Q. What inspired you to pursue music as a career?
A. I had wanted to pick the saxophone when it came time to choose our instrument in 6th grade band, because John Cusack had serenaded the beautiful French foreign exchange student with an alto sax in my favorite silly movie at the time, Better Off Dead. Unfortunately, every other boy wanted to play saxophone as well. By the time the band director got to me, I had decided that I would just play the trombone. My father had played in middle school, and his student model trombone was in the closet at home. I wasn’t too serious about it until I moved from Texas to New Jersey during my freshman year in high school. My new band director said to me, “You’re too big to be playing a student model trombone like that”, and handed me a bass trombone. Within minutes, I realized that I could play louder than the whole rest of the band combined. It was love at first blast! I saw a performance of the last movement of Mahler’s 3rd Symphony by the New York Philharmonic in Carnegie Hall on PBS one evening. I was so moved by the music that by the end of the performance I knew that this was what I needed to do. I switched back to the tenor trombone and haven’t wanted to do anything else since.
Q. What do you like about the Chicago Philharmonic’s ensemble approach in creating music?
A. I’ve always liked the varied music that the Chicago Philharmonic programs. The first time that I played with the Chicago Philharmonic was on Chausson’s Symphony in B flat under Jesus Lopez-Cobos. It was a wonderful piece, but not one that most of us had performed before. It’s always fun to revisit the standards, but I enjoy playing great works that aren’t performed as often. There are a lot of great pieces like that out there. I also really enjoy the camaraderie between the musicians in the orchestra. While putting together a concert requires serious work, we always are having a lot of fun playing together. Maybe too much sometimes (especially in the back row)!
Q. What new endeavors would you like to see the Chicago Philharmonic pursue in the future?
A. I’m really excited for the new collaboration between the Philharmonic and the Joffrey Ballet. I think that those types of partnerships create new audiences and interest for all groups involved. I hope that more of those types of collaborations are formed in the future. I think that playing in more venues around the Chicago area (western and southern suburbs for example) would also be a valuable venture. I know that this idea has been discussed, and I hope it’s something that becomes more and more of a reality. I also want to agree with my colleague’s (Lewis Kirk from the March e-newsletter) mentioning doing more 20th century American composers. I’ve always loved the music of Samuel Barber, Walter Piston (his 2nd Symphony is a great work), and Howard Hanson.
Q. What are you reading at the moment?
A. I just started reading Siddhartha by Herman Hesse again. I’ve read it many times, but I love revisiting it from time to time. It’s a beautiful book. Before that, I had just finished reading In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson (the author of Devil in the White City).
Q. What favorite music are you listening to?
A. I have a pretty diverse list of groups that I listen to. Most of the time, I’m listening to Tool or Porcupine Tree (a British progressive rock band). I’ve always liked Rush and Led Zeppelin, but lately I’ve also gotten into The Who, Queen, and Pink Floyd. I recently got into a great British folk-rock band called Mumford and Sons. Every once in a while I need some Miles Davis, John Coltrane, or Harry Connick, Jr. to balance things out as well.
Q. What do you like to do as a hobby?
A. I would have to say golf has been my long time favorite hobby. I’ve been playing since I was about 9, and have always loved it. Unfortunately, I haven’t really played in a couple of years. I’m trying to work on that, but I’ll probably need to wait until the spring! I don’t cook as much as I’d like, but I REALLY love eating great food. Does that count as a hobby as well?