Trumpeting to the Top: Elmer Churampi

“When I was four, I took [my father’s] trumpet when he was taking a break, and I got a good sound.” Elmer Churampi told Christopher O’Riley on Show 268. “On that day, he told me that I was going to be a trumpet player.”

And that he would. From the moment Elmer picked up the trumpet, he began a journey to becoming one of the most impressive musicians and human beings From the Top has ever seen.

While growing up in Lima, Peru, music would be Elmer’s driving force. It would be his vehicle for self-expression, his ticket to success, and his calling in life. It would make him an inspiration to all who would know him.

“My parents were poor but, with a big heart,” he said. “They always supported me in [music and life].”

As a child, Elmer’s musical talent caught the attention of many in his community. Their encouragement would soon be very important.

One of Elmer’s most notable supporters was soccer player Nolberto Solano.  When Nolberto noticed Elmer’s gift for music, he helped him acquire his first professional instrument.

Nolberto Solano and Elmer Charumpi in 2009; photo from

Nolberto Solano and Elmer Churampi in 2009; photo from

The challenges Elmer faced while growing up would propel him deeper into music. His town had frequent crime, as he experienced in two different muggings on his way to and from the National Conservatory of Peru. In addition, his younger sister Camila was born with a cleft palate, and required expensive treatments. This required Elmer to help earn money for his family, which he did by playing wedding gigs with his father.

In 2010, at the tender age of 14, Elmer was accepted and sponsored to attend the Interlochen Summer Arts Camp in Michigan. Traveling and being away from home brought challenges from language barriers to homesickness.

But Elmer persevered.

He made friends, impressed the teachers with his abilities and positive attitude, and thrived at Interlochen as a budding musician. As the summer came to an end, Elmer was invited to continue his studies, on a full scholarship, as a student in the year-round Interlochen Arts Academy. Accepting this opportunity propelled Elmer further along in his journey.

In his junior year at Interlochen, Elmer applied for From the Top’s Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award, a $10,000 scholarship given to extraordinary young musicians with financial need. He hadn’t told his family about applying, but called them as soon as he found out he had been selected for the scholarship.

“I literally jumped up and down for one hour!” he said.

His family couldn’t have been happier. Besides being a huge honor, Elmer now also had the funds to pay for college audition travel. It opened up many opportunities for the future.

“My dream was coming true thanks to From the Top and the Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award.”

In addition to the $10,000 scholarship, every Awardee is also featured as a performer on NPR’s From the Top With Host Christopher O’Riley. Elmer appeared on Show 268 in Tuscon, Arizona, at the age of 16. On the phone, his parents even got to listen in live, all the way from Peru.

Elmer performing on Show 268.

Elmer performing on Show 268

Each recipient of the Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award is required to complete an arts leadership project where they use their music to make a positive difference in their community. Fittingly, Elmer chose to return to his roots in Peru.

Elmer’s destination was the town of Chancay, where he taught a master class to the youth orchestra.

Elmer showing students the trumpet embouchure

Elmer showing students the trumpet embouchure

The students’ admiration for Elmer was instantaneous.

Elmer teaching a young student

Elmer with a young student

Not only did he teach the students music fundamentals; he also gave them inspiration.

“I told them that they are the future of Peru, and they should practice more and study hard. When they get famous someday, stay humble always,” he said.

Elmer and the students

Elmer and the students

“Everyone came to me to take pictures and told me that I’m the example of their future.”

Group photo with Elmer and all the students

Group photo with Elmer and all the students

Not only is Elmer an example for the future to the students he visited that day, but for all of us too.

Elmer is now a student at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. We can’t wait to see where he goes next with his wild talent and wonderful spirit.

To listen to Elmer’s performance on Show 268, go here.