Alumni Close-Up: Interview with Ed Hong, M.A. in trumpet. Interviewed in September of 2013 by Professor Jeffrey Agrell.
Tell us a bit about your background.
Ed Hong: I grew up in central Wisconsin. I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, studying with Dr. John Aley. I was fortunate to attend numerous music festivals both before and during my undergraduate studies. My studies with Kevin Cobb and Barbara Butler have been very influential to both my performing and teaching careers. Before attending UI, I worked as a freelance musician in the Madison/Milwaukee area for three years.
What were your early hopes and dreams in music?
My dream throughout my high school, undergraduate, and graduate studies was to perform in a major symphony orchestra. As the orchestral career field dwindled, I set my sights on pursuing a position in a premiere military band in Washington D.C.
What have you been up to since leaving Iowa?
I joined the Copper Street Brass Quintet in Minneapolis, MN. The CSBQ is a full-time, non-profit chamber ensemble performing throughout Minnesota, Montana, and North and South Dakota. I was fortunate to record a classical album with CSBQ, performing new arrangements of piano and orchestral works. A highlight on that recording is Tim Bradley’s (CSBQ hornist) arrangement of Brahms’ Variations on the Theme by Haydn, Op. 56.
What was the most important thing you learned during your time at UI?
Play for everyone. Study with everyone. Record everything. I was fortunate to be so close to the faculty as a member of the UI Faculty Brass Quintet. Working closely with these four individuals – who were much wiser than me – allowed for intellectual and personal growth. I felt so lucky to be able to request an impromptu mock audition at the end of a quintet rehearsal or during down time while out on the road during a tour.
What are some of the important things you’ve learned since leaving UI?
Chamber music is the best.
What changes have you made since you graduated?
None. Well, now I ride a bike with brakes. I also thought I would be able to get more sleep after graduating. That’s definitely not true.
What are you doing now?
I am currently teaching as an adjunct instructor at the University of Wisconsin – Whitewater. I have 12 wonderful students and I am thoroughly enjoying my work with such bright individuals, pursuing performance and education degrees during such an exciting time of their lives. I am also performing with the faculty brass quintet as well as numerous local orchestras.
Hopes and dreams for the future?
Nothing too specific. The life of a freelance musician forces you to perform in any solo or ensemble setting, teach a wide variety of students, and work in both well organized and chaotic situations. While I don’t want to be a freelancer for life, I currently enjoy the variety of work. I have lost some interest in pursuing an orchestral position after spending many years on the audition circuit. I’ve realized that I would much rather take large risks to make beautiful, soul-fulfilling music with the danger of falling flat on my face, instead of sitting in the back of an orchestra and playing very accurately to a baton. I don’t mean to belittle orchestral musicians and their craft. Many of them are amazing musicians. But after experiencing the “chills” of performing, I seek that every time I walk on stage. I find that chamber music is the best way to fulfill that craving.
If you could tell your younger (undergrad) self one piece of advice, what would it be?
“Trust the approach, the hard work and practice will prove itself later.” And, “It’s ok to drink cheap beer.”