Laurie Frink passed away today.
I’ve worked with Laurie in many incarnations for all of my fifteen years in New York. Phil Smith first sent me to her when my poor undergraduate embouchure wasn’t able to handle what Juilliard was dealing. I worked with her for an extended time again after I herniated my windpipe in my senior year, put the horn down for many months, and then decided to test the waters. And once again, years later, when we bartered lessons…she worked with my trumpet face, and I helped her learn Ableton. In this last iteration of our relationship we would spend long afternoons together at her studio teaching, learning, and laughing. I feel so lucky to have crossed into her orbit over the years.
Laurie wasn’t just a player’s teacher, she was a teacher’s teacher as well. By that I mean to say that she was not only the embouchure ER doctor for many of the worlds greatest brass players (see Dave Douglas). But she was a pristine example to those of us that also want to teach better. When you played for her, you had her undivided attention. She would sit (with you aiming directly at her face, usually) and give her entire being over to empathy. She wanted to feel what you feel, and think what you think.
Beyond that, she worked creatively, and tirelessly to help you on your own individual path. It was a given that your goals (much less your obstacles) were rarely aligned with another’s. While most of her students worked with basic prodcution issues that fell into large categories, the routines she prescribed were yours alone. She built you a boat to use to traverse the sea.
That empathy and focus on the individual (rather than dogma) is what all great teachers aspire to. Knowing her, she would probably tell you that it was Carmine Caruso that taught her to do that, but that would be predictably modest. Laurie cared for her music, she cared for her craft, and she cared deeply about her community. She helped heal many of us in ways that she probably never meant to.
I wish you the calmest peace my friend.