As part of the first trip of the Chicago Symphony to Moscow and Saint Petersburg since the fall of the iron curtain, John Hagstrom, Second Trumpet of the Chicago Symphony, gave a workshop for Moscow trumpet students at the newly opened Yamaha Artist Center.
This whole event was made possible thanks to Oksana Levko, Head of Yamaha Artist Center, and Andrei Ikov, Principal Trumpet with the Bolshoi Theater.
Many teachers and students involved at middle and higher education institutions attended the workshop, including several from the Moscow State Conservatory and College and from the Gnessin Institute and College.
Hagstrom began the workshop by performing a work with a recorded guitar accompaniment using his Yamaha e-flat trumpet and a vintage small King Liberty.
During the workshop Hagstrom was asked about his ideas about warming up. He explained that everyone is different and should choose his or her warm-up according to individual needs, but the main problem for trumpeters is that trumpeters often only warm-up chops and work on "trumpeting skills," ignoring the mental aspect of making music. Players should always imagine the audience and play for them from the beginning to the end of the playing day. That way players start the day "warming up [their] courage" to prepare for stressful performance situations.
A student later asked how Hagstrom views orchestral work differently from solo performance. He replied that the main difference is that orchestral performer should always be very flexible with pitch, time, color of sound, and in other ways to be able to play well in a group. The main goal when playing in a group should be for the group to sound well, in tune and in time, not to show off individual trumpet skills. Hagstrom also gave advice to young musicians starting their orchestral work to be very attentive even with small and seemingly unimportant parts. He told about his work with Bud Herseth, who despite having been with Chicago Symphony for over fifty years, still always counted rests and was very attentive to what the conductor was asking in any moment.
During the workshop, several students played for Hagstrom. His recommendations to everybody concerned communication with the audience. He worked with students to establish connection with their listeners. He pointed out that the majority of the audience has no idea how hard trumpet playing is and cannot appreciate all the hard work a trumpeter does. Average listeners are interested in music, so it is important that the performer has something to say and can tell a story. Players should illustrate phrasing and story with some body movement. In order to do that, he went into the audience and had students play for him looking at him. Then he interchanged phrases with the playing students, keeping this connection going.
Hagstrom pointed out that sometimes performers try to hide behind their trumpets as they are afraid to show emotions to the audience, saying that opening one’s heart makes the individual vulnerable to judgment, but the risk is necessary for the connection with the audience. To illustrate this point, Hagstrom had students sing emotionally straight to the audience eliminating a barrier of trumpet and music stand.
Another concept Hagstrom stressed was to never loose the energy in the sound. He said that it is important never to loose the audience's attention and to keep the energy in the sound going even when the phrase ends or if there is a diminuendo.
Finally, Hagstrom had everyone who played create a breathtaking story and keep telling it to the audience.
Source: Alexandra Mikheeva