By John Fatuzzo
As an editor and contributor for the Eastman Blog this year, I have enjoyed learning about the success stories of my peers, friends and teachers. Getting the personal account from students who win competitions, alumni who create exciting projects and faculty who prepare masterful performances is truly the highlight of my internship-turned-job at the Eastman Office of Communications.
When my supervisor approached me on writing about the Eastman Trumpet Festival, I considered multiple ways to piece a blog post together: interview the faculty, interview the guest artists, interview an event coordinator. My co-editor Andrew Psarris and I have taken all of these measures in previous blog posts for similar stories. Instead, I chose to use this post as “behind-the-scenes” look at the Eastman Trumpet Festival, a personal account from one of the event co-coordinators: myself!
Before I dive in, it’s important to know that I was just one of the many people who made the event possible. Steve Felix (the trumpet studio teaching assistant), Wendy Borden (the Special Projects coordinator from the Dean’s Office), and James Thompson (Professor of Trumpet) all deserve a mention and each of them could have written just as much about putting the Eastman Trumpet Festival together.
The Planning and Collaboration
A first-time event, the Eastman Trumpet Festival took place over two days — Friday, March 18 and Saturday, March 19, 2016 — but the very first stages of planning took place nearly two years ago. As an incoming Master’s student in August 2014, I remember there being dialogue between the graduate students and our teacher about a weekend-long trumpet “symposium.” While the event never happened that school year, there was a vision.
This past November, after nearly a semester of monitoring Eastman’s social media accounts and editing this blog through my Arts Leadership Internship at the Office of Communications, I offered my assistance in helping publicize the event. Soon, my role as the graduate assistant with the Brass Guild served as vehicle to planning the scheduling logistics of the festival. However, after our first meeting with the administrative “brass” (pun very much intended) last semester that essentially proposed what we wanted to with this unnamed, unscheduled event, I was overwhelmed with the amount of work and dedication it was going to take.
Organizing the Eastman Trumpet Festival gave me perspective on how many “working parts” are involved with planning such an event at Eastman.
By working with the Concert Office, I learned the importance of scheduling and logistical details in performance spaces. Coordinating equipment, technology, stage changes, lighting, and venue booking is a tedious process and the master schedule of the festival was still changing days before the event started! Much thanks to Keith Elder, Greg Machin, and Dan Mason for all of their patience and flexibility over the past several months!
The Communications Office team helped us explore methods of publicizing the registration for the Eastman Trumpet Festival. We weighed the best forms of advertisement against our budget and eventually agreed upon using Eastman social media accounts and mailing posters and brochures to public schools, colleges, music stores and private trumpet teachers from all over the state. The most difficult part of the public relations aspect of planning was accumulating all of that mailing information! All in all, we sent hundreds of personalized letters with copies of our print materials to potential festival attendees. We were fortunate to receive help from Karen Ver Steeg, who designed our poster, brochure and Facebook graphics, David Raymond, who assisted with editing of our print material and press release copy, and Rick Kessel, who helped promote our event through boosted social media posts.
The Dean’s Office was the glue of the entire planning process. Their assistance with setting up online registration, communicating and contracting with our sponsors and exhibitors, and tracking of spending and budgeting are only some of the major areas they were involved with. Anytime Steve or I had a question that seemed above our heads or were simply unclear about whom to ask about a particular detail, Wendy Borden or Celia Palmer either knew the answer or put us in contact with the right person.
One of the more unforgettable (and sillier) moments of the planning process came during finals week of last semester. It couldn’t have been any earlier than 1:30 a.m. that Steve Felix and I officially published the Eastman Trumpet Festival website, effectively announcing the event to the public for the first time. Simply being able to see our event exist on the Internet (and even with so much work left to do!) was truly exciting. We celebrated this milestone as any two graduate students planning a large event would: blasting the final strain of Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever over Steve’s speaker system!
The Festival and the Rewards
All of the planning parties involved could not have asked for smoother operations during the two days of the festival. Unexpectedly, we had nearly 20 guests register on site, which helped to boost our overall numbers. All three of our sponsors — Yamaha, S.E. Shires and Hickey’s Sheet Music — were amazed when they were told this was a first-time event. Between the final two concerts on Saturday afternoon, one of the guests approached me and casually said, “Wow. This just keeps getting better and better.”
Perhaps the most exciting part of the weekend was the high level of musicianship from our featured artists, current students, and festival guests. On Friday evening, James Thompson and Douglas Prosser gave an inspiring performance of Stephen Paulus’ Concerto for Two Trumpets to close the first half of the Eastman Wind Orchestra concert. Brian Shaw, an Eastman alum and current Visiting Professor of Baroque Trumpet Studies, wowed the festival audience with virtuosic performances of Fisher Tull’s Rhapsody on Friday and Johann Molter’s Trumpet Concerto on natural (valveless) trumpet on Saturday. The brand-new Eastman Baroque Trumpet Ensemble opened the festival’s closing concert on Saturday afternoon, followed by a performance of Oskar Bohme’s Brass Sextet and a rendition of the classic Hoagy Carmichael song “Stardust” by the Eastman Brass Guild, with Mark Gould as a soloist. The concert and festival came to a triumphant close with a brass choir arrangement of “The Gathering of the Armies” from Richard Wagner’s Lohengrin.
The most difficult aspect of co-planning the Eastman Trumpet Festival was balancing the time and work to coordinate a successful event with my own schoolwork (my degree recital was just seven days later!). Being able to “switch hats” between event coordinator and graduate student on what felt like an hourly basis had its trying moments. But all in all, I am grateful for the opportunity to have worked on such a project and am proud of its success.
As someone who aspires to teach music at the collegiate level one day, the experience in planning an event such as the Eastman Trumpet Festival will surely be valuable. The biggest reward, however, was meeting and collaborating with people from the Eastman community from all different backgrounds and skill areas, and, together, watching a project grow from a small idea into a largely successful event. I hope the inaugural Eastman Trumpet Festival was an exciting project for everyone involved and for all who attended. I hope that in some way, shape or form, I can be a part of the next one!