If you’re one of those people who feel as though this generation of kids is completely lost in high truancy rates and bad music with no meaning, think again. A senior in high school, Cameron Bessicks, is the principle trumpet in the Wind Symphony at the Baltimore School for the Arts. He got an honorable mention in the Concerto competition here and competed in the National Trumpet Competition. So this much is clear: Cameron means business. As a fellow trumpeter, I could only imagine how he excelled so far at quite a young age. On one of his last days at BSA, I was able to talk to him about how he got started, what he does to practice, and what music means to him.
Cameron Thomas: What compelled you to play the trumpet?
Cameron Bessicks: Well, I started playing in 5th grade. Well I actually played clarinet for like two years. So then I looked at the trumpet and I was like, “That looks easy, it has three valves on it.” Not at all. It’s one of the hardest instruments to play. But um, I remember that I was at this music fair and they had this toy trumpet. And so I was like you know, I’m gonna try that. So I got my first note out for the first time. And the lady behind the stand, she was like “A lot of people can’t get the first note out but him, the trumpet was meant for him. He could go far in it.”
CT: That’s cute. What college are you going to and why?
CB: Virginia Commonwealth University and I’m going there because it’s very diverse and the teachers are very interested in their students and that’s what I like. It’s in an urban setting in which I want to be in. I get to play a lot of music and I can have a lot of gigs and I can play rock, pop, hip-hop, R&B, whatever and that’s what I like, I like diversity.
CT: Okay cool, so the obvious question is if you’re going to college for trumpet right?
CB: Yeah definitely.
CT: Ok. What are your practice techniques?
CB: Well I buzz first. I use steady… long tones on the mouthpiece so I can get my lips vibrating and then I plug it into the trumpet and I do Cichowicz, long tones. They’re boring, but they work. Then I go into slurs so it can help my lips be flexible so it’s easier to play. I do ten minutes of that. Then I go one to tonguing techniques. I do single tonguing for like 5 to 7 minutes. Then I do double tonguing for ten minutes. Then I do triple tonguing for ten minutes. Then I take a short break for about 5 minutes. Then I go into my scales. Sometimes I do it, sometimes I don’t. It depends on how I feel. It’s good to go over your scales because you’re going to get rusty on them, because they’re going to come up eventually. Then I do finger techniques and I do those for like ten minutes and then I take another short break, but a longer one. Probably about10 minutes. Then I do my repertoire like wind ensemble music, jazz band music, and my recital pieces. I mostly focus on them, but I try to practice everything. Then I warm down by playing low notes. Low, long notes.
CT: Are there any times where practicing is like a chore?
CB: Yeah sometimes. Especially here, because they want you to practice a lot, and I try to practice as much as I can and, yeah. Sometimes it is a chore.
CT: What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out?
CB: To practice, basically. Because if you start slacking off on the trumpet, it’s going to be noticeable. It’s going to be hard to build that strength back up, so just practice.
CT: About how long are your practice sessions?
CB: On a good day, probably two hours. If it’s been a long day and I don’t really feel like playing then probably like an hour.
CT: Do you want to pursue the trumpet professionally?
CB: I do. I actually want to have my own quintet. I don’t want to play straight classical, I want to play everything like Latin music, and R&B, Hip-Hop, and I want to play everything. I don’t want to just stick to one thing.
CT: Interesting, okay. Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
CB: 10 years, wow. I’ll probably start out playing in an orchestra. Probably.
CT: But your goal would be to form a quintet?
CB: Yeah I would try to form a quintet.
CT: Okay. What does music mean to you?
CB: Well I enjoy playing music and it has always been a passion of mine, and I don’t know what I would do without music because if I didn’t have music in my life, I would be so bored. So music to me is basically just having fun and just loving what you do. That’s what music means to me.
CT: Who is a musical influence? Who is someone who you look up to?
CB: I would say Dante Winslow. He went to this school actually and occasionally he visits to talk to the students. He’s awesome. I admire him because he says to try to be different as much as possible. Make music that you don’t hear on the radio. Don’t repeat the cycle, because we have some trash music today. Its trash, and it’s kind of sad. So I definitely want to make music that’s different.