Thursday, June 27, 2013

ISO fills the principal trumpet chair in time for two big Symphony on the Prairie weekends

For a musician who considered "winning a job all I cared about," the 11-month wait Ryan Beach had between his audition and the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra's announcement that he would be its new principal trumpet could be taken in stride.

True, to the best of his knowledge, "that may have been longer than anyone has ever had to wait," but there was no choice but to be patient when scheduling difficulties — including music director Krzysztof Urbanski's limited availability, and last fall's lockout when contract negotiations stalled — delayed the decision until this April. A second finalist had to be tested in concert performance as well, and when that hurdle was cleared this spring, the nod went to the 24-year-old Nebraskan.

Ryan Beach, new principal trumpet of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra
"It's a big step, it's a great orchestra, and I'm very fortunate to have gotten this job," said Beach after a recent ISO rehearsal. He quickly added that he would have taken any job, because that was his goal as he was either winning or placing high in several competitions in recent years. "Every good thing that's happened has been a byproduct," he said firmly.

"Things have really worked out for me, and it's an exciting time right now," said the trumpeter, whose goal in his new position includes communicating that excitement long-term to ISO audiences. With family in Nebraska and a musician girlfriend (percussionist) who is likely to move here, Beach felt free as a job-seeker to go wherever his talent, application and artistry could take him, subject to the favorable opinion of the orchestras that might want to hire him.

His audition experience has not been large in the short time he's been out of school (bachelor's degree, Oklahoma City University; master's, Northwestern University), but sufficient to give him a philosophical approach to them, in comparison to the rigors of competitions. "Many of the excerpts are easy to play in comparison to competition pieces. They are not difficult in terms of ability:  things like the Promenade (in "Pictures at an Exhibition") and the "Pines of Rome" offstage.

"There's of course the fundamental preparation for how well you play the instrument in general,  but then there's finding ways to transcend the instrument, so you can just play the music that's there in front of you," he said. When you listen to great instrumentalists, he said, you don't really think that's fast, that's hard, that's really high; they make it sound easy, so that the music comes through.

"It's about what makes you special," he said of what constitutes success in both competitions and auditions. "I can only give what I have to give, to find some way to transcend the instrument and just be myself."

He started playing trumpet as a Lincoln fifth-grader, influenced as he improved mainly by his first trumpet teacher and a veteran high-school band director. "I didn't know anything, but I had great training, and I had great ears around me, and I got to play a lot of great literature," he recalled. Outside symphonic playing, he's been most influenced by the Fountain City Brass Band, based in Kansas City, of which he's been a member for the past year.
Beach has a confident assessment of what he can contribute here. "I was built to play principal trumpet," he said. "I like to get my ideas out and they're kind of unfiltered. You have a lot of responsibility; you're kind of the concertmaster of the brass section. I have to really prepare to make sure every time I'm doing the same thing, with note length, intensity, volume, articulation. This forces me to play at the highest level, so then those ideas can come out."

Looking at what he hopes ISO audiences come to expect, starting with the next two weekends at Conner Prairie, Beach said he wants patrons to like the way their orchestra plays everything. "If that kind of  excitement is generated, people will pay any amount of money to hear it," he said. "It's something special when you get a whole orchestra on the same page. Everyone feels it and knows it. You should get to the point where you're changing people's lives with your playing. If we're not doing that, then we're not doing our job."

The new principal trumpet succeeds 38-year veteran Marvin C. Perry II, who will now assume the third trumpet/assistant principal chair.

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