Turning bad gigs into good

Ulysses James, leader of the Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic Association

In 2012, I volunteered to play Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 for a charitable event at the Kennedy Center. The Beethoven Found organization was sponsoring a concert to benefit wounded warriors. I felt great about the music, the venue and the reasons for doing this concert. Ulysses (“Ul”) James was the conductor. He was also the conductor for the Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic Association, an amateur group in the area.

Unfortunately, the musicians that I had to work with were not great. In fact I remember one of the musicians actually being silly during the rehearsal and even a bit during the concert. It was a little humiliating to present one of trumpeters’ holiest of pieces with this going on.

Ul apologized afterwards and asked if he could make it up to me. A light dawned on my to take advantage of this situation. I asked him if he would program a solo for me to play with his group. And–I took a leap of faith here–I asked him if I could compose it. He agreed.

And that was how I started working on a three-movement solo piece for trumpet and orchestra that I titled Night Passages. I was grateful for this urgent opportunity to grow as a composer.

If there was a lesson to learn and share with this experience, it is that all kinds of gigs are good for us. Even, sometimes, the bad ones.

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