"Many of my pieces are very much like me. They are full of energy, not too weighted by seriousness. But you can listen to them ... be taken somewhere ... have an idea ... enjoy it for a couple of minutes and then come back to the real world. Hopefully, you have had a nice little trip!Josh Rogan, Colburn Conservatory of Music, 2016
Happiness exudes from Josh Rogan. His accent conjures up thoughts of Australian sunshine and his manner of speaking is alive with positivity; his trumpet teacher is a “lovely man” and playing his instrument is “a fun way to meet people.”
Though characterized by his lighthearted nature and cheeriness, Josh is a serious trumpet player. He has played with professional orchestras in Australia and the United States, and performed numerous solo gigs. His list of achievements can fill pages and he is currently studying with James Wilt at the Colburn Conservatory of Music.
In addition to his accomplishments as a trumpet player, Josh has been very active in composing music since he was twelve years old. His first composition was a duet for flute and trumpet called Pixieland, about which he laughingly remarked “obviously I didn’t know how much louder the trumpet was than the flute.” Since then, Josh has continued, learned, and improved. Now, friends commission him to compose works for solo instruments or ensembles, and he often sticks with brass instruments.
At the Ad Lib student-run concert on November 3, Josh will premiere his duet for two trumpets. He is one of three student council members putting together the new concert series, which Josh views as a potential environment to try out new compositions.
We sat down with Josh to talk about playing the trumpet, composing music, his musical family, and more.
What are your compositions like?
Generally speaking, my composition style, particularly for two trumpets, is on the minimalist side, but not strictly. The ideas are more motivic than having a singing melody that has really nice accompaniment that goes to a contrasting melody. This much more; an idea. So you can listen to it for three seconds, and that idea is really cool, and so capturing and working that into a piece is what I like to do. With few instruments, it has to be under five minutes, because the purpose of my pieces is to give the audience an enjoyable experience. Generally speaking, when things go on too much on just ideas – if it goes on for five, or ten, or fifteen minutes – listeners are thinking “OK, I’ve heard this.” So give them a taste, get them into it, and then get done before they are bored. This one that I am writing will be about three and a half to four minutes, I expect, but who knows.
What was it like to come from a large family of brass players?
We all play brass instruments. When I was born, my one grandfather, who has now passed away, played the euphonium. My other grandfather, who is still alive, plays the tuba. My mom played the tenor horn, my dad played the trombone, my older sister played the tenor horn, my older brother played the trombone, and I went completely different and played the cornet. I think it was just given to me when I was younger. I remember waking up one day and there was just a cornet case sitting there and mum said “This is a cornet, and you can start practicing.” I guess I thought it was fairly normal. It was not something that I questioned, because everyone did music.
Did you ever question it?
When I was in high school, around 14 or 15, I thought about it and asked myself “is this what I want to do?” and thought “yeah, why not? I meet a lot of people and it is just fun.”
Playing trumpet is something that I really enjoy, and it is nearly meditative sometimes. You have got the stress of everyday life, and when you are in high school – assignments and homework – and my get away from homework is to just go to the practice room and just play trumpet. It was never any sort of chore, any kind of thinking, “Well I want to do music but is going to take a whole lot of time or a whole lot of hard work.” It was just like “This is fun, why stop?”
You were born in Frankston, a small town about an hour south of Melbourne in Australia, which you’ve described as a “little rough.” What were your first impressions when you moved to the US and came to Colburn?
The people were really nice. I mean, I say that as a general statement “the people were really nice,” but the people were really nice. There is not one person that I couldn’t just sit down and chat with in the whole school. But every single person was super friendly, and that struck me because I imagined – especially being from Australia – at an American top-level music school everyone is going to be in the practice room all the time, ignoring everyone else. Or being a little more competitive, not as interested in other people, but it wasn’t at all! I spent many mornings, particularly when I first got here, just sitting outside and eating my breakfast, and usually someone would come over, introduce themselves, and sit with me. Especially when you are moving countries, a culture like that makes it much easier to settle in.
To hear Josh’s new composition, stop by the free Ad Lib concert on November 3 in Thayer Hall.