Luis Macedo — Transitioning from Classical Trumpeter to Lead of One of Europe’s Premier Big Bands

Cite this article as:

Gretchen Mayer-Yeh. (April 27, 2021). Luis Macedo — Transitioning from Classical Trumpeter to Lead of One of Europe’s Premier Big Bands. International Journal of Music. Accessed July 25, 2024. https://ijm.education/winds/brass/trumpet/luis-macedo-interview/

Luis Miguel Macedo, born on July 17, 1994, in Oporto, Portugal, has garnered recognition at the youthful age of not yet 27 as the lead trumpeter of the Orquestra Jazz de Matosinhos (OJM). The OJM, acclaimed as Portugal’s “national” jazz orchestra, has received accolades both domestically and internationally, gracing prestigious stages worldwide, including the JVC Jazz Festival at Carnegie Hall in New York.

Musical directors Pedro Guedes and Carlos Azevedo of the OJM commend their young trumpeter. Guedes asserts, “Since joining OJM as lead in 2017, we have been shaping the orchestra’s sonic landscape with him. Macedo is a talent, displaying seriousness and an openness to diverse viewpoints, adapting swiftly. We take great pride in having him with us.”

Luis Miguel’s musical trajectory did not commence in the realm of jazz. He initially pursued classical trumpet studies at the conservatory, following the path of many. His familial connection to the trumpet traces back to his paternal grandfather, Jose Alves Macedo, a prominent classical trumpeter who collaborated with luminaries like Luciano Pavarotti and Montserrat Caballé. Jose, a mentor to influential Portuguese brass musicians, as confirmed by Guedes, “contributed to establishing a culture of brass instruments here, having instructed trumpet and trombone players at the conservatory for years.”

José Alves Macedo, grandfather of Luis Miguel (right), playing the trumpet for his son Luis, father of Luis Miguel (left). Photo: Macedo Family.

Despite not having personally known his grandfather, Luis Miguel shares, “Before his passing, he expressed a desire for his first grandson to carry on his legacy in the trumpet, leaving behind his instruments for that purpose.”

Embarking on his musical journey by learning to play in his hometown’s band at the age of seven or eight, Luis Miguel decided to enroll in the Oporto Conservatory at around ten years old, where he remained until seventeen. Until that juncture, his trajectory paralleled that of any trumpet student. However, classical music began to lose its allure for Luis, who explains, “The years passed, and I grew increasingly disenchanted with classical music.”

The Genesis of Luis Macedo as a Jazz Trumpeter

“One day, a friend informed me that they were assembling a big band at the conservatory and asked if I wished to join,” he recollects. “In the initial rehearsal, I played the opening notes of ‘Chameleon,’ and my eyes sparkled like diamonds,” he reminisces. “At that moment, I pondered, ‘What kind of music is this, so replete with joy, freedom, and warmth?'”

His early forays with the conservatory’s big band propelled him deeper into the realm of jazz for a couple of years. Subsequently, he resolved to apply to the Superior School of Music and Performing Arts of Oporto (ESMAE), where he encountered Pedro Guedes, the jazz professor at the school, who swiftly became one of his principal advocates. “I swiftly discerned Luis’s potential, and we commenced developing his ‘lead’ capabilities,” confesses Guedes. Macedo adds, “At ESMAE, I cultivated a magical embouchure for ‘lead,’ and my aspiration evolved to performing someday with the Orquestra Jazz Matosinhos.”

That aspiration swiftly materialized—merely two months later. The fourth trumpet of OJM was unavailable for a performance, prompting Pedro to inquire if Luis would be interested in joining them. “It took me less than a second to respond with a ‘yes!'” he declares, laughing.

Since 2012, Luis Miguel had been serving as a substitute fourth trumpet in OJM, and his ambition shifted towards assuming the role of lead trumpeter. “Although that seemed like an unattainable dream,” he concedes.

However, in 2017—a year after completing his studies at ESMAE—Pedro contacted Luis, proposing that he assume the lead position. Guedes elucidates, “Gileno Santana, our lead at the time, began to ascend as a soloist, and his schedule became incompatible with OJM’s. Luis Miguel Macedo emerged as the first choice to replace him in the orchestra. I knew Luis possessed the requisite talent and rhythmic precision for this role. Substituting for Gileno was no easy task, and Luis rose to the occasion.”

The other musical director of OJM, Carlos Azevedo, also expresses his elation: “Luis’s contributions to OJM have significantly enriched the orchestra while affording him the opportunity to express his creativity.”

When queried about the day he was formally offered the lead position in OJM, Luis Miguel candidly shares, “For a moment, I couldn’t fathom that it was transpiring. Naturally, I responded with a ‘yes,’ and perhaps that day stands as the best in my life thus far. Over recent years, I have been pursuing my passion in my homeland, alongside one of the finest ensembles in Europe. I couldn’t ask for more.”

Undoubtedly, his life underwent a rapid transformation—from feeling out of place studying subjects he found uninspiring to experiencing immense joy through music.

Collaboration with the Andrew Rathbun Large Ensemble

Macedo continued to evolve as a musician. In 2019, another significant milestone materialized in his career: the renowned Andrew Rathbun Large Ensemble arrived from the United States to participate in the Portuguese Guimarães Jazz Festival, necessitating a lead trumpeter. They approached Carlos Azevedo, who naturally recommended Luis.

“It was challenging because, in addition to the program with Andrew’s orchestra, during those days, I was concurrently engaged in another major program with OJM: ‘Miles Ahead & Porgy and Bess.’ Essentially, I was shuttling between rehearsals and had three days of concerts while rehearsing with another orchestra,” our protagonist recounts, acknowledging that his initial emotions comprised a mix of anxiety and happiness. “I was a bit nervous, I won’t deny, sharing the stage with musicians like John O’Gallagher, Dana Hall, Aubrey Johnson, Scott Cowan, Geof Bradfield, Tim Hagans, etc. However, they were all incredibly professional and, more importantly, kind and humble. Assuming the lead role, it felt peculiar that they sought my opinion, such as, ‘Hey, how do you want to interpret this measure?’ considering my relative youth; this demonstrated that they regarded me like any other professional musician, irrespective of age.”

The Andrew Rathbun Large Ensemble, with Luis Miguel Macedo as lead trumpet.

Andrew Rathbun himself, whom we contacted, extols Macedo’s professionalism: “Luís Macedo is the dream lead trumpeter for any composer. Undoubtedly, he is for me. His sound is warm and round, and he plays with a gentle intensity that I adore. He possesses the ability to stand out, yet when he does, it is always in service of the music; many lead trumpeters believe that high notes are solely for personal exhibition.” Rathbun also conveys the sentiments of his ensemble musicians: “The entire section swiftly adapted to Luís’s sound and style. He did not issue many instructions, but he didn’t need to. The section members simply followed his lead. I anticipate having another opportunity for this individual to perform my music. He is a special musician.”

In that program, they performed “Atwood Suites,” a genuinely beautiful piece, according to Luis. “Rehearsals were excellent, and on the day of the concert, everything unfolded as planned. It was akin to a gift for me. I retain the sheet music from that experience as a memento, which I am confident will recur.”

Luis Macedo’s Trumpet Practice Routine

As trumpet enthusiasts, we seized the opportunity to inquire about the practice routine of a trumpeter who has matured professionally so swiftly. “I will be candid and assert that my routine would not serve as an exemplar for young students,” he responds, appending, “Typically, I allocate only one or two hours a day to playing the trumpet, in the late afternoon, always interspersed with a day of rest. During concert weeks, I adopt a more active approach to build endurance and master all passages. This method of working has consistently yielded favorable results for me.”

However, as a genuine devotee of music, Luis does not confine himself solely to playing the trumpet. He is also adept at the drums, composes film scores, and devotes late hours to studying the piano. “I relish having music with me 100% of the time,” he emphasizes. His mentors, Pedro Guedes and Carlos Azevedo, commend this multi-faceted approach. Carlos observes, “Luis is a versatile musician, and engaging in musical discussions with him is a pleasure because he exhibits curiosity about any topic related to it.” Pedro affirms, “For me, the bedrock of a big band lies in the synergy between the lead trumpet and the drummer. Luis plays both instruments, setting him apart from others with this distinctive attribute.”

“I appreciate different music styles depending on the instrument I am playing at that moment,” Luis remarks with a laugh, “but arguably, my primary source of inspiration while playing is establishing a connection with my fellow musicians through visual contact. For me, that constitutes the impetus needed for inspiration. Additionally, of course, performing alongside talented individuals!”

In bidding farewell to Luis Miguel Macedo, we queried what advice he would offer to other young music students. “Be mature and humble,” he responds without hesitation. “In music, there is no ‘best’ or ‘worst.’ The moment you commence categorizing other musicians in such terms, you are poisoning yourself. Strive for what you desire, assist others, and seek assistance yourself because everyone requires aid with various matters. In art, as in life, there cannot be ‘I’ but ‘we.'”

Conclusion

In conclusion, Luis Miguel Macedo’s journey from classical trumpet to lead of the Orquestra Jazz de Matosinhos is a testament to his musical versatility and dedication. His seamless transition, marked by pivotal moments and collaborations with esteemed ensembles, highlights his adaptability and commitment to excellence.

Beyond his role as lead trumpeter, Luis’s multi-instrumental skills, compositional flair, and holistic approach to learning showcase his versatility. His mentors commend not just his musical prowess but also his curiosity and eagerness to engage in diverse musical discussions.

Luis’s unique practice routine, though unconventional, underscores his emphasis on quality over quantity. His advice to aspiring musicians to be mature, humble, and collaborative encapsulates the ethos of his musical journey—emphasizing the collective nature of musical artistry.

In essence, Luis Miguel Macedo’s story reflects the transformative power of music, the significance of mentorship, and the enduring impact of passion in artistic growth. As he continues to evolve, his contributions to the world of jazz stand as a testament to the lasting influence of dedication and love for the craft.

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