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Meet Justin Langham in Montrose

Today we’d like to introduce you to Justin Langham.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I am originally from Mobile, Alabama, a beautiful city right on the Gulf Coast, and the birthplace of Mardi Gras. My family is not what most would view as a “musical family,” but they are definitely music loving and supportive. My parents never pressured me to practice, and given that beginner trumpet is not the most therapeutic sound, I am eternally grateful for their patience. I also have a twin brother, Joshua, who sometimes offers to switch and play concerts for me, which can be very tempting.

After very brief trials of guitar and piano lessons, I began playing the trumpet as most kids growing up in public school do: middle school band. When people ask why I chose the trumpet, they are often surprised when I say that it was entirely so I could sit next to my friends during band class. At the same time, I began “composing,” which I put in quotations because scribbling random dots into a spiral notebook hardly seems like any formal technique. But you have to start somewhere!

Some of the earliest performing I ever did growing up was in the small church my family attended, so I frequently played hymns or other music on Sunday mornings. Throughout high school, I was the ultimate “band nerd” who never left the band room. My band directors were supportive and gave me many opportunities to be a featured soloist, as well as write pieces for the marching band and concert bands. I was fortunate to have a great trumpet teacher, Dr. Peter Wood, and parents that would drive me across town every week year-round to take lessons from him at the University of South Alabama.

After high school, I attended the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, and since I did not want to have to choose between trumpet and composition, I eventually earned a double Bachelor’s degree in both! After moving to Houston in 2013, I earned a Master’s at the University of Houston in 2015, and will be starting work towards a Doctorate this fall. In the three years between degrees, I tried to create a career that was both unique and rewarding. Depending on the time of year, a normal week consisted of teaching collegiate music theory, conducting a choir, working on new compositions or arranging projects, traveling to perform concerts, and teaching about 18-20 trumpet lessons!

Has it been a smooth road?
I hesitate to say that I had a totally smooth road, but I consider myself fortunate to have had the experiences I did. All of my struggles can be simplified into a lack of confidence and a strong tendency to overthink, both of which I still wrestle with today. My friend and mentor in Houston, Jim Vassallo, long-time principal trumpet of the Houston Grand Opera and Ballet orchestras, has done so much to help me in getting through these mental blocks.

Staying busy and making myself perform often, especially when it seems scary, has been essential to me getting past these issues. My father always told me that life exists outside of the comfort zone, and I always approach each new opportunity with this in mind.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
I think what sets me apart from others in my field is my versatility and willingness to try new things. I knew early on that I did not want to be stuck in one category, like “trumpet player” or “composer,” but instead tried to explore as many aspects of the music world as possible.

In 2014, organist Stephen Distad and I formed a duo called Deux Voix (“two voices” in French). We perform many different styles for a wide range of audiences. In addition to performing standard repertoire, we strive to expand it by commissioning new works, as well as performing my own compositions and arrangements. Audiences consistently complement our variety of repertoire and styles. In the past four years we have traveled to over 15 states, some multiple times, and will be traveling to Denmark, Sweden, and Norway this August.

Our collaboration has led me to explore new things, such as singing jazz, which was definitely terrifying and outside of my comfort zone! Taking my singing from the car and shower to an actual performance has been a rewarding experience for me.

In addition to my freelance playing, teaching, and writing, I also am Director of Music at Grace United Methodist Church and teach music theory at Lone Star College – Montgomery, so you could say I wear lots of hats!

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
Absolutely. Houston is a special place where music performers and teachers of all kinds can start from scratch and make a life here. When I moved from Alabama, I came with not much to my name and zero professional connections, but I was able to find students quickly, began playing gigs, and continued to compose and arrange while going through graduate school. Once I graduated, it was a seamless transition into a full-time working musician’s life.

When thinking of the arts scene in Houston, most only think of the larger organizations such as the Houston Symphony and Houston Grand Opera, but its real beauty is in the smaller and medium-sized organizations that make up the majority of local artists. Houston is a rare city. Its people not only support its artists, but they do so with enthusiasm and passion. Houstonians are quick to support the arts financially, attend events, and even open their homes for private house concerts, which I have been able to participate in numerous times.

Even though there is a seemingly endless pool of amazing people, Houston is massive and has lots of opportunities to go around. I love being in a place where I am able to contribute to and enjoy this culturally rich and diverse community in many different ways. Also, the Mexican food here is incredible.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Jeff Grass, Joe Center, Rick Crider, Isaac Gautschi

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