The Live Recordings of Dr. Neill H. Humfeld - a Legacy of Emory Remington, East Texas State University, and Beautiful Days in Commerce
I have previously written about my teacher, Dr. Neill H. Humfeld, in my blog. My feeling about sharing my experiences as a student of Dr. Humfeld only continue to grow as my own career continues. The International Trombone Association still presents the Neill Humfeld Award for outstanding educators every year, but as we approach the 30th anniversary of Dr. Humfeld’s passing, the number of trombonists that knew him, studied with him, and heard him play is dwindling.
When Dr. Humfeld passed away, my father and I came into possession of many analog tape reels, containing pretty much the complete recorded history of Dr. Humfeld’s recitals and significant concerts over the course of his career at East Texas State University (now A&M-Commerce). It’s always been in the back of my mind to “do something” with these tapes!
We have times in our life where connections seem to just fall in to place. It can feel like we find ideas, projects, or music that has just been waiting for us, tucked away in a box or a drawer, waiting for us to put the pieces together and realize the time is right to make something of it. It’s like my youngest son, when he comes home from 1st grade and I mention something he studied that day, and he gives me the “connection” sign, thumb and pinky extended in what many of us know as the Shaka or aloha spirit sign. I had one of those moments this fall. The realization hit me that I had all these tapes, and through my recent studies in audio production at Berklee College of Music, I now had the knowledge and means to do something with them.
So, what is the project and what are my goals for it?
I decided first that I need to transfer all of the tapes that I have to digital media. Tape doesn’t have an indefinite shelf life, so I know that many of these recordings may be in the twilight of their playable lives. So, I initially planned to simply preserve the tapes.
Transfer all significant analog tapes to digital media
Next, knowing many of the tapes may be deteriorating, and having begun doing some audio mastering, I decided to….
Remaster each recital recording, to achieve level consistency between concerts, and to perform any noise removal or restoration needed, depending on the condition of the original tape.
Initially thinking that I would make the recitals available for download or streaming, I thought, “wouldn’t it be cool if I compiled all the best recordings into one playlist?” So, that added
Compile a “best of” album for online digital release,
Then I thought, “well, if I’m gonna make this compilation album…
Produce a CD package with a booklet containing Dr. Humfeld’s biographical information, program notes, photos, etc.
Then the negative Nancy in me said…
Chris, you dummy, no one has CD players any more, so though they will be glad to get the CD package with photos and notes, you better include a download card so they can listen to the tracks on their phone or computer!
Well, producing CDs and album booklets costs money, so….
the album will cost real money
Then, I thought, “what will I do if I make more off the recordings than it costs to produce them?” It was right then that the value and focus of this project came full circle, that we have an opportunity to benefit the current generation of students at Texas A&M University - Commerce…
any income from CD sales will go to the Neill H. Humfeld Endowment at Texas A&M University - Commerce (formerly East Texas State University)
I’d like to think Dr. Humfeld would be happy to know that his music and teaching is still inspiring and benefitting young musicians today, many years after his golden tone left us.
If you would like to stay informed about the Humfeld Project, and be notified about further developments to include possibly purchasing a CD of the recordings (all proceeds to benefit the Neill H. Humfeld Memorial Endowment at A&M - Commerce), please subscribe below:
LATEST UPDATE: APRIL 25, 2019
All right! Just in case you were afraid things had fallen off the radar, I wanted to send you an update to give you some progress on this wonderful project.
The last couple of months have been extremely busy, but I have continued to work on the audio mastering of the many recordings of Dr. Humfeld. What this has meant so far, is listening to all the recordings again, and beginning to narrow them down to the "best" tracks. What constitutes "best"? Well, a number of things!
First, I want to find the tracks that show Dr. Humfeld's playing in the best possible light. It’s amazing to listen to recitals given over a span of almost 25 years and to hear such remarkably consistent playing. I’m having a great time (and a hard time!) deciding what to include, and what to, regrettably, leave out. Second, I have to consider the audio quality of the tapes the tracks were transferred from. Most of them sound great, but a few have some issues, mostly minor, that will have to be dealt with to make them acceptable for listening. Finally, I want to assemble a "complete" retrospective of the many recital recordings. I want to make sure I include tracks from many different "eras" and styles.
Luckily, Dr. Humfeld spoke a fair amount in his recitals, some more than others, but there is a large amount of comments about the pieces, jokes with the audience, and some of his teaching philosophies thrown in. I am including a number of spoken comments in the final CD. With this latest update, I also included an AUDIO PREVIEW for the folks that received this via the Humfeld Project mailing list. If you’d like to receive the preview audio, and would like to stay up to date on this project, please subscribe at the form just below…