Your students won both the small and large ensembles categories at the National Trumpet Competition this year with your arrangements of the Firebird and Capriccio espagnol. Could you talk about how you began arranging and what inspired your repertoire selection?
I started arranging in 2016, and I had never arranged before. It was not a skill set I had; I even asked somebody to help me understand how to operate Sibelius. What has been inspiring about arranging and what I like about it so much is that I get to really think about what my students need, and I try and choose repertoire based on that. For example, I like to pick different composers and time periods and cycle them every year in an effort to expose them to a variety of styles. If this year I program a baroque composer, next year we will do classical, then romantic and finally contemporary, modern. I also try and pick masterworks that they should know. For example, this year, we have done Firebird and Capriccio espagnol, and those are both really fantastic pieces that are part of the orchestral repertoire. Hopefully, this will also help as they prepare for auditions on how to play the excerpts.
Your ensembles played from memory and had an incredible stage presence. Could you walk us through the preparation process, from when you give them the music to the day of the performance?
Generally, I don’t want to start them on any of that material too early. It’s such a long journey; I just want them to be performing lots of different materials. For example, the Capriccio group did a full recital within the first month of school, and the Capriccio wasn’t part of that. That was helpful for that particular group in terms of understanding how everybody works, learning each other’s playing habits, and figuring out how to blend, breathe and attack together. They started to develop camaraderie as a section before they start thinking about competition. They usually have the music about a month prior, and they’re probably practising once a week leading up to the recording, which happens in December. Then we actually don’t do too many recordings, maybe two or three, choose the best and send it. Once we find out whether we’ve advanced or not, we start to practice again when we come back to school in the spring. As the competition ramps up, they spend more time and are more invested in making sure that they’re doing what they intended to do musically. They’re trying to be memorized at least a month out, and I think one of the great things about memorization is that you start to really be able to work with your colleagues and listen. But I think that sometimes if you get off the music too early, you forget about some things like dynamics, or you might forget about the fact that it says “dolce” or the fact that it says “mp”. Making sure that there’s a good balance of rehearsing with the music and rehearsing without the music is an important component, as I am looking for a complete colour spectrum. This is important because when you have 5 to 7 trumpets, there are only so many colours one might achieve, so we want an experience that is going to be an all-encompassing musical journey. My biggest goal is for them to enjoy music-making, to have fun and to really be invested in what it is that they’re saying. One of the things that I’ve been really proud of is the fact that they all come together and enjoy their performances. Regardless of the results, I’m always proud and impressed by the way that they just deliver memorable performances.
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