This past weekend, Emory University hosted the third annual Atlanta Trumpet Festival. I didn't attend as a participant, however I did watch each of the free concerts.
ABOUT THE FESTIVAL
The Atlanta trumpet festival is the brainchild of Kay Fairchild and her son David Fairchild. I've known about Kay Fairchild for a few years now, as she's a very well respected trumpet teacher in the Atlanta area and she's known for having some of the best students in the state of Georgia. A few years ago, Kay started the Atlanta Trumpet Ensemble as a way for her students to perform together at various regional events. The success of their trumpet ensemble prompted Kay and her son to try hosting a larger event for students throughout the Atlanta area. And thus the Atlanta Trumpet Festival was born.
The Atlanta Trumpet Festival has grown considerably over the past three years. The first year they had about 40 registrants, the second year they had about 60, and this year they had over a hundred registrants representing nine different states! Of the 100+ participants, about 25 were middle school students, another 60 were high school students, and about 25 more were adults (college and older). Each of these three groups met for ensemble rehearsals and performed on the final day of the festival.
In addition to the ensemble rehearsals, the registrants also participated in master classes with the festival's clinicians. This year the clinicians included Michael Anderson, Mark Clodfelter, and Vincent DiMartino. The three clinicians participated in both of the free concerts and on the first night they were accompanied by the outstanding Georgia Brass Band.
As I mentioned earlier, the festival registrants performed in their respective ensembles (middle school, high school, adult) on the final day of the festival. Prior to the performance, Kay Fairchild mentioned that none of the participants audition for parts. Instead, they are free to choose whatever parts they want, with the understanding that they'll switch parts for each tune. In other words, if somebody selects the first trumpet part on one piece, they'll need to play second, third, etc on the other.
Kay went on to explain that the decision to forgo auditions arose from something that happened during the first year of the festival. That first year, a trumpet player who was relatively inexperienced found himself sitting next to and playing the same part as a couple of all-state trumpeters. In his school, he would never have played the same part as the better trumpeters. In fact, he probably wouldn't have been in the same band class. But, since he had the opportunity to meet these players and play by their side during the festival, he became inspired to improve. With a new sense of determination, he practiced more and steadily rose through the ranks at his school, making his way into the top band. I couldn't quite hear the end of this story, but I believe he is now studying music at the college level.
One of the clinicians, Vincent DiMartino, shared another story about inspiration with the audience. Back when he first started playing the trumpet, he had the opportunity to see Louis Armstrong live in concert. Somehow he made his way back stage, hoping to get an autograph. When he knocked on Louis' dressing room door, not only did Louis give him an autograph, but he also spent twenty minutes talking with Vincent about music and the trumpet. During those twenty minutes, Louis Armstrong gave Vincent enough inspiration to last a lifetime. Vincent hit the practice room like never before and, as many of you know, he went on to become a top lead trumpeter and soloist, performing with numerous big bands, including the Lionel Hampton Band, the Clark Terry Band, and the Chuck Mangione Band.
While listening to these stories of inspiration, I couldn't help but think of the first time I really became inspired to improve as a trumpeter. It happened during my second year playing the trumpet, when I was in eighth grade. That's the first year I was accepted to all-state. At all-state, we listened to the top high school band and I couldn't believe how good they were. One piece in particular blew me away. I forget the name now, but I think it was "Scottish" something. It has a long trumpet solo and it goes up to a C# which is pretty rare for high school trumpet parts. Anyway, after I heard how awesome that piece sounded, I knew I needed to practice more. For the first time, I was really inspired to improve and that's when I increased my practice schedule to one hour every day (I'd later increase my practice time to 3-4 hours a day). And guess, what? not only would I go on to make all-state every year throughout high school, including all-state jazz band during my senior year, but I also ended up playing the solo trumpet part on that same "Scottish" song just a few years later!
What I'd like to emphasize here is that regardless of your skill level, there's always somebody who can inspire you to take things to the next level. And it's those experiences that we should pursue because they push us to be better musicians and better people.
Speaking of inspiration, it was clear that Vince DiMartino was an inspiration to the clinicians and adult players. During DiMartino's solo performance I glanced over at the other clinicians and they were grinning ear to ear as he effortlessly played the loudest and fattest high notes I've ever heard live. And it all came full circle as DiMartino seemed genuinely inspired by the fantastic effort put forth by Kay Fairchild and David Fairchild to make the trumpet festival a reality.
I'd LOVE to see an event like this for jazz!
BEHOLD, THE POWER OF THE TRUMPET
If you're a regular reader of my jazz blog, you know I'm passionate about jazz improvisation and the creativity and personal expression it affords. I'm definitely not a trumpet screamer type, nor do I really identify with the "trumpet geek" ethos. But, with that said, I must admit to a certain degree of trumpet pride when the high school group of 60 trumpeters took to the stage. Before they played even a single note, the woman next to me put her hands over her ears and said quietly to herself, "sixty trumpeters, oh boy"...