Feb. 24 2010 12:00 AM

9-year-old trumpet player headlines Red Cedar Festival



Ask Geoffrey Gallante what he wants to be when he grows up and you’ll hear him count, in a whisper, from 9 to 18. Then he’ll aptly remind you he is only 9 years old, which leaves him nine more years to make his final decision, but Geoffrey will ultimately reply, “Either a Major League Baseball player or a professional musician.”

Baseball is the fourth grader’s favorite sport, and perhaps with practice, he could make it to the majors. But Geoffrey is already making extraordinary progress towards his other option.

Geoffrey started playing the trumpet only five years ago, at age 4, but he’s already being described as a “prodigy” and he’s been invited to showcase his talents as a guest soloist numerous times. Geoffrey’s impressive résumé already includes 14 National Anthem performances at professional sports venues, appearances on “The Early Show,” “The Tonight Show” and the “Today” show and performing at the White House and the Kennedy Center, all in addition to performing with countless notable bands and musicians.

Now Geoffrey has yet another gig to add to his already impressive list. Geoffrey will be this year’s featured guest soloist at the 15th annual Red Cedar Festival of Community Bands.

The all-day festival takes place this Saturday, Feb. 27, and is hosted by the Meridian Community Band. The non-profit organization invites other adult community bands from the Great Lakes region to perform at the festival. This year, 12 bands are scheduled to perform — five of which are from the Lansing area.

Every year the Meridian Community Band invites a guest soloist to join its performance. Carolyn Sherrill, the band’s musical director, saw a YouTube video of Geoffrey last summer, and after seeing him perform in Chicago, she offered him the spot.

Geoffrey was 4 when he first saw a trumpet sitting at his grandmother’s house. “To be really, really, really exact it was two, three days before Thanksgiving 2004,” Geoffrey said. To him, the trumpet just looked “like a big piece of metal,” but Geoffrey’s interest quickly grew and he started playing the instrument all around his house.

After seeking advice from a dentist to make sure the instrument wouldn’t damage the young boy’s teeth, Geoffrey’s parents enrolled him in lessons.

With only a little more than five years under his belt, Geoffrey has become a trumpet phenom. “Many people think it’s a Godgiven gift, and I think so, too,” he said.

But even a God-given gift needs nurturing. Geoffrey practices between two and two-and-a-half hours a day. When asked if he enjoys all the practice, he wryly answers, “Who likes to practice?” But he added he knows it’s important if he wants to continue to perform and grow as a musician.

Beyond his musical talent, Geoffrey is an average elementary school student. He likes to skateboard, play basketball and baseball and used to like soccer — until a ball to the face knocked out his teeth, an essential component for a trumpet player.

He says his friends and classmates do know about his talent but don’t make a big deal about it: “You know, they aren’t like ‘You’re so cool!’”

Geoffrey will perform four pieces with the Meridian Community Band.

“It took quite a while to determine the literature,” Sherrill said. She worked with Geoffrey and his parents to choose songs from Geoffrey’s repertoire that the band could play as well.

Geoffrey said one piece he will perform at the festival, “Trumpeter’s Lullaby,” has given him trouble. The song’s trumpet part covers a wide range and requires a lot of endurance, which the 9-year-old admits, for him, is the hardest part of playing the instrument. But he is confident he can perform the song and said doing so will help make him a better musician.

While the festival is open to the public, it is largely seen as a chance for the bands to be critiqued by their peers.

Each band will perform a 40-minute public concert that will be judged by two out of four master musicians. After each performance, one judge meets with the band for 30 minutes and provides an educational clinic based on the feedback from the two critics.

The clinics highlight areas in which the bands can improve or tighten up.

In addition to the individual band clinics, four hour-long classes will be offered for free for all who are interested. Course topics are picked by the teacher but usually cover a specific aspect of each instrument, such as reeds or technique.

A flute course will be held at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., an oboe course at 11:15 a.m., a bassoon course at 12:30 p.m. and a clarinet course at 3:15 p.m.

Red Cedar Festival

a.m. Saturday, Feb. 27 Okemos High School, 2800 Jolly Road 12 area
bands will present 40-minute concerts between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.
Geoffrey Gallante performs with the Meridian Community Band at 2:15
p.m. Free, but donations are accepted (517) 641-4264