The Time the Trumpet Broke Mid-Performance

The Podcasting Store
3 min readDec 3, 2021

By Drew Holmes

For the Thanksgiving holiday, we took a family road trip to Kentucky to visit Jamie’s family. It is a two-day drive, if everything goes right, and we did it this past summer with great success. The boys enjoyed the road and the sights, so without further thought we knew driving was the right choice.

We were mostly right.

Back when Timothy was a baby, he would frequently get carsick. Any drive longer than an hour would inevitably result in a full wardrobe change, so we would carry extra supplies in anticipation of this. This had not been a problem during the last trip, so a recurrence was the furthest thing from our mind.

On the drive home we discovered how forward in our mind the possibility should have been. Just before arrival at our hotel in Topeka (and again, I was soon to find out, while I was checking us in) he was sick. The hotel web site had mentioned on-site laundry services, so we planned to use them to get things clean enough for the final push home. Unfortunately, when I asked the gentleman at the front desk where the laundry room was, he looked at me slightly confused. He explained that there really wasn’t one.

What were we going to do?

Towards the end of my high school career, I was in my first brass quintet. Our group had the opportunity to go on a “field trip” during our weekly rehearsal to see the Empire Brass Quintet in Boston. This was a rare treat to see one of the premiere brass quintets in the world, so we shirked rehearsing to see the top level pros perform.

The concert was fantastic. However, as the quintet neared the end of the first half, trumpeter Rolf Smedvig started looking at his instrument in a displeased manner. During each rest he would jiggle the water key, sour look on his face. Finally, something happened, and he angrily threw something off into the wings: the waterkey from his trumpet.

The waterkey is, as the name implies, a key on the tuning slide of a trumpet that allows the player to empty the accumulated condensation from the inside of the instrument. When the lever is closed it provides an airtight seal. Without this key, Rolf now had a hole in his horn rendering it nearly unplayable. He did the best he could to cover it with his finger and the quintet finished the movement they were playing. Then they paused and Rolf, in the middle of the performance, turned to the audience and contritely asked: “Does anyone have a trumpet I could borrow?”

Fortunately, the audience was well populated with brass players, including many music students from Boston University with trumpets in tow. A substitute instrument was offered (and accepted) and the show went on.

I am always struck by how freely help was offered in such an extreme circumstance. A musician’s instrument is an extension of themselves, the means by which they create their artistic expression. To give it to a stranger (even a world-renowned performer) is an act of extreme charity. The concert continued as scheduled thanks to that person’s generosity.

Back at the hotel check-in, I explained to the desk attendant that we had a carsick kid and a full day of traveling ahead of us.

“I’ll wash it for you,” he replied. “I raised six daughters. I know what you’re going through. Come back about 9:00 and it will be ready.”

I was stunned. This was above and beyond any reasonable expectation I could have had and would save the evening as well as the next day. I gratefully accepted his offer and we had fresh laundry that evening.

Sometimes we all need a helping hand. As our road trip confirmed, there will always be good people ready to assist.



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