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International Trumpet Guild Conference in Minneapolis: Lyren to lead trumpet ensemble at Twins game

Del Lyren, chair of the department of music at Bemidji State University, and more than 150 musicians will gather May 24 in Minneapolis for the 36th International Trumpet Guild Conference. (Submitted photo)

Minnesota Twins fans will be the first audience to hear trumpet players from around the world as they play "The Star Spangled Banner" on the evening of May 23.

What is even more exciting is that Del Lyren, chair of the Department of Music at Bemidji State University, will be conducting the ensemble. More than 150 musicians from Russia, Australia, Thailand, England, Canada and the United States will gather together for the 36th International Trumpet Guild Conference, a five day event of competitions, clinics and concerts beginning May 24 and based in the Hilton, Minneapolis. The conference will run for five consecutive days: Tuesday, May 24, through Saturday, May 28, and information about the different events, venues and ticket prices are available at the website

The International Trumpet Guild is a non-profit organization founded in 1974 to promote communications among trumpet players from around the world with the goal of the improvement of the artistic level of performance, teaching, and literature associated with the trumpet. It has more than 6,000 members from 64 countries and includes professional and amateur performers, teachers, students, manufacturers, publishers and others dedicated to the trumpet profession and is supported by the dues of individual members.

"The name of Bemidji State University has been in print and in advertising materials all over the world," said Lyren during an interview prior to his departure to Minneapolis to co-host the event. "I have had students approach me from Brazil, for example, asking if they could come to BSU to study. Regrettably, most of them are looking for graduate study."

Lyren has been attending the Guild conventions since 1993 and has taken student groups to perform over the years. Two of the groups were from BSU, and in 2008, they went to Banff Alberta. That was when Lyren decided hosting one of these events would be fun - but where? Bemidji is too small to accommodate such a large event; the airport is too small, not enough hotel space, restaurants, etc.

"So Steve Wright, who is associate professor music at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn., and I said that we could try to host one in Minneapolis," said Lyren. "And he and I would be the co-hosts. We ran it by some people and it sparked some interest and it grew from there."

Minneapolis was chosen because it is arts-focused city, it has a vibrant downtown and every event will be within walking distance. The Hilton's grand ballroom, which seats 3,850, will serve as the main performance area. The Central Lutheran Church has a 2,500 seat capacity and is within a few blocks of the Hilton and the Dakota Jazz Club, a nationally recognized jazz venue, is one block from Hilton.

This year's conference will open with "youth day" on Tuesday, May 24, with solo competitions in all age brackets, clinics by five well known trumpeters, panel discussions on college auditions, careers in music, trumpet fundamentals and tips for optimizing instruments for maximum performance.

This year, Lyren is taking five trumpet students including Lexie Kruse, one singer, Jon Stewart and one cellist Jillian Walechka to help with registration, set-ups and logistics. One of the most important jobs will be picking up musicians from the airport because it will give the students a chance to interact with some of the world's great musicians, classical and jazz. BSU students will have personal, private time with luminaries like Jouko Harjanne, a Finnish trumpeter who will be performing with the Minnesota Orchestra in Orchestra Hall. BSU students have been working for months in all phases of planning the conference and have kept BSU and the conference in the public arena using Facebook. They have learned how to work with international artists and their agents to acquire visitor's visas.

Lyren is quick to acknowledge that one student in particular, Jini Lawless, a junior in music from Bemidji, is his "go-to girl.

"She assisted with organizing performance and rehearsal space for 75 guest artists and communicating with them to get program information," continued Lyren. "I can't thank her enough!"

Another student grabbed Lyren's attention while she was still in high school, Lexie Kruse, a junior from Pipestone, Minn. Lyren set out to recruit this exceptional youngster who had studied with one of Lyren's former teachers from South Dakota State University in Brookings, S.D., John Colson. According to Lyren, Kruse wants a career in music, whether it be in the pit band of a Broadway musical, a large orchestra or as a soloist, and she will have the opportunity to meet and play with top musicians from across the spectrum.

"The guys from the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis are coming out for this event," said Lyren. "Wayne Bergeron, who has played with Kenny G to Christina Aguilera and the Brass Quintet from the President's Own Marine Band will be there. A female trumpeter Kiku Collins, who has played with Beyonce and Michael Bolton, is also coming," he added.

"Perseverance is what makes a great trumpet player," concluded Lyren. "The muscles that are used are so minute that if you do the slightest thing wrong, it can affect your entire career and you will never get to a certain level. So it is really important to have a good teacher at the very beginning to get you playing correctly at the very start because if that doesn't happen your chances are very slim. A good age to start to play is the fifth or sixth grade. "After you've gotten your permanent teeth, for sure. Students came to BSU because I actively went out there to recruit and because we have had a solid program; the reputation of BSU helped."

Bemidji State is probably the smallest and definitely the remotest school to ever host this conference and the ability to pull this off, both financially and logistically is a "feather in the cap" for BSU and the community.

"This is the largest trumpet convention in the world. Nothing else comes close," Lyren said. "We are going to have close to a thousand trumpet players, and every one of them is going to see on the cover of the program, 'hosted by Bemidji State University.'"