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Summer Spotlight: Hamed Barbarji, Trumpet

Hamed Barbarji spent his summer traveling Europe, trumpet in hand. He first went to Switzerland for two weeks to visit family and attend the Montreux Jazz Festival, then attended Italian Brass Week in Florence, Italy, and then returned to Switzerland for another week before returning home.

Hamed Barbarji performing at the Montreux Jazz Club in Switzerland.

While at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, Barbarji got the opportunity to see live performances of great jazz legends, including Herbie Hancock.

“It was absolutely the best concert I have ever been to,” said Barbarji. “Herbie is obviously an amazing musician, but he’s also just an incredible creator. I love what he writes.”

Barbarji was invited on stage to play with the band in the Montreaux Jazz Club and later found out that the legendary Quincy Jones, who took a video of Barbarji’s performance and shared it on his Instagram story, was in the audience.

“It was really awesome to be able to go up to the stage in front of 2,000 people and just call out a tune and have everything work,” said Barbarji.

Hamed and Rex Richardson at Italian Brass Week in Florence, Italy.

Barbarji described his next trip to Florence, Italy as life-changing. At Italian Brass Week, he learned from and played with some of the best trumpet soloists in the world, including trumpet virtuoso Sergei Nakariakov, piccolo trumpet specialist Otto Sauter, classical and jazz trumpeter Francisco “Pacho” Flores, international soloist Andrea Tofanelli, and VCU’s own Rex Richardson. He saw faculty perform live each day and had multiple lessons with each of them throughout the week.

“As a student of Rex’s, I don’t get to see him play that often,” said Barbarji. “To be there for a week and see Rex blow everyone away with his performances made me really proud to be his student and to be a student of VCU.”

The participants of Italian Brass Week included a variety of ages and nationalities, and Barbarji was one of the only participants from the United States. The participants formed two large classical brass ensembles and performed on the Arno River river and at the Palazzo Pitti Palace in Florence. At the closing concert, Barbarji also played in a big band with soloists Rex Richardson and Andrea Tofanelli.

“Coming out of Italian Brass week my whole perception of music has changed,” said Barbarji. “It was so life changing… Now I’m so focused on what I want to say and how to say it. I never want to have a dull moment musically.”

Barbarji returns to VCU Music this semester with new sound concepts, new composition ideas, and a huge motivation to become a professional trumpet soloist.