Louis Hanzlik, Master Trumpeter

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Trumpet alumnus Louis Hanzlik

Given Louis Hanzlik’s childhood, it’s not surprising he ended up as a professional musician. “Both of my parents are band directors, and when I was growing up there was always some sort of music being played in our house,” he recalls. “Thanks to them, I was steeped in music from my earliest years.”

At their encouragement, Hanzlik took up the trumpet in third grade—and hasn’t put it down since. After graduating with an undergraduate degree in music performance from the UI School of Music in 1998, he went on to earn a M.M. in trumpet performance at the Juilliard School and then began a varied career as a soloist, chamber musician and orchestral player. After three years with the Manhattan Brass Quintet and eleven years with the Atlantic Brass Quintet, in 2013 he was appointed to the American Brass Quintet, one of the world’s premiere chamber music ensembles. He has performed throughout the U.S. as well as Australia, Russia, Germany, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Colombia, United Kingdom, France, Taiwan, South Korea and Austria.

While his career has taken him far, Hanzlik is proud of his Midwestern roots. Born in Nebraska, he lived in several Iowa towns while growing up and graduated from high school in Norwalk south of Des Moines. He chose to come to the UI in part because of his experiences in its All-State Music Camp as a high school freshman, when he got the chance to meet a number of the people who would later become his teachers.

“I was also attracted by the diversity of musical experiences offered by the UI School of Music,” Hanzlik says. “More than any other school I considered, it had an excellent symphony band, jazz ensemble, and concert and marching bands. I wanted as rich a musical experience as I could get.”

Hanzlik’s strongest memories of the UI are the exceptional teachers he had, particularly his trumpet professor David Greenhoe, orchestra conductor James Dixon, band director Myron Welch, and jazz studies director John Rapson. Another turning point came the summer after his sophomore year when he attended the Aspen Music Festival and School. “I was sitting next to students from Juilliard and the Eastman School of Music, and I realized I could play as well as they could,” he says. “That was a hugely important realization for me, one that lit a fire of ambition that propelled me to the next level as a performer.”

While at the UI, Hanzlik received a number of scholarships, including the Austin Gertrude Music scholarship. He also met his wife Amanda Sprague, who earned a UI degree in music education in 1998. The two, who live in Storrs, Connecticut, are the parents of Ethan, 8, and Grace, 4.

Establishing a career as a professional musician hasn’t been easy, and Hanzlik credits luck as well as hard work for getting him where he is today. Six years ago he broadened his professional portfolio even further when he took a position at the University of Connecticut, where he now serves as an associate professor of trumpet. He continues his position as a member of the Grammy Award-winning Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, a post he has held since 2008, and beginning this year, he also teaches at the Juilliard School and the Aspen Music Festival & School.

In his own teaching, Hanzlik draws on lessons he learned at Iowa, particularly the importance of collaborating with other musicians. “I encourage all of my students to be part of smaller musical groups or chamber music ensembles,” he says. “It’s great to be in an orchestra or band with a conductor whose job it is to interpret the music for you. But in a chamber music ensemble, such as a brass quintet, you need to develop your own interpretation of a piece, working collaboratively with other musicians. That’s how you really grow as a musician.”

Hanzlik is grateful his teaching responsibilities also allow him to maintain an active performance career. His new position with the American Brass Quintet is a particularly gratifying honor. “When I was at the Aspen Music Festival in college, Ray Mase was one of my teachers,” he says. “And when I was appointed to the American Brass Quintet last year, I filled his chair, a position he occupied for 41 of the ensemble’s 64 years. It’s wonderful how life turns out.”    

David Greenhoe, professor emeritus and principal trumpet for the Quad City Symphony Orchestra, ranks Hanzlik as one of the best students he taught during his years at Iowa. “In addition to being talented, Louis was probably the most disciplined, determined and hard-working student I ever had,” says Greenhoe. “Once he left Iowa, those traits helped him rise to the top of his profession. But I’ve also always been impressed by who he is as a person. He’s a good father, a good husband, and a good friend to many. There aren’t many successful people who are as well-rounded as Louis.”