Chosen Vale – Total Trumpet Immersion

Gathering 37 talented trumpet players from prestigious musical schools like Julliard, Eastman and the Boston Conservatory for two weeks of collaboration would seem a recipe for musical perfection to most people. But not to Edward Carroll, director of the Chosen Vale International Trumpet Seminar, which begins June 16 at the Shaker Village Museum in Enfield.

The seminar attracts talent from all over the world to focus on a single maxim – any piece of music, no matter how sublime, can be improved.

“That’s the essence of art,” says Carroll, who’s played the trumpet for 48 years and taught for 25. “We don’t create masterpieces – that’s for someone else to judge. We do our work, we do the best we can, and we constantly re-evaluate and re-investigate it.”

Chosen Vale began as a response to overly structured curriculums at conservatories and academies that didn’t effectively address some students’ non-mainstream impulses.

“The conventional music school teaches the conventional repertoire,” Carroll says. “A typical Julliard student knows he or she will be surrounded by an excellent faculty at Lincoln Center, and by peers of the same caliber. And yet at the same time he or she might have interests that run slightly outside of what they’re presented at Julliard. We’re able to address these individual needs.”

“We’re most interested in music that falls outside of the normal repertoire of the trumpet – romantic and early twentieth century music,” says Carroll. For sessions that typically run 12-14 hours a day, students work with experimental pieces, real-time composition and improvisation.

“Doing that work right there in situ is powerful, and it’s fun,” says Carroll. “When we practice we’re in solitude … quietly doing our own work. But then you take that moment, and put it up in front of 35 of our peers and observers – it’s very powerful.”

Carroll, a gregarious man with expressive eyes, is obviously enamored by his subject. For the interview, he sits at the granite kitchen counter of his Hanover home; music emanates throughout the house. A room to his left holds a grand piano, with two boom microphones positioned in front of it. Downstairs, a music lesson is in progress. In front of Carroll sit 9 or 10 trumpets, a small sampling of the many horns in his collection.

He’s spent a lifetime in music, playing with orchestras and chamber groups, teaching and recording. Chosen Vale is his creation, and though Carroll divides his time between teaching at Montreal’s McGill University and CalArts in Southern California, he chose to have the seminar in the town he’s called home in since 1992.

“It’s about community,” he says. “My kids go to school here.”

Chosen Vale began in 2006, and was fully subscribed from the start, which Carroll credits to the seminar’s teachers, drawn from the best orchestras, music programs and chamber ensembles in the world.

Says Carroll, “what makes this faculty truly interesting is its diversity, and its commitment to this project.”

The seminar features four public concerts, which Carroll calls “a byproduct of the work that we’re doing. We try to take those disparate pieces of music and present them, but we’re not there as concert presenters, we’re there as an institute to do the kind of work we do in a master class.”

In the master classes, which are open for the public to observe, the instructors typically take “a piece that seems complete, and then tear it down and dissect it and find ways to tweak it and make it better and then put it back together again. That’s the heart and soul of the seminar – doing that kind of work,” says Carroll.

He began Chosen Vale to focus the ensemble work he’d done at the Lake Placid Institute for the Arts, which he founded in 1996 and ran for 7 years, on the trumpet. As an example, Carroll spoke of one Lake Placid student’s difficulties accepting attempts to refine what was, by all accounts, a brilliant piece of music.

“She thought it was the performance of her life,” says Carroll. “Then, after the applause, the teacher said, ‘now let’s see what else we can do with it.’”

The crestfallen girl responded that she couldn’t possibly do better.

The teacher was unmoved. “That was a very good performance,” he said. “I’m sure you’re very proud of it, and we were very honored to hear it – but – now let’s take it apart and see if we can put it back together again.”

“At first she resisted, she was very willful, there were even some tears. But very gently,” he says, the piece was remade, ”perhaps in a way that she hadn’t envisioned before. When she saw that, it was a revelation to her – that she still had work to do.”

“And of course,” says Carroll, “the comment of the teachers was, ‘we all have work to do.’”


Chosen Vale Public Concert Schedule:

Saturday, June 21st at 8:00
Mary Keane Chapel, Enfield Shaker Museum
“Opening Concert”
Stephen Burns, Edward Carroll, Gabriele Cassone, and participants from the seminar
perform music from the 17th to the 20th centuries
(pre-concert introduction with director Edward Carroll at 7:30)

Tuesday, June 24th at 8:00
Mary Keane Chapel, Enfield Shaker Museum
“Solo Stockhausen”
Markus Stockhausen

Friday, June 27th at 8:00
Mary Keane Chapel, Enfield Shaker Museum
“Sounds Like NOW!”
Edward Carroll, Mark Gould, David Rosenboom, Thomas Stevens, Markus Stockhausen,
and participants from the seminar perform music from the 20th and 21st centuries
(pre-concert introduction with director Edward Carroll at 7:30)

Saturday, June 28th at 4:00
Mary Keane Chapel, Enfield Shaker Museum
“Trumpet Favorites — Closing Concert”
Presenting participants in the seminar in a program
of favorite solo and ensemble works.
(pre-concert introduction with director Edward Carroll at 3:30)