Big dreams for young trumpet player

Dori O'Neal, Herald staff writerMay 3, 2013 

Geoff McKay has loved the trumpet since grade school and plans to take that love to the professional level one day.

The 17-year-old from Richland already exhibits talent beyond his years, says his mentor and teacher Randy Hubbs, a music teacher at Columbia Basin College in Pasco where McKay is a Running Start student.

"Geoff has studied with me since he made his first sound on the trumpet," Hubbs said. "He is truly a remarkable musician, and it's been an absolute pleasure to teach him. I have no doubt he will have a successful career as a professional musician."

McKay comes from a talented family. Both his parents, Bill and Cindy McKay, are musicians. His dad, dean of arts and humanities at CBC, is an accomplished pianist and bagpiper, and his mother, a registered nurse, is a solo guitarist and vocalist.

"I love the beautiful sound that comes from the trumpet, especially the Baroque era of music," Geoff said.

He recently took top honors in the senior division at the Inland Northwest Orchestra's Young Artists Competition, held in March in Hermiston. Another Richland musician, pianist Michelle Chou, won the junior division, and violinist Jessica Liu, a Richland fifth-grader, won the elementary division.

Chou and McKay were the overall winners and earned the chance to perform with the Inland Northwest Orchestra's spring concert, which is May 4 at Chiawana High School, 8125 Argent Road in Pasco. Another concert will be May 5 at the Seventh-day Adventist Church, 1401 S. W. Goodwin Place in Pendleton. The concerts are at 4 p.m. Admission is free to both concerts.

Geoff plans to perform a piece of music from the Baroque era he loves at the Inland concert. It's titled Neruda Trumpet Concerto. He'll be playing the piece on an E flat trumpet, which Hubbs describes as "a quirkier horn that takes a high level of skill to achieve the proper timbre out of it."

Geoff said he hasn't been ready to compete musically until this year for good reason.

"You won't see as many young trumpet players competing (while in middle or grade school like most young musicians) because it takes longer to perfect the facial muscles needed to play the trumpet well," he said.

He credits Hubbs with not only teaching him how to play trumpet but also inspiring a love for the instrument that sinks deep into his soul.

"The sound this instrument makes resounded in me the moment I heard it," Geoff said. "I would love to play professionally one day, but I'd also love to teach it. I just have a passion for everything trumpet."

He got a taste of teaching recently when his Chief Joseph Middle School teacher Nancy Elliott invited him to hold a music workshop with students.

"I was amazed at how many kids showed up," Geoff said. "Even the kids who were not involved in music at the school came to the workshop and seemed genuinely interested in learning more."

Though classical music might be the style that earned him a Young Artists win, Geoff loves jazz music just as well. He plays in the Columbia Basin Jazz Ensemble and Concert Band.

He loves the pure sounds of jazz and is highly influenced by such renowned jazz trumpet players as British Allison Balsom and Norwegian Tine Thing Helseth.

His dad also accompanies Geoff whenever he competes, and the family often plays together just for fun. The most important fundamental thing Geoff has learned being raised musically is that it's important to put in the time with music and practice.

"Randy trained me in all music styles, but it's up to me to take the time to practice," Geoff said.

*Dori O'Neal: 582-1514;; Twitter: @dorioneal

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