Growing up on a farm outside of Spartanburg SC, Dr. Phillip Chase Hawkins serves as Principal Trumpet with the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, a position he has held since 2013. He is also a member of the cornet section in Fountain City Brass Band and is an active performer on historical instruments as a member of Kentucky Baroque Trumpets and Saxton’s Cornet Band. Chase can also be heard as a performing and recording artist for the Nashville Music Scoring Studio and Sound Lair Studio. His previously held positions include Visiting Professor of Trumpet at Centre College and Interim Professor of Trumpet at the University of Kentucky.
Chase has performed with the Boston Pops Orchestra, Louisville Orchestra, West Virginia Symphony Orchestra, Le Château de la Voix Baroque Orchestra, and others, and has performed in concert halls and recital venues throughout the United States, Canada, South America, Europe, and Asia. Receiving several awards and achievements in solo competitions, Chase has gained both national and international recognition for his skills.
Today, Chase is our featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our artists. Read on to learn why making coffee is Chase’s guilty pleasure…
Who was your first favorite artist(s) growing up?
(In no particular order):
-Adolf “Bud” Herseth, Former Principal Trumpet, and Arnold Jacobs, Former Principal Tuba of Chicago Symphony Orchestra
-James Thompson, Principal Trumpet of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and Atlanta Symphony Orchestra,
-Phil Smith, Former Principal Trumpet of New York Philharmonic
-Håkan Hardenberger, international trumpet soloist
-Sergei Nakariakov, international trumpet soloist
-Rolf Smedvig, formerly of Empire Brass Quintet
-Ray Mase, professor of trumpet at the Juilliard School and formerly of American Brass Quintet and former principal trumpet of New York City Ballet Orchestra
-John Sizemore, former principal tuba of Asheville Symphony Orchestra and Chicago Civic Orchestra, and my first teacher in Duncan SC.
When did you realize that you wanted to be an artist?
There are many correct responses to this question. First, I was fortunate to start out from day one, at the age of 10, with private lessons with an incredible musician and teacher, John Sizemore, who is a tuba player. Apparently, I was able to buzz the mouthpiece very well from the first attempt and within a couple of weeks, I was able to buzz melodies just with my lips. John told my parents and me that I was very good and could have a future in music. This may have been the first time in my life that I was told that I was really good at something. So, I wanted to keep pursuing it. I would spend entire days, many times sleeping over, at my teacher’s house. Twice we watched the entire Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen in a single day/night. That’s over 15 consecutive hours of opera! What normal 10-year-old kid does that?
I also met James Thompson that first year, when Sizemore took me to see an Atlanta Symphony concert where they performed Respighi’s Pines of Rome. When I heard Thompson play the offstage trumpet solo, I was totally sold on the trumpet and knew this was going to be my career. That evening, Sizemore introduced me to Thompson. He took a major interest in me and my curiosity for the trumpet and he gave me a copy of one of his first method books, Daily Play Along Brass Builder, Volume 1, for Bb Trumpet. Fast forward 6 years, I became Thompson’s student at the Eastman School of Music. He had remembered our previous meeting and we continued that conversation from 6 years prior.
What was your most unusual performance, or the most embarrassing thing that happened to you during a performance?
My most embarrassing moment during a performance occurred my senior year of high school during a concert with Converse College Wind Ensemble in Spartanburg SC. While we were rehearsing Donald Grantham’s Southern Harmony, during the section where part of the band is supposed to clap an accompanying rhythm to the melody, the director decided that we would all put our instruments down and stand up to clap.
Well…in the concert I set my instrument down in my chair and stood up to clap. When we finished, I sat back down…onto my trumpet. I was quite a portly young fellow and just crushed the bell of my trumpet, nearly beyond repair. However, immediately after the clapping there is a first trumpet solo, which I was playing at the time. I quickly snatched the 2nd player’s instrument from her hands and played the solo. I then calmly handed her back her instrument, picked up my own, and somehow managed to finish playing the concert. My instrument at the time was a very rare and highly coveted Vincent Bach Stradivarius Model 37, worth quite a bit of money. I was very disheartened. However, I put $1,500 into the repair. When I got it back it didn’t play the same and I sold it for a substantial profit.
What is your guilty pleasure?
This is really hard to narrow down to just one, but my biggest guilty pleasure is coffee. In the past few years, I have really gotten into making artisanal coffees. This includes the somewhat serial control of all the steps to making coffee including: water to coffee ratios, water temperature, source of water, grind size, types of grinders, roasting temperatures and timing, washed vs unwashed beans, micro-regional varieties, learning and developing the tasting palette, and the countless methods of brewing. My favorite methods are Chemex, Hario V60, Kalita Wave, Aeropress (for traveling), siphon, and Turkish coffee in the traditional cezve over a flame.
Musicians spend so much time practicing and working of such minute details in their technique and sound that I find these “OCD” qualities factoring into other parts of life as well. If is just as much fun to scientifically control the variables in coffee as it is to practice the trumpet. Often times, it is during my coffee experimentation that ideas come to me regarding something that I have been practicing on my trumpet.
If you could instantly have expertise performing one instrument, what instrument would that be?
I would have to say piano. I took piano lessons from my aunt when I was very young, but I didn’t take it seriously. Then I had to take piano lessons throughout college, but I felt like it was being forced upon me. I also didn’t take it too seriously then, because I felt that piano practice time was wasted time that I could have spent practicing the trumpet or hanging out with my friends. I was also very terrible at it. I enjoy sitting down at the piano and plunking out a Bach minuet or a Mahler chorale from a symphony, but I find it very difficult to use both hands equally as well. Trumpet is such a right-hand dominant instrument that the left is mostly neglected, except for using the slides to tune certain notes. Also, I find it incredibly difficult to read two lines of music at the same time. This is an incredibly useful skill as a musician, as we often have to read and follow along in a musical score containing all the parts to an orchestral piece, for example. I do feel that I would be a better musician overall if I had continued my training on piano as a kid, when learning seemed to be faster and easier.
What does this album mean to you personally?
This album is very personal for me for many reasons. This is my debut solo album. The idea began as my topic for my Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and has blossomed into a much larger-scale project. After hearing the composer’s music for the first time, I wanted to contact Brendan and ask him to write another piece for me. This process started a really fantastic collaboration between the composer and me and is evolving beyond just this project. We already have future projects and recordings lined up. Follow us on social media for updates and projects to come! I am a huge supporter and promoter of modern music. For this project I wanted to promote new music to champion new repertoire for the trumpet that is accessible to a wide range of performers, from the advanced-level college student through the professional, and to a variety of audiences. This album promotes music that features beautiful soaring melodies and presents a wide range of technical challenges for the performer, as well as wide-range of emotions and stylistic characters that are sure to be exciting for the listener!
Great Southern Land will be available through Navona Records for streaming or purchase on January 25. Click here to pre-order.