February 4, 2010
Metropolitan State University of Denver
Professor, student head to national trumpet competition
Senior Steven-Jon Billings heads to Virginia in March for The National Trumpet Competition.
After years of sweating behind the brass, 25-year-old Steven-Jon Billings has been accepted as a semifinalist in the undergraduate division of The National Trumpet Competition.
Under the tutelage of Metropolitan State College of Denver Visiting Assistant Professor of Trumpet Michael Hengst, Billings submitted an eight-minute solo to become one of 46 finalists out of a pool of almost 500 candidates.
The competition takes place March 11-14 at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.
Billings’ trumpeting started when he was in second grade. His parents were both trumpet players, and wanted a creative outlet for their son's energy. He joined the school band and continued on to a community college to study music. He tried a number of different routes from there. He spent a semester at University of Arizona and a semester at Arizona State University before landing at Metro State.
“I came because I got the opportunity to play in an orchestra,” says Billings, a senior majoring in music. He was dismayed by the competitiveness of the schools in Arizona. Metro State gave him a chance to gain more experience, which helped him rise to where he is today.
Michael Hengst, visiting assistant professor of trumpet, will accompany Billings to the trumpet competition.
Guiding him along the way is Hengst, who started out with the University of North Carolina Greensboro as an undergraduate. Hengst continued on to complete his master’s and doctorate degrees with the University of Texas at Austin. He stayed with the university as director of the pep band until Metro State made him an offer.
“I couldn’t say no to the opportunity to teach what I love,” says Hengst. In addition to working one-on-one with 10 trumpet students, Hengst also teaches “Brass Techniques and Pedagogy” and “Wind/Percussion and Choral Education.”
When he isn’t teaching Hengst is directing the Roadrunner Pride Basketball band.
The two will work together to prepare Billings for the semifinals. Hengst is familiar with the process, having competed in the finals multiple times. He says it’s not just physical, but it’s also a mental battle. They will spend the next couple of months dissecting the selected piece into small parts. Billings will take those small parts and perfect them to complete his solo.
The competition will be a long day of playing the one piece they’ve selected. According to Billings, “One must perform their very best every time. Consistency is vital, because every round depends on that specific performance without taking previous attempts into consideration.”