The next step in the maturation of Luca Stine's career will happen right in his hometown.
Stine, a precocious trumpet player who grew up in Sarasota, will be returning home to play his own compositions for the very first time in public. Stine, a student at University of Miami's Frost School of Music, will be headlining and playing with the Crosscurrent Quartet at Selby Gardens on Feb. 17.
"I’m finally starting to find my voice," he says. "This will be the first concert I actually share that with the world. A lot of the people that will be in the audience are friends and supporters and people who have helped me financially. I’m very comfortable, and I feel very welcome. They haven’t heard me play anything like this."
Stine comes from a family of musicians, and he's been focused on making it a career as long as he can remember. He originally attended The Out-of-Door Academy, a private school, for his first two years of high school. But then he made a decision that put him out on his own and rapidly intensified his musical education.
He started home-schooling and also registered for dual enrollment at State College of Florida, which allowed him to focus on music and to play gigs around Sarasota for two years prior to his college experience.
“It was a very hard decision to leave everyone I knew at school. But I was able to take jazz classes and ensembles at the State College of Florida, which was light-years ahead of anything a high school program would offer," says Stine, who was sharing a class with students several years older. "It was very intimidating because I looked up to them. It was also very inspiring because there was nobody I could really play jazz with in my age group."
Stine, who won a Suncoast Music Scholarship in 2019, might be more familiar to Sarasota residents as a violinist. The youngster played both instruments while growing up and initially wanted to pursue a career as a concert violinist, but an overuse injury caused him to make a really difficult decision.
Now, two years later, Stine still isn't sure what happened. Stine visited chiropractors and underwent magnetic resonance imaging tests to find the cause of his ailment. He believes it might have been a squeezed nerve in his neck, but whatever the cause, Stine was forced to put down the violin and pick up the trumpet.
"I believe it was like six months before college that I gave it a rest. I was going to start it up again in college, but I haven’t played since," says Stine. "It was a tough decision. But especially when I got to college, I realized that in order to practice so many hours of the day and go to class and do everything, it was already impossible."
That injury, ironically, sped up his maturation with the trumpet. Stine says he spends as much as eight or 10 hours a day doing musical activities, and he's learned how to rigorously block out his day for peak efficiency.
But composition is a whole new animal. Stine isn't just keeping up on playing anymore; now he's waking up and playing for several hours, and then he listens back and transcribes every single note that he plays.
“The big problem I’ve had balancing is with my composition minor," he says. "It’s classical, so it’s like learning a completely different language. This semester, I have advanced orchestration, which is a master’s degree class. It’s very difficult — we have to write our own orchestral piece. And I have jazz arranging, where I have to write two big band pieces for 15 people each. It’s a lot of writing all at the same time. I end up pulling a lot of all-nighters.”
So what's his process look like? Stine says his winter break has been enormously productive. He woke up every day at 6:30 a.m. and composed for four hours, and he was able to complete the lion's share of 10-12 different compositions. Every day, sitting at the piano, he forced himself to create new musical journeys.
"Whenever I’m physically writing, I’m always at the piano. It's a lot easier harmonically," he says. "When I get up early in the morning, I haven’t had time to warm up and don’t want to lose my train of thinking. The best way for me, since I’m such an improviser, is to sit down in a clear state of mind and play with a voice memo recording. Then I copy every note I hear and orchestrate it; I’ll add harmony and other instrument parts under the baseline."
Eventually, says Stine, he'd like to tour the world playing his own compositions and jazz standards. He wants to incorporate Scandinavian folk music into his repertoire as a hat tip to his family roots.
Stine said that one of his most important influences was trumpet teacher Vincent Penzarella, and he also noted that he's worked extensively with Aaron Romm. There's another local artist — bassist Michael Ross — that Stine reveres, and he said that Ross has been more than generous with his time and tutelage.
"He’s very important to me," says Stine. "He’d play bass, and I’d suffer through playing badly, and then he’d critique me and give me advice. He’s done that for like four or five years. It’s still tough. I improve very fast, especially now that I know what I need to practice. I get a lot better when I’m gone.
"And then I come back, and I have this need to play my best for him. I end up overthinking it and sounding not as good. It almost feels like he’s a parent and I have to impress him. But he’s very nice and honest. It’s not that intimidating — we’re just getting together and having fun playing music — but there’s that need to play well."
Stine will be playing with pianist Donald DiStefano, bassist Blake Aldridge and drummer Henry Mohr at his Selby Gardens show, and he said they've built up quite a bit of chemistry by playing gigs in the Miami area.
Stine says he hopes to eventually attend either Juilliard or the Manhattan School of Music, but he's toying with the idea of taking a gap year and relocating to Europe for a chance to play and progress with no pressure.
Whom is Stine most looking forward to seeing in the crowd? There's his parents, of course, and several friends that he grew up with in the Sarasota community. But Stine also said he's looking forward to seeing Lee Dougherty Ross, the artistic director at Artist Series of Sarasota, because she's meant so much to his career.
"She’s been one of the most supportive people I’ve ever had in my life," he says. "I met her through Artist Series, the audition process, first on violin. She started coming to all my gigs in Sarasota. And I was very new to jazz at the time.
"She’d pop in, even if it was for 20 minutes on the way somewhere else, and she’d say, ‘It’s so great to see you.’ She’d invite me to play at events. I went to see my friend’s recital recently, and she was there supporting him too. She said: ‘Oh, you have a quartet in Miami? We need to have that here.'"
Ross, when told of Stine's tribute, is characteristically effusive.
She says that she can remember watching Stine play the violin so beautifully, and she's proud that he's been able to progress in his chosen field.
"He's had quite a background. He's been at so many summer programs and has won scholarships," says Ross. "But the most delightful to me is the joy he brings when he plays. It comes through to those of us who are listening."