Jean Laurenz, an eclectic musician who loves variety and collaboration, has a degree in trumpet performance and choral music education. With passions for many activities like running, climbing and practicing yoga, she uses the skills she learns from these activities and applies them to her performing. She also explains that while she is in a male-dominated field, she has had many opportunities due to her “femaleness.” Read on to learn more about Jean Laurenz.
Laurenz currently teaches trumpet at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. As a former choir teacher, she explains how the two are closely related.
“I actually use a lot of singing techniques in my trumpet teaching,” Laurenz said. “But, you know, we have professors at UW who are just experts in the voice and I don't consider myself that; I don't want to broadcast myself. I'm just one who loves singing, and I think every human voice is actually really beautiful in its own way.”
When it comes to her performing prowess, Laurenz tends to perform mostly chamber music, but like many artists, she explores other styles as well.
“I do everything, or try to, but I am mostly a chamber musician,'' Laurenz said. “Specifically, I'm in a professional brass quintet, Seraph Brass. That's an all female identifying brass quintet. I also play in the Wisconsin Brass Quintet here at UW. But I also really love playing with mixed instrumentation.”
As a woman in a field that tends to be dominated by males, there is ample room for adversities. However, Laurenz explained how there is also room for opportunity. She has had the opportunity to perform with many huge artists and she attributes this to her femaleness.
“This is where the femaleness really kicks in,” Laurenz said. “I performed with Kanye West and Adele, and then the Hanson brothers and a few other big names. And really, the reason I got those gigs was because I was known to be a successful professional in the field, who also happens to identify as a woman, because these artists a lot of time want to hire female bands.”
Now that Laurenz is a professor, she works with many female artists. When she gives advice to her students, she explains that she usually does not intervene unless asked.
“I usually wait for them to ask because I try not to push my femaleness on anybody,” Laurenz said. “I also try not to treat my female students differently than my male students. However, if a student asks me about my direct experience, whether or not the student identifies as male or female, I do give them an honest answer,” Laurenz said.
Within her own performing career, Laurenz has faced a huge adversity that really hindered her own ability to perform.
“So I got injured when I was at the end of my junior year in undergrad, and I couldn't play,” Laurenz said. “I couldn't play for two years, basically, like I was relearning a single one-octave scale, my senior year of college, and then that kind of went into the next year.”
She was able to overcome this adversity and is still able to perform; however, the effects are still with her today.
“I really took two years off the trumpet,” Laurenz further explained. “I was, you know, trying to play. I was warming up. I was rebuilding my face, but it was two years of not playing music. And that was really brutal. And that injury is with me permanently.”
Outside of her life as a teacher and performer, Laurenz spends a lot of time rock climbing, running and practicing yoga. These activities are not only ones she enjoys, but she also believes they help when it comes to her performing.
“When I started trumpet, I was just like, learn the right notes and put the right valves down and play, just learn how to physically play,” Laurenz said. “And then over time you realize how much your mind matters in the activity. And so you start to wrap and fold these mindfulness approaches into your practice. And it really, really helps.”
These mindfulness approaches and working out in general connect to her performing in so many ways.
“When I'm running, my mind can go everywhere and anywhere, and I can process all these things that are happening in my life while I'm on the pavement,” Laurenz said. “I love combining two different kinds of sports that serve a very different purpose, but both of which helped my music. Then yoga, I just feel like it just really helps ergonomically with the body and posture and making sure that any repetitive motion that we're doing, whether it's running, whether it's playing trumpet, we're serving our body and realigning our body in a way that's going to promote those skills.”
Currently, Laurenz is working on a huge project. She has released a film called “Descended” and now she is working to have it be performed in a theater setting. It started as a chamber music piece about Japanese ghost stories that then got transformed into a film.
“It's a 27 minute film that combines Japanese ghost stories with original music that we recorded, and it was written by Maria Finkelmeier and recorded by myself and Maria, and Greg Jukes,” Laurenz said. “The film has a whole narrative, story line and arc. It's beautiful, but it's abstract, and its narrative is told through music, not necessarily through speaking. Then, the newest and most upcoming part of this project is actually being crafted for theater.”
This multimedia project has been a huge part of Laurenz’s life as of late and with more to come, many people will be able to see the amazing piece in real life.
Photos taken by Aram Boghosian and Ilana Bar-Av
Article by Ava Wojnowski
Ava Wojnowski is an intern with LunART. She is majoring in journalism and Spanish and is excited to bring her passion for writing to LunART. Outside of school, Wojnowski loves to spend time outside and also loves to listen to music. She played the viola from 4th to 12th grade, so music has always been a part of her life.