New England Conservatory is mourning the death of faculty member Laurie Frink, a renowned trumpeter and educator. Frink died at her home in Manhattan on July 13 at age 61.
“One of the leading brass pedagogues of our time, Laurie Frink will be sorely missed, as a teacher, as a player and as a friend,” said Ken Schaphorst, Chair of NEC’s Jazz Studies Department. “I noticed immediate improvement in the playing of every NEC student who worked with her. She was also one of the most accurate and musical lead trumpet players I’ve ever heard.”
Laurie Frink, born on August 8, 1951 in Pender, Nebraska, played trumpet with Benny Goodman, Gerry Mulligan, Mel Lewis, Bob Mintzer, John Hollenbeck, Dave Liebman, Andrew Hill, Kenny Wheeler, Maria Schneider, Darcy James Argue, John Hollenbeck and Ryan Truesdell. Her diverse career included several Broadway shows, radio and television jingles, movie soundtracks, and guest appearances with artists such as the Talking Heads, David Bowie, and David Sanborn. Her versatility as an artist led to performances with the Manhattan Brass Quintet, the Saturday Brass Quintet, the Gramercy Park Brass, and Concordia.
With fellow NEC faculty member John McNeil, Frink coauthored Flexus: Trumpet Calisthenics for the Modern Improviser, which the New York Times called “an essential resource for many trumpeters since its publication a decade ago. The book’s exercises and études came from Ms. Frink’s reservoir of strategies for addressing physical issues on the horn, especially where a player’s embouchure, or formation of lips and facial muscles, was concerned.” She was well known for her insightful ability to solve physical difficulties experienced by many brass players.
“Laurie was known by many as an extraordinary teacher,” said McNeil, “but she was one of the best trumpet players in New York, a great sight-reader, a knowledgeable and consistent lead player and an extremely popular human being. You get to be popular, of course, when you save peoples’ careers over and over, as she did mine (twice).”
McNeil notes that some “90% of the outstanding jazz and studio players in New York were her students at one time or another, and many great players world-wide as well.” Her students at NEC included trumpeters Jake Baldwin, Dave Neves, Josh Gilbert, David Adewumi, and Tree Palmedo, as well as trombonists Michael Prentky and Eric Stilwell. Outside of NEC she taught Dave Douglas, Ambrose Akinmusire, Jon Crowley and many others
Considered the foremost authority and teacher of the Carmine Caruso method, she attracted professional brass players from around the world. Her personable style contributed to Frink’s success as a clinician, lecturer, and conductor. In addition to her work ranging from junior high school wind ensembles to professional jazz orchestras, she was also a featured artist at the International Trumpet Competition in Kiev, and the International Trumpet Guild Conference in Goteborg, Sweden, and a member of the ITG Board of Directors.
NEC’s Jazz Studies Department was the first fully accredited jazz studies program at a music conservatory. The brainchild of Gunther Schuller, who moved quickly to incorporate jazz into the curriculum when he became President of the Conservatory in 1967, the Jazz Studies faculty has included six MacArthur “genius” grant recipients (three currently teaching) and four NEA Jazz Masters, and alumni that reads like a who’s who of jazz. Now in its 44th year, the program, headed by Ken Schaphorst, has spawned numerous Grammy winning composers and performers. As Mike West writes in JazzTimes: “NEC’s jazz studies department is among the most acclaimed and successful in the world; so says the roster of visionary artists that have comprised both its faculty and alumni.” The program currently has 114 students; 67 undergraduate and 47 graduate students from 12 countries.
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