The Place to Be
He's such a natural at playing trumpet you'd think Dan Blumenfeld had music in his genes.
Not so. The Carnegie Mellon University student says his relaxed approach to playing is one of many things he learned from his mentor, artist lecturer Neal Berntsen, at the university.
"I didn't get that until I came here," said Blumenfeld. "It really gave me a new mindset. It's not just about physical relaxation or thinking happy thoughts. It's also about not getting frustrated because that creates tension."
Blumenfeld says by the end of the week, it's easy to get frustrated.
"You're sitting in the practice room for hours, trying to get sound out of this piece of metal — perfecting your tone, color, technique," he explained. "Endurance is always a factor. The strain on your facial muscles. Some days you get fatigued sooner than others."
To help counteract the physical and mental fatigue, Blumenfeld regularly attends the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO) performances. He says they remind him why he is still in the field.
"Sitting in the audience, inspired by Neal and all of those amazing musicians in front of you, you remember why you haven't given up on the dream. The concerts are very motivating," he said.
Many CMU faculty hold the principal chairs of the PSO.
And CMU graduates populate the ranks of the most prestigious orchestras of the world.
Those are the two primary reasons why Blumenfeld is here, he says.
"If you're really serious about being in the orchestral field, CMU is the place to be," he said. "Things are constantly changing in the field, like auditioning, for example, so you have to study with someone who is currently in the field."
Berntsen said, "Dan epitomizes the type of student we want in the CMU trumpet studio. He is talented, intelligent and motivated."
He added, "As an educator I feel fortunate to be able to shepherd these fine young musicians as they grow personally and professionally. With the future of our musical heritage in the hands of people like Dan, I am confident that our art form will endure for generations to come."
Blumenfeld's passion for playing the trumpet got its start in the third grade when music class required him to choose an instrument.
He looked them over, couldn't decide. A clever friend suggested the shiny brass thing. "Should be easy. It only has three buttons."
Turns out it wasn't so easy — but it was the beginning of his lifelong love of music.
"Music makes me happy," he said. "As long as I have music in my life, I'll be happy."
The School of Music awarded Blumenfeld the Harry G. Archer Award for Most Outstanding Junior this past semester.