Tessa – Composing Our Lives with FPA and Curtis Institute

First Person Arts worked with exceptionally gifted young musicians from the Curtis Institute of Music to help them shape and perform personal stories followed by specially selected musical scores relating to each tale. Featuring Tessa Ellis, trumpet; Vartan Gabriellian, bass-baritone; Linzi Pan, piano; Neil Rao, percussion; Ashley Robillard, soprano; Sarah Tako, bassoon; and Yibing Wang, percussion. More info at firstpersonarts.org.

If you need to talk i’m available although that’s a well-intentioned text message it can be a little unnerving when you’re not expecting to get it especially when it’s the end of summer vacation it’s the middle of the afternoon and that text is coming from your trumpet teacher at school now we have a group text like between our studio and our teacher so it wasn’t

That weird but i just check to see who the message was sent to to confirm that like i had not like seriously messed up forgotten be somewhere i don’t know and i looked and i wasn’t surprised to see the names of the other trumpet players at school until i realized that alex greene’s name was missing now let me back up and for those of you who don’t know alex let

Me tell you a little bit about him so picture with me a guy who’s like i don’t know five six on a really good day like really really skinny i think like bird arms and legs that haha made to look only smaller because of this like huge hyper-masculine like thick bushy brown beard okay alex always like dressed really nicely which was weird because he was a total goof

All the time and like until he talked you could take him seriously and then as soon as he open his mouth which was all the time like it was over alex was the guy who swore in front of the children at the library concert he was the guy who not only flirted with the cute actress at the coffee shop but secured a first second and third date with this girl he had a

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Lot like we all have lockers at school on the second floor like middle of the school okay where everyone is in and out all the time and he kept a couple changes of clothes in his locker like his concert clothes whatever like whatever he felt like wearing that day i don’t know and he would just change in the hallway like at any given moment it could be 2 p.m. on a

Tuesday and you’d walk by and there would be alex in his boxers like yo chester what’s up like absolutely no regard for what was cyprian and what wasn’t ever alex was my drinking buddy he was my relationship therapist which says a lot about how often i make bad choices and he was the life of every single party he could have a serious side though when he needed

To i remember one night in particular this is embarrassing but we were at mcglynn cheese sorry oh and i had had a particularly awful day on the trumpet like okay i consider myself a realist but i think a lot of my friends might put me in the past miss category i don’t know what had happened it was probably some combination of i had a bad lesson i had an audition

Coming up like i don’t know i didn’t have a good warm-up that day and i had just decided that i was the worst trumpet player on the face of the planet i should just quit why am i here what am i doing with my life you know spiraling out of control for probably 20 minutes passed alex’s point of patience because he finally got this really uncharacteristically serious

Look on his face and it scared me a little bit because i don’t think i had ever seen this look in his eyes before and he stares at me for 30 seconds and then finally he comes out with tessa you need to commit to yourself i was like what are you talking about he says tessa like it’s really obvious to everybody else in your life that you’re gonna be a trumpet player

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Like look at all the decisions you’ve made in your life look at where you are now like you’re gonna do this why is it a question for you and nobody else so stop it commit to yourself commit to the fact that you are going to make it and then don’t leave yourself any other options now coming from alex that meant a lot because he certainly had that kind of commitment

In his own life which i personally think is best summed up in the story when he may be a little bit inebriated spontaneously went to mu tattoo and walked out with a bow tie on his bicep now we gave alex so much because not only was it a bowtie tattoo it was his first and only tattoo and it was a bad tattoo it’s badly badly done as you would expect from like moo

Tattoo midnight on a tuesday but when alex progres jingly shared the story of why he got the tattoo we we had to cut him a little bit of slack because that his explanation was i’m going to be a principal trumpet player in a major orchestra someday a tuxedo is going to be my job uniform and just in case i ever forget a bow tie which is something he did all the time

I’ll always have a spare so i think it’s become pretty clear by now that even though alex and i only knew each other for a year he was a very very dear friend of mine and that’s why when i got this text from my teacher and noticed that alex’s name was missing i immediately just felt in my bones that something was really really terribly wrong i i can feel it right

Now thinking about it i can feel my stomach climbing into my throat and you know that that just sinking cloud that takes over you when you know that you’re about to find out something you really really don’t want to and sure enough seconds later my phone rings and it’s a friend from school calling to tell me that she had just found out that the day before alex

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Had died alex and his best friend ben were on their way back from the aspen summer music festival where they’d played in a brass quintet together all summer we’ll never know exactly what happened but alex had only gotten about an hour of sleep the night before so the best guess is that he fell asleep at the wheel their car drifted into the other lane there was

An oncoming truck that couldn’t swerve out of the way in time and alex and ben were both killed immediately now alex had a ton of impact on all of us during his life and while we were robbed of all the impact he would have continued to make on us i think i can speak for everyone who knew alex when i say that in learning to cope with losing him we’ve all found

Different ways of keeping him with us actually it is memorial service his dad asked us to think of the best parts of alex the things about him that impacted us the most deeply and find ways to carry those with us throughout our lives and that is how i ended up with my own bowtie tattoo on my bicep now i’m not blessed with the same like single-minded clarity of

Purpose that alex was maybe hopefully i’ll find myself playing principal trumpet a major orchestra somewhere someday maybe i’m gonna find some other musical path that makes more sense for me but i can tell you that i am committed to figuring it out and i am going to make it and i am not going to leave myself any other options so with that said i would like to play

For you the second movement of the burma tropic and certo which was alex’s favorite thing to play you

Transcribed from video
Tessa – Composing Our Lives with FPA and Curtis Institute By First Person Arts