Adam Rapa is a dynamic performer, composer, producer and educator widely known for the mastery, versatility & excitement he brings
to stages, studios and classrooms around the world.
"Adam Rapa plays with an intensity that electrifies the audience."
"... A sizzling trumpet soloist..."
"...brilliant display of instrumental prowess..."
"The featured trumpeter blows at about
Green Bay Press-Gazette
"...a musician who could put more-famous
horn blowers to shame..."
"Adam Rapa is a Jazz wizard...with a seemingly inexhaustible ability to climb higher into the musical stratosphere."
"...amazing talent...exquisite solos..."
London Theatre Guide Review
"Rapa's upper-register fireworks... brassy nirvana."
"...funny and sexy...trumpeter Adam Rapa works the spotlight..."
San Antonio Express-News
"...bursts of virtuosity..."
"...demonstrated show-stopping, eye-popping skill, justifying the hooting, hollering and shrieking from many in attendance."
San Diego Union Tribune
"...I have never heard a better trumpet solo."
Bio pages are usually pretty boring,
or at least stuffed with too much formality to be engaging.
I'll try not to make that mistake. Between my longstanding curriculum vitae blurbs, I've inserted far more personal, autobiographical notes. If you'd like to know more about who I am, and where I came from, then read on.
Rapa was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts. He began studying the trumpet at 11 years old, playing professionally at age 13 and was playing lead trumpet
in many of the big bands at Berklee College of Music by age 16.
By the age of 18, with an already thriving freelance career, he’d had appeared in many Jazz festivals around the country and played at every major Jazz club in Boston
and many in New York, including the Blue Note.
"How the heck did he manage that?", you might ask...
The biggest influences and catalysts for my success early on were:
1. My Mom, Sandra. She was AMAZINGLY supportive, and very musical herself. She sang to me since I was in her belly, and sang with me almost every day after that. She had great taste in music, and gave me a huge musical education long before I began playing the trumpet. Even while suffering from major health problems, she drove me to every rehearsal & gig for many years, until I was finally able to drive myself. She was my first musical collaborator. Nobody's a saint, but in this regard, she most certainly was as close as they get.
2. Scott Aruda, my first (and only formal) trumpet teacher, who gave me an ideal start from age 12 to 15. All I had to do was take the ball and run with it. Scott was a monster player, amazing at lead & commercial; he could solo his ass off, and play Classical as well. He was only 10 years older than me, so it's even more impressive that he handed me so many keys to success while in his early 20's. He was an ideal role model for me early on.
3. East Coast Jazz Drum & Bugle Corps, where I marched for 7 years, from age 14 to 20. There I had the chance to develop my body and mind to overcome the harshest of conditions, develop my sound by playing countless hours outdoors (which is tremendously important!), learn to be part of a team, while also stepping into the spotlight as a soloist. That's also where I learned the true meaning of "work hard, play hard"... Also, our brass instructor, Joe Mulligan taught me a whole lot about committing deeply as an educator.
4. Phil Wilson, of Berklee College of Music, who took me under his wing and brought me to Berklee to play lead in his legendary "Rainbow Band" while I was still a freshman in high school. That opened so many doors. Phil challenged me to be a specialist in all the sub-styles of lead playing, which made me a much more mature lead player. He also happened to be Bill Chase's best friend, dating back to their days in Woody Herman's band, and the stories he shared with me were invaluable. I'm so grateful to Phil for sharing so much old-school knowledge and enthusiasm for the big band idiom.
5. Kendrick Oliver & the New Life Jazz Orchestra. A lot of my early experiences playing with super-heavy musicians came from my time in this band, which was basically the Berklee All-Stars at the time (1995-'99) who often played with really famous special guests. I'll spare you the name-dropping. Our deep commitment to reaching a transcendent vibe in the music was life-changing for me. This is where I learned how much Swing can be medicine!
From 2001 to 2007, Rapa starred in the Tony and Emmy Award winning Broadway show, “Blast!” and several other productions by the same company, performing over 2000 shows across North America, Japan and the U.K. Since then he has composed and co-produced several brass theater productions in Japan.
It's hard to even summarize what my 7 years with Blast! meant to me. For one, we became family; those are friendships that stand the test of time. One of the things I cherish most from those days was the amount of group-practice sessions, which made us all such better players. Another big one: group listening-sessions! We'd often gather in someone's hotel room to share our favorite music through 'active-listening' and followup critical discussion; trading in the currency of good taste, and expanding our musical horizons by orders of magnitude.
We had tons of acting classes which really opened us up and taught us to emote through our eyes and connect with the audience while playing. That's certainly one big reason why we got to live the life of ROCK STARS. It was surreal seeing my face on busses and billboards, featured in magazines, and having thousands of people screaming uncontrollably in our presence. Didn't mind that at all. :-) A big part of their reaction came from our ability to connect meaningfully without words.
Maybe the most important thing regarding my development as a trumpet player, was this: We played the exact same show hundreds and hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of times. On one hand, it did feel almost unbearably monotonous at times, BUT -- it provided a base of absolute consistency which gave me the chance to experiment with every aspect of my daily routine off-stage, and measure its effectiveness. I tried so many different practice schedules, dietary plans, workout and yoga routines -- so many variables -- against the backdrop of an unwavering performance schedule, and the constant demand for excellence in a 100% consistent program. Yay, science!
This gave me such a deeper understanding of how to get the most from my body and mind, and made me an expert at troubleshooting every type of problem that you could imagine, for myself and others. Sometimes I'd go weeks without missing a note, with an extremely challenging repertoire, all while marching, dancing and doing other crazy physical tasks. If drums corps turned me into a man, then Blast! turned me into a cyborg.
I also experienced several serious injuries to my lips because of... let's call them "on-stage traffic accidents". The same happened to some of my colleagues too. That gave me the opportunity to map the recovery process over and over, and learn the best practices for coming back from some pretty scary situations.
We always toured with a physical therapist as well, and having someone so knowledgable to consult with anytime about any issue regarding pain, swelling, tension, etc. and how they can be resolved and avoided through proper technique, or specific stretches or types of treatment, was a priceless education. All in all, Blast! was a perfect environment for personal growth and to learn more about how better to help others.
His first solo album, "Life on the Road" received critical acclaim for its vast musical diversity, virtuosity and soul.
And his second album, “Rebelión” (with Zoltan Kiss, of Mnozil Brass) gave the brass world a unique and unparalleled fusion of Classical, Jazz and Tango sensibilities.
Those first two albums were both huge milestones in my development, and so wildly different in nature.
"Life On The Road" was my first time producing a record, learning to use a ProTools console, and recording my own compositions and arrangements. I was 25 at the time. Being at the helm of a project in a recording studio with some amazingly talented friends is one of the most thrilling activities in my life, and this is where I first got bit by the bug.
The studio session happened while I was on a short break from Blast! I got a big discount on the studio's hourly rate because I ran the console and the owner/engineer didn't have to be there. That made it affordable, but also meant I didn't get to record myself with the rhythm section. Instead, I recorded my solos in various dressing rooms across Japan (while on tour with Blast!) using a 1st gen ProTools MBox -- except for the "Ode to Joy" solo, which I recorded in my mom's dining room. For context, this was very early in terms of home studio recording.
Sure, the album leaves lots to be desired, but I grew a ton, found new aspects to my voice, innovated some unique ways of using effects processors (check out "A Freaky Night In Tunisia" & "Dissent"!), and ended up with at least some material that still stands the test of time (like "Poopy Pants Blues"). It gave me a lot more "street credit" and I sold thousands of copies in Japan. It was definitely a win.
Rebelión was a very different type of project. No multi-tracking, just a fully organic, live trio playing music that's so emotionally potent it required all of us to dig deeper as artists. We had in-depth discussions about metaphorical storylines for lots of sections to unify and amplify our intentions, and we spent up to an entire day working on just one song, sculpting away at every little detail until we were completely satisfied. I remember how listening back to the results for the first time felt almost out-of-body. It was like staring in the mirror and seeing a version of myself much older and more mature. That set a new standard for everything I've done since.
I've never heard a program anything like this for trumpet (or trombone) -- one so demanding technically, stylistically, and emotionally all at the same time. And it was even harder to pull off with that big-ass 4-valve Monette with a Flumpet bell shape, which sounded amazing once I got everything dialed in, but certainly wasn't doing me any favors. All in all, even though I've developed my voice and my technique further since then, I can still revisit that album and make it all the way through without cringing once -- which says a lot coming from a tortured perfectionist, and considering how crazy the challenges were. I'm deeply proud of our work.
In his newest album, "Live in Argentina”, Rapa explores the more intimate side of Latin Jazz in a program rich with poetry and emotional vulnerability, where phenomenal mastery is grounded in tranquillity and romance.
Notice how we casually skipped over like 8 years there?... Well, they were kind of rough years. Between recording "Rebelión" and "Live in Argentina" I lived in 5 different cities in 5 different countries; got married; got divorced; had very little money most of the time, which ruled out big, expensive recording sessions; and I was struggling in a lot of ways, both musically and personally.
I felt tremendously dissatisfied with my playing a lot of the time, which I now understand had everything to do with that big-ass horn. I threw away almost every recording I got from live performances. The overabundance of online lessons I was teaching was really draining. I felt mostly isolated and distant from the people I would have preferred to be making music with. There were several long periods when I composed and arranged a ton of new music; one in Japan for the better part of a year, and others where I created several hours of material for either big band or large brass ensemble; none of which led to having great recordings to show for all the effort. Stories for another day...
Instead I got to hear a small number of those pieces played over and over by student and community bands which didn't come close to capturing the essence of the music, and I wasn't comfortable publishing any of it. (Not that it stopped other folks from plastering what I consider blackmail footage all over YouTube.) And that pretty much sums it up.
Too much information, you say? Well, if I had a dollar for every time someone asked me why I don't have more recordings, I could pay for a full orchestral recording session. All I can say is, for one reason or another, it just didn't work out, time and time again. Even now, there are very few recordings (if any) of my favorite works. Thanks to the Corno Festival in Poland or Eikanger-Bjørsvik Brass Band in Norway, at least I've gotten one good video for some of the pieces. But even those are pretty far from being fully developed, since we were under the usual time constraints, and we didn't have the means for making a truly great recording. sigh...
But one thing's for sure: I've continued to develop my voice and my musical vision regardless. And I've got loads of sketches or nearly-finished compositions which are on standby; programs of all shapes and sizes, just waiting for the right circumstances to be brought to life.
Oh, right, "Live in Argentina"!
Hey, you wanted to know about me. Be careful what you wish for.
Well, then came my trips to Argentina starting in 2016. Playing with Horacio Burgos and his crew felt really easy; really natural. Our first gig went so well, I paid to have our 2nd gig recorded, which became the album.
That concert happened during a very interesting moment in my life. I was newly in Love, which gave me a sense of peace and calm unlike I'd felt for some time. That sounds pretty apparent from the very first track. Angélica was sitting front-row-center, which gave me the rare opportunity to play the feeling, "I Love You" while looking directly into her eyes.
But the program deals with melancholic themes as well, which called on me to process in real-time some of the pain I'd experienced in the not-so-distant past, and find my way to a place of further acceptance and peace. "Meditación para Liberarte" translates best to "Meditation on letting you go". I'm quite sure I've never played so few notes in a song before, and yet it's hard to find many examples where I've said as much in each note.
Even though trumpet playing has consistently felt so much easier since playing on better-designed equipment, my critical mind has plenty of qualms with things I played in this concert, big and small. (Par for the course...) But what this album does exceedingly well is offer you a clear window into how I was feeling that night, in a fully vulnerable state, with no big compositions to hide behind. I might as well have been laying on a therapist's sofa.
It's a love letter. It speaks to the closing of one door and the opening of another. It's a celebration of the simple pleasure in life of sharing an intimate space, feeling safe enough to speak one's truth. And to sing! (in Spanish no less) That's why I love this album. It'll always be there to remind me, should I ever forget, exactly who I was then.
I hope it stirs profound feelings within you as well.
Adam looks forward to a long career of producing innovative and inspiring musical and theatrical experiences, and contributing to the greater good through the medium of art.
Yup, still waiting for much of that to come to fruition. But at least things have been looking up in more recent times. Soon I'll be back in Argentina to make more music with my brothers and sisters in ALDEA, which is a great next step.
Once I've got deeper pockets, it'll be a lot easier to start making deposits on that dream I have of producing full-on theatrical productions. That's a far more expensive venture than producing albums. In the meantime, a standing offer: You show me $20,000 and I'll show you your name on a Grammy nominated album as an executive producer.
As for contributing to the greater good, at least I can find satisfaction in my work with LOTUS Trumpets by helping trumpet players all over the world. And I know I've been threatening this for several years now, but I'll soon be in the position to make a major contribution for the trumpet world with a huge educational offering. So as not to jinx the plan, I'll leave it at that.
Well, I hope this gives you some more insight into the gears turning in this strange head of mine, and helps provide some context to whichever of my pieces that have been meaningful for you. Now go forth and lift some people up!