What Comes After All-State?

You worked hard for months, you auditioned, and you’ve made All-District or All-State. First of all, congratulations! Your hard work has paid off. This document is to provide some possible next steps on your path to world domination. Because there is no “national band” (or at least, a multitude of options), knowing where to go next can be a challenge. Your teacher will have some ideas, but hopefully this document will serve as a resource as well. Keep in mind, many of these are not mutual exclusive. For instance, one could easily attend Blue Lake *and* participate in NTC.

One thing you will notice is that many/most of these are fairly expensive. Unfortunately the music industry at this level is an expensive endeavor and access becomes a serious investment. If you have the means, it is worth it. If you do not, please see my document below and do not hesitate to reach out, and start saving now. I have tried to include options at every price point. There are some options for raising the money as well. Equity is one of music education’s major problems, and it is not going away. So, if you are serious about music, get used to the idea of reinvesting large sums of money in your own success. In some sense, you are buying access to the skills required to do the jobs in the music industry that pay these rates. “What goes around comes around,” as they say.

Throw a Party

When: after the completion of every project

Why: because it teaches you to reward yourself and your circle for their time and effort

Cost: Not much

The first thing you should do is celebrate with your friends and family. Remember, they may or may not be musicians, and may or may not understand the level of commitment and competition. (One of my rules for life is: you can’t expect people to know if you don’t tell them!) There is a way to tell them/show them without being too proud or gloating. It’s simple: have a small party, buy a cake, give yourself something you want as a token of reward, and thank your “team” with a show of gratitude. This step isn’t a formality, it is an important step as you learn to process success and failure. These are all tricks I learned from Dr. Don Greene, a well-known performance coach, and I use them myself.

Audition for NTC

When: tapes are due in February, the competition is in March

Why: NTC will show you that your pond is small

Cost: Medium ($1000)

National Trumpet Competition (or, a nationally competitive solo competition on your instrument). Most organizations have a high school division. This involves video recording a solo piece that meets the requirements, with piano, and if accepted traveling to some location in the U.S. (usually a college) to play your solo and competing against others who also passed the video round. This is a relatively achievable option that is a good mix of hard work, attention to detail, the chance to travel, and an opportunity to meet and hear other musicians at or above your level. However, to some, the investment for “5 minutes on stage” is high (a plane ticket, 3 nights in the hotel, registration fees, piano fees… easily $1000+ in total). Also, it can be a scary experience as there is no in-built group/social experience. In my opinion, the return on investment is not as high as other options, but it is among the most democratic and accessible options out there.

Apply for an ITG Conference Scholarship

When: tapes are due in January, the conferences are in June 

Why: Conferences are full of masterclasses and performances

Cost: Medium-high, depending on scholarship ($400-1000+)

ITG conference/scholarship and/or competitions. The brass guilds have money set aside for young musicians to attend the yearly conference, which includes performances and masterclasses. The application process is similar to NTC, but usually there is a prescribed piece of music or an etude to record, and there is no “live round.” If successful, the student can have their conference fee waived, and the only expense may be lodging and food while at the conference. Alternatively, ITG also has a number of playing competitions, including solo, orchestral audition, and even military band. These are very competitive, but there is no reason a committed high school student with proper instruction and good fundamentals could not participate. These conferences are a great way to see/hear a lot of amazing artists and begin to see and be seen in the community. The downside is that, like NTC, there is no in-built social group, there are a lot of cliques, and so the experience could be socially daunting. One other thing to consider is that ITG conferences are organized and attended by and large by college teachers and their students at small often rural music programs, and many aspects are geared toward career development for these people, so canvassing the guest artists may be a smart thing. Remember that a percentage of what happens at an ITG conference has nothing to do with getting better at trumpet (but much of it does!). Finally, although ITG vets its presenters, the quality of advice and playing can vary quite a lot. There is a standard distribution of meat-headedness and positioning that goes on in our industry, and it is fairly represented at these conferences.

Attend a Music Camp

When: 2-6 weeks in the summer

Why: no better way to connect to others of like mind and ability

Cost: Varies (Blue Lake is $1500 for two weeks, others can be much, much more, many have financial aid)

Music-centered summer camps: there are a number of competitive and non-competitive summer camps that can be amazing places to meet musicians from across the country, play difficult music, gather ideas, and travel. The most well-known programs are Interlochen (in Interlochen, MI, darn near Canada) a highly competitive “training ground” for the best music schools in the country. Interlochen operates two organizations: a summer camp and a year-long boarding school. Both are highly prestigious. Participants often report an extremely closely knit community that often lasts well into college and can help start a very important professional circle. The time commitment is the entire summer, unless this has changed recently. The second program to consider is Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp (in Twin Lake, MI, about an hour south of Interlochen). This is less competitive, but a really wonderful program with stunningly good faculty. For students in their first year, this is a 2-week commitment, but the top orchestra feeds into their summer-long International Program, which sends groups around the world and is usually the entire summer. Another program that I have had several students participate in is Eastern Music Festival. They seemed to have a great time, but I admit I don’t know much more about the program than that.

Attend a College Summer Program

When: usually 4-8 days in the summer

Why: good chance to check out colleges, meet faculty, learn at a reasonable price

Cost: Varies, but often on the cheap side for the time frames

College “Music Week” summer programs. These can be a very good value, as colleges often help subsidize the camps and provide scholarships for All-District and All-State-level young musicians. The level is often high and this is a great place to meet like-minded peers. A word of caution: these programs are often recruitment-feeder programs for their colleges, so there is sometimes a pitch. There are many fine state colleges of music, but the best music performance programs are mostly private conservatories, so unless your mind is already made up, it will be a good idea to stay non-committal about colleges until you have a specific career path in mind. Some, like Boston University at Tanglewood Institute, are geared for a very high level but will generally accept anyone who can pay their exorbitant fees.

Buy Something You Can Use

When: Any time

Why: sometimes your money is best spent on yourself

Cost: As little or as much as you wan

An investment in equipment: either a professional-level instrument or technology. If you already have good instruction and a situation that is working, with the proliferation of internet-based playing resources, maybe the best next step is a new instrument, laptop, some basic recording equipment, or an age-appropriate virtual seminar. There are an increasing number of options, including Play With a Pro, ArtistWorks, New England Virtual Trumpet Seminar, Apex Festival, and others. A number of highly qualified orchestral trumpeters, access to whom was previously impossible, have offered online options for instruction. More are popping up every day. Finally, it is a REALLY good idea for your advanced student to have their own laptop of decent quality, as the freedom to work without technological impediment is increasingly a success indicator. This new “virtual landscape” of learning is probably here to stay, and there are a lot of developing opportunities.

National Youth Orchestra

When: Audition excerpts post in early summer, applications from September through November

Why: Nationally recognized program out of Carnegie Hall

Cost: Travel arrangements for repeated trips to and from New York City

I have had one student participate in the National Youth Symphony and she RAVED about it. They have a multi-week residency of rehearsals and masterclasses followed by a concert series at Carnegie Hall. The cost is inexpensive, but the cost is really the prep and materials needed— lessons, the instruments to do the audition, and the oodles of time invested in practice. There are no doubt other nationally recognized honor ensembles, but this is the one I know the most about. I have done some preliminary research, and another possibility is the National Youth Wind Ensemble, which is similar in many respects.

Some Cheaper Options

Take a lesson ($200-300) – there are many wonderful world-class players that teach lessons online at the moment, and access will be much more difficult when life returns to normal. In normal times, to get a lesson with some, they can be difficult to reach, hesitant to teach, plus you will need a plane ticket, a car rental, and a hotel. Seeing an expert was often very expensive before the proliferation of Zoom lessons. This is a great way to start building your “team.”

Join a subscription video service: there are two that I know of that are worthwhile, Play With a Pro and ArtistWorks. Both have some wonderful resources for brass players and a committed person could improve a lot just by listening back and forth with the video lessons available here. Cost is very low, less than $50.

These are just a few ideas! There are many more opportunities and if you have anything you think should be added, don’t hesitate to reach out!

Dr. Andrew Harms


Web Links

http://www.trumpetherald.com (for preowned trumpets)






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