Herman Makosky put his trust in sound judgment to set him on the path to musical perfection.
There was something captivating in the look and tonal qualities that drew the Dickinson Township youth to the trumpet during an instrument tryout night eight years ago.
“I just knew going in that was what I wanted to play,” said Makosky, 17, a senior at Carlisle High School, recalling a moment from the fourth grade. “I knew I really wanted to try it.”
That first night he managed to coax out a sound that somewhat resembled music, but it was only the beginning of a steady crescendo toward greater challenges and opportunities.
Makosky was the only student to take up the trumpet in his grade level at North Dickinson Elementary School. He started taking one-on-one lessons with music teacher Byron Mikesell, who is now the high school band director. The lessons continued as Makosky advanced into Lamberton Middle School.
A sixth-grader in May 2011, he had a chance to play trumpet with jazz legend Wynton Marsalis backstage after a concert at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia.
“I was really nervous,” Makosky recalled. “It hit me after the concert ended that now I have to go play for him.” He described Marsalis as having the type of down-to-earth, outgoing personality that could set anyone at ease.
“It was amazing,” Makosky said. “I was getting a lesson from Wynton. He really liked my sound. It was very positive and uplifting towards the future. He was so humble and giving of his time.”
Marsalis stayed at the Kimmel Center an extra three to four hours to work with young musicians and to offer his input. “He did not get paid,” Makosky said. “He wanted to do this. He felt he needed to do this to give back.”
This has been a source of inspiration for Makosky. With less than six months to go until graduation, he is thinking about a future that may include work as a freelance music instructor or college professor.
“I have been so fortunate to receive so much good will from a lot of trumpet players,” Makosky said. “They have helped me out tremendously. I want to make sure I help the next generation that will come up to make sure they receive that same kindness and generosity.”
A strong work ethic has always been in harmony with a desire to learn more complicated music. He practices at least two to three hours seven days a week.
“Days off are pretty rare,” Makosky said. “I’m constantly trying to get better. I am striving towards that almost impossible goal of perfection. I just have this inner drive to keep working on it.”
With all this practice came a deeper love of the art.
“Music is a way to communicate things that are inexpressible in words,” he said. “You can connect with people in such a deeper level. You can make an audience smile or come to tears without ever saying anything. It’s just an unbelievable feeling.
“You can express yourself in so many different ways or genres,” Makosky said. “I can play the blues, jazz, big band and in an orchestra. I can do chamber music and a solo repertoire.”
There are even trumpet parts in folk music and rock.
The hard work has achieved remarkable results. Within three years of taking up the trumpet, Makosky became the first seventh-grader in over 40 years to qualify for District 7 High School Honors Band through the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association. He has successfully auditioned and been seated in that ensemble every year since then.
In his freshman year at Carlisle High School, Makosky auditioned and was selected for the top jazz band in District 7. As a sophomore, he was seated on both the regional band and orchestra along with the All-State Band and All-State Orchestra. That same year Makosky became one of 25 trumpet players to be selected nationwide to compete in the National Trumpet Competition semi-finals in the high school division.
Makosky has been a member of the Harrisburg Symphony Youth Orchestra since the eighth grade and has seated as the principal trumpet player all four years of high school.
It was through the Youth Orchestra that Makosky was able to connect his love of music with a love for scouting.
For his Eagle Scout project, Makosky founded a youth chamber ensemble program that in its first year played live music to over 4,400 people in south-central Pennsylvania, including at-risk youths. One of the venues that first year was the United Methodist Home for Children.
Makosky drew inspiration for the program from a composer who grew up in poverty but was introduced to music at an early age and made the most of the opportunity. He wanted to create a program where young musicians can practice chamber music while exposing underprivileged youths to classical music.
“It will expand as it grows,” Makosky said. “It will only make the youth symphony a higher quality ensemble so we can play a more difficult repertoire.”
As founder of the program, Makosky was in charge of the program calendar and rehearsal schedule. He also helped to organize the work at the concert venues and to arrange for the payment of the professional musicians who serve as the program coaches.
Makosky has played trumpet in the pit orchestra for Carlisle High School musicals and on a number of school ensembles including the symphonic band, the Galaxies Jazz Band and the orchestra. He has also played trumpet on the Cumberland County Festival Orchestra, the Cumberland County Band Festival, the Dickinson College Trumpet Ensemble and the Central Pennsylvania Friends of Jazz Youth Jazz Band.
In January and February, Makosky plans to audition for top college programs at Baylor University, the University of Hartford and the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University. He may also seek a Fulbright scholarship to study the rotary valve trumpet in Germany and Austria.
More professional orchestras are requiring trumpet players to audition using the rotary valve trumpet, which has a different piston system from the trumpet in common use in the U.S.