"The minute you get here the opportunity to perform is presented to you," Brass Department Chair and Trumpetist Ray Riccomini recalls of when he started Mannes as a freshman back in 1987. "We lived in the school building itself in those days, and with the gallery of practice rooms on the top floors, one could hear this amazing richness of sound, what everyone was playing. it is a shared space and hard to get lost. At Mannes, there’s always something to do, and everyone knows what everyone else is doing."
While Mannes has come a long way, its sense of immediacy, access and teamwork continue, with a lot of individualized time and a lot of together time. The enviable faculty-student ratio allows for the faculty to hone in on the specific needs of each student -- who needs to be pushed and who needs to be coddled? Riccomini refers to the Department as a laboratory — but not a factory — with collaboration and discussion among professors about where students are at, what they need, both professionally and personally. As a result, students have great freedom within the Brass curriculum to explore as artists. Trumpet student Alexandra Smith, for example, developed with Brass faculty an "I-Orchestra" project of trumpet solo with technology to experiment in the possibilities of 21st-century composition.
The Brass faculty features an all star lineup of world class professionals. The Metropolitan Opera brass section alone employs a full compliment of Mannes faculty, including the principal and second trumpet (David Krauss and Ray Riccomini), principal and second trombone (Demian Austin and Weston Sprott), and principal horn (Erik Ralske). On the Mannes horn faculty, Ralske is joined by Phil Myers, the principal horn of the New York Philharmonic since 1980, and David Jolley, famed soloist and chamber musician of over 30 years, a founding member, now Emeritus, of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, with whom he toured widely and made over two dozen recordings for the Deutsche Grammophon label. Trumpetist Vince Penzarella has been a member of the New York Philharmonic longer than Mr. Myers, since 1977. And with four solo albums, faculty star David Taylor is the first bass trombonist to receive the Most Valuable Player Award from the New York chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.
Private lessons, individual instrument and Brass classes teach technique and orchestral repertory, where students learn among other things how to have a strong connection to others in a group: "Opening one’s self to listen...'follow more here’…'step up here' — we engage the thinking of musicians into how they support within the ensemble, including how to become easy to work with others."
Performance opportunities for the Brass abound, including the Mannes Orchestra, Mannes Opera and numerous chamber ensembles. There are seven orchestra concerts, including opera performances. These include two concerts at Alice Tully Hall and one at Carnegie Hall. There is also an annual concerto competition, with the winner performing with the Mannes Orchestra at Alice Tully. Each student performs a solo recital at the end of their fourth year.
Building audiences as part of the New York community, discovering how to become community-based performers, including skills in finding potential freelance work — from Church services to small local and private schools — all are part of the Brass Department’s discussion with their students. Master Classes augment this mentorship by bringing in freelancers for each brass instrument to help students move forward in their careers, by focusing on how to have a successful "sub" career, how students can make it as a working musician today.
"Mannes offers a lot of community support. The faculty have your back and want you to do well. You can come back 20 years later and be welcomed back as if you never left."
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