Meet Synne Iversen Kverndal; international superstar

Kverndal simultaneously played first, second and third-string trumpet in her hometown concert band for five years. SYNNEKVERNDAL/COURTESY

By Caroline McCarthy, Senior Writer

Synne Iversen Kverndal, a self-taught trumpeter and the next president of the Manhattan College Pep Band, came to Manhattan from Norway in the fall of 2020. She has since found a home in the performing arts department. 

Kverndal began her musical career in her hometown of Heistad, Norway when she was eight years old in an old movie cinema turned concert band rehearsal space. She began her career on the euphonium, a medium-sized tenor-voiced brass instrument, similar to a small tuba.

“It’s [the euphorium] mostly background music,” Kverndal said. “Sometimes you get a melody, sometimes you might get lucky and get a solo. But it’s like a more melodic tuba.”

She began experimenting with the trumpet after six people in her orchestra quit unexpectedly, leaving only two phonemes, one drum, one flute and one clarinet to produce the music of a full concert band. For five years, Kverndal played the parts of first, second and third trumpets to fill the void of missing instruments. 

This process consisted of reviewing the music and determining where one trumpet’s part should stop, and where the next begins. Instead of using those moments as a break, Kverndal played straight through, creating the sounds of three seats of trumpets from one person. 

Heistad sits on the southeast coast of Norway and is known for two things – the production of “concrete fabric”, or the powder that creates concrete, and ice cream. Though animated in the summers, Kverndal describes her hometown as rather dull in non-coastal months. 

“[Heistad] is flourishing during the summer,” Kverndal said. “But it’s dead during the winter. The five ice cream shops [in my town] shut down for the season.”

Kverndal recalls the town next to her having a large music scene, where some of the biggest musicians in Norway perform in the summer months. Kverndal worked in the area on summer breaks to be closer to the music. 

Her self-taught nature of the trumpet does come with limitations, Kverndal has learned. Occasionally, she will find herself struggling to hit the higher notes on the trumpet, which requires more training. 

“Sometimes [there are songs like] ‘24k’ at basketball games – I’m self-taught. I can’t play it,” Kverndal said. 

Kverndal earned one of the few coveted performing arts scholarships during her sophomore year at Manhattan after joining the pep and jazz bands. According to the Manhattan College website, scholarships are awarded to students who “demonstrate exceptional ability in the area of instrumental or vocal music” and participate in a minimum of two performing arts ensembles. 

Kverndal said she was ineligible for the scholarship her freshman year because she was unable to play a wind instrument at an in-person rehearsal. During the fall of 2020, the College had strict mask rules while on campus. 

Kverndal was offered to join the orchestra via Zoom, something she had little interest in performing through an online platform. 

“I didn’t want to do band on Zoom, so I just didn’t join anything,” she recalled. 

In her sophomore year, she joined pep band and jazz band. Pep band performs at all home men’s and women’s basketball games as a part of the spirit team on campus. The jazz band has a series of performances throughout the year. 

Kverndal is admittedly a naturally more shy person, but after joining the performing arts department, she has been able to come out of her shell. She credits this mostly to her roommate, Emily Peters. 

“She’s like a very bubbly person,” Kverndal said. “I’m very much like an introvert. So hanging out with her and all of the other outgoing people [helped].”

Peters refers to the relationship of Pep Band members as a teamlike atmosphere. 

“[The relationship] varies from different performing arts group to different group but I know Pep Band feels like we are really close-knit because we think of ourselves as more of a spirit squad than performing arts,” Peters said. 

“We get left out of the performing arts bubble sometimes,” she continued. “So we kind of fend for ourselves and formed our own little group and we’re like a little family.”

Next year, Kverndal will serve as president of the pep band. She previously served as secretary of the group during the 2022-2023 school year. 

“It’s really delegating and asking people to do their job,” Kverndal shared. “And I’ll have more communication with the director.”

Kverndal is a double major in international studies and peace and justice studies, with a minor in Spanish. She hopes to utilize this career to become a human rights activist.