Sounds Great: The Potash Twins

By Oscar Wolfe
Photo by Amal Flower Kay

If you haven’t heard of the Potash Twins yet, you probably will soon. Their recently released album, The Potash Twins, made it to #9 jazz album on iTunes. They’ve trained with some of the most famous jazz musicians in the world. They’ve been on a TEDtalk. Huffington Post named them one of the 15 most stylish twins on Instagram! They’ve already travelled the world, with Adeev playing trumpet and Ezra on trombone. The Potash Twins are especially admirable with me for me for two reasons. 1) I just started to play trumpet. 2) They went to Herzl Camp, just like me. Adeev Potash and I share something else in common: we both have brothers named Ezra! I was lucky enough to be able to interview Adeev on a break during a recent concert at Icehouse in Minneapolis.

How did you get your start?
I’ll be honest: I was not a good trumpet player. I was not a good musician. My dad’s tone deaf! Music doesn’t run on that side of the family. My mom sings, but not like, professionally or anything. So we went to go hear Wynton Marsalis play. He’s just the most unbelievable trumpet player, in my opinion, of all time. But definitely right now. We went to go hear him play in Lincoln, Nebraska and I brought my trumpet. For me, I always bring my trumpet when I go hear music. It’s like a kid bringing his baseball glove to a ball game—you never know what foul balls you’re going to catch. And if it’s a lesson with whomever I’m going to go see, it’s worth it to bring my horn. So we went to see Wynton, and we got ushered into the Green Room and I ended up having a 2 hour lesson with him, and he gave us his cell phone number and said any time you’re in New York City, give me a call—you can come to a concert, you can come to my house, anything. So we stayed in touch. He helped us with our college essays, next thing we knew, we had full rides to schools in New York! That was never something we thought of doing.

But how did you start playing trumpet in the first place? Was it for school?
We started playing at school in Austin, Texas. We couldn’t have been worse. The program couldn’t have been worse. It was just terrible. Nothing inspiring about playing music there. And then we moved to Omaha, Nebraska, and we had heard the band director was really good and the program was really good, so we were like, okay, we might as well join the band and see where it takes us. And we ended up having a great time. I made the last trumpet player in the last jazz band. I was terrible. A few years later, I was first in all-state. Shows you: if you put your mind to something, and you enjoy it, you can do anything. I don’t feel like I’m working.

Who was your best teacher?
I was very lucky to have a trumpet teacher I looked up to. I studied with Dizzy Gillespie’s protegé, John Faddis. He’s the No. 2 trumpet player in the world. To have that one-on-one time a couple hours a day, you never forget that. I just soaked it all up. I had a true master teaching me what to do.

Were there any cons about working with him?
He was so technically good, he didn’t necessarily know how to teach how to do it—he just did it!

What did you have to give up to become a great musician?
We were super social in school. We played varsity tennis. We worked very very hard to not have to give anything up. We were in three different bands in high school including all-state, and an all-city symphonic group. Every day was busy. Every morning, every night. We sacrificed a lot of time. We wouldn’t be anywhere if we hadn’t put that time in. In college, we were leaving a lot to play. Sophomore year we got to go to the home of Warren Buffet to perform! Our schools were like, ‘we’re obviously your second priority.’ And we were like, no—we’re going to school for music performance. We should be performing! They didn’t like that, for reasons I still don’t understand. So we made the decision to leave for a year to work on an album and see where it takes us. As of now, we’re just going to continue doing what we’re doing. And if the opportunity arises, and there’s a school that’s flexible with us, we’ll go back.

Did you have any idea that your album would get to #9 for jazz on iTunes?
We had no idea! In the morning it was at #42 and we went to play on the radio, then it went up to #25, and it kept going. People were buying it, everyone was tweeting it, and it got up to #9 by the time we had our show that night. So it was super awesome.

The Potash Twins and the brothers Wolfe at Icehouse.

Did you and your brother always want to work together?
Early on, we decided whatever we’re going to do, being identical twins, we should do it together. Whether we were lawyers, or politicians, or jazz musicians, it was probably going to be favorable to us to do it together. Tricking people just comes naturally, I guess!

It would be really bad if you were president and vice president and no one knew who was who!
That would be crazy!

So I’m a trumpet player—what advice would you give me, or other kids who want to be great at music?
First thing: play what you want to play, play what you love to listen to. Play along to the radio. Then it will always feel fun for you. Just get better. Work on your ear training. And then, if you’re playing pieces you don’t love, you’ll find a way to make it interesting.
Beyond music, just find something you love doing, where it doesn’t feel like work. And then, when you decide what that is, find someone who’s better than you, and work with them. Find someone who is the best at it.

I guess I’ll have to talk to President Obama now.
Do it! Send him a letter. Send him 10 emails. Call eight times a day. Tweet him 20 times. Do it! If you want it to happen, you can make it happen.

Keep up with the Potash Twins and get their concert schedule here.

That Is Great!

A kid's take on stuff that is great.

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