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Cameron Handel

Cameron Handel

Band – Trumpeter

Cameron Handel has performed around the world, playing her trumpet for the likes of Michael Bolton, Seal, Blast!, and more. After receiving a scholarship to the University of Georgia where she studied classical trumpet under the guidance of Fred Mills, she quickly became a touring cast member of the Tony Award-winning Broadway show, “Blast!” As a featured trumpet soloist in both “Blast!” and “Blast 2- M.I.X.” (Music in Extreme), she gained popularity on TV shows, through magazine interviews, and by traveling to perform throughout North America and Japan. While off the road, she keeps busy performing with the Charleston Jazz Orchestra, subbing with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, and maintaining a hectic schedule as a private music instructor. She also performs often with  “Sol-Driven Train” & “Super Deluxe” -Charleston’s premier party band.

1. Who are you on tour with now and what are you doing for them?  

I’m on tour with Michael Bolton right now as his trumpet player. Michael Lington, the saxophone player, and I make up his horn section. MB has several songs with horns in his library, including the big band and blues numbers.  When not playing my trumpet in the show, I dance and do a little background vocals.

2. What do you do when you are not on tour with Michael Bolton?

When I’m not on tour, I’m in Charleston playing with the Charleston Jazz Orchestra, subbing with the Charleston Symphony, playing with local bands, and teaching trumpet lessons.  I’ve also been working part time with The Jazz Artists of Charleston in between tours. I’m preparing for my first jazz festival right now.  My very own project where I’m the leader, not a side(wo)man!  I grew up in Charleston, and am very fortunate that the music scene is blossoming there.  My family is in Charleston and I don’t feel like I need to move to NY or LA to be successful.  I take occasional trips to make contacts and take lessons, and that has worked well for me up to this point.  Charleston has a rich jazz history.  Some even argue that Charleston heard jazz before New Orleans, as the ships from Africa docked in “The Holy City” first.   Nobody knows, but I would bet that jazz in Charleston started around the same time as it did in New Orleans!   There are many opportunities for jazz musicians in Charleston.

3. Can you describe the equipment you use, and why you chose that gear?

I’m endorsed by Powell Signature Trumpets.  Fred Powell worked with Conn for many years and was responsible for the development of the Conn Vintage 1.   He left in 2005 to start his own company and I’m very glad he approached me.  I love his horns!   I play on a Stork Vacchiano mouthpiece.  It was custom designed for a friend who wasn’t happy with it and gave it to me.  I ended up liking it and haven’t looked back since!  I travel with an Eastman trumpet case.  The small, sleek design appealed to me after arguing with several flight attendants who wanted me to check my horn under the plane.  No more arguing with this case!

4. You have a very diverse background of many genres, how did you end up playing Pop music and traveling the world?

I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the pop world.  Its completely different from what I’ve been used to.  I was classically trained and took on jazz about 7 years ago.  I spent 6 years touring with a  Broadway show called “Blast!”   The musicians were onstage, not in the  pit.  I really developed my stage presence and confidence during that time- it helped set me up to be onstage with Michael Bolton.  Adding the pop genre to my library has helped me become a more well-rounded musician.   I’m working on rock blues right now.  Its totally different from jazz blues, and I’m trying to get that style down.   As for the next genre… is there such a thing as heavy metal trumpet?  :-)

5. So, you have been around the world touring, can you describe a typical show day in say, Sydney Australia?

Ah Sydney- one of my favorite venues. Probably because it was the Sydney Opera House!   That particular day, the band arrived at the Opera House and was escorted to the backstage doors.  The security was much tighter there than most venues, for obvious reasons!  Our dressing room looked over the harbor and the famous Harbor Bridge. Right before soundcheck, I remember warming up on the edge of the stage,  with the West Australian Orchestra onstage behind me and a tour being given in the balcony in front of me.  I played a little jazz and could see some people in the tour stopping to listen.  What a surreal moment that was!  Playing with the orchestra took the show to a different level, and I could tell the audience loved it.   That night happened to be my birthday and Ruki Garuba– MB’s Fashion Stylist- organized a get together after the show in one of the rooms.  Champagne, cake, and a piano made for a great after-show hang!

6. And how about your travel days and days off?

I much prefer traveling by bus as opposed to airplane.   Getting in our bus bunks after a show and waking up in the next city is much more desirable to me than spending the day going through security, worrying about overweight bags, making connections, and packing into shuttles for the ride to the hotel.  Sleeping on a bus isn’t always easy, but I’ll take it over a plane any day!  Our busses are very nice and as close to home as you can get out on the road.  In addition to our bunks, we have a kitchen, bathroom, internet, satellite TV, and lounge areas.

My days off are usually spent practicing and getting work done.  Today, for instance, I am dedicating to practicing for my upcoming jazz show, and this interview.   If I’m in a foreign country, I usually get out of the hotel and see what I can.  In The States, however, days off are all about productivity!

7. You spent a good amount of time in Japan, can you explain your experience and how the Japanese culture has changed your ways of life?

Cumulatively, I’ve spent about a year in Japan (4 summers).  I was there with a show called “Blast!”  Blast is a Broadway show with brass, percussion, and a visual ensemble that takes the musicians out of the pit and onto the stage.  I would describe it as marching band adapted for the stage, with spectacular effects and more of a production.  The Japanese culture loves marching band anyway, so they LOVED Blast.  We would get superfans that would buy tickets to a show in every city we were in- and we were all over Japan!  They were so sweet and would always be waiting backstage with gifts and pictures they had taken at previous shows.  They would even follow us home on the subway- in a very respectful way, if that makes sense.  Women would even wipe the sweat off the guys in the show, and wipe it on their own faces!  We definitely got a small taste of how being a Rockstar must feel.

The Japanese culture has had a big impact on my way of life.   Three words I’d use to describe their culture:  polite, humble, respectful.  You won’t find trash on the streets.  Outside of the big cities, there isn’t a shred of graffiti.  The Japanese only take what they need.  Getting used to the portion sizes at first was a bit of a challenge.  The sizes are about half as big as ours.  It always takes about a week for my stomach to adjust.  Fish, rice and vegetables.  No wonder 80 year-olds look 60 over there!   I also took with me the idea of the parasol.  All the ladies would carry parasols on sunny days to shield themselves.  I find myself walking down the streets of Charleston with one every once in a while now.

8. Can you give us your explanation of the importance and role of a trumpet in a brass section, and how that might compare to a rock band?

The trumpet is known for its brilliant, sometimes piercing sound that can soar above an entire band if needed.   In a brass section, however, the trumpet needs to be able to blend and “play well with others.”   I occasionally sub with The Charleston Symphony Orchestra, and I need to leave my rock mentality at the door for that gig.  If I don’t have a warm sound and blend with the others in the section, I won’t get called back.  When playing a jazz gig, I’m usually the lead voice so I have a lot more freedom with my sound and how I want to interpret the tune.  However, when playing “Sweet Home Chicago” with Michael Bolton, I need to pull out the edgier tone and harder articulations for my sound to fit with the rest of the band.

9. So, you haven’t mentioned it yet, but I know you can sing too, and you have a beautiful voice. How does that help you when playing the trumpet?

Well thank you!  Singing is relatively new to me. I hadn’t discovered my voice until this gig with Michael Bolton, as I never had to sing for any other gig.  His longtime backup singer, Janis Leibhart, complimented my voice and really encouraged me to start developing it.  I’m very thankful to her for that!   Whenever I transcibe a solo on the trumpet, I make sure I can sing it first.  That really internalizes the solo and makes it easier and faster to figure out the notes on my trumpet.  I used to write down the solo, note by note, never really internalizing the solo.  I missed a lot of phrasing and nuances that way.  I also sing along (in my head) with whatever it is I’m playing.  Whether its the head of a jazz tune, or the simple horn line to Bolton’s “Dock of the Bay.”   Doing this helps me hit the center of each note, ensuring the note is in tune, and I don’t chip it.   I discovered this trick a couple years ago and it has helped immensely!

Thank you! Cameron Handel, Trumpeter. It has been an honor to interview you, and a pleasure to get to know you better…


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Photo Credits:

1) Reese Moore

2) Ruki Garuba

3) Ryan Huddleston 

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Ruki Garuba

Fashion Stylist – Michael Bolton, Kelly Rowland, Keyshia Cole

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Trumpeter – Michael Bolton, Seal, Blast!

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