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The Trumpet Dream Team

 

We sat down with ArtistWorks Trumpet instructor, David Bilger, to discuss Northwestern University's “Trumpet Dream Team”. Our conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Q: A 'Trumpet Dream Team'! Sounds like a fantasy. How did this idea come about?

It’s very exciting! I was initially offered a full time position to teach in Northwestern's trumpet program. It seemed like the perfect fit in so many ways, but when I considered moving my family away from our home (in Philadelphia), I couldn’t take the leap. So I came up with an alternative.

Q: What made you decide not to plunge into full time teaching at Northwestern?

I play with the Philadelphia Orchestra, and my family is well set up here. I have a six year old, and my wife, and I didn’t think it was the right decision for us to move out to Chicago. I was still so passionate about Northwestern and this program, I wanted to make it work another way.

Q: What compromise were you able to come to?

It’s hard to call it a compromise -- because my inability to take the position full time lead to a wonderful arrangement that is going to allow some of the best trumpet players in the world to teach Northwestern’s students. I decided to make a teaching 'team', wherein we would each be adjunct professors, flying into Chicago, and back out to our homes.

Q: That sounds amazing! Who were you able to recruit to teach with you?

My friend, Thomas Rolfs, of the Boston Symphony was the first one I was able to convince. Then I asked Michael Sachs of the Cleveland Orchestra. One local instructor in Chicago who was previously working with the program wanted to stay on and help with some teaching, office hours, and scheduling. Just like that, the dream team was born.

Q: What a exceptional crew! How did the term ‘dream team’ come about?

Well, we now had trumpet players from three of the five biggest orchestras in the country, combining their knowledge to help about twenty-two trumpet students at Northwestern. All of a sudden, that term popped up!

Q: How do you think having this ‘dream team’ will affect Northwestern’s music program?

Northwestern is already world renowned for this program, but we certainly hope it will support recruitment efforts. This dream team really just adds another level to what was already an unbelievable program.

Q: How does teaching at Northwestern compare to the mentoring you do on ArtistWorks?

ArtistWorks is completely tailored to the level and goals of each individual student, whereas at Northwestern, there will be written curriculum that students have to follow. The goals of the students on ArtistWorks are also much broader.

Q: Can you describe the players you work with on ArtistWorks?

I have some young players that a really interested in the basics, comeback players who want to revisit an instrument they played decades ago, and everyone’s goals are so personal. I have one who wants to join their community band, another who wants to play at church, and yet another who is just trying to keep pace with their 11 year old son (who is also taking lessons).

Q: What are some goals you’ve helped ArtistWorks students achieve?

I just try to help every student get to where they want to be. I had one student on ArtistWorks who now plays with the Baltimore Symphony, another just graduated from Peabody Conservatory, I even teach some college instructors (one of whom just landed a job with the Pittsburgh Opera). I believe that every motivation to play is valid, and every goal is worth achieving.

Q: Between the Curtis Institute, Northwestern, and ArtistWorks, it’s clear that you’re passionate about teaching. Where does that passion originate from?

I feel so fortunate to have had talented instructors from day one. If it wasn’t for my 4th grade band teacher also being a trumpet player, I may never have been set on this path. Every instructor I had after that, were all so committed, passionate, and helpful -- they made a huge impact on my life. I want to pay that forward.

Q: Classical musicians are greatly concerned that the art form is losing relevance, do you use teaching to combat that?

Absolutely! I want to keep this art form alive. Part of that effort is to build an audience -- but it’s also about teaching people to play, and play well. If we don’t nurture the art form, it won’t exist anymore.

Get trumpet lessons directly from David Bilger here

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