As the proverb goes, “If what you are about to say is not more beautiful than silence, do not say it.” Raúl Junquera applies this proverb to music: “If the note you are about to play is not more beautiful than silence, do not play it.” For this solo trumpeter of the Valencia Orchestra, every note matters. Those who have had the opportunity—and pleasure—to hear him play live can attest to this. His sound and musicality are simply unparalleled.
Junquera is the epitome of a self-made trumpeter who, after years of focused studies, achieved excellence. His career has been dazzling. If he is not a highly publicized trumpeter, it is because he prefers to maintain a discreet profile on social media. Music is important to him, but not more so than his people, his ‘terreta’ (as the people of Valencia call their land), and his way of life.
Fortunately, Raúl has agreed to speak with us to let us get to know him a little better, and he has shared his interesting story. Stay tuned as it will be very inspiring for you.
Small Goals Leading to the Big Goal
Raúl Junquera was born in Massanassa, although he studied in the neighboring town of Catarroja from a young age, where he attended school and eventually joined the band of the La Artesana Musical Society. There, a veteran colleague, Lamberto Olmos—a professional oboist—told him something that would mark him for life: “Xiquet” (meaning ‘little’ in Valencian), to stand out, you have to start by being the best in your band; then, the best in your town; next, the best in your class at the conservatory; then, the best at the Valencia Conservatory, and so on until you become number one, setting small goals until you reach the big goal. The boy took these words seriously, entering the town band as the last of sixteen trumpeters, and today he has become one of the only two professionals in the trumpet section.
His first teacher in the band school was Eduardo Tarín, who at that time also worked as a teacher at the José Iturbi Municipal Conservatory of Valencia. “Eduardo was very encouraging with the kids; he was a key figure in keeping us all studying,” recalls Junquera.
Our young trumpeter completed his elementary studies in three years. At the age of 11, he entered the Valencia Conservatory to start the middle degree with José Fabra, combining this with private lessons from Leopoldo Vidal (a higher degree professor at the same institution, affectionately known as ‘Poldo’). That trumpet class at the Valencia Conservatory was a true breeding ground; many of the great trumpeters who now occupy positions in orchestras and conservatories emerged from there. “Germán Asensi, César Asensi, Luis González, David Llavata, Vicente Olmos, Arturo García, Javier Simó, Juan Antonio Soriano, Miguel Cerezo… We all coincided and made friends during that time,” says Raúl.
After four years, he completed the middle degree—with Honors—and began his higher studies at the same institution, officially under ‘Poldo.’ “When I moved on to the higher degree, I found myself surrounded by professors like Pierre Thibaud, Bo Nilsson, Håkan Hardenberger, Thomas Stevens, and many others who made me see that things could work out,” Junquera tells us, not even having time to train in young orchestras. “My first contacts with the orchestra were directly being hired by professional orchestras such as the Valencia Orchestra, the Madrid Symphony, the Balearic Islands Symphony, or the Córdoba Symphony, while still a student. That’s when I set my mind on going for it, aiming for a soloist position for myself.”
Even though our friend set his goal to be a soloist in an orchestra, it did not mean he couldn’t achieve success through other parallel paths. In 1993, he formed the Lieder Brass Quintet with four colleagues, winning the National Chamber Music Competition of Juventudes Musicales de España.
Finally, in his last year of college, at the age of 19, the Bilbao Symphony Orchestra announced auditions for the principal trumpet position. So, the young trumpeter dreaming of being an orchestra soloist saw his big opportunity here. And he didn’t miss it. “The same week I finished the higher degree with Unanimous Honors, got my driver’s license, and won the auditions in Bilbao!” Junquera recalls with laughter.
And that’s how an 8-year-old boy from the Catarroja Band went from being the last in his band to becoming the principal trumpet of the Bilbao Symphony Orchestra eleven years later: setting small goals until reaching the big goal.
Soloist in a Symphony Orchestra at 20
Raúl joined his position in the Bilbao Symphony Orchestra a few months after winning the auditions (now at the age of 20).
It takes a lot of personality to lead the section of a great orchestra as a 20-year-old. “Fortunately, I met fantastic people there, like Juan Manuel Gómez (current principal horn of the Barcelona Symphony Orchestra) or Bernardo Cifres (current principal horn of the Palau de les Arts Orchestra), who guided me and helped me a lot. Being so young, they became my ‘big brothers’ in the orchestra,” acknowledges our musician.
Junquera was not just a child prodigy. His unusual maturity contributed to the development of his genius; a maturity he acquired at a young age and always proudly displayed. Evidence of this is that, having achieved his great goal, he did not settle and decided to keep growing. “Working far from home as a young man made me think that I should continue studying and not rest on my laurels. So, I talked to Thibaud, and every month I went to his house and stayed there for a week—during the week I had off from the orchestra—to continue perfecting myself with him,” he tells us.
During this time, Raúl participated in prestigious international competitions such as those in Toulon (France) and Geneva (Switzerland), reaching the semi-finals.
Return to the ‘Terreta’ at All Costs
There is a particularly poignant verse in Kipling’s famous poem “If”:
If you can make one heap of all your winningsRudyard Kipling
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
This verse speaks of achieving significant feats but also being able to let them go without feeling a hint of regret.
This is exactly what Raúl Junquera did right after achieving his dream: he was already the principal trumpeter of a great orchestra, yes, but he was far from his land, which he longed for with all his heart. So, he did not hesitate to leave his stable position in the orchestra to return to the ‘terreta’ and try his luck from scratch.
“During the two years I was in Bilbao, I had very positive experiences. But I missed my home, my people, the sun of Valencia… And also Valencia Football Club, whose matches I’ve been attending since I was 12! The only time in my life when I didn’t have a season ticket was when I was in Bilbao, and that I couldn’t bear!” he laughs heartily.
When Junquera shared his decision with his teachers, ‘Poldo’ and Thibaud, they were shocked. “They told me I was crazy because at that time, Spanish orchestra directors only wanted foreign musicians. In fact, out of the 90 musicians in the Bilbao Symphony Orchestra, only 25 or 30 were Spanish, so I had been very lucky,” he asserts.
His parents were more understanding, although it is surprising to imagine a 22-year-old musician with his life already sorted out telling his parents that he’s leaving everything and returning home. “They gave me their total support,” he says. “Still, I promised them that if I didn’t get a position in Valencia within two years, I would quit the trumpet and work in my father’s furniture factory.”
Junquera had utmost confidence, and it proved to be correct because a few months after returning to Valencia, the Municipal Band announced interim positions, and he entered as a flugelhorn player. “The Municipal of Valencia is considered the mother of all Valencian bands; it is the oldest professional band in Spain, and it is full of musicians from Spanish orchestras who one day wanted to return to their land, like me. So, entering it gave me life,” says Raúl.
Junquera remained in the Valencia Municipal Band for five years as an interim flugelhorn player and another fifteen as the principal trumpeter. Until he had the opportunity to take the soloist position in the Valencia Orchestra, a job that definitely brought together everything important to him: the role of a soloist in a great orchestra and, of course, his beloved land, Valencia.
Principal Trumpet of the Valencia Orchestra
“I have to say that the Band has been everything to me; in it, I established relationships not only of camaraderie but of lifelong friendship. Even today, although I am no longer there, I still have great friends,” he says. “But something was missing for me musically. Although the Valencia Municipal has enormous prestige, and certainly a band is as worthy as an orchestra, for my taste, the original orchestra repertoire is a bit more demanding, and that is perhaps what I was missing,” he admits.
In 2008, our friend was a step away from achieving his highest professional aspiration: being the principal trumpeter of the Valencia Orchestra, his land. But on that first occasion, everything turned out to be a regrettable mirage.
It turns out that a couple of years earlier, the Valencia Community Orchestra (the resident orchestra of the newly inaugurated Palau de les Arts) had been created, and Rubén Marqués, then principal trumpeter of the Valencia Orchestra, joined it, leaving a vacant position in the orchestra. Then an audition was announced for that position, and Raúl Junquera won it.
However, the position was not really vacant; Marqués kept it on leave, which meant that if he returned to it for any reason, Junquera would have to leave. For this reason, Junquera also requested leave from his position in the Band—just in case he had to return forcibly—but his request was rejected. “The Band director told me I couldn’t leave, and he denied my leave, so I preferred to resign from the orchestra to avoid the risk of being left without a job anywhere,” Raúl says with some resignation.
Even so, the boy from Massanassa did not lose hope. And he was right. Years after this unfortunate experience, the stars aligned, and he was able to make an exchange with the other principal trumpeter of the Valencia Orchestra, Juan Fons: since both the Valencia Municipal Band and the Valencia Orchestra are entities dependent on the Valencia City Council, and their musicians are all municipal employees with the same labor category, Fons and Junquera exchanged their positions. Thus, Fons became the principal trumpeter of the Valencia Municipal Band, and Junquera, finally, the principal trumpeter of the Valencia Orchestra.
A Fulfilling Life as a Musician and as a Person
“I remember when I went to play with the Valencia Orchestra at 17 or 18, hired as the fourth trumpeter. At that time, I saw the principal position and thought that reaching it someday was possible, although very difficult, as there were only a couple of soloist positions for so many Valencian trumpeters interested in staying to work here,” Junquera mentions. “Now I can say that my life is full. I feel very grateful for everything that has happened to me. I work as the principal trumpeter in the orchestra of my land, which is what I always dreamed of,” he proudly expresses.
Although for Raúl, who lives in the quiet town of Albal, work is not everything, as we have been saying from the beginning. His orchestra allows him to have time, so it is not uncommon to see him enjoying his good Valencian brunch in the bars around his house or meeting his children after school. He even has a boat in the Albufera. “When I have a few days off, I go with the boat to clear my mind, to eat my ‘all i pebre’ [a traditional local dish] with my friends,” he tells us.
When talking about his traditions and his people, Raúl’s face lights up more than when he talks about music. “My routine is to study every day, but I also have time to do other things that I have dreamed of all my life, which is to live in Valencia and enjoy my family and friends, my meals, my Albufera,” he says with total satisfaction, adding a poignant statement: “The most important thing is to find happiness for oneself and one’s family; you cannot obsess only with the trumpet.”
However, the trumpet pursues Junquera, who seems to enjoy greater professional recognition since becoming the principal trumpeter of the Valencia Orchestra. “I don’t know why, because I insist that a band is as worthy as an orchestra, but it’s as if the perception of me has changed in some way, when I have always been the same,” he wonders curiously. “Definitely, now I get many more projects than before: trumpet and organ concerts and recordings with Arturo Barba, who is probably the best organist in Spain; performances with my brass quintet, Art of Brass Valencia—now a quartet; a group called Unclassical with which we play music by Piazzolla and Kurt Weill—tango and jazz pieces from 1950s Germany; another quartet called Bolling Quartet with Carlos Apellániz (piano), Javier Eguillor (drums), and Javier Sapiña (double bass) with which we play Claude Bolling’s Toot Suite; next Friday, I will also present the Three Bells ensemble with the two trumpeters Raúl García and Teles Moreno, accompanied by Remigi Roca (double bass), Pep Soler (drums), and Adolfo García (piano)…” Raúl enumerates in an endless list.
Students also seek him with interest, and his waiting list for private classes is not small. “Now you become the reference for many young people who, like me in my time, aspire to be orchestra soloists and learn to play this repertoire,” the musician asserts.
We express our gratitude to Raúl Junquera for allowing us to share his inspiring story with our readers. He is a clear example of the two necessary ingredients for success: knowing how to entrust oneself to the best and then focusing on the goal without wasting time on trivial matters.
In the symphony of life, Raúl Junquera’s journey is a harmonious melody that resonates with dedication, passion, and unwavering commitment. From the small town of Massanassa to the prestigious position of principal trumpeter in the Valencia Orchestra, Junquera’s story is a testament to the power of setting small goals to achieve the big dream.
His musical journey began with sage advice from Lamberto Olmos, urging him to excel at each stage, starting from the local band to eventually becoming a prominent figure in the international music scene. Junquera’s disciplined pursuit of excellence, coupled with an unyielding desire to return to his roots, has defined his unique narrative.
The early years were marked by rigorous training under the tutelage of mentors like Eduardo Tarín, José Fabra, and Leopoldo Vidal. The camaraderie formed with fellow musicians at the Valencia Conservatory laid the foundation for a successful career. Junquera’s swift ascent to the principal trumpet position in the Bilbao Symphony Orchestra at the age of 20 showcased not just his musical prowess but also his exceptional maturity.
Yet, his journey took an unexpected turn when he chose to prioritize his deep connection to his homeland over a stable position in Bilbao. The decision to return to Valencia, despite the challenges, revealed Junquera’s unwavering commitment to his ‘terreta.’ The subsequent years in the Valencia Municipal Band provided a sense of belonging, but Junquera’s musical quest was far from over.
The pursuit of his ultimate dream—the principal trumpeter position in the Valencia Orchestra—encountered setbacks and challenges. However, Junquera’s resilience and determination triumphed when the stars finally aligned, and he assumed the role that perfectly blended his musical aspirations with his love for Valencia.
As Junquera reflects on his journey, he emphasizes the importance of finding happiness beyond the confines of the trumpet. His love for family, traditions, and the vibrant life in Valencia paints a vivid picture of a fulfilled musician and person. The recognition and myriad projects that have come his way since joining the Valencia Orchestra are a testament to his enduring impact on the music community.
In conclusion, Raúl Junquera’s story is not just about achieving professional milestones; it’s a melody of balancing ambition with authenticity, and finding joy in both music and life. His journey inspires aspiring musicians to pursue their dreams with unwavering dedication, all while cherishing the essence of who they are and where they come from. Junquera’s life is a beautiful composition that echoes the profound truth: sometimes, the most beautiful notes are found in the silences between them.