A Note-Worthy Journey


Ruisong Lan

Sophia Wotman was in third grade when she fell in love with the trumpet for the first time. An instrument coordinator had just given her the opportunity to learn an instrument, and Wotman knew she was only interested in playing trombone or trumpet. As the deadline for choosing an instrument approached, she could not decide between the two. “I finally made my decision when my mom showed me this video of Dizzy Gillespie playing the trumpet,” said Wotman. “I thought the way he played was really cool, and decided that I wanted to do what he was doing.” From that one video, Wotman’s life as a trumpet player began.

Wotman is very dedicated to her instrument. For the past nine years, Wotman has practiced the trumpet for at least an hour and a half daily. Wotman notes that one of her biggest struggles with playing the trumpet was the amount of facial muscles required;  the only way to overcome this struggle is to play constantly. “It’s like training for a marathon,” said Wotman. “If you take a break for even just one week, you get set back very quickly.”       

Though this dedication is time-consuming, Wotman views it as one of her greatest joys. Playing the trumpet is one of the few ways for her to let loose and convey her emotions. “It really helps me relax and allows for me to gain an introspection,” said Wotman.

Throughout her life as a trumpet player, Wotman has participated in various musical performances. Aside from school concerts, Wotman has also participated in numerous events outside of Great Neck South High School, such as All County and The New York State Band Directors’ Association (NYSBDA). 

Of these experiences, she is proudest of being invited to take a master class with trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. Performing Arts Department Chairperson Mr. Michael Schwartz recognized Wotman’s talent as a trumpet player and wrote her a letter of recommendation for the master class. After learning that Wotman was selected, Mr. Schwartz immediately emailed her the good news. “It was Halloween, and I was in the cafeteria scrolling through emails,” said Wotman. “When I saw his email, I just froze. It was one of those moments where I was still processing what just happened and wondering ‘Is this for real?’”

On November 9, Wotman took a train to Montclair State University in New Jersey to attend the master class. When Wotman arrived, she was sent to a practice room to wait for Marsalis. Around noon, Marsalis finally arrived, and Wotman froze as she saw him approaching. “He placed his hand on my shoulder and I managed to squeak out, ‘Hi, I’m Sophia,’” Wotman said. “He then took a look at my music piece for a solid 5 minutes before he was called to go backstage. While he was there, he would constantly look back towards me, and I kept panicking and thinking to myself ‘I can’t mess this up, I’m playing for Wynton Marsalis.’”

The master class was held in an auditorium. Participants took turns performing a solo of their choice in front of Marsalis and a live audience. After each solo, Marsalis provided commentary about each participant’s performance and played the participants’ pieces to show how he interpreted the music. Though Wotman was anxious initially, she managed to calm herself down when it was her turn to play. “It went better than I expected,” Wotman said. “My piece went smoothly, and he really provided a lot of valuable feedback.”

Today, Wotman cannot imagine where she would be without trumpet. Through music, Wotman has become more reflective, found a new voice, and learned the value of commitment. While she’s not sure if she will turn it into a career or simply keep it as a hobby, she knows playing trumpet will always remain a part of her life in the future. “Being a trumpet player is something I can never let go of,” said Wotman. “It has, and will always continue to shape who I am.”