Music professor releases book, finds community in the industry

Professor Wiff Rudd teaches and plays trumpet at Baylor, participates in several brass organizations and recently published his book, "Side by Side: Building and Sustaining and Effective Community in the Music Studio." Photo Courtesy of Professor Rudd

By Christina Cannady | Writer

Wiff Rudd was just a boy from San Antonio when he picked up a trumpet for the first time the summer before sixth grade and it was love at first blare. Today, he is a professor of trumpet and has organized and played with several groups as well as taught at other schools like Oklahoma Baptist University and the University of Arkansas.

“We were on vacation and my parents heard about someone selling an instrument for $50,” Rudd said. “I sat shotgun with my dad in the camper as we drove home, blasting away at every semi truck we passed and they often honked back.”

In 1993, Rudd co-founded Rhythm & Brass, an international touring and recording chamber ensemble. He traveled the world playing trumpet with this group and toured Saudi Arabia, Australia, Japan and Thailand.

“There is something great that happens when you share ownership of a company with colleagues you love and respect,” Rudd said. “We built something together by digging in and focusing on everyone’s strengths with a vision of what the group could become.”

Rudd reflected on the hardships and rewards of being in a touring group. As he and his colleagues transitioned into teaching at universities, they toured part time.

“We often disagreed, we compromised, we listened to music together and just lived together on the road,” Rudd said. “Musically and personally, those were some of the most creative and rewarding parts of my career and I believe those experiences impacted my teaching in significant ways.”

Rudd also serves as the Brass Area coordinator for Baylor and works collaboratively with Professor Mark Schubert, Dr. Kristy Morrell, Professor Brent Phillips and Dr. Kent Eshelman. They constitute Baylor Brass, a faculty-led brass quintet.

“We are continually striving to create the best policies and practices for our students as well as the finest musical opportunities possible,” Rudd said.

Rudd recently published his book, “Side by Side: Building and Sustaining an Effective Community in the Music Studio,” in 2020. The book expands on the ideas of trust, leadership, building a culture and knowing your peers as well as yourself in the studio.

The book began as a list of inspiring memos, tokens, or encounters that he would keep in his phone. Rudd said after years of writing down these ideas, he was encouraged to write a book.

“The book is a tribute to my family, extended family and students,” Rudd said. “I hope that for some of them, it will be a sort of legacy and provide a meaningful remembrance of what we experienced together.”

Rudd said music is what brings people together, but it’s the messy and difficult parts that build a community. He said most students already possess inside what they need for success, but they might need some direction and most certainly encouragement and accountability.

“I know I will do a better job of teaching if I can connect personally with each student. I can create opportunities for them, get to know them and work next to them, side by side, toward their success,” Rudd said.

Flower Mound freshman Johniel Najera is a student of Rudd’s. Najera was also just about to enter the sixth grade when he first picked up a trumpet.

“Professor Rudd has changed the mindset in which I play and exist in the musical world. He always encourages me and everyone in the studio to ‘sing the trumpet,’” Najera said. “It’s all about the ease of playing and finding our reason for playing the trumpet.”

Najera said he grew up with his trumpet and finds that his happiest moments are while playing. His life is based around playing trumpet but he juggles class, homework and meals with practice and rehearsals. However, he said Rudd encourages having depth and more to your person than just trumpet.

“Rudd always tells us that we have to be more than musicians because trumpet is not forever. Often, the better people we are, the better trumpet players we will become,” Najera said.

Najera rounds out his music life by spending time with friends and family and playing games, basketball or watching movies. He said many of Rudd’s pieces of advice or encouragement are universal and applicable to situations other than music. His favorite quote of Rudd’s is, “Worry leads to harm.”

“The culture he builds with the studio is one of family and welcoming. We share stories, laughs and tears whenever we meet but always leave with a smile,” Najera said.

Rudd’s book, “Side by Side: Building and Sustaining an Effective Community in the Music Studio,” is about more than just the music. According to Rudd, being a musician means collaborating and building a life with other people; having relationships and a common joy. He said the skills learned as a musician are applicable to all walks of life and should be reflected in and outside of the studio.