Axel Dörner's first instrument was piano, which he initially studied at the conservatory in Arnhem, the Netherlands, from 1988 to 1989, and subsequently (1989 to 1996) at the Musikhochschule in Köln. From 1991 he studied trumpet with Malte Burba at the Musikhochschule. During the five years in Köln leading up to 1994, he worked extensively with trumpeter Bruno Leicht, as The Streetfighters Duo, The Streetfighters Quartet (with Wayne Dockery and John Betsch), and The Streetfighters Double Quartet with, among others, Matthias Schubert and Claudio Puntin. During this time he formed the Axel Dörner Quartet with Frank Gratkowski, Hans Schneider and Martin Blume, and The Remedy with Sebastian Gramss and Claus Wagner (and guests Peter Kowald, Tom Cora and Matthias Schubert). Numerous radio, television and concert appearances were made with these groups.
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