Thursday, July 31, 2008

Learn from All

You can learn from anyone and, actually, everything. It does depend on what you are willing and wanting to learn. Some people seem to know a lot about a lot of different things. I am not one of them! But in the areas I am interested in, I learn primarily from experience, observation and continuos effort. And I can see that what I learn in one area applies to many other areas as well.

With musicians, there oftentimes is a closed-mindedness that can come into play around musical development, thinking you can only learn from someone who plays your instrument or who plays in the stlye you want to emulate. Sometimes a person thinks they can only learn from "the great ones." This, in my mind, is biased learning and, therefore, is a huge hinderance to the learning process.

I can truly say I have learned something from all my students. Either mentally, emotionally, musically, ethically, socially, energetically and more. I also have learned a tremendous amount form other instrumentalists, singers, painters, dancers, poets, plumbers and everyone I can think of--including my amazing parrot!

Someone who teaches has an opportunity to really interact and work with another human being and watch all sorts of different ways people develop. How can each person be taught the same way when they don't learn the same way? In my mind, it is my responsibility to try to keep the integrity of the individual intact while trying to help them in their artistic process and growth.

Learn from all and your days will be very full and rich!

P.S. In the photo, my parrot, Atlantis, is giving me a lesson. I wonder if this is the way I look at my students sometimes? :-)

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Final Bow at Tanglewood

Well, that's that. My "official" final Boston Symphony Orchestra bow at Tanglewood. Curious, because it was at Tanglewood, in fact, that I first saw and heard the BSO live, exactly 40 years ago, with my dear father. A lot has happened in between these two events.

Yesterday was quite a scene. Four brass players, from each section of the brass, retired--myself and Ronald Barron from the low brass, Peter Chapman from the trumpets, and Danny Katzen from the horn section. That must be a BSO record, that many brass players leaving at one time. (Doug Yeo caught the bow photo on his cell phone.)

After the bows, there was a party and it was very touching to hear and feel the different sentiments from the people who are staying on about the people who are leaving, and from the "retirees" about their time spent in the orchestra. Lots of value and sentiment, with some quite unique styles in the manner in which those feelings where expressed!

Doug Yeo offered me a heartfelt tribute and a collection of very special serious gifts (including amazing handwritten historical manuscripts), practical gifts (including a gas card for an upcoming adventure I'll write about soon) and some humorous gifts (including Wallace and Gromit action figures, characters we both enjoy!). It was great!

Ron offered some thoughtful gifts too, including a live demonstration of one of the gifts he gave me, which Carol now calls the "Throw Bone." Ron took an old trombone he got, online or somewhere, out of its case and threw it, quite a long distance, out of the tent where we were having the party! I couldn't believe it! Here is a picture Carol took of me trying to play it after that happened. The slide wouldn't even move!

Then it was Ron's turn to be honored. Inspired by Ron's passionate and extensive research into Camille Saint-Saens (his relationship with the trombone and the BSO connection within that) and including the fact that Ron is in the process of writing a book about it, I was moved to 'help' his research by 'discovering' the animal Saint-Saens forgot to include in his "Carnival of the Animals." So, I gave Ron an unusual stuffed animal and wrote a piece for solo trombone, dedicated to Ron, called " The Forgotten Animal (The One Saint-Saens Forgot)." It's quite a humorous piece and has some 'hidden' quotes in it. It calls for extensive Harmon mute techniques and I know Ron will do it up GREAT.

Before I knew it, it was done. Farewell, BSO! Good luck to all the musicians and new trombone players. I was glad to have been a part of the orchestra, especially in the early years when my mentors were in it: Sherman Walt, Harold Wright, Chester Schmitz, Armando Ghitalla, Vic Firth and Charles Schlueter. What an honor!

I hope the BSO musicians will not let the wrapping paper of perfection distort the actual message and communication possibilities that I was so inspired by when I heard my mentors and the section I got to play with.

I want to include a special thanks to my wife, Carol, who over the past 19 years has been an incredible support and inspiration in a most profound way. I also have been fortunate to have had other family members, friends and teachers be supportive over the years. I consider myself very fortunate and am filled with gratitude.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Minnesota Encore!
Three Generations Reunion

During my trip to Minnesota in February, Doug Wright and I talked about taking a picture with Ron Ricketts, the former long time second trombonist of the Minnesota Orchestra and my former teacher. Well, during this trip, it became a reality! Here's the photo!

It was great to see Mr. Ricketts again and it was an honor to play in his old seat, alongside my former student, Doug Wright. It was extra fun because we played Rimsky-Korsakov's Scherazade, which has a dramatic, fanfare-type solo for the second trombone. I was thinking not only of all the times I had played and recorded this with the Boston Symphony, but also that I was playing my former teacher's solo, in his old chair, in the hall he had played it in for many years.

I wonder if the person who gets my old job in the Boston Symphony will reflect on the fact that, for many years, I played the very parts he or she will be playing?