As a toddler, Natalie Dungey knew two things: She liked the sound of the trumpet and she wanted to play an instrument.
Learning, it seemed, wouldn't be too hard. Her father, Philip Dungey, was an accomplished trumpeter and band director. But Dad didn't start giving her lessons right away, thinking she was too young. When she finally started to learn, she was pretty much on her own.
"He gave me a book and assigned me things," Natalie says from her home in Issaquah, Wash. "He challenged me and wondered if I could do the assignments. I eventually did play them for him, and he thought they were good enough to be taught by him."
Since then, Natalie has been a bit more than good enough, as 12-year-old trumpeters go.
She performed at the prestigious National Trumpet Competition at age 10; played on NPR's youth talent program From the Top; presented the world premiere of a work by film composer Mateo Messina; and soloed with numerous symphony orchestras, particularly in the Pacific Northwest.
This weekend, she is in Danville, performing at the Great American Brass Band Festival with several groups, including the Indiana Wind Symphony and Central Ohio Brass. She also will visit one of her biggest fans, Danville-based trumpeter extraordinaire Vince DiMartino.
"He invited me to come down and try out all his trumpets," Natalie says. "He said he had like 75 or something. So we're going to hang out."
Natalie and DiMartino met at the National Trumpet Competition in 2008, and he says he was struck by the depth of her playing.
"She has a real good connection with what the pieces are supposed to sound like and is developing a style all her own," says DiMartino, a Centre College trumpet professor and world-renowned trumpet player and teacher. "Audiences go crazy when they hear her."
DiMartino says he encouraged the Brass Band Festival to book Natalie because "we need to get someone who's a good role model for kids."
Since her dad agreed to teach her, Natalie has adopted a regular regimen of two hours of practice a day and focused on a piece, the Hummel Trumpet Concerto in E Major, one of the best known pieces for trumpet, to get it ready for the National Trumpet Competition. (She won the junior division in 2009 and 2010.)
Natalie's trumpet experiences have included a longer list of travel and events than that of most 12-year-old musicians. But asked what she has liked best about playing trumpet at a high level, she goes back to the basics of the instrument and thrills: "Playing the fast notes ... or playing the high notes, squeaking them out," she said.
Kentucky audiences will no doubt hear some of that this weekend.