By now it's probably not a secret. Euphonium was not my first instrument. In fact, I didn't start playing euphonium until the summer before my second year in college only about 7 years ago. I was a trumpet player. Cornet first and then trumpet later on in middle/high school. I grew up in the Salvation Army tradition of sight reading everything with little rehearsal. I played next to great players when I was only 9 years old. The Salvation Army gave me those great opportunities at a young age as they continue to do so for many young aspiring musicians. I am very grateful for that. However, even though I progressed quicker than my peers musically, physically I was always a little behind. I struggled very early with embouchure challenges.
I remember being in the 7th grade playing with the mouthpiece literally on the right side of my face. Not natural! I was actually pretty decent at playing two at the same time! I eventually got things centered when I started taking lessons in high school but things never really progressed as I would have wanted. Sure I made the usual accomplishments: All-state, awards, etc. I had all the tools necessary to be a great player: finger technique, musicality, great sight reading, but I severely lacked the range and stamina to be a great player. And moreover, I never was able to get it no matter how much and how hard I practiced. I got into college with a nice scholarship with a great teacher but things never really materialized for me. My confidence in my playing took a nose dive when I noticed how far behind I was in those categories compared to my peers. It was quite a dark time in my life. Seriously. The one thing I wanted to be good at was being held back by physical limitations. So after another failed embouchure change attempt, my teacher, the great Dr. Moffat Williams, brought up the idea that would change my life forever. Why don't you just try playing the euphonium? Just try it and see how it goes. Of course I thought he was crazy. There was no way I was giving up the trumpet. I loved playing jazz. I wanted to be a great trumpet player. Playing the euphonium would be like a cop out. Those thoughts filled my head for a while until I finally took the plunge and played a few notes on the euphonium that summer. The burden I had felt the last several years was instantly lifted off my shoulders. I believe I recall calling my teacher that same day to let him know I was going to make the switch. There was no thought process. It was an easy switch.
I remember taking my first wind ensemble audition on euphonium that fall. I'm sure our conductor was filled with anticipation as to what the switch would really sound like. I think I played through a Kopprasch etude. His eyes lit up. He couldn't believe the sound I was making. The music facility instantly came through and the physical limitations were no more. All of my musical strengths were magnified. It was literally as if I was meant to play that instrument.
Now to the question, how do you know if your student should switch from trumpet to euphonium (or other low brass instruments)? Well, I'd like to say there are tell tell signs, but there really aren't. My situation was trial and error. I like to think that my larger lips played a role in my physical limitations with the trumpet, but I've seen countless great trumpet players with big lips. I don't think there is a scientific benchmark for when to make a switch. What I do know is that there is always a shortage of euphonium players in middle and high school band programs. The fingerings are the same albeit they'll need to eventually learn bass clef and start using a fourth valve for 1 and 3 and 1, 2, and 3 combinations. If they're struggling with range exercises even after practicing properly and their stamina doesn't seem to improve, why not try? If I didn't try, I probably never would have known and who knows where I'd be today. I like to think of myself as a musician first and a euphonium player second. The trumpet held my musical abilities back while the euphonium became my musical voice. I know it sound cheesy but it makes total sense. Have your student play an instrument that allows their musical voice to sing without physical limitations. If that instrument happens to be the euphonium, so be it.
I hope this helps anyone who has physical limitations in their playing or has a student that does. Never be afraid to try something new. In my case, it changed my life!