To most people it is undetectable, to some it is horrifying, but to me it is a badge of honor. Yes, I have a purple lip. Well, an occasionally purple lower lip, I should say, and not the whole lip just a small part in the middle. What’s the cause of it? Other than the fact that it has something to do with playing the trumpet, I have no earthly clue.
I was reminded of this phenomenon this morning while checking on some breathing mechanics in the mirror. Sure enough, after removing the mouthpiece, there is my badge of honor, a trumpet player’s right of passage. I can see you there wincing. Really, it isn’t bad, and when I’m not playing you would be hard pressed to notice anything at all. But why, you may be thinking, would I be proud of it? The answer to that is quite simple: my teacher had one just like it.
Ray Crisara was my teacher and mentor through the most formative and delicate years of my trumpet playing life, my undergraduate years. I looked up to him for just about everything. Luckily, I had a wonderful model to look up to. He is a man with many extraordinary and inimitable qualities, but clearly one of the most inspiring of those was his playing. His ability was truly incredible: thoughtful musicality mixed with impeccable control, a true musician’s trumpet player. In the 4 years I spent watching him play and talk, I noticed that he had a small purple mark on his lower lip. I always wondered about that mark, I wondered if it hurt or not, if it affected his playing in anyway. My conclusion was that it had no impact on his playing and that it was merely a sign of many years of lips on metal. As time wore on, that mark became a kind of symbol of quality: if my lip looked like that, perhaps it might sound like that too.
Now, my lip does look like that. My playing, however, doesn’t sound like his and honestly, I don’t think I play at the level that he did. But I still work at it. I still hear his sound and his words in my mind everyday, and everyday I work to get closer to reaching my potential as a player and musician. The evidence of all that work is there for anyone to see; I have the lip to prove it.