Practice! Practice! Practice! This is exactly what Eli Phelps has done since he was introduced to the trumpet in fourth grade and it paid off for him in a big way. He recently participated in the All-State Ensemble at the 2012 Connecticut All-State Music Festival at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford.
The Morgan School sophomore was selected based on competitive auditions among students from all across Connecticut. The first round of auditions- the regionals last winter - garnered him a spot to audition for the All-State Ensemble. Once he was chosen for regionals it was hours and hours of practicing one piece that earned him the coveted chair.
“It was about advancing myself as a player,” said Eli. “We had fantastic directors, there were fantastic instrumentalists around me and it was a cool experience.”
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Mary Jo Phelps, Eli’s mother, says while she and her husband, Max, did not push Eli into playing the trumpet, they encouraged his participation in the arts.
"Both my husband and I are really into music,” said Mary Jo. “We play guitar and sing and we have a piano. We encouraged our kids to do something cultural and music is what they both chose. His sister, Emma, is a saxophone player. “
Mary Jo also gives credit to the Clinton Public School system for helping instill a love of music in her children . “Music programs beginning at Joel in kindergarten, with Nancy McAllister, all the way up to high school…we just have fantastic music programs here. “
Eli readily admits that choosing the trumpet many years ago was not planned. When asked why he chose that particular instrument he replied, “It’s the one I pointed to at the time! There wasn’t a grueling decision process.” He knew, however, what he didn’t want to play, “I didn’t want to play the trombone, because everyone was playingthe trombone!”
Now he takes weekly half hour private lessons, is in the band at Morgan and practices many, many hours in between working to perfect his art.
He gives a great deal of credit to his private instructor, Old Saybrook’s John Ladone, for his success. “Sometimes I waiver, I don’t practice as much as I should and he’s really good at kind of softly, but forcefully making me get back on the horse and that’s been really great for me.”
Even with all the hours of playing, Eli can remember the first time his lips met the mouthpiece. "The first note I played, I had the horn and I had already kind of buzzed into the mouthpiece to see what it felt like and I put in this little instructional DVD…and it said, ‘Play the note ,’ and there was a student who played the note G and it came out beautiful. Then I played the note G and it didn’t really come out, it wasn’t actually a note in the way you would describe it!” he said, laughing. “Luckily I stuck with it!”