The trumpets shall sound

By Nicole Wilson  -  05 June 2015

There are many summer music courses across the world where people come to immerse themselves in music, sunshine and quite often, a fair amount of wine. Few of them however have such a high quality of all three. Two of these are run by Paul Thomas , a successful trumpeter in his own right, concert promoter and masterclass director. He is most noted for his trumpet masterclass course in Sillico, Tuscany which he’s been running since 1996.


From left to right: Mark O’Keeffe, Phil Makin, Jason Camilleri, Ruari Wilson, Colin Bloch, Tomas Gricius, Josh Westrip, Paul Thomas

‘We’ve had a succession of great trumpet teachers there - Michael Laird, Steve Keavey, Keith Johnson, Christian Steinstrop, and the great german virtuoso Rheinhold Friedrich.’  A well established course, including accommodation, students pay a mere 800 Euros and return year after year not just for the stellar trumpet professors but also for the convivial atmosphere. 

In fact such are the level of professors teaching there, that Mark O’Keeffe, ever keen to expand his understanding of the trumpet, came over to study with Rheinhold at the course. As principal trumpet of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, soloist and established teacher himself, one might think Mark had learnt all there is about the trumpet but in his own words ‘you never stop learning, it was fascinating’. Paul Thomas sat up the minute he heard Mark play ‘Wow this guy can play - I think we need him as professor’ he laughs.  ‘So I had the idea that we could do another course in Gozo and it could be something a little bit different.’ 

'While the Sillico course is for people who want to follow a masterclass and want their spot with Rheinhold or Christian, what I wanted in Gozo was a different slant. Rather than the masterclass format where everyone works as an individual, I wanted something where people play most of the day. That involves playing in joint warm ups, joint technical sessions, duets, trios, quartets, orchsections, baroque sections, and trumpet ensembles. In the future, I’d like to expand it to invite trombones, tubas and horns so we can explore the big Gabrielli works and  the more modern Dectet works.’

Thomas has chosen a dramatic setting for his new course in Gozo.The friary in the capital , Victoria is overlooked by an amazing fort.  ‘It’s absolutely massive!’ exclaims Thomas  ‘I’ve never seen walls so thick in all my life. Gozo’s very small, so you can get to the coast easily and also have a look around the fort and historical sites. We’re right in the centre of Victoria so we can choose different bars and eateries in the evenings.’

What sort of people come? ‘Our courses tend to be students, people starting off in the profession and people who are about to go to music college. The course gives them a good overview of the profession. They meet people from many different nationalities. This year we have people from South and North America, Australia, Canada, Europe, Korea and Scandinavia. They work a great deal on ensemble pieces during the course but if they need a little tweak to their playing, they can ask Mark for help. It has become a bit of a think tank- people from different countries, different backgrounds, learning from each other.’ says Thomas.  ‘It’s a lovely atmosphere, we all eat together and nip down to the bars after for a few beers.’ Planning to return as a tutor again in October 2016, O’Keeffe agrees that it’s a special week ‘our students are all different standards but we’re all linked by a fascination with the trumpet.’ 

It’s well worth reserving a place on this course, costing 650 Euros, as it is limited to 12 places. To reserve in advance, go to http://www.musicseminars.co.uk/

About Nicole Wilson

Principal freelance violinist in London, ex London Symphony Orchestra and English National Opera, Nicole is also a CD producer, TV/Radio presenter and founder of Musical Orbit.

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