Tuesday, March 8, 2011

UT Trombone Symposium: Part 4 (final)

The final day of the symposium got underway with another lecture and masterclass on the subject of “The Jeremy Wilson Story”.   My parents were especially anxious to hear this one!  “It all began in 1982…” 

I agreed to that title for lack of a better one, but I wanted to emphasize not so much my biography, but rather what auditioning for the Vienna Philharmonic had taught me, and what I thought other students could glean from my experiences.   I spoke for over an hour, and tried to include every relevant detail I could remember.   I started from the day I received the fateful email from Vern Kagarice and went all the way to the day of the audition.   It was easily the most complete telling of the story I’ve ever done.   I then had the chance to work with several talented high school students in a masterclass format.  

After a wonderful and relaxing afternoon with several friends and family members, it was time for the final event of the week: my concerto with the UT Symphony Orchestra.

After a week of non-stop rehearsals, events, meals, and catching up with friends, I was exhausted.   I think there was also a huge sense of relief and accomplishment that I had successfully pulled off my first major event as a professional solo artist.  It had been more than a year in the planning, and after all my preparation I was ready to go out with a bang.

The orchestra began its Vienna-themed concert with Mozart’s Overture to the Magic Flute
, a piece I’ve performed many times in the Staatsoper.   I was warming up backstage when I got a text message from Joe Christian in the audience which read, “Your warm-up sounds great!”   Even though I was playing in a closed green room that is sealed off from the auditorium, I was being heard in the main hall during the overture!  I was mortified and also confused, but I guess the sound was traveling through ductwork or something.   I immediately put in my practice mute and continued warming up.

The time for my concerto came up, and I once again got a tingly sensation as I walked out on stage.   The nerves were gone, though, and I only had a sense of excitement and anticipation in their place.  I think doing the previous nights’ performances really helped boost my confidence and calm my fears, if for no other reason than I knew what was coming.

I did a short on-stage interview with Jim Fellenbaum, the man who started this whole thing.    We talked about what I had been doing during the week, a little bit about what it’s like to play and live in Vienna, and about the importance of certain composers (like Mozart and Brahms) in the legacy of the orchestra.

Then it was time to play.   I was very eager to finally perform Grøndahl’s trombone concerto, a grand and wonderfully melodic piece that I fell in love with many years ago.   It’s perhaps overplayed, but it’s beautiful and not so difficult to work up in a short time.   I felt that if I were going to start a career as a soloist, this should be my starting point.  

Again, the piece was not perfect, but the most difficult sections, the ones I was most worried about, came off really well.   And I once again felt I stayed true to my musical self, unapologetically taking risks, singing tunes, and most importantly, having fun.    When the last note had been played, I felt an overwhelming sense of joy.  The entire week had been nothing but a positive experience, and I had done what I came there to do.

The evening and the symposium concluded in bombastic fashion when Don, Dan, and I took the stage one last time with the UT Symphony Orchestra to perform Berlioz’s Hungarian March
.   Yes, that’s correct.  SIX trombones and tuba played the piece.   It was loud, it was exciting, and it was, dare I say, a TROMBONE-FEST!   

Here’s a video of highlights from the Grøndahl:

I want to publicly send a huge thanks to Jim Fellenbaum and the UT Symphony Orchestra for the opportunity to perform and make music together.  
I want to again thank my new friend Dan Cloutier, who was an enormous help throughout the whole week and did a great job organizing everything. 

To Don Hough, the man to whom I in large part owe my career, thanks for performing with us and for being there at nearly every minute of the whole symposium.   It was a delight to spend so much time with you.  

To my accompanist Judith Bible, another new friend, I owe another gigantic thank you.  I know it was not easy preparing for a massive recital in the midst of your already busy schedule, and you played beautifully.  

To Dr. Sousa, it was a pleasure and honor to come back and perform with someone who taught me so much and whom I so admired as a student.  A huge thanks for everything… maybe someday I’ll have the nerve to call you Gary.   

To the TTP guys – Jon, Joe, Jeff, and Brian - playing with you guys was the most fun I’ve had in a long time.  Thanks for all the time and effort you put in, and for allowing me to be part of your group for a week.  

To all the students (UT and high school alike), you’re the reason all this happened in the first place.   Thanks for your attentiveness, your support, and your open minds.  It was a pleasure getting to know you, and thanks for letting me dig my hands into your playing in the masterclasses.

To the UT School of Music – my heart goes out to you and to the Stephens family.  For those who don’t know, the director of the School of Music, Roger Stephens, passed away on February 20th after a long battle with cancer.   He was a wonderful man.

To all the friends who came to the UTTS events, many from far away, it was truly amazing to see you all.   The circumstances of our lives have dictated in many cases that we don’t stay in touch like we should.   Seeing everyone makes me want to work harder at remedying that.    Joe & Megan, you’re the greatest… thanks for a place to stay, for your wonderful friendship, and most importantly, for Oreo kugeln!

 To my dear family members who came up to Knoxville, thanks for always supporting me and loving me.   I love you right back.  

It was an unforgettable week on Rocky Top.  Can’t wait to do it again!

The end of a LONG week!

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