First-year UNC Pembroke music student Ed Gunther won the southern division senior brass competition sponsored by the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA).
Gunther competed against trumpet players from across the South at the Clinton, Miss., event in January. His success at the southern division contest qualified him to compete in the national finals in New York City in March, where he finished second.
For the MTNA competition, Gunther played three compositions with three different trumpets. He performed contemporary, classical and baroque pieces – an Arutunian Concerto, a Neruda Concerto and a Torelli Sonata, respectively.
“These are pieces from three styles that I know and love,” Gunther said. “I’ve performed in many auditions and competitions, so I’m not as nervous as I used to be. But I was nervous.
“To win this [New York] competition would be great but second place is good too,” he continued. “Doc Severinsen won this competition, and it’s still on his resumé.”
This spring, the young musician also competed in Virginia at the National Trumpet Competition for players under 25 years old. A video performance he submitted earned him one of 40 spots in the competition.
With this kind of success at age 18, Gunther smiles but says he’s no prodigy. “With the trumpet, it takes a while just to get the first note out; I started pretty fast though,” he laughed. “I first picked up a trumpet in the sixth grade to play for my middle school band.”
The journey from his Ocean Isle Beach home to UNCP is a story about music and being in the right place at the right time. Dr. Timothy Altman, chair of UNCP’s Department of Music, happened to be attending a district music event to watch his son perform when he heard Gunther playing trumpet at the same event.
“We recruit at events like this, and I had a booth set up,” Dr. Altman said. “I spoke with his parents, and they started traveling from the beach for Saturday lessons.”
Gunther flourished under Dr. Altman’s guidance, and as Gunther said, “In music, you pick a college based on the teacher.”
Dr. Altman said his pupil “is a tremendously strong trumpet player, and he excels academically. Luckily he felt at home here, and UNCP is fortunate to have him.”
In Gunther, Dr. Altman finds a student with a strong work ethic. “Performing is fun; practice is work. It takes thousands of hours,” he said. “I know he will do well in the MTNA finals.”
Besides a heavy practice routine and traveling near and far to perform, Gunther keeps a busy schedule at the university. He performs with UNCP’s Contemporary, Trumpet and Jazz ensembles and the University Band. He also plays with the Faculty Brass Quintet.
“That’s a pretty big thing to be invited to play with the faculty,” he said. “I am second trumpet to Dr. Altman.”
Following a performance at the North Carolina Museum of Art, music critic Steve Row noted Gunther’s work in a review for CVNC, an online performing arts journal. Row wrote: “Morley’s ‘My Bonny Lass’ included a nice duet for the trumpets between Altman and Ed Gunther, who is a UNCP music major. Gunther had several prominent parts, including the lead melody line in Dowland’s ‘Sweet Love Doth Now Invite.’”
Gunther received another honor this semester when he was selected to be a substitute player with the Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra. “That’s one of the biggest things that’s happened to me,” he said. “I played fourth trumpet for their performance of Boléro. It paid $65.”
The future is wide open for Gunther. While he ponders symphony orchestras, military bands and other options, he will strive to improve and to be heard.
“I don’t know how good I can become,” he said. “My short-term goal is to get my name out in this community because I am new here. Longer term, I plan to get a master’s degree in trumpet performance.”