Student Takes Top-Honors from Concert Artists Guild

Award-winning trumpeter chooses MSU for graduate studies.

Brandon Ridenour, trumpet player is a graduate student at the MSU College of Music.

Brandon Ridenour has attended Juilliard, played seven years with the Canadian Brass, and is considered among the top young trumpet players in the world today. But when he received a chance to come home to Michigan, the Grand Rapids native was ready, eager to build and explore his musical abilities as the recipient of a distinguished fellowship through the MSU College of Music.

Ridenour started his master’s program at MSU in the fall of 2014, just a few months before winning the prestigious 2014 Concert Artists Guild Victor Elmaleh Competition. It’s an award that speaks to his versatility as a soloist and chamber musician, as well as his passion for composing and arranging. It’s an award, too, that speaks to the level of talent choosing MSU for the study of music.

“We’re just so excited to have more and more great musicians like Brandon come here,” says Ava Ordman, associate professor of trombone. “He’s a rock star. It’s a testament to the strength of our programs that we’re drawing this type of top-notch student to campus.”

Ordman was instrumental in persuading Ridenour to come to MSU. She had met Brandon when he was growing up, having played with his father, pianist Rich Ridenour, through the Grand Rapids Symphony. Ordman says she knew Ridenour would excel based on the depth of talent, ability, and poise he possessed at a very early age.

“I first realized he was going to be an amazing trumpet player when he was in middle school,” says Ordman. “I was talking to his dad by phone, and heard music in the background. When I asked what recording was playing, his dad said ‘that’s not a recording, it’s Brandon.’”

Growing up in a musical family, Ridenour started learning piano when he was 5 years old. His dad taught him all the way through elementary school, and then introduced Ridenour to the trumpet in the 6th grade.

“My dad had played trumpet in grade school and had held on to his instrument,” says Ridenour. “He pulled it out of the basement, dusted it off, and gave it to me. One thing led to another, and I stuck with it, even though I didn’t like it at first.”

Ridenour says he enjoys the versatility of the trumpet as well as the penetrating and brilliant sounds the instrument can make. And while he’s most active with the trumpet, he continues to play and compose on piano. Most recently, he’s been applying his keyboard “chops” and trumpet through Founders—a crossover group he formed with classically trained musicians, including a violinist, violist, cellist, and bassist. Founders is currently working to complete its first album—“You and Who”—funded, in part through a successful Kickstarter campaign.

Like his band, Ridenour says he hopes to break through boundaries and study different genres while at MSU, including jazz.

“Classical musicians are mostly trained to see music on a page and play it,” says Ridenour. “With jazz players, the approach is more to hear the notes and play them. My ear is growing since I’ve been here.”

Associate Professor of Trumpet Rich Illman has been working with Ridenour since May. He attests that Ridenour’s talents and curiosity will help position him as a multi-dimensional musician who can play classical, jazz, and a variety of genres.

“Brandon is extremely talented and has a lot to offer,” says Illman. “I see him as being a world-class soloist all around the world.”

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