On his 10th birthday, Andrew Elstob received a special present from his father. He didn't know it at the time--he was hoping for a Nintendo--but the shiny trumpet he unwrapped that morning would become his constant companion.
'My grandma had taught me some piano, and I played recorder for a little while,' Elstob recalls. 'My dad played trumpet, so he thought it would be neat if I did, too.'
Call it father's intuition. Now 27, Elstob makes a steady living as a professional musician--no minor feat. He holds a master's degree in jazz studies from San Diego State University and is a trumpet-playing member of Grammy-nominated local quintet Westwind Brass, which takes him on tour across the country and abroad. He's performed at The Old Globe and with the San Diego Symphony. He teaches private students and coaches trumpet sections at half a dozen local schools.
Elstob says he was passionate about two things growing up: the trumpet and baseball. 'But there are, what, 500 professional ballplayers versus a half-million professional musicians? I figured I'd have better chances of becoming a pro musician than a baseball player.'
After high school, the Northern California native took the safe route and studied business at Haywood College. Just a year into it, though, he realized he was heading in the wrong direction.
'What am I doing?' he asked himself. 'Music's my life. I was born to play the trumpet.'
Lured by San Diego's beautiful weather, Elstob transferred to SDSU as a music major. There, he says, he received a scholarship and got to work closely with some inspiring professors, including Bill Yeager and Brent Dutton--both members of Westwind Brass.
'Now they're my colleagues,' says Elstob, grinning and shaking his head with an air of disbelief.
Elstob doesn't look like a guy who plays the horn for a living. By his own admission, he's more of the jock type. His hair is cropped short and styled spiky. He has an athlete's build and dresses casually in a T-shirt, jeans and flip-flops.
His surroundings tell a different story, however. The immaculate blue-and-white house he recently bought in Allied Gardens is a musician's haven. A bookcase is crammed with jazz books and CDs--from classics such as Miles Davis and John Coltrane to his hero, contemporary trumpeter Dave Douglas. An illustrated trumpet print hangs on the living-room wall, and encased instruments are piled neatly by the front door (he shares his house with two other musicians).
Jazz is clearly where his heart is, but Elstob is fluent in many different styles. He's played late nights for shimmying salsa dancers and early mornings for classical fans.
'In today's age,' he says, 'to be a professional musician and not be full-time in an orchestra, you have to be able to do everything.'
Elstob says he's relieved to not have to work the 9-to-5 grind, but points out that he must practice constantly to keep his chops in top shape.
'There's a saying in professional music: One day of not practicing, and you'll notice. Two days of not practicing, and your colleagues will notice. Three days of not practicing, and your audience will notice.'
Then there's the matter of being a young guy playing music that appeals largely to an older crowd. His girlfriend, for example, prefers pop music to jazz.
'A lot of people don't really get jazz,' he concedes. 'I think because I studied it, my ear is developed for that sound. I'm more of a purist--jazz and classical. I really enjoy those styles of music.'
For years, critics have been sounding the death knell for jazz and classical--neither genre has really caught on with younger generations. But Elstob says he doesn't worry about who will fill the seats at concert halls in the decades to come.
'I'm a day-by-day kind of guy,' he explains. 'I don't think about the future. I just practice hard today.'
Westwind Brass plays at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 12, at St. Paul's Cathedral, 2728 Sixth Ave., Bankers Hill. For Westwind's full season, visit www.westwindbrass.org or call 619-501-3562.
But wait, there's more
Without music, life would be a mistake
Tango Apasionado: The Camarada Music Ensemble gets sexy--super sexy--with its back-by-demand program, Argentine Tango Music & Dance. Flutist Beth Ross-Buckley, violinist Dave Buckley, pianist Mary Barranger and cellist Erin Breene will play the tantalizing tango tunes of Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla, while the Tango Alma team takes you to the moon. Sept. 28 through 30 at various San Diego venues. $25 and up. www.camarada.org or 619-231-3702.
NWEAMO: Your rare chance to hear the latest in electro-acoustic music from across the globe is quickly approaching. Do. Not. Miss. This. Festival. Performers include the visually and sonically stimulating Medea Electronique from Athens, Greece; the moving--literally, via laptops and projectors mounted on shopping carts--and improvised audiovisual excitement of Mobile Performance Group from Florida; San Diego's own musical machine, SWARMIUS, and mucho mas from Mexico and beyond. Oct. 5 and 6 at Smith Recital Hall, School of Music and Dance, SDSU. $8-$12. 619-594-6020 or www.nweamo.org.
Mozart: The Soul of Genius: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was a rebel, a rouser and a musical genius who changed the world. Let the San Diego Chamber Orchestra take you through a musical telling of his life. Special guest pianist Andreas Haefliger will join the orchestra in its season opener for a reinvigorated playing of 'Piano Concerto No. 15' and 'Symphony No. 40.' 7:30 p.m. Oct. 19, 22 and 23 in various San Diego venues. $20 and up. www.sdco.org or 858-350-0290, ext. 7.
Peter Erskine, Alan Pasqua and Dave Carpenter: The Athenaeum Jazz at The Neurosciences Institute series just keeps getting cooler and cooler--and not in the frightening 'cool jazz' sense. Big-name acts electrify this year's bill including the trio of jazz/pop greats, Peter Erskine (the drum machine), Alan Pasqua (who played alongside none other than Bob Dylan and Carlos Santana) and Dave Carpenter (you may remember his music from Sting and Celine Dion). 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 20, at The Neurosciences Institute, 10640 John Jay Hopkins Drive, La Jolla. $29. 858-454-5872 or www.ljathenaeum.org.
Celebrity Orchestra Series: The La Jolla Music Society has done all the legwork in getting the best orchestras from around the world to our doorstep. LJMS kicks off its Celebrity Orchestra Series with Russia's legendary St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra playing the works of Schubert and Schumann, and ending with Prokofiev's famed 'Romeo and Juliet.' 8 p.m. Nov. 12 at Copley Symphony Hall, 750 B St., Downtown. $25-$95. www.LaJollaMusicSociety.org or 858-459-3728.