Grad student publishes groundbreaking research on trumpet history

NDSU doctoral student Clayton Miranda has conducted extensive research on the history of trumpet in Brazilian music—an area of research that is in its infancy. His work was recently published in an international journal.

Clayton Miranda takes a deep breath and gently fingers the valves of his treasured trumpet. The notes of a samba selection begin to flow, and he feels a deep connection with generations of Brazilian musicians who came before him.

The trumpet is an essential element of Brazilian music, intertwined with the history of Miranda’s homeland for centuries. It’s a story he is now sharing with the world.

Miranda is an NDSU doctoral student in trumpet performance who published a groundbreaking paper, titled “The Inception of Trumpet Performance in Brazil: An Historical Account,” in the June issue of the International Trumpet Guild Journal. The seven-page article, based on Miranda’s 14 years of research, reveals important historical material not previously published.

Miranda started playing trumpet when he was 11 years old, performing in a town band in Juiz de Fora, a small community an hour’s drive north of Rio de Janeiro. He joined a local orchestra at 15.

His love for the instrument is obvious and emphatic.

“Trumpet has the potential to do what a human voice does; but it can be with more expression, either loud or soft,” explained Miranda, who is the brass and woodwind director at the Festival Internacional de Música Colonial Brasileira e Musica Antiga in Brazil.

When Miranda was a teenager, he became curious about how the trumpet came to be a strong focal point in Brazilian music. But, when he looked for information about a composition, he discovered practically nothing had been published about his instrument in his home country. And very little had been penned about the history of Brazilian music itself.

Searching for that history became his academic mission. 

He studied, collected and preserved every reference, story and recollection he could find as an undergraduate student at the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, master’s student at the University of North Dakota and now as a doctoral student at NDSU.

In total, he has amassed material from more than 6,000 manuscripts that trace Brazilian music back more than 400 years.

According to Miranda’s research, the trumpet first appears in Brazil during the early 1500s, shortly after the arrival of Pedro Cabral, the Portuguese nobleman, military commander and explorer who is regarded as the first European to discover Brazil.

Early journal references and depictions suggest Franciscan friars traveled in one of Cabral’s caravels and used the instruments during Catholic rites.

“The friars’ job was to spread the Catholic Church throughout America, and Brazil was pretty much a jungle,” Miranda said. “With this instrument, if they are far away, you can collect people. The trumpet has the power to make people pay attention.”

Compositions for the instrument blended European classical and Baroque music with the rhythm of the indigenous people. Additional musical nuances came to the fore as slave laborers arrived from Africa. Trumpet took a prominent position in the music of the country.

Composers increasingly used folk songs and merged them with the unique sound of Brazilian popular music. We now know the music as samba and chôro.

“Clayton is a driven student who is very passionate about his Brazilian roots,” said Jeremy Brekke, associate professor of music and Miranda’s adviser, noting the research is important both for Miranda’s homeland and trumpeters around the world. “His research will help unearth and disclose important literature and methods that have not been published in Brazil. Rediscovered trumpet works from Brazil will enrich the whole trumpet community through great works with a different cultural background.”

Miranda is thrilled to see his research reaching a global audience through the International Trumpet Guild.

“I’m glad Brazilian music history was brought alive and the international community is willing to work with me to preserve it.”

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