The 16-year-old sophomore at Walker Valley High School will be performing the third movement of the Hummel Trumpet Concerto with the Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra during the Cleveland Symphony Guild’s free youth concerts at North Cleveland Church of God March 8.
He has also been selected to perform with the Tennessee All State Band/Orchestra coming up in April and is a current semifinalist in the 2011 National Trumpet Competition to be held at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., at the end of March.
Although John has won first chair trumpet in the East Tennessee Jr. Clinic, Tennessee All East Sr. Clinic, Lee University Honors Band and 2nd trumpet with the Tennessee All East Jazz Ensemble, he remains a down-to-earth, soft spoken and modest student who considers himself blessed to be able to do something he loves and says he feels privileged to be able to share his talent with fellow music lovers.
“I’m thankful for this opportunity,” John said. “It’s really nice being able to do this — playing with an orchestra. This is something I’ve always wanted to do. I’ve always wanted to improve and I’m still trying to improve, but I’ve noticed that I really love doing this. It’s not much of a talent. I just really like doing it and I want to do all I can with it.”
His mother, Fredda, a music teacher at Oak Grove Elementary, said she is especially impressed with her son’s humility, self-discipline and determination to be the best he can be at such a young age.
“I think John is extremely self-disciplined,” she said. “He wants to improve, like he said, and he thinks about it all the time. I mean, I’m a musician too so I know how he thinks. You get a piece of music and you want to play it. You work until you can play it and then you go on to the next. But with him, what’s so different is the self-discipline.
“He knows that going to school all day he’s going to be tired when he comes home. Therefore he makes himself get out of bed every morning about 4:45 a.m. to practice. He wants to get in at least a couple of hours before school when he’s fresh and can really improve the most.”
The fact that John is able to maintain a 4.0 grade average in school while practicing his music is also indicative of the benefits derived from his musical training, according to Fredda, whose parents were also in a band.
“I think music makes you smarter — the self-discipline, being a good listener, being creative, all that stuff — it helps in school,” she said. “I think the biggest thing is the listening skills it helps develop. It’s exercising the brain.”
Although John excels in school and in music, his father, Mike, said he is impressed with John’s ability to fit in with others.
“His friends are very supportive and proud of him. But, he is still just one of the guys and not treated any differently,” Mike Burton said. “John has a very humble personality.”
When John is not practicing he is listening to classical music or studying scores which is also linked to his success, according to his father.
“He didn’t just pick up the trumpet and play. He has put in many hours of practice and taken lessons from very good teachers,” he said.
“I think because I’m a music teacher and John has grown up hearing music all his life — it developed his ear,” said Fredda. “I had a master’s in performance. At an early age, when he was just a baby, I was entering competitions and practicing a lot. So he would run around in circles singing skill runs.”
But John had more than his musical lineage, early exposure and self-discipline to hone his musical skills. He also incorporated a remarkable teacher.
“Tina Erickson is my trumpet teacher and I’ve been working with her a little under a year now,” said John. “She’s really opened a lot of doors and pushed me hard.”
Erickson even made the Blackburn trumpet that John will be using in his upcoming performances and competitions. If practice makes perfect, it must also do something to calm the nerves, according to John whose eyes light up when he talks about performing.
“I’m not too nervous about it. I’m really more excited than anything,” he said. “Whenever you’re in a room so long practicing all by yourself you want to go in front of other people and perform. I’m really excited.”
From March 17-20 the family will be in Washington, D.C., to watch John compete as one of 29 semifinalists in the National Trumpet Competition.
“I’ll be trying to get in the final round where there will be a convention,” said John. “I’ll get to see a lot of clinicians and master classes. That’s really neat.”
He will be playing the second and third Hummel concerto in Washington. Although his dream job would be a career performing with a major symphony, he said he does not totally dismiss a career playing jazz.
The family recently returned from a Wynton Marsalis performance at the Atlanta Symphony Hall and caught the full jazz spectrum from the world’s most sought after trumpeter and the renowned Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.
“It was great!” John said. “I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else. It was great getting to see him. I listen to everything I can of his. I really look up to him. He’s really inspired me. Also Allen Vizzutti and Chris Botti are my other favorites.”
According to his parents, not only does it encourage their son when the community comes out and supports his performance but it honors him when people attend his concerts.
“He puts in a lot of hours practicing and performing with ensembles and just loves it. It is his passion,” his father said. “We appreciate the community’s support.”
As the CSO Youth Orchestra Concerto Competition winner, John was recently selected to attend the Tennessee Governor’s Honors School for the Arts to be held this summer at Middle Tennessee State University.
In addition to the trumpet, he also plays the piano and enjoys composing and arranging instrumental compositions. John has three brothers and loves juggling, yo-yoing and riding his unicycle.