Carter Eng ‘22 on learning to play jazz trumpet

Carter Eng

The RJAM trumpet player became a lead trumpet player in the eighth grade.

In his own words, Carter Eng ’22 discusses his growth as a jazz musician and how he defines success.

When I picked up my instrument in fourth grade, it wasn’t because I liked music. I distinctly remember thinking, “I just want to get out of this class.” Playing music seemed a lot more fun than writing. My grandpa had me practice every day, even when I didn't really care. And I did it because I didn’t want to say no.

My middle school band teacher told me, “Hey, you should do the jazz band.” I was pretty agreeable. I'm not someone that says no, most of the time. So I thought, “Sure, you know, why not? What's the worst that could happen?” But most of the kids that went into the jazz band at that middle school had a lot of experience, and I had none at all. I went in fresh and it was really tough. When I started I remember we had to play on the blues, and I didn't know what a chord was. By eighth grade, I was playing lead trumpet.

Through the first two years of high school, I didn't consider music to be a career. Our high school was going to the national competitions for jazz so I watched as people older than me were starting to go into music, and that idea started falling in my head. What if I just started doing music? By junior year, I started to feel like this was the only thing I wanted to do. I couldn't imagine sitting and doing a desk job.

How I define success is something I think about. I want to say at the end of the day, if I'm happy, then it's fine. But there's some balance in thinking I want to do something really huge. My goal when I came to SFCM was to be as big as the people that I look up to. That's a really hard thing to do and there's a really good chance I won't get there. In the end, I’d like to just feel like I'm not failing myself because it's a really high expectation anyways.

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