Sound the horns
10th annual Grand Valley trumpet seminar attracts students and performers from around the nation
The sirens will call out this July to signal the start of the 10th annual Grand Valley International Trumpet Seminar.
From July 20-27, some of the best trumpet players in the world will converge on Grand Valley State University's campus to take part in a weeklong exercise with high school and college-level musicians learning from the field’s top performers.
The event attracts students from around the country and around the world in order to participate in a dialogue that will help them cultivate their talents.
With the event in its 10th year, the seminar looks to host more students than it ever has before. This is good news to managing director Paul Andrews.
“We have students coming from all around the country and world that come here to Grand Valley to learn about trumpet,” he said. “Our mission and goal is to educate and encourage and enrich young musicians through their experiences in working with the industry’s leading performers and teachers.”
Andrews has been involved with the International Trumpet Seminar for eight of the 10 years that it has occurred. When it first started, the seminar was under the direction of Richard Stoelzel, a GVSU instructor, and according to the International Trumpet Seminar’s website, "one of the foremost performers and teachers of trumpet in the US," and, "one of the greatest trumpet players of our time.”
The seminar grew out of a need of Stoelzel to get his own trumpet studio exposure and technique from acclaimed artists before the school year started in order to develop their skill. The number of students participating in the event’s first year numbered less than 20. Now it has reached a new peak of 65.
Andrews said the growth in the popularity of the event had much to do with its rapid and impressive development over the last decade.
“The seminar itself has come a long way,” he said. “There’s been a multitude of performers and guest artists that have come in, and also a multitude of students who have come here and left the seminar with new friends both living and being in such a tight community that we have here.”
The familiarity that the event propagates has produced many industrious artists. Many GVSU graduates themselves had gone on to acquire jobs in orchestras and teaching positions nationwide. Many of those have returned as guest artists to help the coming generations of performers actualize their gifts. This includes Andrews, who teaches music at Fennville Public Schools in Fennville, Mich.
The GVSU graduate compares how conventional music and fine arts camps fall short of creating an intimate setting between performers of all skill sets.
“(The students) spend all week with the faculty and the guest artists, whereas if you go to a music camp, the faculty stay on the other side of the camp and students stay on the opposite side. Whereas here, they’re all staying together and they really get to experience it all together and form some friendships,” he said.
Besides the bisection of high school and college-level players, the event also includes young-at-heart musicians who still wish to maintain active with their music careers and receive feedback from the guest artists and faculty.
“We are studying off what we call ‘semi-pro,'” Andrews said. “Which is for those song-at-heart trumpet players who may have maybe went to school for music and maybe still do it on the side.”
Andrews, who was a student when he first attended the seminar, said that the event affected him very positively.
“Yeah, it’s been great for me to meet people from around the country and around the world," he said. "You form friendships and bonds that you wouldn’t have otherwise. It’s something very special.”
Because of the relatively few artists in the profession, making and maintaining those friendships is important, he added.
“As the world itself is getting smaller, the music world itself is even smaller than that. Everyone knows everyone, and if you’re someone that people don’t like or do like everyone is going to know that.”
Having connections with well-known artists in the industry can also help aspiring artists gain recognition in the field they need in order to further their careers.
“If you show that drive, that attitude and you are an outstanding player, then word is going to get out about that and scholarships and jobs will start flying your way,” Andrews said.
It is also important for students attending the event to know that there are multiple avenues for them to gain more experience for their talents.
“We like our students to take notes and really see what the faculty has to say and really help them when they go home and try out everything that they’ve learned and see what works best for them, because they might see that one thing from each of the guest artists that might work best for them,” Andrews said.
Even 10 years on, the event remains one of only a few of its kind held in the country. Andrews said that while there have always been the traditional Blue Lake and Interlochen routes, there have been few events held that showcase trumpet alone.
The event concludes July 27 with a two-round solo competition between the students in high school and college divisions by playing compositions they have learned with the skills taught to them during the week by the faculty.
The seminar is sponsored by Yamaha, a manufacturer of trumpet equipment which has supplied prizes for the competition.
Students will compete to earn prizes that total more than $10,000. Top prizes include a Custom Artists Model Yamaha Trumpet worth $6,191 for college students and a Xeno Model Yamaha Trumpet worth $3,510 for high school students.
The prizes, however, should not come before the lessons students learn from the faculty at the event, Andrews said. Each student, regardless of how they do in the competition will receive advice from the faculty and guest artists.
“Even if they don’t go on to the next round, (students) still get valuable feedback from these great players that have played on the world stage and all across the country and across the world. Getting individualized feedback from them would be well worth $10,000 in of itself,” he said.
The most valuable prize from the seminar is what the students take away with them when they leave, something that Andrews knows firsthand.
“Me, coming in as a student, I wasn’t the best trumpet player, but I got to learn from the best so that way I could aspire to be the best. They say you have to surround yourself with people you want to be like, and that’s what this is all about,” he said.
Andrews compares what students will learn at the seminar with what he learned from his former teacher Jean Moorehead-Libs. He describes her students as going far with trumpet and far in life.
“The best thing that Mrs. Libs taught me in my time growing up and learning (the trumpet) is you’re never going to be done learning. I’m a teacher and I’m teaching my knowledge to my students, but I will never be done learning. I’m a student of life,” he said.
Andrews hopes the students attending this year’s seminar will take away the same thing, and that maybe they too will be inspired to carry on the torch for future generations of students.
More information on the Grand Valley International Trumpet Seminar can be found on their website at gvsu.edu/trumpetseminar.