For the University of Massachusetts, the National Trumpet Competition began long before the ensemble semi-final round on March 15th. It actually began months earlier, with Professor Jeffrey Holmes composing a piece of music set for seven trumpets. This piece was written specifically for the UMass Trumpet Ensemble, and was meant to feature the strengths of its members. The piece, which came to be titled “Seven’s Realm” is a unique combination of jazz harmonies, improvisation, body percussion, singing, fanfares, and technical flourishes that demands the most precise execution by its performers.
The trip itself began early on Thursday, March 15th. Most of the ensemble participated in a Wind Ensemble concert the night before, so our only option was to leave early on the day of the semi-final round of the competition. The UMass trumpet ensemble was set to go on stage at 4:40pm, so the entire group left from the UMass Fine Arts Center at 3:00am, to leave plenty of time for the 8+ hour trip. We didn’t know it at the time, but it turned out to be a very good idea to give ourselves this extra time. This is because as our two-car caravan was about two hours from Fairfax, VA, our travels literally came to a screeching halt. On the highway, a semi-truck had left a large scrap of metal right in the middle of the road. Our second car was not able to dodge it in time and drove right over top of it, tearing up the bottom of the car, causing it to spill gasoline, oil, and transmission fluid. Thankfully, nobody was hurt, and we managed to get towed from the highway, and got a replacement rental car, costing us only some of the extra time we had set aside. We eventually arrived at our hotel in Fairfax, and after a brief rest in our rooms, we made our way to the competition. The ensemble put on a very strong showing of “Seven’s Realm”, and the piece and performance were very well received by the audience of several hundred members. For most people, this would all be more than enough excitement for one day, but not for the UMass Trumpet Ensemble. That night, several of us were on our way back to the hotel from a local Wegmans grocery store, when the power suddenly went out in the area, and a transformer nearby was exploding. As we drove past, we discovered an SUV flipped on its top, up against a broken power pole. And to top it all off, the scene was catching fire! Our local jazz trumpeter, Micah Maurio sprang into action, pulling the driver (who was still in the flipped SUV) to safety. Needless to say, everyone got some well-deserved sleep that night.
The next day was Friday, and while there was nobody from our group competing that day, there were still plenty of things going on. Scott Nichols had a rehearsal with his accompanist to prepare for the Graduate Solo division semi-final round. There were also two recitals that day. The first was the Army Blues, which was featuring Doc Severinson and Rex Richardson as soloists. The Blues Band opened the show that afternoon and they did not disappoint. Rex Richardson was up first and played some incredible solos with the band. Not only was Rex phenomenal, but Doc Severinson was livelier than ever. You would not have been able to tell that he was 84 by the way he played the horn, and by the purple leather pants he was wearing. That night there was also a recital by a group called Rhythm and Brass. The performance featured some very versatile musicians who all had some tricks up their sleeves. It isn’t very often you find a brass group where your horn player doubles on the keyboard, and your quintet is actually a sextet, with your sixth member playing the drum set. This was coupled with a tuba player that often could be mistaken for a smoking electric bass player.
Saturday was another big day for our group. In the morning, Scott Nichols competed in the Graduate Solo division, playing the second movement to Jim Stephenson’s Trumpet Concerto. Immediately following this, Micah Maurio began preparations for the Jazz Solo division. He had to run over to the Marriot, where the jazz division is held, and had his rehearsal with the rhythm section that morning. That same afternoon Micah put on a remarkable display of musicianship in the Jazz semi-final round, including a rendition of Moment’s Notice, where he used multiphonics to harmonize with himself. That afternoon also saw a recital featuring some of the world’s most renowned trumpet soloists, including Jose Sibaja, Terry Everson, James Thompson, Jens Lindemann, and Allen Vizzutti. The recital contained both familiar literature (the Boehme concerto played by Jose Sibaja, and Slavische Fantasie played by James Thompson) and new works. The Krzywicki Sonata for Trumpet and Piano was commissioned by Terry Everson, and featured every single mute that he owned! The Hare Piece Variations (World Premiere by Jens Lindemann, with the composer Derek Stoll on piano) was based on a theme from a Looney Tunes cartoon, which was played prior to the start of the piece as a kind of introduction (and also featured a cameo appearance by Jose Sibaja!). To round out the recital, Allen Vizzutti performed what most people would call ‘The Hardest Piece Ever Written’, his very own Carnival of Venus. It was definitely an event not to be missed!
Sunday saw the conclusion to a long, eventful, fun, and inspirational trip. Not only had the UMass trumpet ensemble had the opportunity to showcase the talent of UMass faculty, like Jeffrey Holmes, the composer of “Seven’s Realm”, and to showcase the talent of the trumpet studio, but we had the chance to be immersed in a world of amazing music and musicians. We had gotten to see performances by world-class soloists and ensembles, by other students from across the country, and we had the opportunity to make music with each other. It can be said, without a doubt, that everyone in from the UMass Trumpet Ensemble is now a better musician in some way, for having gotten to have this experience.
The UMass Trumpet Ensemble would like to thank everyone for their generous support! Whether it was a donation to help fund the trip to the National Trumpet Competition, or it was moral support, everything is greatly appreciated. This valuable experience would not have been possible without everybody’s help, so thank you!
The link to the ensemble’s entrance video can be found below.