İmer Demirer – Trumpet

This will be a subjective article no matter how you view it. It isn’t enough to write about such an esteemed person—a really prominent musician—through a couple of anecdotes but Batu Akyol kindly asked me and I jumped at the chance saying “Yes, of course”. I have been trying to come up with a classy excuse to say I cannot go ahead with writing it, but then I change my mind. Because even if this is going to be an article based on my own feelings and ideas, and that makes it a big responsibility. Anyways, I am not going to complain anymore.

Barış Demirel, İmer Demirer
Barış Demirel, İmer Demirer

It was year 2011. It has been two or three years since I started attempting to play the trumpet. There was a mark forming on the reed due to wrong positioning on my lips and from pressing too hard, and while playing—or trying to play—it became painful. There used to be a website called MySpace back then. It was a treasure for both amateur and professional musicians alike. I sent a message to İmer Demirer’s page about my problem. I got a reply the next day saying “Hi Barış, come to the radio tomorrow”.

I used to work as a graphic designer at a television channel’s news centre that broadcasted nationwide. We used to start at 3:00 am and work on the 7:00 am morning news and left at noon. I believe it was a Wednesday when I went to the TRT Radio building in Harbiye. Everything was okay so far in the story. It was a huge building. Many rooms, studios, corridors… I could not find İmer Demirer for the life of me. I was already shy. I was about ask someone—what to say? “Did you see İmer Demirer?”, a very ordinary question yet I could not bring myself to ask it in all my shyness. I kept looking left and right myself. Oh, I forgot to say: İmer Demirer does not use a mobile phone… I finally found him. I would have missed my chance if I was 2-3 minutes late. I introduced myself, I played a bit. He suggested a few changes to my lip positioning. We left the radio and chatted while we walked from Harbiye to the Underground entrance in Gezi Park. I kept thinking “What a gentleman, how polite and kind” and was left in awe. Then we stopped. It was red light for pedestrians, yet not a car was passing by. We waited. This is the normal thing to do, this is the çivil thing to do. My somewhat uncivilized thoughts “Why are we waiting?” flashed in my head.

I started to visit the radio more frequently after that. I used to go to Harbiye during lunch time to catch İmer Demirer and talk to him for 15-20 minutes. He would ask me to play the trumpet and ask the other older trumpet players with us to listen. I was extremely happy to hear good comments and reactions. I found my one and only master to whom I could ask all the mental or technical questions I had about the trumpet without hesitation, knowing that he would generously reply. A master who treated everyone with respect. By the way, he never gave me trumpet lessons. We didn’t work on the method or had any kind of regular practice. However, I would always have my questions ready to ask him. That is why he was my only mentor when my instrument was concerned. I have always been lazy when it comes to studying. Always working less than the rest and yet always in the middle of the game, the feeling. But this can’t be an excuse when it comes to studying.

İmer Demirer always supported me. He liked my playing and my tone. I started to build my confidence when I heard positive comments and suggestions from such a person. I had someone whose critique I could fully listen to and trust as someone who spends days overthinking what people have said to me. He always said “You have a different path, you will follow that. You will never become a jazz trumpet player anyways”.

One day my phone rang, it was İmer Demirer. He talked to late Mehmet Uluğ and told him about me. He told me to prepare recordings, videos, demos etc. right away and send them to Mehmet Uluğ. This could be called a turning point in my humble career as a musician. I had the opportunity to play during a few of Pozitif’s festivals that year, like Akbank Jazz Festival and One Love Festival. It was 2012 then. I still stopped by the radio now and then. It was the summer months, TRT Light Music and Jazz Orchestra members were hanging out in the garden, drinking tea and smoking cigarettes. There wasn’t any rehearsals or events planned. I think the management had changed and the future of the permanent and temporary members was uncertain. The whole orchestra’s future was in question. İmer Demirer said “I am coming to sign the roll call”. Everyone was feeling down. The future of a colossal formation which was the home and family to many, with whom they had experiences abroad while representing their country was uncertain. I had decided to do a graduate degree to be exempt of mandatory military service that year. I seemed to want to study sound engineering. I asked İmer Demirer to write my recommendation letter—or didn’t, we will come to this shortly—it was such an unrelated department that I had nobody else to vouch for me. He didn’t let me down. He grabbed three sheets of paper, he signed and returned them saying “Write them up as you wish”.

Oh by the way, I didn’t pass the exam.

Then I went to do my military service. I was gone for 6 months. Sergeant Osman from the military band allowed me to use his own trumpet. I played it during the lunch time. I was exchanging mails with İmer Demirer in the meanwhile. I finished my service and I visited his house upon returning to Istanbul. The first album T.E.A.R. was released. I gifted him a CD. We listened to the album together and for hours we talked about trumpet, music and legendary musicians he accompanied. Then he put on a recording from when he was 2-3 years old. He was singing rhymes and songs with his family. It was called “hoppala yavrum yaz geldi” (“Gosh honey, it is summer”) I believe. He rarely put this recording on for other people.

I stopped and wondered as I was writing this part of the article; how can I describe İmer Demirer? There are many musicians who has been both his friends and students if we are to talk about his musicianship, playing or approach to music. They can explain better. I think I am talking about his approach to me in this article instead. He is has a caring and loving attitude towards people. This isn’t easy to do.

2016 My confusion which accompanied my depression was at an all-time high, my confidence was taking a vacation, totally deserting me. We were rehearsing the second album of Barıştık Mı. We practiced hard. Everything was a-go, the time for recording was quickly approaching but everything feels like a chore due to my general unkindness to myself. Absolutely everything did! Everything was an obstacle and I think I was growing up slowly in that period as well. I had the shingles due to the stress, wounds all over my body etc. Now can you see the extent of what I was going through? *cue dramatic music*

I got myself together and visited İmer Demirer one day. I played and we listened to the rehearsal recordings. We talked and poured our hearts out. I left the house as if I had been recalibrated. I took note of what he said on my phone. None of them were technical information. They were motivational things, which shook me up or reminded me of what I had forgotten… We recorded Fail Play the next week. My band mates and I always have regarded this album as a source of pride. İmer Demirer called me while we were recording in the studio asking “Is everything going alright? How were the trumpet recordings?”.

So that’s the way it was…

He told me this during one of my visits that followed: “I have playing the trumpet for longer than 40 years. I love it more every day but I still don’t know how much it loves me”.

I still occasionally call and e-mail him. I sometimes feel intimidated by the months of no communication. I visited him in 2018 last and we were in the backstage together during Mehmet Uluğ’s birthday in Babylon in April 2019. I have always felt in awe of him. As if I am facing Maradona, Cruyff, Hagi or Baggio. İmer Demirer is not my idol; he is a legend I follow in awe.