MSU Trumpet Studio resounds with classical successes

Showing strenghts in academic, performance and competitive arenas.

Trumpet Studio members Alessandro Bonotto and Michael Gause practice a duet.
Members of the Trumpet Studio try their talents at bowling, one of many activities that foster an environment of hard work and camaraderie in the studio.

Some graduated and secured immediate careers as orchestra members, performers or band and music directors. Others secured scholarships to conservatories, universities, renowned summer programs and festivals, or participated in high-level competitions.

Whatever path they follow, students studying classical trumpet at the MSU College of Music are capturing attention through astonishing success in academic, performance and competitive arenas. At the end of 2017-18 academic year, nearly all 27 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students within MSU’s Trumpet Studio experienced achievements that reflect the highest standards of excellence.

“I believe our students’ successes reflect on the entire College of Music and the university as a whole,” says Justin Emerich, associate professor of trumpet and head of the Trumpet Studio. “When student-athletes break records or move on to professional careers, a university gets a lot of publicity. It’s the same in the world of classical trumpet. We’ve had a level of success that gets us noticed. That’s exciting.”

Among the success stories are students who received full scholarships to elite summer programs like the Aspen Music Festival and School and the National Repertory Orchestra. A half dozen more students earned scholarships or were admitted to selective summer festivals in Miami, Atlanta, Arkansas, British Columbia, Maine, Michigan, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

Two trumpet ensembles comprised of 14 students reached the quarter finals in the National Trumpet Conference, and two soloists were semi-finalists. Several students, too, were finalists, won orchestra auditions, or secured fellowships with orchestras that ranged from Lansing Symphony to the Orlando Philharmonic to the Youngstown and Detroit Symphony Orchestras.

Three students graduated to master’s programs, and Emerich bade farewell to five others who secured career-track jobs at universities, public schools, fine arts camps and churches. Pujan Bhattarai is among them.

The recent graduate and alumni of MSU’s Trumpet Studio attests to the culture of hard work and camaraderie that strengthened his abilities and prospects. Bhattarai received his bachelor’s in music education in December 2017 and is now the new high school band director with Zeeland Public Schools.

“Being around peers with such great talent and work ethic pushed me to surpass what I thought were my limits,” he says. “As an educator, I found a lot of my own teaching practices stemming from my time in the studio and lessons with Professor Emerich.”

Associate Professor of Trumpet and Head of the Trumpet Studio Justin Emerich (right) with the MSU Symphony Orchestra trumpet section, on stage after their performance of Mahler Symphony No. 6. in February 2018.


Michael Gause also vouches for the momentum he gained during the first year of his doctoral program in trumpet performance. With the continual push and encouragement from Emerich and his peers, Gause earned a full scholarship to the 2018 National Repertory Orchestra and was selected as an African American fellow in the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. He also earned spots in the trumpet section of several prominent orchestras. 

“There’s definitely a chronology that goes on as far as my success is concerned,” says Gause. “D-Day was getting here to MSU.”

Phil Sinder, chair of the brass area and professor of tuba and euphonium, says the level and depth of student achievements contributes to the studio’s growing reputation. Emerich, he says, has devised a formula that combines peer support, competition, and continuous goal setting to motivate students and keep them on the path toward excellence. Emerich’s experience on national and international stages also attracts guest artists and teachers, and fosters a professional networking opportunities for students.

“Justin has been a positive, hard-working, and connected force since his arrival in 2015. His influence as a performer and teacher has been felt not only in the trumpet studio, but throughout the brass area,” Sinder says. “His encouragement to students to ‘get out there’ in the trumpet world has certainly had an impact in Michigan and on the national level.”

For Emerich, his mission is simple and seems to be working beautifully.

“When I recruit for the studio, I tell people two things: it’s my job to get you to move on to the next level or to get you a job in music,” he says. “I tell them you want to come out with a goal and plan of what you aspire to do.”


Since 2015, The MSU Trumpet Studio has grown from 18 trumpeters to its target enrollment of about 29 students. More than 50 trumpeters auditioned for the 2018-19 studio—nearly double the number from previous years—reflecting an increasingly competitive and selective environment.

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