Five Ways I Got Ready for My International Solo Debut

A passionate and creative performer, Kate Amrine is a prominent trumpet player balancing a multifaceted career from developing new repertoire and curating concerts to freelancing with many different groups in the New York City area. Selected past performances include performing two solos with orchestra in Japan, an off Broadway workshop of Duncan Sheik’s new musical “Alice by Heart,” a solo recital in Mississippi at the Music by Women Festival, a featured recital at the International Women’s Brass Conference, and a recital at the Women’s Composers Festival of Hartford. Upcoming performances include Rite of Spring for two trumpets, a solo show of music inspired by politics, and a tour with Mariachi Flor de Toloache.

Kate is also extremely dedicated to commissioning and performing new music, premiering over 30 pieces both as a soloist and a chamber musician. Her debut album “As I Am” was released in November 2017, featuring new music by women composers. Kate is also an active freelancer in New York City, where she performs in many different ensembles – from musical theater and Broadway to standard orchestra gigs and more. Kate is also very passionate about increasing diversity and representation in the women’s brass community. She is the co leader of the Brass Chicks blog and co leader of eGalitarian – an ensemble of women brass players playing music by women composers. As an educator, Kate enjoys teaching private lessons in her own studio and as an Adjunct Instructor at New York University.

I was inspired to write today’s post from seeing the feedback on some of my recent Instagram posts about my time performing and soloing with the orchestra in Japan the past two weeks.  I had a great time performing Torelli’s Concerto in D and Leroy Anderson’s A Trumpeter’s Lullaby. Out of our 4 concerts in Japan, I was performing one of these pieces (if not both), on 3 out of the 4 performances.  I wrote a little bit about my preparation and the process of putting it together and how I felt about the whole experience on Instagram but I figured a longer and more detailed version of these posts may resonate with people so here’s how I got ready for my international solo debut! 

1. Practice like your life depends on it

I had to start with the most obvious one first. This isn’t anything you haven’t heard before, but I truly believe I went to some new levels in my preparation that I hadn’t done for any other gig previously. I played Persichetti’s “The Hollow Men” in June with an orchestra so I did all of these things for that solo as well. Leading up to the performances, I did everything I possibly could to overprepare. I listened to many recordings of each piece to figure out all of the musical decisions I wanted to make. Obviously, I practiced my own interpretation many many times and worked out all of the kinks in my own playing. I recorded myself. I played it for many friends, neighbors, and anyone else who would listen. I also set up a reading session with a string quartet to go thru both pieces. We “rehearsed it” and then did a mini performance in my apartment which I recorded to simulate nerves and so that I could practice along with the accompaniment in the future. I even played the Torelli for a teacher several months ago when I first confirmed the performance so that I could plan my preparation accordingly. Since I booked that lesson well in advance to both the June solo and the July Japan performance, I was able to ask some questions and learn more about being a soloist in ways that I never expected. Thanks Chris Coletti!

2. Prepare for the worst (and the unknown)

In addition to my extensive musical preparation, I also did a lot of work physically and mentally leading up to the event that I believe truly helped make the experience even smoother. In the months leading up to the performances, I was juggling my own teaching schedule and regular NYC gig schedule so I didn’t always have a perfectly free day to spend all the time on the solos or even play them early in the day when I knew I wasn’t tired yet. Sometimes I would practice the solos at the end of a practice session or after a long day of teaching when I knew I felt and sounded terrible – because I had no way of knowing how my face would feel on the performance day.  It can be distracting and traumatizing to try and make music when everything physically feels terrible – so I tried to prepare myself for if that happened so that I would have the practice making quick changes and adjustments even if my face wasn’t cooperating.

For those times that my face feels tired and over worked – especially while playing – I felt so thankful to have lots of Robinson’s Remedy Lip Renew on hand. This stuff is seriously magic and made my lips feel instantly renewed and ready to go. Get some here and let me know if you want a sample!

As a pescetarian, I knew I wouldn’t have a hard time eating in Japan because of all of the amazing sushi – but often times we were given dinner in between the rehearsal and concert, and it wasn’t always possible to count on having a vegetarian option. Since I never knew if I would be able to grab dinner elsewhere, I brought lots of extra snacks with me that had lots of protein so I wouldn’t be hungry.

3. Be diligent with your schedule and ready to make some sacrifices.

I honestly had such an amazing time performing these solos in Japan and couldn’t have asked for a better experience. Even looking back, there isn’t too much I would have done differently. One thing that’s important to mention is that I knew in my preparation I was ready to make some sacrifices. There were times in NYC that I chose to stay home and practice the solo instead of socializing, doing something fun for myself, or even relaxing. Even once we were in Japan, it was often a hard balance between wanting to explore the cities and hang out with the other musicians and doing what I needed to do on the trumpet to be ready for the concerts. I feel very confident in how I balanced everything – but it’s important to mention that I definitely had to make some tough decisions.

Since I rarely take days off the horn unless I’m feeling hurt, I knew that on our travel days I would have to get up earlier in order to get some playing time in. I also brought the Eazy Bucket Silencer practice mute with me which is an amazing silent mute with minimal back pressure. I had quite a few airport warmup and technique practice sessions 🙂

4. Visualization

I’m a big fan of imagining how things will be before they happen and there’s nothing better to imagine than the walk on stage before a concerto. When I was practicing the pieces, I would think about the walk on stage, the look at the conductor, and all of that fun stuff before I started the piece. Even in the dress rehearsal, I tried to imagine that it was the performance and that there was an audience there. In my practicing, I knew what I was going to be wearing – I tried on the shoes – this is a big one! – and I felt physically comfortable. One thing I honestly didn’t think about ahead of time was hearing the applause and being done with the performance. I think when it happened I was honestly so surprised and appreciative. It was such a great moment.

5. Act as If

For me the idea of being an “international soloist” had this unbelievable amount of pressure to it. It seemed like that was for those other people and not something that I was doing or could do or would ever do. I’ve written a lot about soloing as I’ve come to do it more and honestly 2 years ago this wasn’t something I would have ever thought I would be doing. I remember talking to my teacher at Peabody – Joe Burgstaller – before an upcoming audition a few years ago about how I couldn’t believe that I was asked to audition and that I didn’t believe that I was that kind of player  – that I was younger, less experienced etc than the people in the ensemble. He gave me this great advice to act like I already had the job, that I was already their colleague, and that I was already on the same level as them – and I truly felt so relaxed in the audition room. So for me now being an international soloist, the label and this new position that I would be taking on was very intimidating but the only way to move past it was just to accept it and truly become that person that did that thing. There was no other option other than to act as if I had already done it and that I was a person that did those things. For me it was kind of like the “fake it til you make it” thing but I was also believing that I was that kind of musician and by believing it and all of the work that I put into it – I truly became that kind of musician and made my international solo debut.


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