Chicago’s Most Vibrant Trumpet Player, Tom also known as TomCat Trumpet. Fresh off performances at music festivals such as Electric Forest and Spring Awakening, and world’s favorite nightclub such as Prysm. He’s bringing brass into the Chicago dance music scene. With his graceful breathing techniques, good vibes, and back flips, he always knows how to keep the party alive. Creator and Host of the TomCat Trumpet Experience, you can catch him in action on the last Wednesday of every month at AliveOne Chicago and at Le Nocturne Chicago. Be sure to give him a follow!
When did you start playing trumpet?
I guess my earliest memory of starting playing the trumpet was for show and tell in the 3rd grade. I just remember my dad came with me and we played a song and everyone loved it.
When did you purchase your first trumpet?
I remember my pops got me a cornet which is a smaller version of trumpet which is easier for kids to hold around the second grade. He got it for me because I would always see him playing in Broadway shows and I wanted to play too.
How often do you practice each day and how many times a week?
I practice every day unless I have a cut on my lip that needs to heal then I’ll take a day or two off. I’ll practice for at least 2-3 hours each day not including jamming or playing just for fun. The trumpet is a very unforgiving instrument and if you don’t practice every day you lose your ability to play different notes on command.
What is the most difficult aspect of playing the trumpet?
I would say lip strength (embouchure) as well as breath control. To create a sound with the trumpet you have to cram your lips into a tiny piece of metal and then create a constant vibration with your lips using your air stream. All notes are manipulated by the way you move your lips and the air stream which takes an acute sense of awareness, physicality and concentration. It’s like a marriage, I love this instrument and I know I’ll be playing it for the rest of my life but it will be challenging me along the way.
What artists influence/ do you look up to?
Growing up with my dad being a professional trumpet player for Broadway definitely had an impact on me. I noticed him playing with famous people like Cyndai Lauper, Barry Manilow at a young age and I wanted to do the same thing. I would always go see him play in shows like Wicked, Hairspray, Cats, and I always loved the show and the escape it provides. Seeing him being so disciplined definitely showed me some of the tools I needed to learn how to become successful as an instrumentalist.
What was the moment you wanted to take a leap into the music business?
My debut as TomCat Trumpet was when I performed at Electric Forest in 2018. I met so many talented people following their passions that when I came back to Chicago I started my monthly variety show at AliveOne Chicago called ‘The TomCat Trumpet Experience’. That was the beginning of something special, after about 6 months into the project I quit my job at a hotel restaurant so I could focus more on music and booking more shows. I have been doing music full time ever since.
What is your proudest moment so far?
Hmm… it’s hard to pick but here’s a few: I would say performing at large festivals such as Electric Forest and Spring Awakening was such a great feeling that I’m constantly chasing. I felt the same way recently making my TV debut performing an original song on WCIU’s The Jam Show. Playing at PRYSM nightclub with Alex Kislov and Arvi Malaa was one of the most fun shows I’ve ever done as well. I recently recorded a song that features my dad, and that was a proud moment to have us both be recorded on an original track. Being signed as an agent artist for Treblemonsters about a month ago was a big one for me as well because that has helped me in so many ways. Lastly, I’m really proud of how far my variety show has come over the past year, it’s been quite the journey.
How do you plan the playlist for an event you’re playing?
I think about what kind of crowd will be at the event, as well as what other music they will likely hear through the night. An ideal set for me is to play some jazz and blues, then move into some more high energy dance tracks that everyone knows. It’s always different though, I love surprising people with new music they have never heard before.
When did you join Treblemonsters and how has your journey been with them?
I signed a contract with TM a little over a month ago and I have been enjoying my time with them very much. My booking agent Kice Akkawi is a great guy and it’s really nice to have someone I trust help me with the business side of things so I can focus more on the music. I’m looking forward to growing and continuing to work with them in 2020 and beyond.
What are currently your main challenges as a musician?
I would have to say balance is a tough thing to find. I am performing pretty much every weekend often multiple locations in a night which is awesome, but I spend most of my time preparing for performances and not as much time being creative in the studio coming up with new original material as I would like. I understand this is just how it is as a full time gigging musician, but I hope to find more time to create new music in the coming months.
Is there any future events we should know about?
The TomCat Trumpet Experience! On the last Wednesday of every month at AliveOne on Halsted, I host my own variety show with live painting, poetry, comedy, bands, DJ sets, and so much more. It’s always a free show and a wonderful showcase of some of the finest talent Chicago has to offer. I just entered the second year of my residency at AliveOne and that place truly is a perfect home for the show and we have a great relationship with the staff. Come check it out!
If you had to do something else (outside of music) what would it be?
In the past year I have performed at several high end fashion shows and I have realized how passionate I am about fashion and style. If for some reason I couldn’t do music anymore I would find a way to work in the fashion world as well as continue to be an event coordinator. Putting together a variety show every month has shown me that I really enjoy bringing talented people together to create unique experiences.
What is your favorite Chicago venue to perform at and why?
Man…that’s a great question! One of my favorite parts of being a musician is always seeing and performing at new places because they all have a different energy and vibe which obviously influences the music and how I perform. I would say the Green Mill Cocktail Lounge is my favorite live music venue. Not only is it the oldest jazz club in Chicago being built in 1907, but every time I have played there the way the crowd has intently listened to every note I played which was super special. PRYSM is definitely my favorite nightclub I have performed at though, their whole team was so professional and made for a seamless and amazing experience.
What’s your favorite event you’ve performed at recently?
The day after Christmas I made my TV debut on The Jam Show on WCIU early in the morning and performed an original piece of music. It was a really cool and interesting experience to see how news gets delivered to us every morning and I was grateful for the opportunity to share my music and perform something from the soul. I just might have some more TV opportunities soon but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see…
What is something that makes you stand out as an artist?
I would like to think that it’s my sound and my style. I know a lot of trumpet players and none of them do anything like what I’m doing. I have a passion for blending the sounds of the trumpet with Electronic Music. I have a deep love for all kinds of music and I try to do new things with the horn that have never been done before.
What are your top 3 artists?
2.The String Cheese Incident
If you were stranded on an island what album/record would you have with you?
Jimi Hendrix – Axis: Bold As Love
What is a phrase or quote you try to live by?
I have been a big fan of Alan Watts for years and this quote tells me to be fluid. Being a musician you have to always adapt to new spaces, new songs, and all the things that happen to a performer. This quote reminds me that when things go wrong it’s important to go with the flow, change will always happen but that doesn’t have to be bad. There truly is such a thing as a beautiful mistake, sometimes we just need to open our minds a bit.
Tell us something that you’re doing now and are excited about.
I’ve got several new collaborations on the way that will be released in the next few months that are unlike any music I have released yet. I’m really excited about playing the trumpet with deep house at the moment and it’s been going over really well with crowds.
What should we expect from you in 2020?
Expect to see me in more and more at clubs and events throughout the city. I’ve recently started booking some select shows out of state which I’m hoping to do that more as well. I’m gonna keep spreading happiness with music wherever I can…
Is there anything else you would like to add?