Monday, March 5, 2012

A Major Announcement

It's been an intense few weeks since my last post... and at the end of it all, I have some major news to share with you.   OK... here we go!      

It gives me great pleasure to announce I have accepted a position as Associate Professor of Trombone at Vanderbilt University's Blair School of Music! 

That's right!  We will be moving back to Tennessee in August, and I will begin teaching during the Fall 2012 semester.

I realize this comes as a shock to many of you, and I know I have some explaining to do, but first I just want to say how honored I am to have been offered this fantastic opportunity and how excited we are about our future in Nashville.

Of course this means I will be leaving the Vienna Philharmonic/Staatsoper, which was not a decision that was reached lightly.    There have been many sleepless nights and tearful conversations over the past few weeks, but in the end I felt the opportunity to return to our home state to teach and perform music at one of America's top universities was too good to pass up.

Those that know me best know that amidst the triumphs and joys of the last 5 years (which will surely rank among the best years of my life), there have been immense struggles as well.    Like many aspects of life, this experience has been a lesson in the age-old dictum that there are two sides to every story.

On one hand, I have had the honor and privilege to perform with not one but two of the world's greatest orchestras, in the world's greatest concert halls, under the world's greatest conductors.   I have lived for 5 years in one the world's most beautiful cities, traveled to nearly 40 countries, learned a foreign language, and built life-long friendships, both inside and outside the orchestra.    And above all of those things stands the most amazing part of this experience:  the music.    The quality and quantity of music I have heard since September 2007 has enriched my life in a way that I could've never imagined.

On the other hand, the demands of the orchestra's rigorous work/touring schedule have made it quite a challenge to fulfill my most important roles... husband and father.  I am on the road an average of two months per year.   In 2011, I was in Vienna only 7 months out of the year.   At the end of this season, we will have lived in Vienna for about 260 weeks;  I have spent 48 of those weeks away from my wife and son.   This is a very heavy price to pay for all the great things I mentioned above, and I have increasingly viewed the touring aspect of my job as a burden rather than a perk.   I love my job, but I love my family infinitely more.   I want to be around for my wife... I want to watch my son (and any future sons/daughters) grow up.  Not even the Vienna Philharmonic is more important than that.

Also, Vienna is not my home... Tennessee is!   There is no way to fully describe in a blog post what it's like to live an ocean away from the people and places you hold most dear.   For some people, it works.   I realize that geographic proximity to loved ones is not a priority for everyone.   For us, it is a big deal, and we are elated beyond words that we will be close to family once more!

We're so happy to return to the Volunteer State!
There is one more major reason I have made this decision.   Those that have known me for a long time know that up until the point I got the job in Vienna, my goal was to someday teach trombone at the university level.   Though I have obviously enjoyed it immensely, I never planned on being a full-time orchestral musician.    In my first lesson with Vern Kagarice at North Texas, we sat down and had a conversation about my career goals.   I told him in that lesson, "I would like to do a job just like yours."   I said the same thing to Don Hough years earlier at the University of Tennessee.

I have a passion for performance and a passion for teaching, and I always felt a university position would allow me the best opportunity to do both those things on a high level.   My feelings on that subject haven't changed over the years.  What has changed is that I'm now actually qualified for such a position!!   In other words, I feel that I have taken a very circuitous route to achieving what has been my end goal since 2002.

I'm looking forward to interacting with students, impacting their lives through the wonderful gift of music, and sharing what I've learned and experienced in Vienna.    I am excited to rediscover the things that defined my pre-Vienna career (solo playing, jazz, and chamber music) through the lens of the last 5 years.   I can't wait to build new friendships and make music with my colleagues at Vanderbilt, especially in the context of the Blair faculty brass quintet, which will be a major part of my existence there.

Though my first priority will be my students at Blair, I plan to actively pursue a more active solo career.   My recent solo performances in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Texas (sorry for the lack of posts, but it's been a little crazy) were the most fun I've had making music in a long time, and I commented to someone afterwards that it could be addictive.    I plan on concertizing lots in Nashville and around the Southeast, as well as hopefully national and international conferences.

I don't want to completely say 'goodbye' to my orchestral life.   It is my hope that I'll have opportunities over the years to perform with symphony orchestras, even if not in a full-time capacity.    I am not so naive as to think I won't miss the Vienna Philharmonic... of course I will!   But I'm not planning on severing all ties.   I want to come back occasionally to listen, absorb, and maintain the professional and personal relationships I have in Europe.   And if they wanted me to sit in on something, I probably would.  :)

As I near the end of this journey, I find myself reflecting on all that has happened since 2007.   I still don't know if it has sunk in yet what I've actually done, but I think it's beginning to.    I find myself filled not with regret or sadness, but rather overcome with feelings of gratitude and fulfillment.

I am so thankful to God for the blessings He has poured out on my family, and for this experience which has changed my life and the lives of everyone around me.

I am so thankful to my wonderful wife, whose support, determination, and courage have made everything in the last five years possible, from beginning to end.   She was ready to move to Vienna in 2007 even before I was, and she never once asked to leave.  I brought the Vanderbilt idea to her, and she was willing to do whatever I thought best.   Kristi, you are awesome.

I am so thankful to the Vienna Philharmonic/State Opera for taking a chance on me, then completely accepting me, and then understanding and respecting my decision to leave.    I have been overwhelmed by the decency, empathy, and professionalism with which my decision has been met.   My colleagues have all echoed my feelings in the last week: sad that I'm going, but happy for the opportunity I've been given.   I owe a special thanks to Ian Bousfield, without whom I would never have shown up in Vienna in the first place, and whose guidance and friendship have meant the world to me.

And finally, I am so grateful to Dean Mark Wait and the Blair search committee for this amazing life-changing chance.   I enthusiastically look forward to the coming years!!  

Blair's state-of-the-art Ingram Center for the Performing Arts