Ron Helman Jazz Ensemble

at The Adobe Bar

Time: 7:00pm     Day: Sunday     Doors: 5:00pm     Ages: All Ages    
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Only Three Buttons…
Ron Helman and His Trumpet

by Linda Braun - The Eldorado Sun

Having grown up in the midst of a musical family (his Dad still plays the saxophone at age 86) its no surprise that by age seven Ron Helman was playing piano. By age eight, he wanted to make even more noise and requested drum lessons. He met with one of the Hilger sisters, a trio from Vienna, who offered music lessons in the New Jersey town where he lived. She didn’t have a drum kit so she offered Ron a trumpet to consider instead. He looked at it carefully, weighing his options. Then he thought, “hmmm… only three buttons, why that can’t be too hard,” and so began his lifelong relationship with the trumpet.

The drive to express creatively and excel are key qualities of Ron’s and a few years later he was lead trumpet in his middle and high school band and orchestra. With his passion for music and the trumpet growing steadily he became more and more serious about it. Simultaneously he was inspired to try out for his high school gymnastic team and made it. Once again his passion ignited and his desire to excel took off. He and his teammates gathered in the basement watching movies of gymnasts competing. With Ron’s keen ability to see and decipher fast-moving details it was easy for him to analyze the movements of Olympic stars. His commitment to practice made him a stronger and more capable gymnast and this in turn strengthened him as a musician. Even now, many years later, Ron still keeps himself competition-fit so he can fully meet the challenges of playing trumpet.
He continued playing throughout college and, moving to New York City in his early 20s, pursued studying and performing mostly classical music. “It was intense, exciting and stressful,” shares Ron. And, with the relaxed perspective of being a 50-something now he adds, “I was always a wreck.”

Realizing the stress he pulled back from playing music and began teaching gymnastics in the city’s private after-school programs to supplement his income. He also connected with a modern dance company whose focus was on acrobatic choreography. It was shortly after the director of the Julliard School’s movement department saw Ron perform, that he was hired to teach acrobatics and stunt preparation to students there. He continued practicing trumpet but stopped playing gigs.
Then, via a job tip from a friend, Ron began teaching exercise to the rich and famous at Radu’s Physical Culture Studio. This was the 1980s, when exercise and personal trainers were prized necessities to those who could afford them. His clients flew him in their private jets to exotic vacation spots and he partied in star-lit circles. His steady high-paying clientele inspired him to open Ron’s C-57, his own successful exercise studio in Carnegie Hall.

As a favor to some of his musician friends, Ron passed on a tape of their band to Bob Summers, a fitness client of his, who was a CEO at Sony Music International. Summers passed the tape onto George Butler of Columbia Records who gave the band a record contract; Ron became the band’s manager and started a company called Mileshigh Management. Once again the mix of creative passion and the ability to do things well had Ron, in short time, managing some of the best jazz musicians in the world. After a while, however, all of this became hard to manage: personal training required that he be at his studio by 8am while working music meant being out until 2am several nights a week. Worse yet, Ron was shocked to find his second marriage — to one of his artists, Rachel Z — ending in divorce.

Seeing Ron’s distress, one of his fitness clients (who prefers to remain anonymous) offered him a respite at his Santa Fe home. Whisked away in yet another private jet, Ron fell in love not only with the landscape and feel of life in the City Different, but also with Pamela Markoya, a friend whom his client introduced him to. After nine days of exploring the wonders and wildness of Santa Fe, Ron returned to New York. It wasn’t long before he realized that New York was no longer where he wanted to be and in three months time he was back in Santa Fe. He and Pamela married in October 1999.
One day his trumpet — which had stayed with him during all his transitions — called to him. Ron had no idea what would happen when he lifted it from the case and placed it to his lips. He started playing… and playing… and playing. Surprised at how much better he sounded — especially after so many years of not playing — he realized that all of his life experience had expanded and developed who he was. Bringing more of himself to the trumpet enabled him to play better and deeper than he ever had before.
Ron began practicing regularly again, this time directing his attention towards playing jazz. He listened over and over to Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue album, taking on the mastery of Davis’s music as his goal. The music of Wayne Shorter and Antonio Carlos Jobim also influenced him.
A few years later in celebration of his 50th birthday and his renewed passion for playing trumpet Ron organized an art show and concert for friends and family. He put together a jazz band that practiced together only once. He remembers being up on stage and gazing out at this room full of people, “I was so nervous I didn’t think I’d be able to play. Fear had replaced my faith… I was frozen and terrified.”
Something else prevailed however, and Ron did play. His listeners enjoyed the music; told him they thought the band was good. But Ron, still in shock at the amount of fear that had hit him, swore he’d never play again. But, that didn’t stop his friend Priscilla Hoback who, shortly afterwards, got him a regular gig at the Pink Adobe Dragon Room Bar. “That’s what really turned me into a jazz player,” says Ron with genuine appreciation.
In addition, Ron began offering personalized fitness training again. With his extensive training and experience, as well as the need to keep himself in top shape for his music, he truly “walks his talk” when guiding others into a practice of strength, awareness, flexibility and fitness.

Currently Ron heads up the Ron Helman Jazz Ensemble which plays Thursdays from 6:30 to 8:30 at the Santa Fe Railyard Restaurant and Bar. With Kanoa Kaluhiwa as his regular saxophone player, Bert Dalton on piano and Jon Gagan on bass, Ron describes the ensemble as “an instrumental band with a focus on jazz music of the 50s and 60s.” Their music — luscious, colorful, soothing, delightful — blends seamlessly and emerges from all four players without any apparent effort. They don’t rehearse or practice together, and Ron never knows ahead of time what they’ll play. He reveals, for example, “when I signal the piano player that it’s his spot to play, I don’t know what he’s going to do. Jazz is improvisation,” he clarifies in his glowing way, “We’ve got to take chances; you never expand or get better if you don’t take chances.”

“As musicians we’re playing for each other [not just for the audience]. When I play a certain way,” Ron explains, “the other players respond in their unique, spontaneous ways, and we get to find out more about who each of us is.” Clearly this piece of non-verbal communication and relationship is another aspect of Ron’s musical passion.
“My mission,” states Ron, “is to remove myself — my own ego — from the music and only be making an offering. Music puts you in the moment, it allows you to transcend where you may be stuck in any given moment.” So whether he’s practicing or performing Ron opens himself up wide and vulnerable to each moment. “It’s not about virtuosity for me,” says Ron, “my passion is to create some really great moments in music. I’ve never come up with anything new, no brand new idea for the world. But, my experience of doing whatever is uniquely my own — that’s not only something that’s good enough — its something for me to embrace — especially when I’m not comparing it to anything else.” He concludes, “I offer my music to the world so that it can move people into a more open and alive space.”