NOI Alumni Spotlight: Alec Blazek, Nashville Symphony

For nearly 30 years, the National Orchestral Institute + Festival has been a training ground for orchestral musicians on the precipice of their professional careers. NOI alumni occupy positions in nearly every major American orchestra as well as numerous positions in premiere service bands. Many others are teachers, college professors and arts administrators.

In this series, we connect with alumni about how their NOI experience helped shape their careers. Alec Blazek, a 2016 NOI alumnus and current trumpet player in the Nashville Symphony, spoke with us about practicing smarter, building the orchestra of the future, and why classical music matters.

How did your experiences at NOI help prepare you for your first year playing with the Nashville Symphony?

At NOI, some of the greatest and most important moments for me were in the masterclasses and sectionals, where we worked with experienced, world-class faculty that offered advanced training for the real world. Their advice included everything from the nuances of section playing, how to prepare for week after week of difficult programs, personal relationships with people in the orchestra, and how to keep growing once you're in the chair.

NOI is committed to building the orchestra of the future. How is the Nashville Symphony putting this into practice?

Just taking a quick glance at the Nashville Symphony's season this year, it's easy to see how many different ways the orchestra is working to build a wide audience base. Aside from the Classical Series, the NSO collaborates with many big-name popular artists, many of which call Nashville home. There are also dozens of concerts tailored specifically for younger audiences, where the orchestra performs in schools around the area. Many American orchestras are also finding success by performing movie soundtracks along with their respective films, and the Nashville Symphony is one of them, scheduling half a dozen film score concerts, some of which are already sold out. The NSO prides itself in offering an immense variety of shows, and the audiences have demonstrated an impressive appreciation for that variety.

Tell us about a great experience you've had thus far with your new orchestra.

There have already been many stellar moments with the orchestra. The finale to Brahms' 2nd Symphony has been one of the most uplifting and inspirational experiences of my life, with the resounding final D major chords filling the hall with a radiant joyousness that can't be explained in words.

Now that you're finished with school, what is your preparation routine like? 

In many ways, it has not changed significantly. I still spend most of my focus on fundamentals, continually trying to improve the most basic elements of my playing in order to transfer them to the repertoire. However, in lieu the traditional excerpts, etudes, and solos that define much of our training in school, I am constantly looking ahead to the demands of upcoming programs. It has been a learning experience, because the sheer volume of repertoire forces you to practice smarter, to cover what is necessary without spending too much time on any one thing. Recordings are an invaluable resource in this regard, and I am almost always listening to what's coming up on the schedule.

Why does classical music matter? 

Like art, literature and philosophy, music is a part of our heritage and culture as a species. Music is a way of defining and preserving our lives and the lives of our ancestors, both our thoughts and emotions, and classical music offers up one of the most thoughtful, introspective windows into that history.