For 20 years Canadian trumpet great Jens Lindemann has lived in L.A., where he's a Professor with High Distinction at UCLA. But when he calls the Straight for an interview he's not sitting poolside, working on his tan and cooling off with a frosty beverage. He's at the Vancouver Airport lounge after making a family visit to his old hometown of Edmonton.
"I went to see my parents," he says, "and you know it's love because it was minus-40 there."
Lindemann is waiting on his flight back to La-La Land, where he'll thaw out for a while before heading back to these chilly climes for two shows with the VSO. This weekend he'll be joining the symphony in a program of works by Leopold Mozart (Toy Symphony), Haydn (Trumpet Concerto), Charles Ives (The Unanswered Question), and Allan Gilliland (Dreaming of the Masters).
One of the world's top trumpeters, Lindemann started playing the instrument when he was 12 years. He joined the junior-high band because he wanted to play drums, but the deal was that he could only progress to rattling the skins if he proved himself on the trumpet first.
And he didn't.
"Out of 25 trumpet players I was dead last," he recalls, "and my mother wouldn't let me quit music and go into drama as an option. She said I had to do at least one year on the trumpet."
Two important things happened to Lindemann during that single year, though. The first was discovering the camaraderie of being "a band geek". And the second was seeing trumpet great Doc Severinsen—best known as the longtime bandleader on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson—in concert with the Edmonton Symphony.
"I'll never forget it," says Lindemann. "He walked out on stage wearing a lime-green jacket and pink leather pants, and he stormed up to the microphone and said, 'You know, ladies and gentlemen, I don't wear these pants 'cause I look good in them. I like 'em 'cause of the way they feel!' He slapped himself on the butt, and the entire audience was enraptured. I was 12 and I thought, 'That is what I want to do for a living.' "
Lindemann claims that the influence of Severinsen—who is now one of his closest friends and "still very much alive at 94 years young"—is the main reason why he plays trumpet. But he was also inspired by Chuck Mangione, who scored a huge trumpet-based hit in 1978 with the instrumental "Feels So Good". That song is frequently heard in reruns of TV's King of the Hill, via a running gag in which Mangione—who often guest-starred on the show as himself—works it into whatever he's playing.
"I'll tell you what," says Lindemann, sounding a bit like KOTH's Hank Hill himself, "Chuck Mangione was the first person to sign my trumpet gig-bag. When 'Feels so Good' came out I had just started playing the instrument, and he was on tour, so I walked backstage and was very proud to give him my case, and he signed the back of it. That tune is arguably one of the biggest trumpet hits in history, so Chuck's influence is there, without a doubt."
Lindemann has taken the early influence of players like Severinsen and Mangione and turned it into a talent that has drawn worldwide acclaim and seen him score high-profile gigs at venues like New York City's Carnegie Hall. The first classical brass player to ever receive the Order of Canada, he also performed to an estimated television audience of two billion at the closing ceremonies of the 2010 Olympics. So what's the secret to his success with the trumpet?
"I came from an immigrant family," he explains, "and anybody who's reading this article that is an immigrant will understand that the immigrant mentality is all about work, work, work. No free lunches are handed out, and I think that is the most critical element to any kind of success. That, along with a healthy dose of humour.
"I mean we all claim that music is a passion—we love doing it—but how many times have you heard of people getting out of it because they felt too much pressure for some bizarre reason. I'm very passionate about telling my students, in particular, that I have never in my entire life met one person who has bought a concert ticket and said to themselves 'I'm gonna feel worse coming out of this concert than when I went in.' You already have the audience, all you have to do is go there and share who you are with them—and they will love it, regardless of what happens."
If hard work and humour were indeed the main traits leading to Jens Lindemann's fortune and fame, you might wonder if precious metal had something to do with it as well. According to the last line of the bio on his website, trumpetsolo.com, he is "an international Yamaha artist playing exclusively on 24K gold plated instruments."
"Well, part of that is marketing," he replies. "When I was a kid I remember seeing those K-Tel music ads in the seventies, and I remember there were advertisements for 'James Galway, The Man with the Golden Flute'. And I was always enraptured by the fact, 'Why was he playing a golden flute?' And then when I was a little older I saw the Canadian Brass in concert, and they were all playing gold-plated instruments.
"So some of it just a real cool marketing ploy because it's true, but from a literal standpoint, the process of gold plating an instrument demands that you have to silver plate it first, so there's two layers of plating on it, which warms up the sound of the instrument. And my entire mission with audiences is to play with the most beautiful warm sound as opposed to, you know, that shrill thing that sometimes trumpet players are accused of."
Lindemann actually sees more value in the "Yamaha artist" label than the whole golden-trumpet thing.
"I've been playing Yamaha since late high-school," he points out, "and it just worked out that I've had a long relationship with the company. I've been to the factory in Japan many times, and the quality and consistency of Yamaha workmanship is amazing. But truthfully, it's my personal relationships with the people that are there, the designers. You become friends with these people over the years, and they just start making products that are built for the right reasons. For instance, for the Haydn Concerto Yamaha built me a one-of-a-kind instrument. It's never been built before, it'll never be built again, and it was built specifically so I could record the Haydn Concerto with the Royal Philharmonic and Pinchas Zukerman.
"Now why that's so important to me—aside from the fact that I got to record the concerto at all—is that in 1796 it was written for a brand new instrument, which could play chromatically. Basically the Haydn Trumpet Concerto is the beginning of the entire history of the trumpet. So to honour its roots and beginnings we had a very special instrument built, and that's the instrument I'll be playing with the VSO in Vancouver."