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Whatever Happened To ... the trumpet prodigy?

By David Montgomery
Sunday, February 6, 2011; W04

At age 4, Geoffrey Gallante was a pint-size trumpet-playing novelty with a sweet sound who could keep up, musically, with the best middle-school players at the Franklin Band & Orchestra Camp in Fairfax County that summer of 2005.

"Watch him," band director Lawrence H. Walker Jr. said then. "This is how your music greats got started."

We've been watching. Since he was featured in The Washington Post, Geoffrey, 10, has practiced hard, and his prowess on the trumpet and cornet has only grown more remarkable. He has performed around the country, sitting in with adult jazz and concert ensembles, appearing on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" and other programs, and playing the national anthem in basketball arenas and baseball parks, most recently on New Year's Day at Verizon Center before a Wizards game.

The fifth-grader at Stratford Landing Elementary School in Alexandria has also played at the White House, the Capitol and the Kennedy Center.

Along the way, he has faced challenges experienced by few veteran horn players. For example, he had to cancel a number of holiday gigs when he lost his front baby teeth.

Most afternoons find him practicing in the empty sanctuary of Heritage Presbyterian Church in Alexandria. His family worships here Sundays, but Geoffrey likes the acoustics.

Wearing a wool cap pulled over his ears, an untucked plaid shirt, jeans and sneakers, he goes to the front of the sanctuary and raises his silver cornet to his lips. He starts playing several pieces he is working on for upcoming performances, including "The Last Rose of Summer," "Carnival of Venice" and "Maid of the Mist."

"Nice, Geoff; it sounds better each time you play it," says his father, David Gallante, a stay-at-home dad. His mother, Beth Bingham, works on Capitol Hill.

Geoffrey is small for his age, and it is astonishing to hear such a big, precise sound come out of that diminutive body. Samples of his performances over the years are collected on YouTube.

More than his technique and virtuosity, what impresses professional musicians is a mature musical empathy he is able to communicate.

"I'm not hearing a bunch of notes fly by," says Michael Bowie, a jazz bass player and director of the Blues Alley Youth Orchestra, of which Geoffrey is a member. "Geoff has the unique ability to kind of sit back, take his time and really tell a story in very simple terms."

Neither Geoffrey nor his parents know where his trumpet will take him. For now, they're just trying to enjoy the adventure.

"All the other kids probably get to go home and play on their Wii," Geoffrey says. "I'm here playing what I like to do and what I was made to do."

READ THE ORIGINAL STORY: Talent on a smaller scale (Post, July 23, 2005)

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