From his humble beginnings as a nine year old nervously playing his first trumpet solo in church, Dr. Jesse McGuire overcame the reading disorder dyslexia to attain the position of “Lead Trumpet” in the world’s most prestigious jazz big band, “The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra” in New York City, led by Wynton Marsalis. An EMMY Award winner, Dr. McGuire has traveled all over the world and played with Tower of Power, Arturo Sandoval, Pat Boone, James Brown, Andraé Crouch, Billy Preston, Sam (Soul Man) Moore, Sister Sledge, Sammy Hagar, Jeffery Osborne, Paul Simon, and Stevie Wonder, among many others. He is famous for his stirring renditions of “The Star Spangled Banner” at multiple high-profile sporting events and is active in prison ministry.
DG – When did you first think you might want to be a professional musician?
Jesse – I was 11 years old when I played my first trumpet solo in church, “When the Saints Go Marching In.” After which someone walked up to me and gave me five bucks. After that, a cute girl named Lisa walked up and said hello. However, the truth of the matter is that I had a love for the trumpet, and it was that love for the instrument, not the money or the girls, that made me want to do this for the rest of my life.
DG – You have traveled all over the world and played for some amazing people and events. Your job looks very glamorous and exciting – tell us about the not-so glamorous side of it!
Jesse – I don’t mind broken down tour buses. Getting up before sunrise is not a problem for me, even if I’m dead tired and I don’t mind playing for small crowds. But there are three things I absolutely cannot stand… a. I cannot stand a concert promoter, or a club owner, or even a pastor who plays games with the money; b. I cannot stand an incompetent sound engineer; and c. I have absolutely no respect for one musician (especially a trumpet player) who will malign another, just to make himself look good. Those three things are not at all glamorous, but they are a part of the job.
DG – What is your favorite/coolest venue you have ever played in?
Jesse – Joe Robbie Stadium (now Sun Life Stadium), Miami, FL. Absolutely comfortable, and the sound was great, and there I played one of best anthems I’d ever played.
Hear Jesse perform before a recent NFL playoff game
DG – What sort of things do you want to do that you haven’t had the opportunity to do yet?
Jesse – I would love to play the National Anthem “live” for a Super Bowl. If you are an anthem performer, there is no bigger stage. I’d like to do it before I’m too old to bring it! But even more than the Super Bowl… I would LOVE to open a Rolling Stones Concert with the National Anthem! That would be too wild!
DG – Yes, that does sound like fun! For the brass players out there, what is a typical practice session like?
Jesse – The first 30-45 minutes are nothing but long tones. I live and die by them. After that my practice sessions sound absolutely horrible, because I’m “shedding” old skin, and trying to grow. I’m working on difficult things that I don’t normally do. That’s what practice is for; growing. Now, “rehearsal” is a whole different animal. That’s when I go over all the cool licks, and super high notes that keep me performance ready for the upcoming gig! Rehearsal for me is about embouchure muscle memory, breathing, and fingering dexterity.
DG – Who is the most influential musician you have studied or worked with?
Jesses – Wynton Marsalis. He’s one of the greatest musicians of our time. The best advice he gave me was, “Learn to play soft. You’re not a trumpet player until you can play Brahms Lullaby, and NOT wake the baby up.” It was a lesson in restraint! That advice alone has open hundreds of doors for me.
DG – And the most influential musician you have NOT had the chance to study or work with.
Jesse – Earth, Wind, and Fire! That is the only gig on Earth that I will drop everything and go on a moment’s notice.
DG – You are involved with several causes including prison ministry and learning disabilities. Tell us why those are important to you and what you try do to make a difference.
Jesse – . Although I still perform all over the world, I am a full-time Chaplain at a prison facility where 98 percent of the inmate population is Native Hawaiian. I was in the middle of my career when I discovered them two years ago on the internet, and I put my career on hold, and I made a commitment to God to at least try to do something to help minister to them. It’s been rough but, so far, so good.
Regarding learning disabilities, I am famous for being dyslexic. My “thorn in the flesh” is dyslexia. I can write music, I can arrange music, and I can play almost anything, any style. However, if I try to read the very music I have written, I have tremendous difficulty doing so. Sight-reading a chart has been the bane of my existence, considering the formal music training I have had, and the 18 Grammy-winning bands I have performed with. I can follow a chart with no problem, but I will never sit down and flawlessly read an unfamiliar chart… and that disappoints me greatly. I am a spokesman for the Arizona Literacy and Learning Center, and I have done a public service announcement addressing learning disabilities. That’s how I won my EMMY Award. At this stage of my career it’s about encouraging others like me to continue to dream, and to let nothing stop them from realizing their dreams… not even dyslexia!
DG – Thank you Jesse for sharing your inspirational story!