By Alyssa Pry
What does it take to call yourself a professional musician? Is it attending Juilliard? Is it hearing yourself on the radio, or playing with a professional orchestra? Is it becoming a performer with a world-renowned ensemble?
Trumpet player Chris Coletti has checked all of those boxes, but his moment came much sooner.
“As soon as I was paid, the day I deposited a check for playing music, I called myself a professional,” Coletti joked. “I was probably 14 years old.”
Coletti will be performing Anthony Barfield’s North Star with Brooklyn Wind Symphony at this Sunday’s MMC Modern Wind Symphony Concert. He may have been joking about that check, but Coletti takes his career seriously, and is quick to point out just how lucky he feels to do what he loves each day.
“It’s not a right that you become successful with a music career,” Coletti said. “Even if you’re the best, or you’ve worked the hardest, there’s so much luck involved, there’s a lot of chance, a lot of timing.”
And making it as a professional musician is not a straight shot to the top.
“There’s really no path. You have to make your own path and that’s good news and bad news,” he said. “Obviously that’s really hard, but good news in the sense that if [you’re] not able to fit into a box or don’t follow a path of someone else if that’s not your natural inclination, you would be able to succeed.”
Despite the factors and challenges, Coletti has built an exciting professional career. He is a trumpet player with the Canadian Brass, and spends much of his year touring with the world-renowned quintet. But even joining the famed group strayed from the traditional musical path.
“The audition was not what most people would expect. It’s not an open audition. It’s really more like the way a band would find each other, because personality and chemistry is so essential,” he said.
Coletti met a former trumpet player while he was a student at Juilliard, and was asked to play on a recording. After meeting and performing together, Coletti realized what was really going on.
“We hung out, we played duets as trumpet players do,” Coletti joked. “And what I came to know later was that us playing together, it was almost like a secret audition,” he said. “The [Canadian Brass] were looking for someone and they weren’t doing it the way they had in the past. They wanted their trumpet player to choose his partner. And that’s the way he chose to do it.”
Playing professionally has opened doors to many new experiences for Coletti, and performing with the Brooklyn Wind Symphony is an opportunity to merge many of his worlds. He and composer Anthony Barfield attended Juilliard together, and performing side by side with New York Philharmonic principal trombonist Joe Alessi is something Coletti is especially excited for.
“It’s a real thrill; it’s a real thrill to play Anthony’s piece and it’s a real thrill to play with someone I’ve idolized my entire life - Joe Alessi is one of the greatest brass musicians ever to live. So it’s an incredible opportunity for me,” he said.
"I think there’s always this feeling of self doubt. Am I really the real thing? Am I faking it?"
Committing to a career as a professional musician requires immense skill and confidence, both of which Coletti has in spades. But he said even he had his doubts about whether he could truly make it.
“I think it’s possible that everyone goes through this, but I think there’s always this feeling of self doubt. Am I really the real thing? Am I faking it? Does everybody just think I’m ready but I’m really not?” Coletti said.
But surpassing the self-doubt has meant Colletti has found his calling. And he’s stayed true to a realization he had in high school that he’s made his reality every day.
“I auditioned for Laguardia School of Music and Art in Manhattan and that’s where I went, and that was really the moment I felt like I was around “my people” for the first time in my life,” Coletti said. “I really felt like everyone was really dedicated to whatever their art was. And I decided these were the kind of people I want to be surrounded with for my life.”