Trumpeter James Vaughen Spreads Joy Through Music

by Madonna

James Vaughen, a gifted trumpeter hailing from Champaign, has been enchanting audiences with his music, igniting joy through his performances. Having graduated from the esteemed Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia and recently completing his debut as the assistant principal trumpet with the Grant Park Orchestra in Chicago, Vaughen’s journey is one of dedication and inspiration.

Raised in a musical household with a professional musician mother, Vaughen’s deep connection to the trumpet blossomed during his tenure with the East Central Illinois Youth Orchestra in Champaign. This experience introduced him to a vibrant community of young musicians, sparking his passion for the trumpet.


Vaughen’s journey continued with his involvement in a youth orchestra in Chicago, despite his family not relocating to the city. His mother’s unwavering support saw her traveling with him each week, nurturing his musical growth. Reflecting on his path, Vaughen shares, “There’s nothing quite like the joy of performance… It’s very special. That, I think, is the drive that drives a lot of people and definitely drove me and inspired me.”


This inspiration led Vaughen to share the transformative power of music. Guided by his mother, he began performing in retirement communities and nursing homes, witnessing firsthand how music can uplift and brighten even the most challenging environments. Recalling these moments, Vaughen expresses, “Music can transform a space… You can walk into a space, and it can feel dark and depressing, and you can bring music into that space and suddenly transform it into something completely new.”


While pursuing his musical journey, Vaughen faced medical challenges that necessitated a gap year after high school. During this time, he worked with AmeriCorps in Mississippi, teaching at an underserved public school. This experience allowed him to explore the trumpet in a healthy and sustainable manner, fostering growth and experimentation.

Vaughen’s dedication led him to Curtis Institute of Music, where he further honed his craft. Looking ahead, he envisions a future in which he continues to contribute to orchestras while embarking on solo projects. “I’d love to have a stable job in an orchestra,” he shares, “On the side, I will be able to do projects that I’m excited about.”

As Vaughen’s journey unfolds, his commitment to spreading joy through music remains steadfast. Whether performing in an orchestra or pursuing creative projects, his passion for music and its transformative power shines brightly.


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