King Trumpet Heads to Carnegie Hall
By Kim Underwood
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools
JANUARY 9, 2019 – Come February, Isaac Cooper will be heading to New York to play his trumpet with gifted high school musicians from all over the world.
Cooper, who is a senior at Reynolds High, will be participating in the Honors Performance Series at Carnegie Hall.
“This is an all-world honors band,” said Band Director Johnathan Hamiel, who will be going as the chaperone.
South Korea, China, Canada, and Mexico are among the countries that will be represented, Hamiel said.
“I’m excited to be a part of this group,” Cooper said. “I have never played with such a diverse group of people before.”
In addition to playing with everyone, Cooper is looking forward to getting to know them as people and getting glimpses into their perspectives on the world and on life.
Cooper will be in New York from Feb. 7 to 11. The students will rehearse together and work with notable conductors for several days before a public performance in Carnegie Hall on Feb. 10.
Hamiel knows that Cooper will acquit himself extremely well.
“He is one of the best students I have ever had. Whatever, he sets his mind to, he will achieve” Hamiel said.
“He is King Trumpet.”
As great as Cooper is as a player, Hamiel admires him as a person even more.
“He is the most humble person,” Hamiel said.
Cooper treats everyone well, Hamiel said, and he works hard to help others, in some cases staying after school to work with a student he is helping.
Cooper spends much of his day at the Career Center, where he takes such Advanced Placement subjects as AP Physics, AP Literature and Composition, and AP European History. Before he arrived at Reynolds from the Career Center on Monday afternoon, several fellow band members took a moment to say how much they appreciate him as a person.
“He is a very nice and humble person,” said sophomore Alston Harris, who is a percussionist.
He sets an example for others by always working to be the best he can be, Harris said. “He is a cool guy.”
Sophomore Alex Green, who plays trumpet, said he agreed with everything Harris said and added that he appreciates how supportive Cooper is.
“If I ever need help, I can turn to him,” Green said. “He is always going to lend a helping hand.”
Senior Jasmyn Tiller, who is a percussionist, credits Cooper with getting her interested in playing in the band. After they got to know each other in math class, she would see him at performances and found herself thinking that participating in band would be a lot of fun.
And he’s really helpful with other musicians, she said.
In telling his story, Cooper noted more than once the role that happenstance has played in his life. One example was how he came to play the trumpet.
When he was in middle school at The Downtown School, he and his parents – Sam and Ruth – started talking about him learning to play an instrument.
“I had in mind to play the saxophone,” Cooper said.
When they began looking for a teacher, though, they didn’t find one right away. At The Downtown School, all parents volunteer. One day, his mother was volunteering with fellow parent, Brian Roberts, who plays the trumpet.
Roberts said he couldn’t help with the saxophone but he could teach him to play the trumpet. Ruth Cooper bought one on eBay, and Roberts began working with him.
Cooper didn’t take to the instrument right away.
“At first, it was frustrating because it wasn’t clicking,” he said.
But, once he found his groove, he enjoyed playing the trumpet. He arrived at Reynolds with no experience playing in a musical group.
After he started playing with the Reynolds symphonic band, he decided he wanted to try out for the All- County Orchestra. He was not chosen his freshman year. His response was to work even harder so that he would be better prepared to audition for All-County as a sophomore.
He continued working over the summer – sometimes practicing his music for three hours a day. Hamiel came to Reynolds when Cooper was a sophomore, and Cooper began working with him. Cooper praised Hamiel for his support. He also appreciated the support of an older student - Caleb Kritchevsky, who graduated from Reynolds in 2016 and now goes to Wake Forest University.
“He helped me a lot,” Cooper said. “He took me under his wing and helped me figure out, ‘How do you handle an audition?’”
His sophomore year, Cooper did indeed make All-County and, with stops along the way at All-District and All-State, he has since worked his way up to national recognition. Along the way, he came to participate in pretty much every musical ensemble at Reynolds that calls for a trumpet – concert band, orchestra, jazz band, marching band – as well as with musical groups in the community, such as Wachovia Winds.
This past summer, Cooper attended Governor’s School of North Carolina, a summer program for gifted high school students. It was there that he put together his audition tape for the Carnegie Hall program. After his roommate headed out one day, he locked the door and stuck with it until he had it right.
Cooper learned that he had been accepted on Halloween. Although everything about the message was as it should be, the part of himself that doubts himself wondered whether it could be a Halloween prank.
Asked whether his goals as a musician go beyond Carnegie Hall, Cooper said that, in fact, he reached his goal as a musician a while back.
“My top, honestly, was All-County,” he said.
Everything since has been both a surprise and a bonus.
He is excited for his parents. They have been incredibly supportive over the years, he said, and seeing him perform in Carnegie Hall will be a little reward for all they have done.
Cooper’s mother is from Long Island, and they still have family up there. So he has spent a fair amount of time in New York over the years.
His father, who is the youngest of 10 children, is from South Carolina. He came to Winston-Salem to attend Winston-Salem State University. While he was there, he began working for United Airlines at Piedmont Triad International Airport and for a real-estate company that an older brother had established.
These days, his mother is a behavioral health nurse with Novant. She also has a master’s degree in art, and her path to Winston-Salem included a stop at Appalachian State University, where she taught art. She met his father when she was looking for a house in Winston-Salem.
“My dad was the realtor,” Cooper said.
Cooper has an older brother, Aaron, who graduated from Reynolds and now attends Brown University.
Music is just one of Cooper’s serious interests.
When he came to Reynolds as a freshman, he signed up for journalism as an elective. He discovered that he enjoyed all aspects of it.
“I like to write, and I like to talk to people,” he said.
As the design editor for the school’s newspaper, he also works to make sure the paper looks good.
For him, music and journalism are both crafts that he can work on honing and both are ways to spend time with people he enjoys.
At the moment, though, neither tops his list of possible careers. Through his Environmental Studies class and through reading on his own about the environment, he has gotten a sense of how the environment connects to so many aspects of the world, and he is considering a career that would enable him to nurture the environment.
“I would like to have some influence,” he said.
He wants to find ways to continue to express himself through writing, and, by no means, does he plan ever to set aside his trumpet.
“I like to play good music with good people,” he said. “I enjoy playing music for the camaraderie.”