The Grammys honor the best of the best in the music industry, so skilled trumpet player Michael Raehpour didn’t even think to daydream about playing at the awards ceremony during high school.
As it turns out, the Andover High School senior earned the position of lead trumpet in the Grammy Camp — Jazz Session, an elite group of high school musicians organized by the Grammy Foundation who auditioned for and were selected to play at events surrounding the 55th Grammys Feb. 10 in Los Angeles. The group will record an album with Capitol Records, play several public performances the week prior to the Grammys and then perform at the ceremony’s after-party.
Raehpour learned about the Grammy Camp group by listening to a previous year’s performance on YouTube. “I never thought I’d be able to play up to their ability,” Raehpour said. “I just kept practicing and practicing.”
He was admittedly shocked when he received the call he had earned the trumpet section’s first chair – “I didn’t know what to say,” he said – but it was no shock to those familiar with his playing skills.
Raehpour has taken trumpet lessons from former Wichita State University trumpet professor Don Duncan since he was in the eighth grade.
“It was his initiative that gave him this opportunity,” Duncan said.
Raehpour started playing the trumpet in the fifth grade, but he said it was going to learn from Duncan that sparked his passion for the instrument. “Once I was there, I was able to really hear what a good, live trumpet player sounds like,” Raehpour said.
Raehpour also credits his high school band instructor Ray Linville and the two assistants, Zach Lorensen and Kevin Findley, with helping to keep his dedication to playing in an ensemble alive.
“I feel really blessed to have had all three of them,” Raehpour said.
Duncan said what sets Raehpour apart from the crowd is his strength in the embouchure, or the use of facial muscles and lips on the trumpet’s mouthpiece.
“He just has the gift,” Duncan said. “For me, I believe it’s a God-given gift to be able to play the trumpet in this way. The raw materials are just there, and that doesn’t happen very often.”
Raehpour’s talent along with his hours of practice – he said he practices more than 20 hours per week – earned him not only the lead trumpet position in the Grammy Band but also the attention from music professors at the University of Kansas, where he plans to attend school next year.
In fact, the KU Trumpet Ensemble invited Raehpour to travel to Washington, D.C., with them for a long weekend in January to play in U.S. President Barack Obama’s inaugural parade, and he accepted. “That’s pretty cool,” he said.
Raehpour plans to major in music education and hopes to teach at the college level or perform professionally if he gets the right breaks.
As serious as Raehpour is about his music, he doesn’t forget to have fun. He enjoys playing video games and enjoys owning and caring for fish in his home tank. For the Grammys, his sister purchased him an “I Heart Selena Gomez” T-shirt, which he hopes to wear at an opportune moment.
“I think people think it is pretty cool that I have so much of a passion for something,” he said. “Some people discover their passion earlier than others.”
And Raehpour’s passion will allow him to experience events like the Presidential Inauguration and the Grammys, although he said he tries to play just as well when he plays just for his family or friends.
“I like the effect [playing] has on me and also the effect my playing has on an audience,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if there is one person listening or 1,000, I still play the same and have as much fun doing it.”