Monday, June 2, 2008

Thirty-four Years Ago Today...

Thirty four years ago today I made my 'debut' with the Boston Pops.

Two weeks before this date, in 1974, Bill Shisler, who was a contractor for the Pops as well as one of the librarians, called me at my Brighton apartment. He introduced himself and said he would like to hire me to play first trombone in the Boston Pops for a couple of concerts. I said, "Great!" He then said the first concert, which would be in two weeks, has Ravel's "Bolero" on it. I said, "Great!"

The next day, I went over to Symphony Hall and picked up the music. There was Brahms' "Academic Overture," an English March, finale to Tchiakovsky's Fourth Symphony, then "Bolero." Plus many other pieces followed that.

Everyday until the concert date, I played through the entire concert (including counting the rests) twice. Since there was not going to be a rehearsal before the concert, I thought this was the best preparation strategy I could think of.

I actually spoke about this experience on my WGBH radio interview in November, which you can hear by going to the Audio/Video page under Resources on our website.

In reflecting on that day so many human years ago, I am thankful to the people who recommended me and gave me that opportunity. I was very young and they were taking a risk themselves to a degree by recommending me to go in 'cold' like that.

That is what I miss, not being in the symphony or Pops being able to give others a chance. That is something I feel honorable about, having given MANY people a chance to play in the orchestra. I wanted them to be able to get an education on the job, through actual experience. I only did this if I thought they were ready but did not care if they were undergrads. If I thought they were ready, I tried to give them the opportunity.

I would like to think that I give others the chance to better discover themselves through the process of developing their ART, not just trombone playing. This is the big challenge, to play your ART on the stage of life and feel and sense the resonance that comes back to you no matter what 'stage' you are on. I believe this resonance has the feedback you need to keep on growing, if you have the ears and, more importantly, the passion to take it in.

I learned a lot that night on that stage, thanks to all who made it possible.


Gabe Langfur said...

As one who received such an opportunity, I'm happy for the opportunity to express my gratitude publicly. Thank you Norman!

Very little in my career has been as exciting as that first (last-minute) call to play at Pops, followed a few months later with a week playing the Berlioz Requiem - situated in the back balcony of Symphony Hall between Norman and Chester Schmitz!

Getting the call to play at Symphony Hall has always been both a barometer of the work I needed to do, but it has also been a source of encouragement. The fact that I can fit in with the world-class musicians there assures me that I have something valuable to offer when I pick up my trombone, and refreshes my determination to keep taking my skills and musicianship to higher - and deeper - levels.

Wes Hopper said...

An awesome doubt. It was a real treat to hear you play in the orchestra! And many thanks for sending my name along to them as well...

All the best,