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.

No tags for this post.

Remembering 2010

The U.S. Navy Band Brass Quartet in 2010: me, Phil Eberly, Tony Halloin, John Schroeder

In 2010, I was mid-career in the U.S. Navy Band. The Navy Band Brass Ensemble played a wonderful concert in Chevy Chase, Maryland. I soloed with the Navy Band Concert Band at the U.S. Capitol Building on Vincent Bach’s Hungarian Melodies and Herbert L. Clarke’s Cousins (with trombonist Andy Skaggs). I arranged a few things for the Navy Band Brass Quartet’s Christmas program (Joy to the World and Vince Guaraldi’s O Tannenbaum and Linus and Lucy).

Baroque trumpeter Barry Bauguess (and just a bit of me) during a Messiah project for Apollo’s Fire. This must have been after he finally beat me in air hockey.

I played what would be my last performance with Apollo’s Fire for quite some time. There was the Washington Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble’s nearly-annual performance in Richmond, Virginia. The Orchestra of the 17th Century, under the baton of Michael Holmes, performed Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers. I think this was my first performance of that wonderful work.  I played first trumpet with the Bach Sinfonia on Purcell’s amazing King Arthur.

At a George Mason University music faculty “showcase,” I played Handel’s Ode and Destero dall’empia with colleagues Lisa Berger (soprano) and Linda Monson (piano). I think Linda, by this time, was the director of the school of music.

At my church, St. George’s Episcopal Church in Arlington, Virginia, I played a recital and wrote two compositions for the Christmas service (one, Annunciation, for cornetto, SATB and organ and the other, Nativity, for brass quartet and organ).

My boys were 10 and 6, perfect ages for me being a dad. We went on little hikes, and I did a little camping trip with Felix on one of his school field trips. Also, in February of 2010, there was a really large snow storm. When you have young children, snow is a lot of fun!

No tags for this post.