Senior Gabe Slesinger blew listeners away with his trumpet as he won the high school division of the National Trumpet Competition March 18.
The National Trumpet Competition is a nationwide annual contest for trumpeters of various ages. Slesinger placed first out of over 100 high school applicants in the contest.
Slesinger, who has participated in these competitions since he was a freshman, said he values the opportunity to perform.
“The only way to actually play well in a performance situation is to perform a lot,” he said. “It helped me learn how to perform under pressure. I just like to get experience.”
Instrumental music teacher Terry Alvey, who watched Slesinger develop as a musician, said she understands why Slesinger won.
“He is one of the hardest working kids,” she said. “He loves the trumpet. He practices all the time, and he plays it beautifully.”
To participate in the competition, Slesinger submitted a recording of the piece he would perform. This year, he performed “Legend” by Georges Enesco.
Slesinger, who practices for three to four hours every day, said he has been playing this piece for a long time to get it just right.
“It’s one of the most challenging pieces I’ve ever played,” he explained. “It’s really light, and that’s pretty hard to do on a trumpet.”
Once the judges narrowed down the number of applicants to a select 30, Slesinger and the other 29 semi-finalists performed for a small panel of judges March 17 at George Mason University. After the judges chose Slesinger as one of four finalists, he returned Sunday morning to perform for a final time in front of an audience of trumpeters, judges and anyone watching the live broadcast online.
Slesinger admits that playing for such a prominent group of musicians was a bit nerve-racking.
“I was a little nervous because the panel of judges was nine of the most famous trumpet players in the world,” he said.
Still, he said he tried not to let his audience faze him.
“I don’t really remember performances,” he said. “When I play, I’m in a different kind of mental state; almost like I black out on stage.”
Slesinger’s top spot earned him both a new “Schilke” trumpet and a full scholarship to a one-week trumpet workshop at Oberlin during the summer.
Alvey said Slesinger couldn’t be more deserving of the award and its honors.
“Gabe Slesinger is the musician’s musician,” she said. “He is a student of the instrument — he’s just that good.”