Talent on a Smaller Scale
4-Year-Old Trumpet Prodigy Holds His Own in Fairfax Camp’s Symphony
By Maria Glod
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 23, 2005; Page B01
The young musicians warmed up for their afternoon concert yesterday, tapping their feet to keep the rhythm of “The Chimes of Liberty” march. But one trumpeter’s toes dangled a foot from the floor.
At age 4, Geoffrey Gallante, by far the youngest member of the Franklin Band & Orchestra Camp, could barely peer over the top of his music stand to see the conductor. The middle-schoolers who made up the rest of the band helped him follow his part—gesturing when it was time for the trumpets to join in. And, when he wasn’t making music, he stuck out his tongue, sucked on his finger and fiddled with the toy walkie-talkie he brought along.
Geoffrey Gallante, 4, plays with children three times his age in the Franklin Band & Orchestra Camp. He first picked up a trumpet eight months ago. (By Katherine Frey For The Washington Post)
But band director Lawrence H. Walker Jr., who has been running the camp for 17 years at Fairfax County’s Franklin Middle School, said Geoffrey’s got ears and ability like he has never seen. Yesterday, the blond boy who is a bit shorter than a trombone performed alongside 12- and 13-year-olds as part of the camp’s most advanced group, the symphonic band.
“Watch him,” Walker said. “This is a Wynton Marsalis. This is a young Mozart. This is how your music greats got started.”
Geoffrey, who also likes trucks, fire engines and swimming, describes his attraction to the horn this way: “It sounds funny.”
For the past four weeks, Geoffrey, who starts kindergarten in September, joined about 480 children from Fairfax and Loudoun counties from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. each day to sharpen their musical skills and play in a band. The students were split into four levels: beginner, cadet, concert and symphonic.
Geoffrey’s mother, Beth Bingham, 46, said the root of her son’s fascination with music isn’t completely clear. She played trumpet and flute as a child, and his brother plays guitar. Her husband, David Gallante, 50, used to be a ballroom dancer, and she suspects that’s where Geoffrey inherited his sense of rhythm.
It was around Thanksgiving last year when Geoffrey, whose family lives in the Alexandria section of Fairfax, was visiting his grandmother, Holley Simmons, in New Jersey and noticed a trumpet on the table. Simmons had decided to take up the instrument. “He just picked it up and started blowing in it,” Simmons said. “I’ll never forget how he started to laugh; he just giggled.”
Geoffrey paraded around the kitchen table blowing the trumpet. For the next few weeks, he dragged the instrument around, trying to imitate music he heard on the radio.
Gallante said he finally decided Geoffrey might enjoy lessons and started calling trumpet instructors. They told him his son was too young, that formal lessons would destroy his love of music and even hurt his teeth.
But after a dentist gave the go-ahead, a private teacher agreed to see Geoffrey. Not every note Geoffrey plays is perfect, and he has to work his young lungs to belt out the notes, but Walker said he is playing material that would challenge an eighth-grader.
Walker, who said his youngest campers are usually about 8 years old, recalled the phone call he received from Gallante a few weeks ago.
“I thought it was a joke. I thought it was an overzealous parent,” Walker said.
“When I first saw him . . . I still thought it was a joke,” Walker said. Then the little boy standing in the hallway lifted the trumpet to his lips and belted a few scales and the melody to “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” Geoffrey was in.
Between rehearsals yesterday, Geoffrey bounded around on all fours, crawled under a table and sipped from a juice box his mother had brought him. His fellow musicians said he often imitated a lion and, on occasion, gently bit other people’s fingers. During some days of camp, the afternoon session would get to be a little too much, and Geoffrey took to running up and down the hallways.
But the older kids welcomed Geoffrey and took on the roles of proud older brothers and sisters, playing hide-and-seek and tag with him after camp ended.
“When he walked in, I though it was like a mistake, but when he started playing, he was really good,” said Sandy Tanloet, 13, a French horn player.
For yesterday’s performance, Geoffrey, who plays a “pocket trumpet,” a smaller version of the instrument that’s easier for small hands to handle, perched on a tall chair so he could see over the woodwinds.
“I’ve taught a lot of students over 30 years,” said Dave Detwiler, the camp’s trumpet teacher and a substitute trumpeter for the National Symphony Orchestra. “And I started looking on the side of the horn to see if there was a button he was pressing to make that horn play.”
I bet he’s crap.
You Child Hater You! Just listen to you people! One of you has his teeth falling out or otherwise severely damaged, the other has him sounding like crap. Good grief. You people sure don’t mince words! No special privileges for even the youngest subjet, eh? Brutal!
I, for one, am glad to know there’s an aspiring tyke though I do wonder about his teeth. Thought the article was cute and like that it seems as if the parents are letting the child’s natural interest guide his participation.
Be nice you people! Be nice!
Let’s just hope he stays with it because he loves it. You’d hate to see a kid with the talent to be called a “prodigy” get turned off by music because his parents or someone elese pushed him into it.
only kidding. it’s an amazing little story. if it’s true. I knew a ten year old kid that could not play below a high c, it was weird cos he could play tunes!
Anwya, trumpet is tuff so good luck to little git
That’s my little brother and he’s AWESOME. And, no one forces him to do this. He does this on his own will. It’s called passion. He’s playing December 15th at Gettysburg College with the Washington Symphonic Brass for anyone who is interested! Contact the school for directions!
In defense of your little brother, I like it! I am sure he is quite good. In posting the article I only meant to show how early such passions develop. Parents should listen to their children. I am always amazed how some of them almost emerge from the womb doing what it is God intended for them to do!!
Keep him going. Some people are so insensitive!
Thanks for your good thoughts! My family and I agree that this is Geoff’s calling. He is a talented and determined child who has been blessed! We have seeked medical advice from a pediatric dentist and are taking appropriate precautions to care for his teeth. He LOVES to practice, play for people and talk about his trumpet playing. He met with Wynton Marsalis last month for a private playing, it was pretty amazing. CBS also taped him in August but it has failed to air due to Katrina stories. Geoff is just a lucky boy who has a caring enough family to help him pursue his trumpet interests. For anyone who thinks we are being over-acheivers, he is just a regular kid who likes cars, dinosaurs, batman and spongebob just like any other 5 yr. old. He just has an amazing ability to play the trumpet too!
I wasn’t actually there when he met with Wynton, but my dad was. We have it on tape too. They played “Amazing Grace” together. I think Wynton got a kick out of him. He’s a riot, that boy.
Can we see the video on this site?? We are al very truly Wynton fans and would love to see him perform with your “little guy” Luigi is expert at this technology thing. He could help you to show it for us fans!!!
I think I’m gonna be sick.
It’s the wine…really, it’s the whine.
Now you know, I’m an old soul but women’s lib was a really important time in our nation’s history…we made such progress…or so I thought…we regress/I digress (???) And here I am on a tangent…???
Forgive me, it’s the wine….
What wine are you on JG??
Ha! Ha! Ha!
I must, I promise I will, remember that silence is the better part of valor.
what is going on??
The film I have of Geoff playing with Wynton is on a DVD. I don’t think it’s possible to post that up here. Or, is it? I’m more than willing to show it, if it’s possible.
yes it is possible but you should send me a copy of your DVD to Italy,
Or you could digitalize it and convert it to a Quicktime movie (320 X 240) and send it to me, so i can post it.
What about it ?