What defines a great musician/trumpet player is the time and effort one puts in. It doesn’t matter whether you’re older than another musician; time remains a constant, and it is what you do with that time that determines your success. After hearing the different divisions at the competition, I found that there was not much of a difference of sound and playing ability from high school through graduate level performers. In fact, a handful of players from the undergraduate and high school divisions had impressive, beautiful, and mature sounds that were equal, if not better than sounds graduate level performers produced. One cannot make an assumption that soloists or performers at a competition like NTC are the greatest after only hearing them play one piece. It may be that the person who left you in awe could have worked on only that single piece for the year and nothing else, or that he or she is just a great musician overall!
Next, I realize that for those who have never experienced being surrounded by extremely high-level musicians, that it may be jarring to not be “top dog”. It also may be tempting to make comparisons with yourself and another, however comparisons are arbitrary. Perhaps you do not have as much experience as another person--this is OK! One should embrace the melting pot of superb musicians he or she is surrounded by, and not be afraid to interact with anyone here! Everyone’s human, and we all have our own strengths and weaknesses, and are not robots. Socialize and ask “how were you able to do ‘x’ in that piece?! That was awesome!” I guarantee you that mostly everyone is eager to meet new friends and make conversation. Any competition or mass gathering can be a source of inspiration! You never know if you will make life-long friends at NTC or other large-scale events
One of the greatest things at NTC is that the focus is primarily on the students who are competing, and not guest artists (although this is a bonus!). Another is that NTC is free to attend as long as you are not a competitor. Since you are surrounded by students of your age or who are older or younger, there are barely any barriers other than yourself for interacting with others. At a larger event like International Trumpet Guild Conference, it may be intimidating to speak with guest artists who are high-profile, although I recommend that you make an attempt to speak with he or she anyway! They most likely will engage in conversation, and won’t bite!
NTC and mass musical gatherings are an excellent source of inspiration, motivation, and networking. You must remind yourself, however, that you are in control of what you are capable of, and not anyone else! If you hear an incredible performer, become really obsessive or adamant in learning how to achieve that level of musicianship. You must be persistent, have grit, and be consistent in your practice and work ethic in order to become successful. You can do anything you put your mind to!