With the combination of vacation and performances, this has been a busy summer for me. Last month, while visiting Chicago, I was fortunate enough to play a few concerts with the Chicago Symphony. This was really a dream come true for me, as I was a student of Frank Crisafulli’s at Northwestern in the mid-1980s and worshipped the orchestra. When I think back, the reason I became a professional trombone player was because of the CSO. When I was in high school there was an interview with Edward Kleinhammer in one of the ITA journals, which included that famous photograph of the CSO brass section. I looked at those guys and thought WOW! —they even look as sturdy as they sound. I could hear the great brass playing by just looking at the photo. So, it was a great thrill for me to play three concerts with them.
I played a concert in Chicago’s new Millennium Park, and two concerts at Ravinia. Which included Act 1 of Die Walküre and Mahler Symphony No. 8. What a pleasure and honor to play with those great musicians. I also made a recording with the Tower Brass—which included many old friends from my years in Chicago.
In October, I will be substituting for Jim Markey on the New York Philharmonic’s tour to Asia. There will be concerts in South Korea and Japan. I am completely aware of how fortunate I am to be in the position I am in. I teach at one of the top music schools and get to perform with the best orchestras. Granted, I have worked long and hard for this but I still know how rare these opportunities are. I will post updates on the tour as they occur. While on the topic of the New York Philharmonic, I attended one of the Mahler 3 performances in June. I thought the orchestra sounded nothing short of spectacular. The horns were astonishing in both their power and the delicate playing of Phil Myers. Phil Smith, once again, showed why he is considered to be the finest orchestral trumpet player in the world— his onstage solos and the post horn solo were models of musicianship. The reason I made the trip was to hear Joe Alessi. I have heard Joe on many occasions but to witness his Mahler 3 solos live was something singularly special. His breadth of sound and flawless execution were inspiring. At the end of the concert Lorin Maazel brought both Joe and Phil Smith to the front of the stage for a duo-solo bow. The trombone section was fantastic, as always.
Vacationing took me to Malibu for a couple of weeks, where I was able to hook up with LA trombonist extraordinaire Alex Iles and have a quick visit with Ralph Sauer. I also saw the LA Phil at the revamped Hollywood Bowl.
During that trip I was also able to visit the esteemed Music Academy of the West and observe a master class with Mark Lawrence. Mark and I go back a long ways to 1982—I was a student at Tanglewood and Mark was in the Empire Brass Quintet. It is always great to see Mark.
I am writing this from Santa Fe, NM where I was able to hook up with another longtime friend Mark Fisher. Soon I travel to the great Northwest where my niece is getting married. I am playing the Massenet “Meditation” and Bernstein’s “A Simple Song” for the ceremony.
Finally, I will comment on a performance of the Mahler Sixth Symphony done by the IU Festival Orchestra in Bloomington on August 5th. The Festival Orchestra is comprised of mostly IU students with some faculty sprinkled in. Conducting this concert was Roberto Abbado. I had worked with Mr. Abbado on two separate occasions in the Seattle Symphony and he was my favorite guest conductor there. I looked forward to his visit to Bloomington very much—perhaps too much so—as I was sure to be disappointed. I have to tell you all that Roberto Abbado is one of, if not the finest young conductor on the circuit. Everything he does serves the music. He is politely insistent that the orchestra plays as he asks and he asks for nothing that is not in the score. It is quite something to witness. I must admit that his uncle, Claudio, has long been one of my favorite conductors so perhaps I am a bit biased when it comes to Roberto Abbado’s conducting. I will tell you I was not disappointed but truly re-inspired. I urge all of you to attend any concert you can in which Mr. Abbado is conducting.
Enough for now…more to come including the most common deficiencies I encounter in younger players plus a list of tips and topics that we all, as brass-playing musicians should consider.