February 2, 2009

Cup mutes and seasons of life

I remember first coming to Rochester in the fall of 1986 as a freshman to study trumpet at the Eastman School of Music. I had actually never seen the school or Rochester before- I took one of the "regional" Eastman auditions that travelled around the country each year, this one in LosAngeles, California, close to my home town of Lakewood. I remember the first snow that year in Rochester was on my birthday in October, and that the "winter" jacket my parents had packed with me in California was not up to the task.

I also won an audition for the trumpet section of the RPO that October, and started performing with the orchestra later that month playing 4th trumpet. I remember in my first rehearsal I moved up and played second on a Smetena piece to the former Principal Trumpet, Dick Jones- he looked at me with a sort of wry smile and said "my cup mute is older than you. . ." I played third a lot that year, because the Third Trumpet, Doug Prosser, was out of town a lot, taking auditions and playing with different orchestras. The following October I was promoted to Third Trumpet, because Doug had won the Principal Trumpet job in Barcelona, Spain.

Fast forward 22 years to the 2008-09 season. Doug's been back for 13 years or so, as Principal Trumpet here at the RPO, and I sit next to him, just like I did that first year I played, only now I'm the second trumpet. He met and married a Spanish girl when he was in Spain, I married a Nebrasaka girl I met at Eastman (RPO Assistant Concertmaster Shannon Nance), he has 3 kids, and I have 4. Now we're the "old" guys bringing in students to play with the orchestra. Last week we performed Janacek's Sinfonietta, and we needed 12 trumpets (yes, 12!). Our regular section is Doug, me, Herb Smith and Paul Shewan. That leaves 8 more, so we looked to Eastman Trumpet Professor Jim Thompson and 3 of his best students, Bill Osinsky, Brett Long and Max Matzen. That left four more. So we brought in Roy Smith, a former student of Paul Shewan; Guy Piddington, a former student of Doug's; and Kris Westrich, a former student of mine who is at Northwestern University. That left one more, so we let Kris bring his friend Kyle from Northwestern. I asked Doug to have Kris and Kyle in my group on the Janacek, and that's what we did.

It turned out to be a terrific trumpet section, and it was a great moment for me to have Kris sitting next to me in the orchestra. Doug and I went a step further and split up some of the other pieces- he played the Beethoven Violin Concerto with Guy, and I played the Smetena with Kris (who is older than my cup mute, by the way), which gave us a little more time with each of them and gave me a very strong sense of deja vu on the Smetena. There is a certain triumph to seeing a student you've taught and trained mature and become a great musician, and I know that this past week Doug, Jim, Paul, and I all felt this as we performed with our students on the Janacek, which has one of the most incredibly triumphant endings in the entire orchestral repertoire. It was an amazing experience!

Anyway, this week it's back to reality playing in an orchestra where the bass section outnumbers the trumpets and not the other way around. Surely not the way I'd set things up if I were in charge, but I'm not in charge, which is probably a good thing- maybe in another 22 years. . .

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