Thursday, January 20, 2011

Musician Profile: Mary Bowden, Trumpet

Mary Bowden, Trumpet

Describe yourself in four words.
Motivated, goofy, quirky, tall

When did you first become interested in music?
My two older brothers played horn and trombone, so when I was 10, I decided to join band and picked the cornet so we could have a brass trio. We had a wonderful first teacher, Tim Jones. He would spend hours at our house every Saturday and took us to many Chicago Symphony concerts, brass concerts, and master classes. We were very lucky. I left school in the middle of 8th grade to attend community college and I had a lot of time to practice since I made my own schedule. During this time, I studied with Kari Lee-it was very inspirational to study with a driven talented woman trumpeter. She encouraged me to work on pieces that I at first thought were too challenging and really pushed me to improve. I played in Chicago Youth Symphony before attending the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.

Describe your favorite concert with the RSO:
During my first season when I was acting second, we performed one of my favorite pieces of all time, Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances. It was a very exciting performance, and also special because Sarah Hatsuko Hicks conducted (I’ve know her since 2000 when she was conducting the Curtis Orchestra!)

What artists influence your work?
To me, sound quality is the most important aspect of a trumpeter. My teacher, David Bilger, at the Curtis Institute of Music and principal trumpeter of Philadelphia Orchestra, has a very beautiful refined tone. Not only does he sound amazing in orchestra, but his solo work is inspiring too. I also played for Swedish trumpeter Hakan Hardenberger, one of my favorite trumpeters this past summer. I’ve grown up listening to his recordings, and playing for him was very stressful because of this, but I learned so much from him. Other favorite trumpeters are Allan Dean (my teacher at Yale University), Chet Baker, and Giuliano Sommerhalder. Ok, enough about trumpet! I don’t JUST listen to trumpeters-I’m also a huge opera fan. I feel that I am always trying to imitate the voice through the trumpet (strange to try to do this through a piece of metal!) I love Birgit Nilsson, Maria Callas, and Karita Mattila. Regina Spektor, Radiohead, Wilhelm Kempff, and David Bowie are also favorites on my ipod.

Playing for Hakan Hardenberger in a masterclass at Chosen Vale Trumpet Seminar, Summer 2010

What piece of music do you find most inspiring?
I love Mahler Symphony No. 9 - really any Mahler Symphony. While performing in Switzerland with the Lucerne Festival Academy this past summer, I was fortunate to hear a live performance of the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, conducted by Claudio Abbado. It is amazing when 100% of the orchestra are giving their all for a concert. At the end, Abbado was silent, and the audience was silent for a good 15 seconds. Such a beautiful moment.

Describe something interesting that happened to you recently.
I recently won a position with the “Youtube Symphony” and will be going to Sydney, Australia in March for performances with Michael Tilson Thomas. The audition process what much different than a real audition-most auditions are done blind-our auditions were posted on the internet for the whole world to see! Then the public was given a chance to vote on their favorites, and the conductor picked the final winners. Here you can see my introduction video:

This is a wonderful tool to promote classical music. The members of the orchestra will be making films along the way before our trip to Sydney, so please feel free to visit my youtube site.

What do you enjoy doing besides playing music?
I am officially a travel addict. Since June, I’ve been all along the east coast, Santa Fe, Banff, Canada, Switzerland, Sweden, Chicago, Florida, and this coming spring I have big trips planned to Belgium, Amsterdam, and Australia. Of course, the trumpet brings me to those places! I’ve started Bikram yoga, which has really helped with my focus. I also enjoy running, reading, spending time with my family in Chicago, writing, hiking, and spending time with my cat and boyfriend in Naples, Florida.

What inspires you to keep yourself motivated?
I have a lot of goals as a musician, and there are still many pieces I want to perform. I like having projects so I never get bored with music. Since I am third trumpet here in Richmond, I have the flexibility to pursue and solo and chamber career as well. I like that I will never reach a point of satisfaction with the trumpet. There will always be aspects to improve, new music to learn, new ideas…
Performing chamber music at the Marlboro Music Festival

What do you have coming up in the future?
At the end of this month I am traveling to Belgium for a trumpet competition in Antwerp. When I return, I am performing the Haydn Concerto with Richmond Youth Symphony w/Erin Freeman on February 19th at the Carpenter Theater! Please come!

Also visit my website at for more upcoming events!

Mary Bowden with Pierre Boulez at the Lucerne Festival Academy in Switzerland, performing principal trumpet on Mahler 6 and Scriabin's Poem of Ecstasy

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