In August 2003, the Festival of New Trumpet Music launched its inaugural season at Tonic, a New York City venue for avant-garde, creative, and experimental music. The Festival presented 40 performances over 19 nights, featuring an international lineup of trumpeters and composers representing the worlds of jazz, new music, free form, hip-hop, rock, improvisational, classical, and more. The program for each night included two or three groups. Festival co-founders Dave Douglas and Roy Campbell, Jr. agreed to reconvene a yearly festival of new music involving the trumpet.
In August 2004 the festival grew to include other venues such as the New York Bahai Center, The 14th Street Y, and Makor, as well as continuing performances at Tonic. Highlights included the return to the New York scene of trumpeter/composer Bill Dixon, as well as the inaugural performance by a group of 22 trumpeters entitled Trumpet Nation led by Butch Morris.
In August 2005 Jon Nelson joined Dave Douglas and Roy Campbell as co-directors of the festival. Over fifty events were presented, including a series called Seminar Week at Yamaha’s artist service center in midtown Manhattan. A week-long celebration of Lester Bowie at the Jazz Standard included performances by fourteen leading trumpeters. Twelve emerging artists were presented at the Chelsea art gallery Spark. A series called Other Music presented many groups at Tonic. 2005 also inaugurated an Advisory Board, comprised of many leading figures in new trumpet music.
The 4th Annual Festival of New Trumpet Music took place in New York City from September 15 to October 15, 2006. In this edition of the festival FONT initiated its commissioning program, which to date has commissioned works from over twenty composers and trumpeters. Major commissions have included Peter Evans, Amir El Saffar, Jason Palmer, Cuong Vu, Nadje Noordhuis, Laura Andel, Graham Forbes, Nate Wooley, Du Yun, and Chris DiMeglio. Also in 2006 FONT celebrated visionary trumpeter and composer Don Cherry with a performance of his Symphony for Improvisers at Merkin Hall. The ensemble was co-led by FONT co-founders Dave Douglas and Roy Campbell, Jr, and included bassist Henry Grimes, who performed on the original recording of that work.
In 2007, FONT established itself as a non-profit entity. As FONT continued to grow, more trumpeters entered the sphere of artistic planning and curating. This season Taylor Ho Bynum, Jeremy Pelt, and John McNeil began to play a major role curating portions of the festival. The board also grew to include brass stalwarts Laurie Frink, Mark Gould, Wilmer Wise, and Bob Malone, while Dave Douglas continued as president and director. The 5th annual Festival took place from September 16 to September 30, 2007 with events all over the city. Programming expanded in the 5th season to include concerts of contemporary classical music, from solo trumpet to chamber orchestra. Highlights included 8 world premieres, one by Wadada Leo Smith and a night dedicated to the brass music of Anthony Braxton.
FONT began the 2008 season with a gala concert and celebration of Wadada Leo Smith. Smith was the first to receive FONT’s newly conceived Award of Recognition for extraordinary contributions to the creative music community. A celebration of Louis Armstrong followed the next day, reexamining and reflecting on the modern legacy of trumpet genius Louis Armstrong. This years programs included 9 groups for the New Trumpet Underground series, commissions awarded to Chris DiMeglio, Nabaté Isles, Reut Regev, and a full day of solo trumpet performances. Also, a partnership with the Clean Feed Festival for Brass and Avant-Jazz at The Living Theater presented out-of-towners Kris Tiner and Dennis Gonzalez. At BRICstudio as well, Roy Campbell and Dennis González led a masterclass with the York College Blue Notes and a FONT Jam Session. The Grassroots Classical series at St. Mark’s Church in the Bowery featured music for trumpet by two of New York’s most active composer collectives, Anti-Social Music. The 6th season culminated in a 3 day Celebration of Woody Shaw at Jazz Standard with some of the world’s top trumpeters, including Sean Jones, Randy Brecker, Josh Evans, Ingrid Jensen, and Tim Hagans.
In 2009 FONT decided to split its season into three parts, presenting different facets of contemporary brass work in three to five day series. New Trumpet Underground 2009, the first event of FONT’s 7th annual concert season, ran from June 26-28 at Cornelia Street Cafe. Curated by Taylor Ho Bynum and Chris DiMeglio, this three-day event focused on younger, emerging and experimental trumpet players. These performances, including the world premiere of a commission by Nadje Noordhuis, were augmented by daytime educational offerings from Laurie Frink and John McNeil as part of FONT Music’s Workshop Series. Over 30 students attended free studio visits with Frink and McNeil in New York City. Bobby Bradford will receive the 2009 Award of Recognition this October and perform two nights at Jazz Standard with his own groups, including saxophonist David Murray. Award-winning trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire will compose a work honoring Bradford for his Quartet plus special guest trumpeter Avishai Cohen. Jeremy Pelt, James Zollar, Eddie Henderson and Baikida Carroll will also take part in this series, paying tribute to Bradford and his music.
In January 2010, FONT presented “Forward Flight”, four nights of music at the Abrons Arts Center. Highlights included a tribute to legendary trumpeter Wilmer Wise; Wise and Lew Soloff performing a rarely heard composition by Ornette Coleman for trumpet, string quartet, and percussion; commissioning three members of the Pulse Composer’s Federation (Darcy James Argue, JC Sanford, and Joseph Phillips Jr.) to reimagine other Coleman pieces for the same instrumentation; a night of the brass music of Charles Wuorinen; commissioning a new work by composer David Sanford for the Meridian Arts Ensemble; and performances by the Chicago Underground Duo, the Low Anthem, and Open Circuit, an international improvising trumpet summit with performers from France, Japan, Austria, and the US. In partnership with Ars Nova Workshop, FONT also presented its first satellite festival, bringing the Meridian Arts Ensemble, Chicago Underground Duo, and Open Circuit to Philadelphia for an exciting one-night triple bill.
In June of 2011, FONT honored the late Bill Dixon with a concert at the Rubin Museum of Art featuring Taylor Ho Bynum, Wadada Leo Smith, and Stephen Haynes to perform a work of Dixon’s for three trumpets and rhythm section. With support from Chamber Music America, Wadada Leo Smith performed music from his CMA-commissioned work Ten Freedom Summers, a large work for his Golden Quartet that celebrates important moments of the civil rights movement from 1948 to 1968. In partnership with the Vision Festival, FONT presented Tomasz Stanko, John Daniels, Stephanie Richards, Jonathan Finlayson and Amir El Saffar in concert at the Abrons Art Center in New York’s Lower East Side.
In October of 2011, FONT presented Kenny Wheeler with its Award of Recognition and presented the legendary trumpeter in four consecutive nights at Jazz Standard. A brass ensemble led by Ingrid Jensen, The John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble and the Kenny Wheeler Quintet featuring Dave Holland performed Wheeler’s music, including several new, unrecorded pieces written in 2010. The 2011 festival also featured trumpeters Nate Wooley, Shane Endsley, Jonathan Finlayson, and Nick Smart.