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K-State Today

December 12, 2011



Music professor leads student group in fall break trip to France, collaboration with trumpet legend

By Andrew Feyes/James Johnson

Maalouf and Mortenson's students at the Eiffel Tower.

Ten members of the university Trumpet Ensemble led by Gary Mortenson, professor of trumpet, traveled to Paris for six days during fall break to collaborate, exchange ideas and make musical friends with the trumpet students of Ibrahim Maalouf, world-renowned performer and composer of music for trumpet. Maalouf, born in Lebanon and raised in France, is the quintessential example of a hybrid of musical cultures and styles. While Maalouf is most recently known for his fusion of Arabic- and Eastern-influenced jazz, he is also a well-established classical performer. The trip proved to be the experience of a lifetime for the students of both studios.

Over the span of nearly a week, the two studios enjoyed a daily schedule of morning rehearsals, sightseeing, evening concerts, and of course, the occasional pastry. The first rehearsal began with each studio sharing ensemble warm-up routines at the Conservatoire Regional Superieur d’Aubervilliers La Courneuve, where Maalouf teaches trumpet.

As our time together grew, we found that less and less actual translation was required. Simple body language and/or the demonstration of the actual sounds desired sufficed as a means to unify a musical concept. Our individual abilities to listen to each other grew tremendously as we became more and more reliant upon those very sensibilities. One of the many musical highlights of the week was the preparation of two world premieres, "Quintette Trompette and International Friends," composed by Paris-based composer/trumpeter and former Maalouf student Sylvain Leclerc.

Toward the end of one of our final rehearsals, Maalouf gave a master class involving the use of quarter-tone music – a concept that both studios have not had an opportunity to learn. All in attendance received a piece of music for quarter-tone trumpet that presented many new and exciting challenges for all of us. As both studios rehearsed the piece, it became evident that despite the differences in fundamental concepts, every musician was enthralled with this new type of music. Written words cannot begin to express the musical bond that was created between two different Western cultures through the performance of Eastern music. For many of the students, it was simply one of the most joyous experiences of our performing career.

The first shared performance was alongside Paris’s own Trombamania and took place at the Conservatoire Municipal du 13e Arrondissement de Paris. The members of this internationally acclaimed group include trumpeters Clément Saunier, Emmanuel Collombert, Rodolphe Puechbroussous, Fabien Bollich and Charly Villoteau.

The second concert of the week was a benefit concert to a sold out crowd at the Amphitheater of ASIEM to assist in raising funds for bone marrow research. Maalouf shared the stage with students of both studios that night by performing two pieces on the first half: Hindemith’s "Sonate for Trumpet and Piano," accompanied by Frank Woeste, and one of his own compositions, "Beirut." Ibrahim’s ability to play both classical and jazz is awe-inspiring. Students and audience members were enthralled by the quality and purity of sound and musicianship he consistently displayed. There is no other trumpet player in the world that sounds quite like Maalouf.

Over the course of the week, the students learned a great deal about themselves as musicians, performers, and people. Unbelievable memories were created with new friends at some of the most spectacular places in all of Europe, if not the world. From photos under the Eiffel Tower at night, to the bustling cafés, to the stages on which we performed, the very city to which we traveled perfectly embodied the experience we gained. Trumpeters, musicians, and friends all became one in the beautiful City of Lights where nations and cultures continue to come together.