By Jean Sorensen
It was an image burned in the childhood memory of Bruce Dougall, sales rep with Re/Max Platinum in Langley, B.C. A young boy in a church concert dressed in a snappy red jacket playing a wonderful gold trumpet. The image and sound captured and amazed him. “It was then I got the vision,” he says.
That vision has led Dougall to where he is today – the 2008 winner of the Gospel Music Award for Canada’s Best Instrumental Album and a contender for a Juno Award.
“This is the equivalent of the GMA Dove Awards in the U.S.,” he said of the GMAs win, a major achievement and acknowledgment for any musician. The CD, entitled What a Gig That Will B,e is a compilation of gospel songs that have been professionally arranged and would appeal to a wide range of audiences. They include songs such as Joshua, better known as the Pink Panther theme song, and Bring Him Home from Les Miserables.
“I am a full-time Realtor and just do music on the side,” says Dougall. “One of the bands I play in, five of the guys have bought or sold houses through me including the band leader. I have made a lot of business contacts through my music; it is a great venue for personal PR. Many clients like to know that I also have a life outside of real estate. I have found so many people in the life are music lovers. Being a musician has helped open the doors to a lot of real estate business for me over the years.”
Dougall’s new CD brings out a special sound from a unique instrument that he obtained from renowned trumpet player Doc Severinsen. (It is one of two instruments featured on the CD cover – the larger instrument is a flugel.) This trumpet, in Dougall’s hands, gives off a pure, clean sound that runs the gauntlet from the smoky, throaty growl of jazz through to the rich tones found in the big bands and the crisp, slicing sounds within a solo.
“I will keep this one for life,” he says of the special trumpet.
It came to him through contact with a client’s son, who plays with Doc Severinsen’s band. He learned of custom trumpets that Severinsen had made in Germany and also sold. He contacted Severinsen to buy one and the phone call culminated in free front row tickets to a concert in Spokane and a brief meeting afterwards. Severinsen arranged to leave two trumpets in a hotel room for Dougall to try the next morning, as Severinsen left early to appear on the David Letterman show.
“He meant to leave two but he left a third one and that was the one I wanted, and also the one he liked,” says Dougall. Severinsen, realizing the error, phoned his office with the message that he would like the third trumpet, but if Dougall took it, that was okay. Dougall was already on his way home with the prized trumpet, when Severinsen called again to say that Dougall “didn’t know how lucky he was.”
What makes the trumpet so special? Dougall says that the age-old craft of hand-making these trumpets is an art. Occasionally, for some unexplained reason, the sound from a trumpet is better than most. “There are nuances,” he says. He believes his trumpet is one of those “rare ones that are exceptional.” Those nuances can be heard on the CD, and the GMA Canada win bears him out.
The trumpet was another significant milestone in his musical journey. He remembers his father giving him his first trumpet as a child. It was a second-hand one. While he was appreciative, he admits he still longed for that new, shiny gold one he had seen the red-jacketed boy playing.
“My father told me if I practiced hard, he would buy me a new one,” he says. A relative supplied the first lessons and one Christmas under the tree, there was the shiny, new trumpet. “It was a great lesson in life,” he recalls. “My father had done what he had promised. His word was golden.”
With new trumpet in hand, Dougall sought out well-known musician Bobby Herriot, who was living in Vancouver, where Dougall lived. Once Herriot learned how hard Dougall worked to pay the $9 fee for lessons, he waived the charge and became a mentor. “That was amazing for me to observe as a young man. He was such a talented man but one with such integrity, such quality and such decency.
When the CD was cut, Dougall packed one off to Herriot, who now is conducting and playing his trumpet in Ontario. Herriot called to rave about the CD, says Dougall.
“I had always wanted to do a CD of my own,” says Dougall, who plays in symphonies and with groups as back-up for other CD recording artists, when he’s not selling real estate. So, about two years ago, he called friend Larry Dalton to open the door to that possibility.
Dalton and Dougall had toured together 20 years ago in a gospel band known as Living Sound International in Europe, the U.S. and Africa. Dalton, a second cousin of Elvis Presley, was known for his unique musical arrangements that he supplied for over 1,000 television programs, as well as Christmas performances with symphonies in Seattle and Tulsa. Dalton was luckily between projects and agreed to help. They chose songs “you could whistle along to,” Dougall says. Dalton arranged an eight-piece orchestra to lay down the background music to the tunes. This track then arrived in Vancouver, where Dougall played the songs with his unique trumpet (and also the flugel).
Dougall says he also used several real estate clients who were musicians on the CD.
The hard drive with the music was then sent off to Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, Calif., the studio where artists such as Elton John do their mixing and mastering of the final sound track. Engineer Phil Edwards was able to fine-tune the songs. It was another coup for Dougall. Edwards is one of the finest in the business, having done the mixing and mastering for such well-known bands as the Count Basie Orchestra.
When it came back into Dougall’s hands and he heard the finished product, he was in awe. “It was better than I had ever dreamed possible. The clarity, the balance and timbre were just what I wanted and better than I thought possible. I was thrilled,” Dougall says.
The CD was originally intended only as gift for clients, but Dougall has also had it stocked in various music stores and it’s available for purchase on the Internet at http://www.cdbaby.combaby.com (search Bruce Dougall). His next project is a compilation of Broadway tunes.
“After being a full-time Realtor for over 20 years in the suburbs of Vancouver, I cannot imagine being anything else,” says Dougall. “I enjoy making deals work and closing transactions with everyone happy about the outcome. I appreciate my clients, their loyalty, and the referrals I get from them and other Realtors across Canada. A large part of my business is done through referrals. For me, real estate is the greatest career in the world.”
His music award and the journey towards more exposure to his artistic work have only one sad note. He was hoping to finish the 18-month project before his father died, but that didn’t happen.
Dougall recently played at a Re/Max function for hundreds of agents. He played a song from the album, You Lift Me Up and received a standing ovation. The song would have been a fitting tribute to the man who slipped that gold trumpet under the Christmas tree years many years ago.
In the photo: Bruce Dougall recently played his trumpet for hundreds of Re/Max agents at a conference.
By Jean Sorensen