Multi-instrumentalist learns to play 10 instruments in 19 years
Science can often disprove the idea of innate abilities found in humans at birth, but a discussion with Humboldt State botany major and multi-instrumentalist, Alex Rumbel, argues against this theory.
Rumbel’s capacity for understanding instruments has brought her to play over 10 instruments during the span of her 19 years of life and be a vital part of countless bands including Loud Neighbors Brass Band, the World-Famous Crab Grass Band, Laser Bear and Humboldt’s own Marching Lumberjacks.
Rumbel’s first memories of music date back to when she was five years old.
“My mom has always been a vocalist, and when I was a young kid, she performed in an a cappella group that sang at renaissance fairs,” Rumbel said. “I’d say the introduction to the rowdy bunch of people that come with a renaissance fair was good for preparing me to go to Humboldt State.”
Rumbel’s early musical ambitions sprouted from vocals but moved to guitar when she began studying music outside of school. With the extra finger dexterity from playing at such a young age, moving to a stand-up bass in middle school was a logical first step in learning to play multiple instruments.
“Instead of continuing in strings which could have been dead-end at some point,” Rumbel said. “I decided that I wanted to be a multi-instrumentalist.
“Humboldt County is a DIY thing, and that’s one of the things I love about being a musician here; I feel like there is less pressure to be something you’re not.”Alex Rumbel
Trombone was the first brass instrument she picked up before she moved up to bass drums for the high school marching band. Rumbel’s high school music career was a flurry of new instruments and new bands. She played electric guitar, electric bass and drums for small rock bands. She also played in the drumline for a marching band, electric guitar for the advanced jazz band, percussion for a band performing in concert and advanced wind ensemble. Then, just for fun, she learned the viola for orchestra.
Rumbel broke her foot during her senior year of high school, which pushed her into social isolation. Because of this Rumbel started college with the mentality of not wanting to be a part of the social aspect of music creation.
“When I came up here, I brought my guitar just to play by myself and I brought my drum pad and my sticks,” Rumbel said. “But I didn’t intend to play in any bands.”
After living in the dorms for a short amount of time, Rumbel found herself in the middle of the Marching Lumberjack’s “dorm storming” where they play around campus to recruit new musicians. She came down from her dorm and quickly found herself dragged back into band performance, learning yet another new instrument.
“I started playing trumpet,” Rumbel said. “That was the best decision I made after deciding to come to Humboldt State. When I first started playing the trumpet, it wasn’t as expressive, and it wasn’t as in tune with how I felt, but then it started becoming perfectly in tune with how I felt.”
It wasn’t long before Rumbel found herself ingrained in the local music scene, mainly playing trumpet for local bands. Recently, she found time to start playing bass for the Laser Bears. The local music scene is described by her as a very tight-knit group of musicians willing to collaborate, great venues with open doors to small bands, and a Do-It-Yourself/Psychedelic thread that defines Humboldt.
“Music has been my lifeline to everything else of meaning that I can imagine.”Alex Rumbel
“Humboldt County is a D.I.Y. thing,” Rumbel said. “That’s one of the things I love about being a musician here; I feel like there is less pressure to be something you’re not.”
Rumbel’s musical journey shows how something physical like an instrument can have an undefinable effect on the musician playing it. Music has the affect of rippling through the audience as it leaves a piece of each artist in the minds of each listener, and that is one of Rumbel’s greatest connections with the art.
“Music has been my lifeline to everything else of meaning that I can imagine,” Rumbel said. “It has been my social connection for many years being in so many bands and interacting with so many people, but it’s also introspective in the same way, and I feel like, and I know it sounds cliché, I feel like I can actually express myself with music.”