Claude Gordon, the "King of Brass", was a trumpet virtuoso, band director, educator, lecturer, and author. He was born on April 15, 1916 in Helena, Montana. His father was a clarinet soloist as well as an orchestral director. Claude's mother was a concert pianist. His other brothers and sisters were also musically inclined and they all worked together to form a family orchestra led by their father. They performed as the staff orchestra for a local radio station. Claude was given his first cornet at the age of five and three years later, while in fifth grade, he was featured as a soloist playing with the Helena High School Band! While he was still in his early teens, Claude was already a professional player and was teaching for both cornet and accordion.
Claude became Herbert L. Clarke's protégé from 1936 until Clarke died in 1945. During the era of live radio and television, Claude distinguished himself as one of the most successful studio trumpet players and gained a reputation as "the trumpet player who never misses." He performed with the studio orchestras on many popular shows including, Amos and Andy, and I Love Lucy. In 1939, Claude was cast as the gypsy accordion player in the Universal Studio's motion picture musical, An Old Spanish Custom, later renamed In Rhumba Land. During the 1950s Gordon emerged as one of Hollywood's frequently sought-after jazz trumpet soloists. Claude later formed his own big band which was named the "Best New Band in America" in 1959.
Claude helped to design custom versions of the Benge trumpet with a 468 bore trumpet. However, since Benge refused to produce a 470 bore trumpet, which Gordon considered to be the ideal trumpet bore size, he later helped to design the Selmer 470 bore Claude Gordon trumpet. Gordon also designed his own mouthpieces. Claude felt that the majority of problems that young trumpet players faced were a result of a lack of basic physical development. Since playing a brass instrument is dependent on the lungs, Claude emphasized the need for brass players to do physical exercise to stay in shape and prescribed daily breathing exercises to develop "wind-power". He considered brass players to be athletes that needed to practice to stay in shape. The methods that he taught and practiced were built upon the knowledge that he gained from Herbert L. Clarke and others. His students appreciated the great knowledge that he had as well as the friendly, down-to-earth attitude he demonstrated.
Claude died from cancer on May 16, 1996, but his legacy continues with the six method books that he authored and the lessons he passed on to his students. The "Claude Gordon Method" has influenced most of today's top trumpet players. The Claude Gordon Personal Papers and Music Instrument Collection, 1888–1992, consists of music, correspondence with Herbert L. Clarke and other notable trumpet artists, educational material, publicity and memorabilia, and performance contracts, and is housed at the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
- "Big breath, chest up!"
- "Hit it hard, and wish it well."
- "Brass playing is no harder than deep breathing."
- "Watch the tongue."
- "The air does the work. The tongue channels the pitch."
- "Let the air save your lip."
- "Let the air do the work."
- "Rest as much as you play."
- "Lift fingers high, strike valves hard."
- "Don't stop where I have, but go further."
- "You could have a lip strong enough to lift that piano and still not be able to play a low C!"
- Claude Gordon: Master Teacher by Jeff Purtle, published October 2008 in The Brass Herald
- Claude Gordon Practice Routines by Jeff Purtle, published December 2008 in The Brass Herald
- Claude Gordon and Herbert L. Clarke and Their Teaching by Jeff Purtle, published February 2009 in The Brass Herald
- Trumpet Playing and Brass Playing Articles by Claude Gordon student Jeff Purtle
- Claude Gordon Memorial Brass Conference and Trumpet Symposium by Jeff Purtle
- O.J.'s Trumpet Page
- The Development of the Benge Claude Gordon Model Trumpet
- The Trumpet Gearhead: Have we adequately mourned the fate of Benge?
- Claude Gordon Lecture and Brass Camp Recordings
- Church Brass website Check out "John's Blog" to read on the travails of a trumpeters studying Gordon's "Systematic Approach"
- Finding Aid for Claude Gordon Personal Papers and Music Instrument Collection, 1888-1992 | The Sousa Archives and Center for American Music
- How I Became a Student of Claude Gordon by Claude Gordon student John Mohan
- Claude Gordon's Method A message to TPIN written by Claude Gordon student John Mohan describing Mr. Gordon's approach to teaching trumpet
- "Brass Playing Is No Harder Than Deep Breathing" by Claude Gordon, published by Carl Fischer in
- "Systematic Approach to Daily Practice for Trumpet" by Claude Gordon, published by Carl Fischer in
- "Systematic Approach to Daily Practice" in Bass Clef by Claude Gordon, published by Carl Fischer in
- "Daily Trumpet Routines" by Claude Gordon, published by Carl Fischer in
- "Herbert L. Clarke's Technical Studies" in Bass Clef by Claude Gordon, published by Carl Fischer in
- "Physical Approach to Elementary Brass Playing" by Claude Gordon, published by Carl Fischer in 1977
- "Physical Approach to Elementary Brass Playing" in Bass Clef by Claude Gordon, published by Carl Fischer in
- "Tongue Level Exercises" by Claude Gordon, published by Carl Fischer in
- "Tongue Level Exercises" in Bass Clef by Claude Gordon, published by Carl Fischer in
- "Thirty Velocity Studies" by Claude Gordon, published by Carl Fischer in
- "Thirty Velocity Studies" in Bass Clef by Claude Gordon, published by Carl Fischer in
- "St. Jacome Method" with restored original text and annotation by Claude Gordon, published by Carl Fischer in
- "A Master Class with Claude Gordon: The Seven Natural Elements of Brass Playing" original 110 minute VHS tape converted and offered as a DVD from 2006
- "CG Benge" trumpet made from 1972-1983 and was the best selling Benge trumpet (note that a few were made after Benge moved to Eastlake, Ohio in 1983, but the build quality and consistency of the Eastlake Benges is suspect)
- "CG Selmer" trumpet made by hand at the Bach trumpet factory from 1982-1997 made in both Bb and limited numbers of C trumpets