“Okay hon, I’m leaving for my meeting!” I called to Jamie as I headed out the door.
“Are you driving?” she asked.
“No, it’s not that far. I could use the walk.”
I put on my jacket and slung the trumpet case over my shoulder. As the intermittent rain eased, I questioned the decision to walk, but it was too late to go back now. Besides, I was on my way to the Pickett/Blackburn showroom, which happened to be just around the corner from my in-law’s house in Lexington, KY. We had traveled with the boys from Colorado for a long overdue family visit but the opportunity to tour one of the premiere brass mouthpiece manufacturers in the world was too enticing to pass up.
As I made my way up Cramer Ave and on to North Ashland Ave, I thought about how I had gotten here. I knew about Pickett mouthpieces from Ian and David on my staff at Boomer Music, as well as from the folks at SE Shires, but are they really that good? I had been playing on the same trumpet mouthpiece for the last 10 years. When I had discovered that mouthpiece it was an indisputable improvement over my previous one. Could lightning strike twice?
I did not have time to ponder that question any further as I arrived at the parking lot and saw Director of Sales Eric Murine, who I recognized from the Pickett/Blackburn web site. Eric was managing the shop’s presence at the 2021 Virtual International Trumpet Guild Conference simultaneous with my visit, but never did I feel like an intrusion or inconvenience. He introduced me to Peter Pickett who I also recognized from his photos, but I would have correctly guessed who he was based on his energy and enthusiasm!
Pickett/Blackburn has undergone a tremendous amount of organic growth, now encompassing three building units on what could be legitimately called a highly efficient manufacturing campus. As Peter gave me the grand tour, the pride in ownership and creation was evident in every stop along the way. These are more than state of the art CNC machines, but rather old friends that have collaborated with him on the Pickett/Blackburn journey.
After seeing the manufacturing and shipping facilities, Peter handed me back to Eric to get down to brass tacks: trying out mouthpieces. Eric took me to the breakroom area, which as I was to discover has excellent acoustics, even with the rain now falling in a steady stream outside the open garage door. He selected two trumpet backbores and several tops (including some acrylic ones that I would have committed severe crimes to have had back when I was marching in brutal New England winters), as well as a one-piece Young Artist model.
After a quick warm up on my current mouthpiece it was time to see what all the fuss was about. When helping people select a step-up instrument, I often talk about the “Harry Potter Wand Moment”, that instant when everything is different and just knowing how things could be makes the way things are seem inadequate. It is a moment I have rarely experienced personally but am always seeking. This was one of those moments.
The base setup I tried was the #2 backbore and the 3C top, which is similar to what I was currently playing. The clarity and ease of playing was incredible, especially since I have been on an extended hiatus from serious playing. The #4 backbore functioned exactly as advertised and would be handy when playing in a situation that values high efficiency, which is not my strong suit. I tend to grip, rip, and overblow compact mouthpieces if left to my own devices, so I switched back to the #2. I then tried the acrylic top and would 100% choose that for all outdoor playing in colder weather.
Eric and Peter had talked up the quality and affordability of the Young Artist model, so I knew I had to try one. It was great! Any advancing player should give this mouthpiece a serious look when they are in the market for their first mouthpiece after outgrowing the 7C that came with their horn. Of course, it is not designed to meet the highly specific demands of serious pros (that what the two-piece series does) but for a trumpet mouthpiece under $70.00 retail, it is a tremendous value.
I went back and forth trying out the Pickett mouthpieces against my mouthpiece and could not escape one self-evident truth: I had been working too hard to get results that were not as good. The ease of playing in all registers and the clarity of sound were a stark contrast to what had been my standard. The game had changed, and I now knew I needed to up mine.
The official Pickett/Blackburn publications will talk about their years of playing and manufacturing experience with top professional artists which allow them to produce truly one-of-a-kind mouthpieces, trim sets, and instruments that are second to none in quality and design. They will also mention that the staff has numerous degrees in music and active professional playing and teaching careers, which make them uniquely qualified to provide players with instruments that meet their needs.
This is a classic case of under promise/over deliver. During my visit to the Pickett/Blackburn shop, I encountered true professionals who care not only about the product they make (that is a given) but the end user of that product. This musician-focused approach to business shows a true understanding of what they do and what their products mean to brass players. Sound is generated within the mouthpiece; the horn just amplifies and modifies it. A superior quality mouthpiece will create a superior sound. At the Pickett/Blackburn shop I discovered a truly rare thing: a product that I will use and can enthusiastically endorse without any reservations.
“Sign me up!” I told Eric, “I want Boomer Music to be a dealer.”
We worked out the particulars and, I am proud to announce, Boomer Music Company is now the newest Pickett mouthpiece dealer! Included in that is Blackburn products as well, so be on the lookout for future announcements regarding Blackburn leadpipes and opportunities to customize your horns. David, our repair shop manager (and former trumpet builder for SE Shires), had been bugging me for a while to pursue Pickett products, but the timing had not been quite right. I knew he had a wish list of mouthpieces and leadpipes he would love us to have.
I thanked Eric for his time and put my jacket on to make the walk back. The rain let up again as I slung my trumpet back over my shoulder and headed back down North Ashland Ave. I pulled out my phone and dialed David’s number.
“You know that Pickett wish list you have in your head? Start writing it down. Wait until you hear where I just was…”
Please contact us at www.BoomerMusicCompany.com to order your Pickett/Blackburn products or to schedule an appointment at our Fort Collins location with one of our brass specialists to audition Pickett mouthpieces.