Local Musician Takes First In National Trumpet Competition
|Steven Felix plays in the National Trumpet Competition in this provided photo.|
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Local man has taken first place in the National Trumpet Competition.
Steven Felix, a Drury High School graduate, made his hometown proud last month by placing first in the solo graduate division in the National Trumpet Competition in Mechanicsburg, Pa.
"Everyone that goes to this thing are all phenomenal players," Felix, an Eastman School of Music graduate student, said. "It is a privilege to compete and listen to the performers who play. They all sound phenomenal. It is incredible."
The multiday competition features some of the most talented trumpet players in the country. The competition is split into three groups: jazz, solo, and ensemble. These groups are split into undergraduate, graduate, high school, and junior divisions.
Felix said those interested in the competition must send in videos of their performance. A panel of judges select performers to play in the semifinals. After playing before a panel of expert and renowned judges, three finalists move on from each group and division.
He said people partake in the contest for many reasons: money, bragging rights, experience, or just the love of competition. However, Felix said the biggest challenge he feels all performers faced was anxiety.
"The most difficult thing is to get over the anxiety and the fear of playing in front of people," Felix said. "I think the big thing that can hinder you is if you haven't mentally prepared yourself for what it is actually going to look, feel, and sound like."
He said he often spends time away from the music and even meditates to better mentally prepare.
"That's the biggest challenge, to be able to get yourself out of the way and get over any fears or anxieties you have and to just sort of let the music flow through you," he said. "It makes the performance experience itself much less foreign then it would if I just had lots of hours every day practicing."
Felix said preparing for a competition such as this takes much more than just practicing technique and the actual music. He said it is important to spend time interpreting the piece.
"It's really important that you have a full picture of what it is that you are playing and it goes far beyond just woodshedding in the practice room,"Felix said. "After you figure out the notes and all of the mechanics, you actually have to spend a lot of time away from the instrument figuring out exactly what you want to say."
Felix said the competition entails more than just the actual performances and competitors get to enjoy clinics and master classes along with professional performances.
"It's nice because it takes your mind off the fact that this is a competition," he said. "It's really great that they throw those things in there."
|Felix, a Drury High graduate, poses with his first place plaque. He plans to return to the Eastman School of Music in New York to pursue his doctorate in music.|
Although this success represents a milestone in his career, this is not Felix's first run in this national competition. He said this is his fourth time competing. He first competed as a senior while at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in a trumpet ensemble, placing second in the finals. He also made the finals with an Eastman trumpet ensemble as a graduate student.
Felix said he approached this competition much differently and instead of focusing on trying to repeat past success, he focused purely on sharing the music.
"This year I kind of just looked at it and said I had to assess why I was even going down there and sure you want to win, you want to get money, and you want to be well thought of … but I learned how to let go of all of those desires go," Felix said. "I wasn't focused on playing well, I wasn't focused on winning, I wasn't focused on really putting myself out there, but I was focused on simply sharing the music that I had put all of this work into because I thought it was awesome."
Felix said he will be in an interesting position when he returns to the University of Rochester music school to begin his doctorate in the fall. He said the graduate solo division he won is open to doctoral students.
"I think it happens often but more so the older students typically win these things," he said. "So it puts me in an interesting position having another three years and three more opportunities to go down there and play."
Felix has learned from a long list of educators and professional musicians throughout his life, but said his love of music was truly fostered in the North Adams Public School system.
"I owe a lot to those teachers for implanting that enthusiasm and that enjoyment of music and in art in me," he said. "I think what those guys gave me was a strong sense of intrinsic motivation that made me want to keep going."
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