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Lightening the mood: Trumpeter’s talent, attitude elevates BSU music

Lexie Kruse spends a good part of the day practicing on the main stage of Bangsberg Fine and Performing Arts complex on the campus of Bemidji State University. Patt Rall | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI – Lexie Kruse freely admits that part of the allure of playing trumpet is being a girl playing with the guys.

Her precise wording is, “I thought it would be super cool.”

Lexie is this year’s winner of the Carl O. Thompson Scholarship given to outstanding students in the Bemidji State University Department of Music.

And outstanding she is. Lexie, as an undergraduate at BSU, has had a private trumpet lesson with Wynton Marsalis of Jazz at Lincoln Center.

This week she will start to take private lessons (using Skype, an online video chat program) with Laurie Frink of the Manhattan School of Music. All of these opportunities come as a result of her trumpet teacher, Del Lyren, and his connections in the trumpet world.

“Lexie is probably the hardest working trumpet student I have ever taught,” said Lyren. “I met Lexie at All-State Band back in South Dakota and she immediately struck me as an unusually outstanding performer even at that age (high school).”

Lexie started to take private lessons with John Colson of South Dakota State University in the seventh grade through high school.  As it happens, Lyren also studied with Colson while a student at SDSU. Lyren kept in touch with Lexie through high school and met with her parents on a recruitment mission.

Lyren suggested that Lexie come to Bemidji and audition for admission to the music program. She was offered a scholarship package, which she accepted over her second choice, Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Lexie said Lyren is the reason she came to BSU, and she has never regretted the decision because through Lyren she has met and played with “giants” in the trumpet world.

Lexie likes to boast that she hit it off with Kiku Collins when she appeared for the Bemidji Concert Series last spring and she has met Allen Vizzutti.

“He (Lyren) is in your court all the time,” said Lexie. “He really looks out for his students and helps us to be the best we can be (musically). And he has helped me to be the best person I can be because in the end, you have to be a good person first.”

Lexie practices and plays a minimum of seven hours a day. She admits to falling in love with the sound way back when she started to play an instrument in grade school. Her cousin, Joe, also played trumpet in All-State Band and he was a good role model.

But it was hard deciding on which path to follow because Lexie also likes to sing and perform in musicals. Her favorite role was that of Princess Winnifred in “Once Upon a Mattress,” and she appeared as a pirate and policeman in Bemidji Community Theater’s production of “Pirates of Penzance.”

“My mom, Pam Kruse, is a vocal teacher and I started doing musicals in the third grade,” said Lexie.

But she had to choose between singing (soprano) and playing the trumpet, which turned out to be an easy choice for she says it was a matter of falling in love with the sound.

Lexie did, and still does, listen to Frank Sinatra and Michael Buble and the trumpet solos. She especially likes “that huge sound” and that genre of music.

When Lexie graduates from BSU  in May, she will have to decide on graduate school or enlisting in one branch of the armed services (perhaps the Air Force because her grandfather served with it). She would like to play with a military band because they tour all over the world and are recognized as the best musicians around.

“I would love to be in the President’s Own, the band that plays at the White House,” said Lexie.

Until then, she will continue to play in various ensembles at BSU so the public will have m­any chances to see and hear her this year. No higher praise can come from her teacher and mentor Lyren than the concluding quote.

“Lexie elevates the level of musicianship in everyone around her,” he said. “Plus, she is very honestly the happiest person I’ve ever met, which lightens up the mood at BSU even in the darkest of times for the arts.”