From Beginner to Beyoncé

Meet Denis Wick Artist, Lessie Vonner

Lessie6

Why did you start playing the trumpet/pursuing music?

Honestly, I first wanted to play trumpet because back in 3rd grade, I read E.B. White's Trumpet of the Swan for a reading assignment (I HIGHLY suggest everyone to give it a quick read). I was so moved and impressed by the story, I wanted to play the same instrument from the book. Unfortunately, the school system I grew up in didn’t allow kids to play brass instruments until 6th grade, so I had to wait three years to get my wish. But once I started, it was a wrap!

Fortunately, I had a supportive community that encouraged my love for the instrument, so by the time I was accepted into the renowned Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, the possibility of a life in music never seemed out of reach.

Who were your "encouragers" that helped you get to where you are?

First off, I would say my mother is my biggest encourager. While the life of a musician is one she’s never been familiar with (I am the first professional musician in my family, to our knowledge), she has always supported my passion, and continues to support me in my path. To be quite honest, I owe anything I am to strong women like my mother. At every step of my journey, it has been because of the support of many likeminded sisters in the industry who continue to support other women. Like Kat Rodriguez – saxophonist who was a part of Beyoncé's original all-female band - who took me under her wing when I was relatively new on the scene and introduced me to the R&B/Pop industry as well as introduced me to the spaces and people who could take career to the next level. She also taught and encouraged me to learn necessary skills needed to be ready for the opportunities that would come my way as a female horn player, like being comfortable with your body to be able to move and dance while playing or the at-the-time daunting task of performing in heels. Or, to follow Denis Wick Artist, Arnetta Johnson, who from day one has always been an ally in the industry. It was because her recommendation that I had the opportunity to be brought into the Beyoncé camp (that opportunity being the Tidal 10X15 Show back in 2016).

 "And I’m still learning - my process and path is constantly changing and adapting to whatever situation I find myself in. I believe that because of this, I have gotten to the point I’m at now."

What was a major hurdle you had to leap to get to the career you wanted?

A major hurdle I had to come over in my career was realizing that everyone’s process isn’t your process. Coming up through the music education system (both in school and on the scene), a lot of people tried to tell me what exactly I needed to do to be a “successful” musician. I admit that it was often confusing to figure out whose advice to listen to, and at times, I found myself disheartened when the taken advice didn’t yield the same results for me as it had for others.

While you should listen to advice given by people who’ve come ahead of you, you also have to take into consideration that their path won’t be your path. People come from different backgrounds, circumstances, educations, school of thoughts, generations, opinions/tastes, genders, etc., and this all plays into the development of a person's process and/or path. Eventually, I had to start trusting myself that I had learned enough (or had the resource) to help me achieve the goals I wanted for my career. My process hasn’t looked the same as others in the industry, but I now feel confident that I am om the right path because I’m doing what I feel is right for me to reach my goals. And I’m still learning - my process and path is constantly changing and adapting to whatever situation I find myself in. I believe that because of this, I have gotten to the point I’m at now.

And if being a part of a camp as big as Beyoncé's has taught me anything, everybody for sure has a different process. But all of our individual, vastly different paths have led us to be in that space.

What DW mouthpiece are you playing on and how has it helped you on tour with Beyonce?

I am playing on a Denis Wick Classic 1 ¼ c mouthpiece. I’m a fan of a deep, dark tone on the horn, and the DW mouthpiece works perfectly with the copper lead pipe on my B.A.C. custom trumpet. On the Beyoncé gig, I need a sound that cuts for my part to be clear over all the extra stage sound and fit in with the rest of the horn section. My DW mouthpiece helps me achieve this. 

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