perform this work, especially the fast articulated passages. I first visualized watching him play the passage flawlessly, then I visualized watching myself play it the same way, and finally I visualized the feeling of playing the passage perfectly. Then, I tried again with the trumpet, and more often than not, I could play it. This is one of the most effective practice techniques I have discovered.

One of the best loved songs ever is best associated with a trumpeter, but Louis Armstrong only sang on his famous trumpetless version of What a Wonderful World. I also sing this tune occasionally, but on this version I stay on trumpet and am joined by the excellent jazz pianist Bob Mocarsky. When I lived in Saint Louis, I would often attend service Sunday mornings at local gospel churches as my part of the symphony’s Community Partnership Program. Gospel church is a fabulous experience and is just like it is in the movies. The churches' hospitality was great and I always felt at home jamming with the church bands, some of which were staffed by the best jazz talent in Saint Louis. This tune is my musical postcard from those Sunday mornings.

Next is Herbert L. Clarke’s Variations on the Carnival of Venice. Clarke was perhaps the best cornet soloist ever, and this work demonstrates a small percentage of what the great brass master was capable of. Herbert L. Clarke was well known as a very diligent practicer, and using him as a model it is my goal to practice diligently every day.

To truly practice diligently requires love. I spend a lot of time playing one note hundreds of times in a row until it sounds just right, I play two notes back and forth over and over, and I play just the first note of a passage repeatedly until I am 100% confident in the entrance. I learned to play this work quickly by playing it slowly many times until it was second nature. Without love there's no way I could put in those long hours. In the end it's worth the effort. This Clarke is a good example of how something that sounds technically difficult is easy to perform if practiced patiently and in the right way.

Please visit for a thorough description of how I approach fast playing, along with a video of this performance.

Next is a beautiful vocalise by Maurice Ravel, Piéce en Forme de Habañera. Originally written for bass voice and piano, this piece has been performed by every instrument all over the world. It is a standard recital piece and it lies beautifully on the trumpet.

I have had a very long term relationship with this piece beginning in 1995 when I played it in recital at age 18. When I play it I have a picture in my head of a hot summer night somewhere in Spain, where it’s so hot everyone just sits around doing nothing but drinking sangria and fanning themselves. It’s a soft and subtle piece, but in the music there is an echo of the day’s bullfight, the faraway sound of trumpet fanfares and the rhythm of the habañera dance. I hope you enjoy my latest version of this beautiful piece, the result of a 19 year old musical friendship.

Please visit for further discussion and a video of this performance.

The centerpiece of the album, and also one of the most challenging, is the Rafael Méndez arrangement of Pablo de Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen. Originally written for violin and orchestra, the title means “Gypsy Airs”. This is one of the most famous violin showpieces in the repertoire and in this arrangement Mendez sticks closely to the original. I thoroughly enjoyed practicing this piece, especially the first movement, which I began working on in the summer of 2013 on the abandoned Mandrem beach in Goa, India.

Schubert’s An Sylvia, about a very nice girl next door, is one of my favorites of the many great Schubert songs. It was an excellent vehicle for me to practice playing in the vocal style. Originally written by Shakespeare, the text was adapted to German by Eduard von Bauernfeld and set to music by Franz Schubert in 1827.

In my practice and study of music, I listen to and try to emulate singers as much as possible. I listen to them more often than trumpeters. To listen, repeat, listen, repeat is the way one learns from these masters. There is a very practical reason for making singing part of regular training for any musician. Since there is no instrument, there is less technical obstruction to musicianship and it is much easier to find our true musical self by singing. There is so much muscle memory in our instrumental playing that it is easy to let the muscles do what they are accustomed to doing instead of what the mind wants. Singing gives us the freedom to explore our true musical ideas. This is even more important advice for jazz players. Singing is a great way to capture brand new ideas and extend jazz vocabulary and expressiveness by leaps and bounds.

Please visit for a longer discussion of this and a video of the performance.

A piece I was unfamiliar with before I began this project is Gabriel Faure’s Vocalise-étude. Originally written for wordless voice, it is a lovely work and I can not understand why it is not in the standard repertoire for singers and instrumentalists. This piece was perfect to work on my execution of the idea of putting the sound first in preparation.

Who you are as an artist starts and ends with your sound. If your sound is truly great, people will listen to you, pay for tickets to see you, buy your records and talk about your performances long after you are dead. This is why when I practice I put the sound first.

For a detailed description of this process please visit and also watch the video of this performance if you like.

The next track is the piece that I have been performing for the longest, the Luther Henderson arrangement of Amazing Grace for brass quintet. I am joined by my colleagues in the Hong Kong Brass Quintet for this bluesey then Dixieland arrangement. I believe it is the first work I ever figured out how to sound good on. I first played this as a very young student at Sewanee Music Festival in Tennessee, USA and I have been playing ever since. It always brings the house down.

For Susan

For something completely different, I next present a version of the Music for Trumpet and Djembe by the talented young trumpet virtuoso Brandon Ridenour. I had the pleasure of coaching Brandon in a brass quintet years ago when I was a young pro and he a very talented high schooler. I am very happy he turned out to be such a great artist. I am joined on this track by the Master of Sound, percussionist Aziz D. Barnard Luce. This was a very fun project and I enjoyed cultivating extended techniques for this performance and playing something very different than the norm.

The lone unaccompanied work on the album, Prélude, is the fifteenth of the “36 Études Transcendantes” by the Belgian trumpeter Theo Charlier. Most trumpet students work on some of these etudes in music school but usually stop after the first ten, as the later etudes get quite difficult. In 2012-2013, I was joined by four top trumpet colleagues worldwide in “The Charlier Challenge,” working through the entire book one week at a time, recording our best unedited takes of each and posting them online without identification for celebrity judges to pick their favorites.

I learned so much from this project and I believe it was one of the most valuable learning experiences in my career. The experience of taping my best one-shot effort every week for the better part of a year taught me a lot about how to perform at my best despite the circumstances. I traveled around the world while producing a take every week in locations from cramped hotel rooms to beach huts. I recorded in Belgium, Bulgaria, Romania, Saint Louis, London, Paris, Berlin, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Vietnam, and Macau. This project was such a major career experience for me that I had to include at least one of these études on this album.

For Liam, Carrie, Mike, and Justin

Another great tune associated with the trumpet is Hoagy Carmichael’s Stardust. I grew up listening to the Clifford Brown version of this great song, and started playing it on request several years ago for the 50th wedding anniversary of some good friends in Saint Louis. This song has a faded postcard feel to it, like finding some old love letters in a box in the attic, sent between people long departed. My arrangement begins classically, with echoes of Debussy, before taking a jazzy turn.

For Ken and Marjie

The Making Of the Album

Thank you very much for taking the time to listen to my music and read a few of my thoughts on the content of this album, my first attempt as a solo artist.

I put a lot of myself into this album. Developing my solo playing required a huge investment of practice time and musical dedication. I first started working on the music for this album in January of 2013 and played much of it on recitals that summer. I began recording that October.

I have a fairly heavy playing schedule in my normal position as principal trumpeter of the Hong Kong Philharmonic, as well as several other projects, including jazz, playing with the Hong Kong Brass Quintet, and coaching at TransVolve Peak Performance Training. Therefore, I decided to take it slow and record a few works at a time every month or two. The last recording session was in August 7, 2014.

I am very glad I chose to record slowly for two reasons. First, there was no chance that I would be able to work up all the repertoire for this album at one time and keep up with the rest of my playing responsibilities. Recording in parts was a necessity if I wanted to end up with a finished product that met my standards while keeping my job with the Philharmonic. Second, I gained great benefit from having time in between recording sessions to listen back to the recordings, hear what I needed to improve the most, and practice accordingly. The difference between the quality of my playing from the first recordings to the last is testament to how much I improved as an artist and player as a result of this project.

In addition to the large investment of time and effort, I also put a lot of love into this album. This project was a wonderful way for me to reconnect further to my love of music. I love music so much these days, and thank the universe every day for the opportunity to make my life in this magical field.


There are so many people to thank. Without the help of countless friends, family, colleagues, and mentors in my life I could not be where I am today. I apologize to those I forget to mention today and offer my thanks to those not mentioned specifically.

First of all I'd like to thank my mother, Barbara MacCluer. She generously and tirelessly supported my musical career every step of the way, sending me to summer festivals every year, buying me the instruments I needed, sending me to music school, and generally being my #1 fan. Thanks, Mom! Also I would like to thank my father Charles MacCluer and my stepfather Tom Kriete for their musical inspiration in the early years. Finally I would like to thank my late grandfather Theron McClure for his spiritual ancestry and over eighty years of musicianship that serves as an inspiration to this day.

Next I'd like to thank my colleagues and friends who gave themselves musically on this album. Illie Ng Ling Ling contributed beautiful playing and a very nice personality to many of these tracks. Bob Mocarsky appears on two tracks and has been a big positive influence on my jazz playing in Hong Kong. I thank him for helping me rekindle my love for playing jazz after many years. John Shum was my student at the Hong Kong Academy for the Performing Arts for two years and is also a fine pianist and I thank him for playing on three tracks as well as accompanying me on my first recital. Thanks to Aziz D.Barnard Luce for his playing on the djembe as well as his weekly brilliance while standing directly behind me at the Philharmonic. Thanks to Dipsy Ha for his work on arranging the Massenet. Finally I would like to thank my colleagues from the Hong Kong Brass Quintet. My colleague in the trumpet section Chris Moyse, is a wonderful colleague and a very classy player for whom I forsee great things. I thank Lin Jiang for his infectious excitement for music making and general awesomeness on the French horn. Paul Luxenberg continues to inspire me with his desire to be the best person and musician he can be and is a very positive influence. Finally I thank Jarod Vermette, who I sit next to at work daily, for his true love of music, powerful artistry and great teamwork.

Next I would like to thank Joe Kirtley and the Hong Kong Academy for the Performing Arts. Joe's support of this project and his help in securing the availability of the Academy recital hall for recording was essential. This project would not have been possible without him.

Thanks also to Marie Bouveron, Vincent Ip and Amanda Chau for their help on the videos. Thanks to Wilson Chau for taking the cover photo, Natalie Ma for doing the art, and to Iris Ting for doing many many things as my go-to assistant.

I would also like to thank some colleagues for their support of my musicianship over the years. William Day has for years been a sounding board for musical and personal ideas and my go-to critic for new ideas. Aaron McCalla has been a great colleague in and out of classical music and was a catalyst for my branching out into other styles of music. Joshua Gindele is a very old friend whose work in the Miro String Quartet first showed me the possibility of reaching for the true top artistic standard in the world. Marc Gelfo has been present for a large amount of my practicing of this material and I thank him for his numerous good ideas both musical and personal. Andrew Simon has been a big help to me in advising how to begin a solo career in Hong Kong. Finally, big thanks to my great colleagues at the Hong Kong Philharmonic for being a daily inspiration for me and for being such great teammates.

Finally I would like to thank some of my most important mentors for their example, encouragement, and instruction. William Lucas was my teacher in university and I would not be able to play anything without him. George Vosburgh taught me the orchestral style at a very reduced rate when I was a young professional. Andrew Balio has been my Obi Wan in many ways for years and helped greatly to shape my worldview. Thanks also to several other influential teachers, including John Dearth, Terry Detwiler, Vincent Tornello, Laura Thomas, Michael Sachs, Barbara Butler, and Stephen Burns. My boss from Saint Louis, David Robertson, spent seven years developing me and I thank him for his patience and the opportunities he gave me to grow, especially the super difficult modern music that he trusted me to play on his Pulitzer series. I would like to thank my maestro in Hong Kong, Jaap van Zweden, who brought me to Hong Kong and breathed a new life into my artistic career and who demands every day that I reach higher and higher standards. Finally I would like to thank Susan Slaughter who I sat next to in Saint Louis for seven years. Her shining example of artistry, professionalism, integrity, work ethic, and humanity set an extremely high standard. I pick up the instrument every day with the intention to continue the work we shared to the best of my ability.

Recorded 2013-14 at the Hong Kong Academy for the Performing Arts.

Engineered, edited, and mastered by Joshua MacCluer 2013-14.



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