Going onstage (www.esplanade.com).


Now Hear This: Eric Miyashiro

The legendary trumpeter says he is ‘still a student of music’


Published: 16 Oct 2023

Time taken : ~10mins

A modern legend among trumpet players, Eric Miyashiro’s iconic powerful sound and off-the-charts range has dazzled audiences worldwide alongside notable artists such as Buddy Rich, Woody Herman and Tower of Power. He has also inspired a generation of trumpeters through the radio, film scores and television shows. The versatile band director, composer and music arranger gives us a glimpse into the soundtrack of his career ahead of his highly-anticipated performance at the Esplanade Concert Hall with his band the Blue Note Tokyo All-Star Jazz Orchestra.

Your dad was a professional trumpet player and mum a dancer so you were constantly surrounded by music. What kind of music was playing in young Eric’s house in ’70s/’80s Hawaii?

Growing up in my house was just like hanging out at a music festival, all kinds of music were playing all day long. Chet Baker was one artist my parents liked to play, but music was all the same to me, “fun”! So I’ve loved all types and genres of music since my childhood.   

You have been called a former child prodigy, having played on radio and television programmes in your childhood, yet you are completely self-taught. Who was one artist you looked up to and took informal tutelage from?

It was difficult trying to find a teacher to study from in Hawaii since the music education was mainly focused on classical music. But I loved playing all types of music, so I started to ask questions and watched and studied the professional players who came through Hawaii, and applied what I learnt to my playing.

My dad never taught me, but he gave me many recordings, books and sheet music to check out and took me to concerts. One of them was the classical recording Music For Trumpet And Orchestra featuring soloists Roger Voisin and Armando Ghitalla. My dad was always there for me.

You are known to have had a close relationship with legendary trumpet player Maynard Ferguson, having performed with him several times and citing him as your mentor and hero. What would you say is the biggest influence he's had on you?

Maynard was just one of my many “heroes”, I got to meet and talk with many legendary players. I got to “hang” with Maynard many times since I was 17. Since he was such a naturally gifted trumpeter, he really didn't know how to explain how to play the trumpet. But he was a great band leader, a true showman. He always made sure his band members had fun so the audience would as well. This is what I learned from him the most.

The trumpet is such an organic instrument and trumpet players are always talking about having your own sound or sounding like a particular player. How would you describe the current Eric Miyashiro sound and how do you think it has changed throughout your career?

A wind instrument player’s sound is like the human voice. You are born with your own unique sound, but as you get older, like the human voice, your sound does change. Your life experiences also change your sound. I never tried to sound like my heroes, I knew early on that was impossible. But by listening to many players, you gradually start to gain other players' personas, changing your overall sound.

What is your favourite big band arrangement to perform?

Difficult question to answer since we have so many, and the band and music are always evolving. I love to write for a big band, wind ensemble or full orchestra. All the music that we will be performing in Singapore will be written by me. I do love writing, but still, I get the most joy playing my trumpet! But if I had to choose, To You by Thad Jones would be one of my favourites to play.

If you could have one lesson with any living or dead musician, who would it be?

I think Johann Sebastian Bach!

How do you constantly find new music to listen to and what's currently on heavy rotation?

Since I work and teach with many young players, I am very fortunate to be exposed to many new music. I’ve recently been listening to Snarky Puppy’s Lingus, but my music rotation changes day to day, maybe even hour to hour.

What is one song or performance in your discography that you feel best showcases the versatility and beauty of the big band?

I’d say one of my proudest would be Fluffy from my album City of Brass. But I am still not satisfied with my own playing or writing. I hope someday I can pick something and say, “hey, this is me!” But until that day comes, I am still a student of music and still a 14-year-old who is both terrified and ecstatic at the same time on the stage.

Catch Eric Miyashiro and the Blue Note Tokyo All-Star Jazz Orchestra at Esplanade Concert Hall on 21 Oct 2023, Sat, for an electrifying evening of big band jazz. With special guests Nao Yoshioka (Japan) and Chok Kerong (Singapore).

Contributed by:

Shearerlyn Mok

Shearerlyn draws inspiration and comfort from the moon, good food and discovering new music.

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