The New York Summer Music Festival at the State University College at Oneonta has faculty from Julliard, the New York Philharmonic and the Philadelphia Orchestra, to name a few, and students from all over the world. If our own Oneonta-area student musicians were able to be part of this group, how would they measure up?

To learn the answer to this question, I spoke with Tricia Dyer, a sophomore at Oneonta High School. Dyer was very pleased to have attended NYSMF this summer.

She played trumpet in the festival's wind ensemble and big band jazz group. She was also the "principal" or "first" trumpet in the lab jazz band and the symphonic band, a real honor that can only be achieved through audition and superlative performance.

Dyer's mother teaches music at Oneonta Middle School and plays viola with the Catskill Symphony Orchestra and the Glimmerglass Opera Orchestra. Dyer's father is fixed operations manager at Country Club Imports in Oneonta.

I spoke to Dyer one afternoon at her Oneonta home and asked her about her time at the festival, her musical aspirations and career goals.


"I played three auditions during the summer for several of the festival bands. For auditions, we walk in and play for one-to-three judges. It's dead quiet in the room but the judges try to calm you down and it's important to realize they're trying to help you," she said. "Usually, I sit outside the room 10 minutes before my time and get to hear the other people who are auditioning. When I'm waiting, I feel so worried that it eats me alive, so usually the best thing is to get there, warm up and play. When I get to meet the judges, I'm fine. I need to get into my zone. I pretend the person isn't there, because when I let myself get nervous, I shake so bad sometimes I hear it in my sound."

Studying the trumpet

"Mr. England, the music teacher at the Center Street School, first showed me the trumpet. As soon as I saw it, I really liked it, and I studied with Mr. England for three years," Dyer said.

"When I got to the seventh grade ..., Mr. Slavinsky taught me for a year until he retired. In middle school, I played in the jazz and concert and marching bands," she said. "Ms. Nader taught me a lot when I was her student in the eighth grade and I continued to play with the Oneonta Middle School bands," Dyer continued. "Now that I'm in high school, Mr. DePauw is the band director. He taught me a lot about improvising, and that was helpful, because I also play in the Oneonta High School Jazz Band. I take private lessons with Ben Aldridge. He's helping me get good tone on the trumpet and build my technique."

"I feel so good when I play," she added. "It's hard to explain the feeling I get. Music is another language. It's awesome."

What was learned at New York State Festival Summer Festival

"I was the first chair trumpet in symphonic band. I learned that the first chair has to realize it's not just about what he or she is playing. I had to help the other trumpet players so our whole section would sound better. I had to go down the row of players to make sure they knew what they were doing," Dyer said. "In the lab jazz band concert, I did the first solo of the piece, and I went crazy. I closed my eyes because it helped me focus better. People were screaming when I played."

I asked, "Did you feel prepared to stand out as a soloist?"

She replied, "Everyone is special in their own different way. Every little thing is important instead of perfecting one thing. You gain a lot of patience in learning things. You know that you will get it one day even if you didn't get it now."

I wondered how her camp experience might affect her next year in Oneonta High School.

"I have a totally different perspective now because I got so many different opinions at camp," Dyer said. "I used to beat myself up if I didn't get something right. But I've learned you have to move on. Sometimes you don't have to try as hard as you think. You have to relax, like getting a high note. You can't think about it too much. It feels so good when you're in control.

"My Oneonta training helped me excel at camp," she continued. "My teachers taught me good technique, how to produce good tone and how to solve different musical problems.

At camp, I saw so many people from different countries that are so good. All my teachers told me not to let it get me down. You have to think of your own performance, not how to beat some one else. Next summer, when I go back to camp, I'll know what to expect so I can excel even more."

Career Goals

Dyer has performed as part of a "pit" band, that is, a group of musicians who work in the pit area of a theater and accompany a singing or theatrical group. She described her feelings about a performance career:

"It would be very cool to perform as a career but it seems really hard, so I might want to be a schoolteacher, a conductor, in high school. I was a pit musician for my high school musical, `Les Miz.' I loved it. We did three performances and six nights of rehearsal."

I asked, "Do you know how much money a Broadway player makes?"

"No," she said. "I love being in the pit."

I asked, "Would you like to do a show 100 times or 200 times on Broadway?"

She thought for a moment and said, "I think I would. You can always improve each time you perform.

"I've seen through Mom's work in Glimmerglass Opera that you need to be responsible if you work in a pit. If I want to work on Broadway, I have to work incredibly hard. When I'm in college, I could get a performing degree and go up and audition. If that doesn't work out I could be a school teacher.

"Public school teaching is not really just a fallback," she clarified. "I want the job very badly. It's a steady job and you get health care and you get summers off. I could do other music if I had summers off."

I asked, "Have you thought about making a living in some way other than music?"

She said, "Not really _ I'm not into anything as much as I am into music. It would be cool to do the job my mother does in public school. I'd also like to play in the opera pit like she does each summer."

I asked, "What about composing music or making recordings of your performances to sell?

She answered, "Hmm, I haven't thought about that. That's nice. I'm just worried if I could live off it. It's not a steady job."

I said, "Do you know how songwriters make money?"

She smiled and answered, "I don't know and I'm not interested. There is a composition program at the summer music camp but I didn't do it."

I asked another question about careers. "Do you know about music publishers?"

She said, "Sadly, I don't. Music is such a good part of my life but there's so much I don't know yet. I enjoy what I have now because I might not have it in a couple years. Maybe in a couple of years I might not even be in music."

Working with students from many other countries

"The Summer Festival gave me the chance to meet music students from other countries. There were international students from Switzerland, London, France, Italy, Greece, Puerto Rico and other countries. It was really cool," Dyer said. "I learned that even though some students come from places I've never seen, I didn't have to explain to them how important music is. They felt the same way. They know how amazing music makes you feel.

"I was not expecting so many students from other countries. I've never mingled with others from around the world. I was surprised by how similar they are to us. They do teenage stuff. They go to school but also play music, soccer and football. I would have thought they would do things more of their own country's culture," she continued.

"I was in the same trumpet section as Raul Rios, one of the students from San Juan, Puerto Rico. I was second chair in big band jazz. Raul was the first chair. He's done trumpet playing in a different way than I have. He's in a salsa band at home. His dad is a sax player and they go to people's house and play for them. He goes to a private music school because most of the regular schools in Puerto Rico don't have music at all. Music was as important to him as to me."

"It's indescribable the feeling you get when you play," she added. "He didn't have to explain it to me, either. I know just by looking at him that he's so into it. I expect to stay in touch with some of the international students I met at camp. They taught me how different cultures feel about music. They've been brought up to differently than we have. Everyone has a different opinion, but it doesn't really matter because music is music. We're lucky in Oneonta, because you get an instrument in the forth grade."

Camp activities:

Jazz and improvisation

"In lab jazz band, you improvise a lot more than other kinds of music. You play around with your sound. You don't do exactly what's on the page. I've never done a band that's based around improvising. If you improvise with music, the less you think, the better you'll sound. If you just let go and take it all in and go nuts, crazy, you'll sound awesome," Dyer said.

"There are some rules, of course, some things you expect to hear even when you improvise. You need to keep within a certain scale, like a B-flat minor 7 scale, but sometimes you can go outside the scale. Having good rhythm is important, too, If you have wrong notes but great, tight rhythm ,it'll be OK. When you're making it up on the spot, it's best to do a lot of different rhythms. The more outside the regular beat you go, the better it is," she said. "Instead of just eighth notes, do 16ths and triplets, just throw it in. It's important to listen to the percussion section because you can feed off a cool rhythm they give you."

As I listened to Dyer, I realized that those of us who live in this area can be proud that our schools have included funds for excellent musical training as part of their budgets. Dyer has been well-prepared to meet very high standards, and to interact in a positive manner with national and international students and faculty. We can be very pleased with the success of our young musicians, and grateful to those in our community who provide student training and performance skills.

Dr. Janet Nepkie is a member of the music industry faculty in the music department of the State University College at Oneonta.

{"Standing Head"/}Industry Tips

1. Broadway show musicians are among the best in the New York City. They know that there is never any excuse for a poor performance. If you want to work with them, you'll need to build your instrumental technique by practicing several hours every day, studying with the best teachers who will accept you, and by building friendships among other musicians who have the same professional goals you have.

2. "Pay your dues." Many years ago, I was hired in New York City to play my cello on commercials and movie sound tracks. I loved the experience of working in a recording studio and I asked the music contractor how I could find more work of that type. He gave me a level look and said, "Pay your dues." He meant that I should take any work I was offered and build my list of professional "contacts," or people who knew my work and could be helpful in finding other recording jobs.

3. Join the American Federation of Musicians. The Musicians' Union will be one of your best friends when you start your career as a performer. The union will help ensure that you are paid at least a minimum wage (called "scale") and that your working conditions are adequate.

4. Build your list of "contacts." Learn the names of people who hire musicians for Broadway shows and find ways to meet them. Be helpful to other musicians who are also looking for work, because they will help you, in turn, when possible. Speak with Broadway musicians to learn more about their work world. There are musician in our area who work on Broadway and they'll be glad to talk with you.

5. If you decide you'd also like to work as a musician in a recording studio, you'll need to make contacts in that world, but you'll also need to be able to "sight read," that is, play any music that's placed on your music stand without having any time to practice the music.

6. Read some books, find articles on the Internet or talk to some music business teachers to learn additional ways you can stay involved with music but build a career in addition to performance. Music publishing, artist or venue management or being a music librarian are careers that might interest you.

7. Hold on to your love of music and your determination to be the best possible musician. These values will help you through life no matter what path you follow.

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