Joshua Stewart was born in Anaheim, California, but grew up in various places in the United States since his family serves in the Salvation Army. His parents are pastors, and Stewart was exposed to music through church from a young age.
His family members are all musically inclined. Everyone knows how to play an instrument or can sing. Stewart started his own musical journey playing the cornet. However, he eventually found a love and natural talent for the trumpet.
Stewart is currently an undergraduate in music performance, and is the principal trumpeter in the San Diego State University Wind Symphony and Symphony Orchestra. At 21 years old, he also plays in the Jazz Ensemble and the marching and pep bands for the Aztecs.
Being at SDSU has enhanced his growth as a musician, said Stewart. In particular, learning from SDSU classical trumpet professor John Wilds has been a notable experience.
“It’s been a journey with him; him unlocking my potential by teaching me how to breathe properly, how to switch between the cornet and trumpet, and familiarizing myself with a repertoire of classical composers such as Hayden, Beethoven, or Mozart,” Stewart said.
Here on scholarship, Stewart also enjoys practicing something called a multiphonic: a wind instrument technique that involves singing into an instrument while playing to produce multiple notes at once.
“I like the fact that I can play high notes, and it’s common enough that good pieces and songs include the trumpet,” Steward said. “My favorite genre is classical.”
The most challenging aspect of the trumpet, he said, is learning when to breathe and being consistent about practicing.
“Hardest thing [about playing the trumpet] is consistency,” Stewart said. “You can take breaks and relax, but you have to consistently practice, know what you’re practicing and get rid of bad habits.”
When he was 14 years old, he made it into the Salvation Army’s top young brass bands. Being first chair was all he wanted, referring to it as “the trumpet’s player’s ego.” However, he didn’t enjoy the first trip because he was last chair.
“I got angsty and wanted to play what the solo bench was playing. I wanted to quit after the trip thinking that nobody was paying attention to what I wanted [as a musician].”
He talked with his parents about it. Their advice? It’s not about the position or chair you get, but about playing for the main message: for the Lord.
“That was the most important thing for me,” Stewart said. “No matter what I play or practice, it all goes to God’s glory.”
His lifelong involvement in the Salvation Army has been a catalyst in his success as a musician. Last year, his family went to London to represent the United States in the Salvation Army’s 150th anniversary celebration, which Stewart describes as an important moment for him and his family. “The queen’s flag was flying but we didn’t see her!” he added.
Stewart describes a particular moment while ministering in South Korea that was ultimately fulfilling for him as a musician.
Two years ago, through a Salvation Army program called Service Corps, Stewart travelled to Seoul with five team members. They went downtown, the most central location in the city with lots of people and tourists. The group decided to play songs in English, and they asked him to play the popular hymn “How Great Thou Art.”
“I heard it in the background — the singing in English first and then in Korean,” Stewart said. “Tour buses were coming by and stopping, recognizing the tune. I started to hear French, Chinese; I hear singing in Spanish and Japanese.”
He describes a majestic wind that came rushing through the crowd as the voices of many languages filled the air.
“It was one of the most beautiful moments I’ve experienced. It made me glad that I chose the trumpet. It’s a gift, a talent that I needed to share.”
Stewart hopes to achieve his Doctorate’s degree in performance at USC and eventually teach music in college or to beginners. He also aspires to play in the Los Angeles Philharmonic or the Sony Philharmonic Orchestra one day and sees himself playing movie soundtracks for Disney.
He is on track for graduation in Spring 2017.
Catch Stewart in performance at the SDSU Jazz Ensemble concert in Smith Recital Hall on April 14, and in Downtown: SDSU Orchestra, Wind Symphony and Choirs in Concert at the Jacobs Music Center on April 15, 2016.