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Thomas qualifies for National Trumpet Competition in March

Barry McNamara
MONMOUTH, Ill. – A strong second effort has allowed Monmouth College to blow its own horn for one of its music students.

Nick Thomas ’21 of Elmhurst, Ill., has qualified to compete at the National Trumpet Competition March 15-16 in Lexington, Ky. One of 64 college trumpeters to advance to the prestigious event, his selection comes a year after his first attempt fell short.

“I tried last year,” said Thomas. “I was ecstatic to learn that I made it this year.”

Late in the fall semester, Thomas submitted a video of a performance of “Nightsongs” by Richard Peaslee. He and his Monmouth instructor, Andrew Dziuk, chose the work because of its degree of difficulty.

“I definitely stepped it up with the difficulty from a year ago,” said Thomas. “It’s got a lot of really angular melody, and there’s a pretty high register with the flugelhorn.”

That flugelhorn part is one of the challenges of the song, as Thomas switches between that instrument and the trumpet.

Qualifying for nationals is another step in the development of the aspiring musician. Thomas started playing music the summer before his fourth grade year, but he recalls only “going through the motions” at that point. Then at York High School, a “great band director” lit a fire in him.

“He was really energizing, and I started enjoying things a lot more,” said Thomas, who also started taking private lessons.

The hard work paid off, as he made the jump from “lowest chair in the lowest band, to second chair in the highest band.”

Along the way, Thomas realized he wanted to commit to music full-time after high school.

“My parents were like, ‘Are you sure? It’s going to be pretty rough,’” he said.

So far Thomas has been able to get a variety of gigs while also studying music at Monmouth, which he chose, in part, because of its men’s lacrosse program and also because he received a music scholarship. After Monmouth, Thomas hopes study music performance in graduate school.

A member of the College’s Monmouth Winds and Jazz Ensemble, Thomas played “Taps” at last fall’s Veterans Day ceremony in Monmouth, “right after the 21-gun salute.”

Dziuk said Thomas’s work ethic is continuing to pay dividends in college.

“People often believe talent is most important to be successful in music, but that is not necessarily true,” he said. “There are many people with musical talent and Nick certainly has plenty of it, but what really sets him apart is his willingness to back up his talent with the amount of dedicated practice required to reach his goals. Many of the best young trumpet players in the country will be in this competition and Nick was able to advance and earn a spot through all of his hard work. I’m very proud him."

In Lexington, Thomas will perform March 15 in what is called the quarterfinals round. The semifinals are scheduled for later that day, and the four finalists will perform March 16.