Like other students in the district, Ben Shaposhnikov, a 17-year-old student at Sanford H. Calhoun High School, has been playing music since fourth grade. Now, after eight years of practicing the trumpet and finding inspiration — and mentorship — from other artists, Shaposhnikov plays at a level beyond his age. As a result, he will soon perform with the All-National Symphony Orchestra.
From the mo-ment he played his first note, Shaposhvikov re-called, he was committed. “My first sound wasn’t terrible,” he said, “but as soon as I played it, I knew I wanted to do better.”
That commitment paid off: He was promoted from the fourth-grade to the fifth-grade band, and eventually moved up early to play with the sixth-graders.
About 550 young musicians nationwide are selected for the All-National Symphony Or-chestra, said Ed Tumminelli, the director of Calhoun’s jazz and rock bands and wind ensemble. Of that group, fewer than 10 are trumpet players, which attests to Shaposhnikov’s mu-sical prowess, Tumminelli said.
“Ben is the hardest-working student I’ve ever had,” he said. “He’s self-motivated and self-driven. Music is always on his mind — I hear him humming melodies all the time. It’s very innate for him.”
Shaposhnikov is also Tumminelli’s first All-National student in 17 years of teaching, he added.
Ben will spend three nights in Florida in November for the three rehearsals the group has — a likely stressful and packed schedule, he said, remembering his time in the All-County band. Then he will practice the music on his own until the concert on Nov. 25, which Tumminelli will attend to show him his support.
For the past three years, Shaposhnikov has studied with the Juilliard pre-college program, which helps train up-and-coming instrumentalists in Saturday classes. Deciding to attend the program gave him a new level of independence.
“It was scary,” he said. He was unsure if his auditions were adequate to be accepted into the program. “I would get to see where I’m at, and if my talent is good enough.”
His commute to Manhattan was foreign to him, too. “I didn’t know how to use the trains,” he said.
The program helped him become a better trumpet player and musician, under the guide of Juilliard instructors such as Raymond Mase and students like Marshal Kearse, Shaposhnikov said. He heeded their technical music lessons, but would also just listen to them play, and “try to sound like them.”
He does the same with professional trumpeters such as Chris Botti — the first live performance Shaposhnikov ever saw — whose “Italia” was the first piece he learned to play.
Shaposhnikov’s energy infects his fellow players, according to his teachers. “He’s inspiring to others in terms of his discipline,” Tumminelli said. “He’s always willing to help younger players and rise to the challenge. And then other players can get better by playing next to a more experienced player.”
“I can always hear him playing,” said Sanford Sardo, Calhoun’s choral, concert choir and crescendo director. “He’s always playing, and he’s extremely dedicated.”
For Shaposhnikov, though, it’s about being in his element. “I’m a different person when I’m playing,” he said. “Normally I’m pretty quiet, but when I’m playing I feel like I can express myself.”
During the school’s Dec. 19 winter concert, he will have an eight-minute trumpet solo.
“I’ve never done a concert where I featured one of the students like this,” Tumminelli said. “I’m looking forward to seeing him perform as a professional one day. If anyone I’ve met can get to that level, it’s him.”