Ansel Norris, Assistant Principal Trumpet
Ansel Norris has distinguished himself as a musician of enthusiasm and diverse taste. He currently resides in Naples, Florida, where he enjoys an eclectic musical career with the Naples Philharmonic. Ansel comes to Naples via Rice University, the New World Symphony and Northwestern University, from which he received a bachelor’s degree in music in 2016. He hails from Madison, Wisconsin.
Ansel finds additional inspiration as a soloist and, in 2019, he was the first-ever American prizewinner in the International Tchaikovsky Competition’s Brass division. Prior to this, he was twice the first-prize winner at the National Trumpet Competition, a YoungARTS Gold Award recipient and a winner of the New World Symphony’s Concerto Competition, among others. Playing as soloist with orchestras is a special pleasure for Ansel, and he has enjoyed performances in front of the Mariinsky Orchestra, New World Symphony and his hometown Madison Symphony Orchestra, to name a few. Also a chamber musician, Ansel won a Bronze Medal at the Fischoff International Competition with his friends from the Lincoln Chamber Brass.
Ansel is deeply grateful for the mentors who encouraged him to search for his voice. These include Barbara Butler, John Aley, Charles Geyer, Thomas Rolfs, Christopher Martin, Stephen Burns, his mom and many, many others. He loves playing basketball, reading, hiking, singing, playing ping-pong, practicing yoga and lots of other things he hasn’t tried yet. Ansel hopes to explore all these interests, in addition to many great musical opportunities, with a curious mind and an open heart.
I was born in Madison, Wisconsin. A winding musical journey led me to Naples in the fall of 2019. I studied at Northwestern University, joined the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, enjoyed a fellowship with the New World Symphony and completed one year of a master’s degree at Rice University before landing with the Naples Philharmonic!
What has been your most memorable moment with the orchestra?
The feeling of joy and culmination, sprinkled with the curiosity and anxiety of not knowing what will come next — but trusting that everything will be okay and feeling deeply grateful to have been accepted. That’s how I felt when I walked out to meet the committee following my audition. That was unforgettable, and I’m only just getting started!
What inspired you to become a musician?
I was always, shall we say, an “expressive” child (just ask my elementary school teachers), and music provided a very natural and satisfying way to make productive use of that energy. I never really considered doing anything else!
What is the most enjoyable part of your job?
Where to begin! Being able to play my trumpet — which is, in many ways, my truest friend and companion in life — and to receive a salary in exchange is still very amusing to me. It feels like I stumbled across a loophole, or something. The orchestra is a gorgeous-sounding group of colorful, kind and genuine people. I’m very lucky!
What’s challenging about playing your instrument?
The trumpet is an unruly beast that must be coaxed into a calm and agreeable state at beginning of each day. Some days it comes very naturally, and others it requires a bit more wrangling. It’s a fantastic opportunity to grapple with one’s fears and assumptions every day, and I have grown tremendously from the process.
What are your favorite compositions?
The third movement of Beethoven’s A Minor String Quartet, Op. 132 is difficult to process because it’s so overwhelmingly pure and honest that to stand in front of it is exhausting for the spirit. I really can only listen to it once in a while!
What have you been listening to recently?
I’ve been listening to Debussy’s piano preludes and trying to figure out which ones I can adapt as duets for trumpet and piano. It’s challenging. Stay tuned!
Are there other musicians in your immediate family?
My dad used to fiddle around (pun intended) on the violin while I was growing up, and he never attained a profession level of polish. But he loves it to this day, and he has his own voice on the instrument. I particularly remember his way of playing Dvořák’s “Humoresque,” even though I was very young.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I love basketball and, if somebody comes up to me and talks passionately about the NBA, we’ll be friends in short order. I also love to read in the morning with a cup of coffee, and I’m a devoted (if occasionally rebellious) practitioner of mindfulness meditation. All good things — or so I think, anyway.