Don Kramer Stories

from Jim Warnock:  Memorable Burger at Bailey’s

from Denver Spence:  WOW I once had a cassett of Don’s playing and I don’t know where it is now… and then Gary Deshazo sent me this!!!! I have tears of joy in my eyes… for my old friend Don I spent many a night on his party barge… Just don and I… and we had a lot of dead soldiers before we finally found the dock!!!! He was my trumpet teacher in 1961-2 at the University of Oklahoma. Then he went to Little Rock College and LR Symphony. He finaly got to his goal… trumpet professor at Arkadeliphia Ark…. Henderson State University…. His nickname among his students and friends was Mr Kangaroo……. He looked just like him!!!!

Another memory…. He was changing my embrouchure back from a rolled lip Gitalla style.. and I played a very simple melody on the semester recitals…. very simple… but I played after three lip changes before him… I never had straight A’s in any one college semester… This time I had straight A’s and then picked up my trumpet grade. A sure nuff A, but it wasn’t… it was a B. So at my next lesson I polietly had a discussion with Don. He listen… and then said… YOU ARE NOT A STRAIGHT A TYPE OF GUY! We laughed and went across the street and had a beer! I loved this guy!

This was a guest soloist gig in Memphis Tenn in 1975. And yes, that is a cornet. He loved playing cornet, but made money with his trumpet!

from Dr. Gary Barrow, Professor of Trumpet, Arkansas Tech University:  Great stuff! I have probably told you this, but I still remember hearing Don play back in the last 60’s. The North Texas band did a stop in Little Rockand Mr. McAdow told us about the guest cornetist who would join us there. Maybe on Stars in a Velvety Sky. Anyway, all of the wise 19 year olds in the sectionrolled their eyes. We rolled them again when the pudgy fellow with stubby cornet took the stage. However when he started to play, we at once changed our attitude.

I had lived in AR quite a while before I realized this guy was Dan Cramer. He was most gracious to me when I arrived and we became good friends. I only hope to be able to inspire students the way he did! Thanks for sharing.

from David Etienne:  Reading your email about being gone on certain dates reminded me of Don Kramer when he first got here.  He ordered a large type stamp that said “APPROVED.”  He would receive a memo from Wendel [Evanson, the director of bands] or Dr. Clark [academic vice-president] or President Garrison; read it and then stamp it with the “APPROVED” stamp and send it  back to them!!!!!

from Tracey Carrington Converse:  I came to Don from Lakeside.  I didn’t start playing the trumpet until the 8th grade.  I had been a cheerleader and broke my back at cheerleader camp at HSU doing a stunt I shouldn’t have been doing.  So, I joined the band to stay out of PE.  I started taking private lessons from one of his other students, Philip Heinneman, in Hot Springs and soon Philip sent me to Don.

I just attended for a quick semester…but my, what a semester it was!  I had taken private lesson’s from Don Kramer for 4 years before coming to Henderson.  I put down my horn after I left and finished up college in Texas.

Just recently, I started playing again. I bought a horn and joined the North Little Rock Community Band.  I’m still struggling to get my chops back but lately I’ve spent time thinking about Mr. Kramer. He truly was one of those people that you meet in life that makes a huge impact.  He had more faith in me than I ever had at the time.

When I took lessons from him, he had a wall of horns in his office and I always thought that was so neat.  So….4 months after buying that comeback horn…I’ve sort of bought 5 others. Somewhere, Don Kramer is getting a heck of a laugh out of me.

I always felt like I had failed Don, but I think he would get a huge kick out of me playing again.  I even bought a Herbert Clarke book and attempted to play Carnival of Venice and Maid of the Mist…I’m still attempting to play them.  Where did my chops go?

from Phil Heinemann: Here’s a some stories I remember about Don. I’m sure lots of others have many more.  Besides being a wonderful teacher, he was a very close and dear friend…really more like an extension of my family.  He left behind quite a number of grateful trumpet students and a lot of cherished memories.  These are just a few…….

About 1976 Maurice Andre was playing a trumpet/organ concert at Powell Symphony Hall in St. Louis.  We got a group of about 14 trumpet students, and bought the best box seats available…($50 a piece was pricey at that time!).  To hear an artist play for 2 hours flawlessly was something to remember….but afterwards was even more memorable.  Maurice was not going to receive visitors backstage initially but then changed his mind.  The fourteen of us were in a line getting autographs, handshakes, etc.  Don was at the end of the line and I was near the end.  Maurice’s translator asked me a couple of questions and then after a handshake instead of filing out of the room I stayed to watch Don.

1976 was prior to Don losing A LOT of weight.  Maurice at that time was also an extremely “portly” fellow.  Now these two gentlemen were standing belly to belly with each other.  Maurice asked, in French, if he were the one who brought the “legion”, to which Don nodded yes.  Maurice then pokes him on the belly and says “Ahhh….the big Professor”….to which Don replied taking his forefinger and tapping Maurice on the belly…..”you too are a BIG professor”!  Maurice looked at their two “bellies” and just laughed and laughed and Don was smiling ear to ear!  After shaking Maurice’s hand Don said he’d never wash it again.

Ever since, whenever I hear a recording of Maurice playing the Albinoni d min (op 3 #2) I always remember that wonderful smile Don had when meeting him. (And I think it was a long time before he washed his hand, too).

One of the things Don hated to do was go to graduations and sit with the faculty in the stands because he had to wear his robes!  Instead, he usually chose to play in the band to fill in trumpet spots left from graduating seniors.  Whenever we played on the football field, Don would come walking out in THE blue suit carrying his green metal thermos of coffee in one hand, and usually an old Bundy trumpet which he put into a brown paper sack.  Then he would sit at the very end of the section and play the 3rd cornet parts.  He enjoyed playing with “his boys (& girls)” more than just about anything else…and in addition didn’t have to wear his faculty robe!

He made quite an impact on a lot of young players.  He really turned me on to the early cornet literature which I added to my baroque studies.  As a matter of fact will be doing some cornet work with a nearby community band this summer [2005].  I’m also having some digital copies made (from some original 1915 cornet mouthpieces I use) by Bob Osmun here in Boston…It REALLY makes a difference in the cornet sound…especially on the early turn of the century horns!