Though this is the first year for Leonard Bopp ’19 at the College, the Albany native is no stranger to the beauty and charm of the Berkshires. The talented freshman trumpet player spent two summers in high school studying and playing at Boston University’s Tanglewood Institute in Lenox, Mass. Despite the myriad of wonderful musical opportunities Bopp has enjoyed (and despite his emerging musical career), he thus far counts the evening he performed Prokofiev’s Fifth Symphony at Tanglewood’s Ozawa Hall the greatest performing experience of his life. “I had been going to concerts at Tanglewood since I was a little kid,” Bopp explained. “It was almost surreal to be studying there. It had always been the epitome of music.”
Bopp began his trumpet career in fourth grade, when all of the students at his public elementary school chose an instrument to play in the school band or orchestra. By the eighth grade, playing the trumpet had transitioned from being a hobby to a major time commitment. “There was a point in eighth grade where I was playing lacrosse and trying to do trumpet, and then I got into an ensemble in the local youth orchestra organization,” Bopp said. “It was like, I’m going to have to choose what to spend my time on, and the choice was pretty obvious to me that I was going to do trumpet.”
At the end of his freshman year of high school, Bopp went on tour in China and South Korea with the Empire State Youth Orchestra. The Orchestra played at concert halls in Beijing and Shanghai before playing at the World Expo in South Korea. The World Expo was held in a quaint but bustling town on the coast of South Korea. Nearby, just off the coast, was Sorok Island, home to those exiled during the Japanese occupation because of their leprosy. When the Youth Orchestra performed for the residents of the island, it was the first time that they had ever heard a full orchestra. “That was really moving because I’d always heard, ‘OK, music can change lives, it’s emotional,’ but that was the first time I actually saw people crying when they heard music,” Bopp said. The last concert of the trip was a benefit concert in Seoul to raise money to build a memorial museum on the island. “To know that I was a part of that … I came back from the trip with a very new understanding of what music could really be.”
When he returned from the trip, Bopp ramped up his commitment to the trumpet. He became the principal trumpet of his Youth Orchestra before attending the National Trumpet Competition and ranking as a semi-finalist. He then attended the Juilliard School’s Pre-College Division program for a year, riding the train from Albany to New York City and back every Saturday to study. Bopp credits Juilliard Pre-College as really shaping his development as a performer. “It was also the first time I was thrown into some pretty regular competition,” he said, “in the sense that there was a lot of subtle competition constantly throughout the halls.” Bopp said it was all worth it, however, for getting to meet his trumpet teacher: Raymond Mase, the Chair of the Brass Department at the Juilliard School as well as the principal trumpet of the New York City Ballet Orchestra. “He was so important in bringing me to the next level of trumpet-playing,” Bopp said.
At the College, Bopp is in the Berkshire Symphony and was involved in the I/O Festival of New Music at the beginning of Winter Study. This semester, he will be involved in a new brass quintet starting on campus. He plans to pursue a career in trumpet performance or in orchestral conducting, a skill he was first introduced to at Juilliard but has continued with Artist in Residence in Orchestral and Instrumental Activities, Lecturer in Music and the director of the Berkshire Symphony Ronald Feldman. During the I/O Festival, he performed a solo but also conducted “Come Down,” a piece composed by Scott Daniel ’17.
Bopp’s favorite music to perform is contemporary music. “I find it very exciting to be working with music that’s cutting-edge and new.” Bopp is particularly intrigued by 20th-century music from the post-war era, since it was such a politically unstable time – those dynamics are “reflected in the music when you look closely at it,” Bopp said. Overall, however, Bopp would have to pick Beethoven as his single favorite composer.
Besides playing, Bopp likes to look at the intersections of music and the humanities and hopes that music can gradually become more accessible to everyone. “I think there’s a lot of elitism in the music world,” he said. “The fundamental thing about art and music to me is that if you are a living, breathing human, you have everything you need to experience them.” Try it – head to the recital for the Berkshire Symphony Student Soloist Competition on Feb. 14 and listen to Bopp for yourself.