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UD trumpets take top prize at international conference

​Members of the "Birds of Paradise" Trumpet Ensemble are (from left) Brandon Hess, Jessica Sawall, Lucas Schurman, Nick Pietuszka, Adrianna Korey and Derek Dillman. Not pictured is director Robert Skoniczin.

The University of Delaware “Birds of Paradise” Trumpet Ensemble took first place at the International Women’s Brass Conference (IWBC), held June 10 at Rowan University.

The ensemble, under the direction of Robert Skoniczin, adjunct trumpet instructor at UD, consists of Derek Dillman, Adrianna Korey, Brandon Hess, Nick Pietuszka, Jessica Sawall and Lucas Schurman.

The students performed in a preliminary round and then moved on to finals, where they took top honors in the inaugural Ginger Turner Ensemble Competition at the IWBC. They competed against groups from across the country, including a trombone quartet from the Washington, D.C., area and the Bluebonnet Trio from the University of Texas at Austin.

Competition is nothing new to these students, who appeared earlier this spring in the live semifinal round of the 2017 National Trumpet Competition (NTC), held at Metropolitan State University in Denver, Colorado. This year they have competed against noted schools with well-established programs, such as the Curtis Institute of Music, Indiana University Jacobs School of Music and Baylor University, to name a few.

“This is a very special group of students who have dedicated a great deal of practice throughout the course of this year to perfect their own individual playing as well as learning how to interact at a very high level in a chamber ensemble,” said Skoniczin. “Each of them has been an inspiration to the rest of the trumpet studio, the larger UD Trumpet Ensemble and the rest of the Department of Music.”

Representing UD was a driving force for the students. “We thought it would be fun to push ourselves and work toward a goal,” said Lucas Schurman.

“I wanted us to expose other portions of the country to what wonderful things we are doing here in the music department and at the University of Delaware,” added Derek Dillman.

The week prior to IWBC, each member of the ensemble performed as part of a trumpet prelude at the International Trumpet Guild (ITG) Conference in Hershey, Pennsylvania. They were among the 30-plus volunteers that Skoniczin organized and coordinated as part of his role with this year’s ITG conference.

“Representing UD and our teacher, Robert Skoniczin, well was also a big priority and responsibility,” Adrianna Koresy said, “and that definitely pushed us to perform our best at every public performance.”

Choosing the proper composition to use for competition can be problematic, especially since the players rehearse the same music for more than six months.

Skoniczin said he discussed close to 10 pieces of varying ensemble sizes with the group before selecting Erik Morales’ Birds of Paradise. That work “has many opportunities to showcase individual sounds -- B-flat, C trumpets, flugelhorns and a piccolo trumpet are all called for in the score -- as well as gymnastic feats of technique throughout the ensemble,” he said. “The work holds a special place in my heart since I was fortunate to play its premier at Carnegie Hall with Tromba Mundi, a professional trumpet sextet with members from major institutions from around the country, in October 2015.”

Birds of Paradise was commissioned and first recorded by Tromba Mundi on The Quest for Adventure album the same year and was produced by Skoniczin.

As with any major undertaking, it’s not all glamour. Dillman noted, “There was arguing, there were blowups in rehearsal, there were tears; but for every negative feeling, there were equally positive ones.”

The most difficult part for member Brandon Hess was “learning to match the multiple instruments and finding new ways to approach the piece after playing it over a period of months.”

“Through this process we have learned how to manage a rehearsal schedule and learned efficient rehearsal and performance techniques,” Korey said. “We learned how to prepare and get ready before each performance so that each of us were ready to play at our absolute best.”

“Having a lasting impact on the UD trumpet studio and the music department has been a goal of mine for several years now,” Skoniczin said. “Now that the group has experienced some well-deserved recognition, I am sure that this excitement will continue.”

Schurman added, “This is something we want other areas of the music department to experience. It is important for the students, as well as for the overall image of the department.”

All the students agreed that they’re ready to start planning for the 2018 National Trumpet Competition at the University of North Texas.

“Watch out trumpet world, the Blue Hens are coming,” Skoniczin said.

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The University of Delaware “Birds of Paradise” Trumpet Ensemble took first place at the International Women’s Brass Conference, held in June at Rowan University.

​UD's "Birds of Paradise" Trumpet Ensemble took first place at the International Women's Brass Conference in June.

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