LR senior trumpet player captures ‘first chair’

The Gray File Age: 17  Year in School: Senior  School groups: Band, chorus, drama  School honors: Honor Roll, MVP (Most Valuable Player), Band president (like a class president, but exclusive to the LRHS band)  Parents: Dan and Jody Gray  Town: Bridgton  Future plans: Become a music teacher, graduating from University of Southern Maine School of Music. ALL-STATE SELECTIONS Lake Region High School band students who qualified for All-State include: Anna Yates, Band-bass clarinet; Zachary Gray, Orchestra. District Band: Lucien Wallace, flute; Lily Charpentier, flute; Mallory Strain, clarinet; Joel Parr, bass clarinet; Matthew Mayo, trumpet; Daniel Neault, trombone; Tim Holbrook, baritone horn; Zachary Gray, tuba (First Chair).

The Gray File
Age: 17
Year in School: Senior
School groups: Band, chorus, drama
School honors: Honor Roll, MVP (Most Valuable Player), Band president (like a class president, but exclusive to the LRHS band)
Parents: Dan and Jody Gray
Town: Bridgton
Future plans: Become a music teacher, graduating from University of Southern Maine School of Music.
ALL-STATE SELECTIONS
Lake Region High School band students who qualified for All-State include: Anna Yates, Band-bass clarinet; Zachary Gray, Orchestra.
District Band: Lucien Wallace, flute; Lily Charpentier, flute; Mallory Strain, clarinet; Joel Parr, bass clarinet; Matthew Mayo, trumpet; Daniel Neault, trombone; Tim Holbrook, baritone horn; Zachary Gray, tuba (First Chair).

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

When he was in fourth grade, Zachary Gray chose to play the trumpet because it was just the first instrument that came to his mind.

“I love all the different sounds people can make from them, from a foreboding whine to a sweet, melodious voice that sounds almost like a violin,” Zach says.

Today, the Lake Region High School senior is the top-rated trumpet in the entire state. He was recently selected “first chair” for the All-State Orchestra.

Students throughout the state auditioned at select sites. Zach ventured to Skowhegan, where his audition included playing required scales, performing a solo (this year, it was Bride of the Waves) and was given sight readings. A group of judges traveled to the three different audition sites, heard the musicians and scored each player. Eventually, a final ranking was achieved.

Zach can now add the “first chair” honor to an impressive musical resume that includes All-State Band or All-State Orchestra selection in all four of his high school years. As a freshman, Zach was second and qualified to participate in the National Honor Band in Nashville, Tenn.

“What makes Zach such a talented player is the combination of hard work, a good ear, talent and a desire to do well,” Lake Region High School Band Director Paul Greenstone said. “For every skill, there are physical attributes that can give you an advantage over others. Zach is built well to be a very good trumpet player — his mouth structure, air column. A lot of guys have that, but then it comes down to how much do you want to work? Over a period of six years, Zach has worked extremely hard to do this. He’s participated in any activity that he could (Portland Wind Ensemble and Portland Youth Orchestra) and goes to Conway to play with Kennett’s Brass Quintet as a tuba player. He has a good ear (knowing whether or not he is playing notes to perfection) and he cares. Zach has always been good with rhythms. He has a great sense of timing.”

Most people think “the instrument picks the kid.” Greenstone counters, “You are going to spend hours upon hours in a room with an instrument. If you don’t like the sounds you are making, there is no reason to do it. Physical attributes also make a difference. Obviously, you want to be good at what you do, so it takes hours, and hours and hours of hard work. It is fun to experiment (trying different instruments). But, the better you get (with a certain instrument), the harder it is to improve. You work hours to get .3% better. It’s essential, but its hours, hours, hours. Sometimes, you over do it and it hurts. I played trumpet for three hours at a fair and my lips were bleeding by the time it was over. It’s hard. It’s tough stuff. You are vibrating your lips anywhere from 300 to 700 times a second to get a note. It’s really hard. A trumpet player can’t stop.”

One might think that a talented musician is just what a band needs to succeed. Through experience, Greenstone has found that a talented player can either keep a band “centered” by bringing a consistent, quality sound or he/she can rip the group apart by “showing off” and leaving fellow members frustrated that they are unable to reach that level of play.

“Zach is encouraging. He makes us better,” Greenstone said.

Q&A with Zachary Gray

The News posed the following questions to Lake Region senior Zachary Gray:

How did you become interested in playing an instrument?

Zachary: My elementary school, Stevens Brook, was offering instruments to rent for the students to learn how to play, and my parents told me to choose one, and if I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t have to continue.

What other instruments have you tried, and which ones do you enjoy playing?

Zachary: I have tried almost every instrument, from percussion to violin and French horn to oboe, and I enjoy playing all of them, as they are usually quite easy for me to pick up and learn. However, I don’t play them consistently because brass — the whole family — is my true love.

What is the most difficult part about playing the trumpet?

Zachary: The most difficult part about playing trumpet, for me anyway, is creating the sound that I hear in my head. I have the sound of Alison Balsom, my favorite trumpet player, but sometimes my mind doesn’t connect with my mouth and the sound comes out close, but not exactly what I want.

If you were to point to one area that you have improved the most, what would it be and how did you get there?

Zachary: Definitely my range. In middle school I was fantastic in my middle and low ranges, but I sounded completely disgusting when I tried for the high register. Through working with my private teacher, and on my own in my favorite study book, I have an almost three-octave range.

I am sure there are frustrating moments. How do you deal with them or get past them?

Zachary: It depends on what’s going on with my head and my mouth. If it’s just a bad day, I put my trumpet away until the next day. If it’s not a bad day, I usually just have to sit back and run through the section in my head a few times before I try it again. If it’s rhythm, I use a metronome, starting out slow and gradually working my way to the performance speed. If it’s a fingering issue, I either try to find an alternate fingering or work it the same way as if it were a rhythm problem, creating muscle memory for whatever the run happens to be.

Obviously, it takes a lot of practice to reach a high level. In any given week, how often do you practice (where do you practice) and how long during these sessions? What do you hope to accomplish?

Zachary: If it’s an average week, I’m usually practicing anywhere from an hour to three hours a day, excluding weekends, making it five to 15 hours a week. I usually practice in school, during my lunch and my free periods, or after school. Every time I practice, I take the thing that I’m worst at and make it my priority. Sometimes that doesn’t change for weeks. Once I’ve made that one concept as good as I think it can be for now, I start working on another piece of the puzzle, until I can work everything as a whole.

I am sure there is a lot of pressure when it comes to performing before judges. How do you approach such performances (how do you get ready for the performance, do you have any particular strategies that you follow during a performance). To date, has there been one performance that you considered was your best? And, why would you rate that effort the best?

Zachary: I have rehearsed, auditioned and performed so many times that nine times out of 10, I’m not nervous at all. If I am, though, I talk to my grandfather. It’s not like he’s there with me, in fact he’s not even here on Earth. But no matter where I am or what I am performing, I always play just for him. In a room of 5,000, it’s just the two of us. My best performance was in 2013, when I was the first chair of the Maine All State Concert Band. We played four pieces, and even after the performance was over, totaling about 45 minutes, I felt like I could have played for hours.

You have received many honors. What would you say have been the Top 3 accomplishments you’ve achieved to date, and why were they special to you?

Zachary: I’m sorry, but only one of these has to do with music. And that one happened in 2013, when I was selected as one of 24 trumpet players to play in the NAfME (National Association for Music Education) All National Honors Band. We had no idea where we were ranked before hand, but we found out soon enough, and I was ranked number 12.

The second one was in 2012, when I was named the Champion Jr. Showman at the New York State Fair. We have horses, and that’s a big show for us.

The third and final happened this past fall, when we took the horses to Canada and the Royal Horse Show in Toronto. I had never driven the horse before, and they were sending me into a ring she had never been into. I won the class, coming in ahead of seven other entries.

Mr. Greenstone was saying this current band is one of the best he's worked with. What do you enjoy about this group of musicians?

Zachary: These people that I’m working with now are some of the most hardworking and honorable people I know. They are all committed to the band and they want to not only succeed, but exceed the reputation of our school, and I believe we are doing just that. Not only am I honored to work with them on a daily basis, I am proud to call most of them my closest of friends.

What do you enjoy the most about performing?

Zachary: I enjoy most the feeling that can be conveyed from my instrument into someone else’s heart. I am a firm believer that I say more with my instrument than I ever can with just words.

Has anyone been a major influence upon you? If so, who and how has that person made a difference?

Zachary: The largest influence on me has been my grandfather. He instilled in me a way of life that I am just enamored with, and I have no idea how to live any other way. He taught me to be honest and humble and to treat other people not the way you want to be treated, but the way they deserve to be treated. I believe that these values have helped me through not just music, but through life because they are ones that will last a lifetime.

What do you plan to do as a future career, and how did you come to that decision? Have you made a choice of schools?

Zachary: Many people call me crazy and look at me strange for this, but my ideal future career would be to take Dr. Greenstone’s spot as band director at LRHS. I came to that decision because I have seen the relationships that he builds with students, and I haven’t seen anything like that anywhere else. Those relationships, and the experience and advice he has given to me and other students has inspired me, to the core, to become a music teacher. My choice school is the USM School of Music in Gorham.

I still have aspirations to audition for a symphony orchestra, such as Portland, Boston, or the New York Philharmonic, just to see if I could be a part of it, but in the end, I think my heart really lies with being a teacher.

Please follow and like us: