A “Senior” Recital—Celebrating the 46th Anniversary of Douglas Yeo’s Wheaton College Senior Recital, April 1976

A “Senior” Recital—Celebrating the 46th Anniversary of Douglas Yeo’s Wheaton College Senior Recital, April 1976

By Douglas Yeo

The last consequential musical performance I gave before the coronavirus pandemic hit in March 2020 was a joint recital in St. Louis with my good friend, Megumi Kanda, principal trombonist of the Milwaukee Symphony. That recital, on February 17, was hosted by the St. Louis Low Brass Collective, and it was a fun and memorable time of sharing music and music making with friends and an appreciative audience. Little did any of us know that the course of the pandemic over the next two-plus years would greatly constrain public performances. While the pandemic is still with us—let’s not kid ourselves: it’s still wreaking havoc around the world despite our collective desire to put it in our rear view mirrors—we are taking tentative steps to regain the rhythm of life that we enjoyed before anyone knew what the acronym COVID stood for.

Last year, I wanted to give a faculty recital at Wheaton College. Since 2019, I’ve been Wheaton College’s trombone professor, and the College has been important to our family since the early 1970s because my wife, our daughters, and I all went to school there. For this faculty recital, I an idea. Instead of the usual fare—play several important pieces written for bass trombone—I envisioned a program based on several stories. On April 19, 1976, I gave my senior bass trombone recital at Wheaton College; I was 20 years old. It was one of several culminating events that occurred during my last months as a student at Wheaton College and it remains memorable to this day. As I reflected on that, I realized that 2021 was the 45th anniversary of that recital. Also in 2021, I was 65 years old. In 1976 I was a senior in college. In 2021, I was officially a senior citizen. So why not do A Senior Recital, and celebrate the 45th anniversary of my senior recital—as a senior?

But it was not to be. In April 2021, the coronavirus pandemic was in full swing and I could not give the kind of recital I wanted to give. I didn’t want to perform a recital in an empty room that would only be seen over a live stream. For me, concerts are collaborative events between performers and audience, interactive affairs where we all feed off each other’s energy. I put aside the idea of A Senior Recital for another day. And that day came last week.

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Last Saturday, on April 23, 2022, I gave A Senior Recital, in the new concert hall in Wheaton College’s Armerding Center for the Arts. Now on the 46th anniversary of my 1976 recital, and a year older, I decided to give a recital that celebrated the spirit of creativity that infused my 1976 recital. I also wanted to perform on several different musical instruments that have been a big part of my life for many years. I spent some time during the recital in front of a long table that held all of the instruments I used in the recital and I gave a little talk about each one. A word about the instruments. Naturally, I played bass trombone, my Yamaha YBL-822G bass trombone. But I introduced the audience to some other instruments, too. Serpent, ophicleide, six-valve trombone, and my new carbon fiber conversion of one of my Yamaha bass trombones, made by Butler Trombones. “Yeo’s music store” was visible throughout the recital on a table on stage, and some of the audience reactions when I played and talked about these instruments can be heard on the full stream of the recital. More on that below.

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Douglas Yeo talking about the six-valve trombone. Other instruments that are visible include serpent, ophicleide (on the table), and two Yamaha bass trombones, one with a carbon fiber conversion by Butler Trombones. April 23, 2022. Photo by Paul Schmidt.

Finally, I wanted to tell a story—several stories, actually. I wanted to tell stories about music, music-making, musical instruments, faith, hope, and love, and Wheaton College. So, I did.

At this season of life—I will turn 67 years old in a couple of weeks—I’m grateful for any opportunity I have to make music. While I don’t have my 35 year old body and I’m not able to do everything with a musical instrument in my hand that I was able to do in the past, I still like to play and share music with others. Whether in a recital, or as part of a church service, or alongside my wife, daughters, or grandchildren, music making has been a part of our family’s life for as long as any of us can remember. And for this recital, I was very fortunate to have superb collaborating artists. For five pieces, Dr. Michael Messer, a piano professor at Wheaton College, provided absolutely tremendous accompaniment for me. He is a superb musician and player—those two words do not always go together but in his case, they do, in spades—and collaborating with him was a real joy. Also, for one piece on the program, Dr. Tony Payne, a classmate of mine from my days as a student at Wheaton College who also now teaches and performs administrative roles including running the Artist Series at Wheaton College, played organ along with me. Working with these friends made the recital all the more enjoyable. For A Senior Recital, I chose a program that I hoped would be engaging for the audience, and from reports from people who attended, it was mission accomplished. We had a good time. So, in the spirit of sharing this model of putting together a recital, what follows are some links so you can watch and listen to it, too.

First, you can download the recital program by clicking HERE. The program tells a story, so if you take the time to read it, you’ll understand exactly what I was trying to do with this recital.

You can view the entire recital—from top to tail— by clicking HERE. This Boxcast link will be live for a year, until April 23, 2023. The recital was performed without intermission, and with the full Boxcast link, you’ll hear everything from Dr. Michael Wilder’s (Dean of the Wheaton College Conservatory of Music and Division of Arts and Communications) introduction to the moment after the last piece where our two grandchildren brought flowers to me on stage. You’ll hear my conversation with the audience about the music, and see me give brief demonstrations of all of the musical instruments I played on the recital. It’s all there.

I’ve also put videos of a few performances from the recital on YouTube—no talking or introductions, just the music. Those links follow here.

Elizabeth Raum: Turning Point (2008)

I’ve enjoyed playing many of Elizabeth Raum’s compositions over the years. When I was teaching trombone at Arizona State University (2012–2016), our faculty brass trio of John Ericson (horn), Deanna Swoboda (tuba), and me commissioned Betsy to write a piece for us, Relationships, and we recorded it on a CD produced by Summit Records, Table for Three. Click HERE to hear our recording of the first movement of Relationships, “Two Against One.” Her solo for bass trombone and piano, Turning Point, found inspiration in the Robert Burns poem, “To a Mouse,” where Burns penned the famous line, “The best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry.” Indeed, we have all seen this line in action over the last two years of the pandemic, where many plans were upended. Turning Point speaks to this turbulence but it ends in a positive, hopeful way. Michael Messer is at the piano.

Hector Berlioz: Oraison funèbre from Grande Symphonie funèbre et triomphale, H. 80 (1840)

Asking a person, “Who is your favorite composer?”,  is a little like asking, “Who is the favorite of your children?” It’s an impossible question. But if I had to make a list of those composers who have inspired and challenged me, Hector Berlioz will be on that list. High up on that list.  I have played a great deal of his music over the years during my long career as a member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra (1985–2012). In 1840, Berlioz wrote a three movement symphony for band, his Grande Symphonie funèbre et triumphale, the middle movement of which is a funeral oration intoned by a solo trombone. I’ve known about this piece since I was in high school when I encountered it in Henry Charles Smith’s fine book, Solos for the Trombone Player (Henry retitled it “Recitative and Prayer”). Several years ago, I purchased a six-valve trombone with independent tubes, a creation of Adolphe Sax in the mid-nineteenth century. This instrument—its formal name is quite wonderful: le nouveau trombone Sax à six pistons et à tubes indépendants—was Sax’s attempt to create a brass instrument with valves that has “perfect intonation.” As brass players know, with a standard three or four valve brass instrument whose valves are used in combination with each other, the lengthening of tubing when using the valves causes intonation challenges. By creating an instrument with six valves—and the open instrument with no valves— that work independently (the valves do not work in combination), and each valve (and the open instrument) has its own independent length of tubing, certain problems with intonation that valves in combination cause are eliminated. But that’s not to say that all pitch problems are solved, and that, along with the fact that the fingerings are anything but intuitive,  the instrument is quite heavy, and condensation from the player’s breath collects quickly in the small bore (.460″) tubes, led the six-valve trombone (and a whole family of six-valve instruments that Sax invented) to have its moment on the stage in France and Belgium for the second half of the nineteenth century into the twentieth century before it disappeared from the musical scene. Still, I enjoy bringing old instruments back to life, and while I have never succeeded in performing a piece on this instrument without making a valve fingering gaffe—my brain always wants to return to standard three valve fingerings, a consequence of having played bass trumpet in the Boston Symphony for many years—I like bringing Berlioz’s Orasion to audiences. In this performance I’m playing my six-valve trombone by Joseph Persy, a Belgian maker who was active in Brussels from 1897. Again, Michael Messer is at the piano.

Girolamo Frescobaldi, recomposed by Eddy Koopman: Canzone (Canzon primo basso solo, F. 8.06b, 1628)

Girolamo Frescobaldi wrote several works for unspecified bass instruments which I have played on many occasions. In 2012, I gave a recital at Arizona State University where I played Frescobaldi’s first Canzon on a bass sackbut in F with Dr. Kimberly Marshall playing organ. You can see a video of that performance HERE.  I’ve also played it on bass trombone accompanied by piano. But I confess I never enjoy playing it more than when accompanied by Eddy Koopman’s creative techno-pop electronic treatment. The arrangement was written for my friend, Dutch bass trombonist Ben van Dijk, and I played it on the buccin (dragon bell trombone) in Nagoya, Japan in 2018 as part of the Second Nagoya Trombone Festival. You can read about that and see photos of that event HERE.

For my recent recital performance of Canzone, I decided to pair the oldest piece on my recital with my newest trombone, a carbon fiber conversion of my Yamaha YBL-822G bass trombone made by Dave Butler of Butler Trombones. I became interested in acquiring a carbon fiber trombone a few years ago in light of a number of challenges I’ve been facing with my shoulders, hands, and elbow. Over 55 years of playing the trombone—of lifting it up and down, holding it up, moving the slide continuously—has taken its toll on my body, and the idea of sometimes playing a lighter instrument is very appealing. I was initially suspicious of the idea of a carbon fiber trombone, but as I learned more about it and discovered that it actually sounds great, I’ve embraced this instrument as something that I use regularly. You can read more about my impressions about this instrument in an article I wrote for The Last Trombone HERE. With my carbon fiber trombone in my hands, I once again had the chance to bring Eddy Koopman’s take on Frescobaldi’s Canzon to a new audience.

Clifford Bevan: Variations on “The Pesky Sarpent”

My fascination with historical musical instruments dates from my childhood, when I spent many hours in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s (New York City) musical instrument galleries. I wrote about my first encounter—as a young boy— with the buccin, the dragon-bell trombone of the nineteenth century, in an article on The Last Trombone that you can read HERE. I’ve been playing the serpent since 1994, when I learned it so I could play the serpent in performances of Hector Berlioz’s Messe solennelle with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in Boston, Carnegie Hall, and Tokyo. Since then, I’ve been an evangelist for the instrument. I’ve written articles about it (such as this one about serpents in collections in Boston, and this one about the serpent in the works of English author, Thomas Hardy), a book about it, and recorded a solo CD and an instructional DVD about it. I love this curious. odd, and old instrument that was invented in the sixteenth century.

Over the years, I’ve gotten to know many of the world’s leading serpent players and scholars (yes, they do exist!). Clifford Bevan is acknowledged as the leading expert on the tuba family (he authored a book of that name, The Tuba Family, which remains the seminal and most important volume about the tuba and its ancestors, including the serpent). I’ve known Cliff for many years, and in 1996, he wrote what may be the first piece ever written for serpent and piano, Variations on “The Pesky Sarpent.” The piece takes its title from a nineteenth century folksong titled, “On Springfield Mountain,” which relates the sad tale of a young man who was bitten by a rattlesnake. Cliff’s piece includes the text of the song and in my performance, I began by reading the poem before Michael Messer started “The Pesky Sarpent” in dramatic, Lisztian fashion.

Sir Arthur Sullivan: The Lost Chord

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Tony Payne, organ, and Douglas Yeo, ophicleide, rehearsing Sir Arthur Sullivan’s, The Lost Chord. Concert Hall, Armerding Center for the Arts, Wheaton College. April 23, 2022. Organ by Taylor & Boody. Photo by Marian Payne.

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Douglas Yeo performing Sir Arthur Sullivan’s, The Lost Chord. April 23, 2022. Photo by Paul Schmidt.

After playing the serpent I turned to the ophicleide, a brass, keyed successor to the serpent that was invented in France in the early nineteenth century. The ophicleide has a warm, mellow sound, and it’s no surprise that it remained on the scene—particularly in France and England—until the dawn of the twentieth century when the euphonium and tuba replaced it in most settings. Unfortunately the lighting in the Armerding Center for the Arts Concert Hall organ loft was rather dark so the video quality is not good enough to upload it to YouTube. A few photos are above. However, an audio recording was made and you can hear my performance of Sir Arthur Sullivan’s The Lost Chord on ophicleide with Tony Payne at the organ HERE.

The recital contained other music as well, and as I mentioned earlier, you can see and hear the entire recital on the Boxcast streaming video. Before the last piece (more on that below), I welcomed to the stage four friends from my time as a student at Wheaton College. From 1974–1976, James Roskam, Eric Carlson, William Meena, and I had a trombone quartet on campus. George Krem, Wheaton College’s trombone professor when the four of us first met in the summer of 1974, suggested that we form the quartet. That group was a very special one, and to have Jim, Eric, Bill, George, and me together for the first time in over 45 years—I invited them to be recognized on stage at the end of the recital and we enjoyed some time together afterward—was very special.

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left to right: Douglas Yeo, James Roskam, Eric Carlson, William Meena, and George Krem. April 23, 2022, Wheaton College, Illinois. Photo by Tony Payne.

The recital also served as a kind of release party for a new trombone quartet compact disc recording, Like A River Glorious. Well, a new but also old recording. This CD, which features both live recordings and recordings from a recording session our quartet gave between 1974 and 1976, was produced by the four members of our quartet and our recording engineer, Craig Ediger (it is not produced by Wheaton College, although College administrators have been very supportive of and approve of the project). We made this CD to celebrate the spirit of student-led creativity that was such a part of our experience as students at Wheaton College and we are giving it away as a recruiting aid for the Wheaton College Conservatory of Music. You can’t buy it; we’re just giving it away. But we are reserving copies for prospective students; we don’t have the resources to distribute it widely by packing it up and mailing it to people. We will be getting the audio tracks available for free download soon—information about that will appear in a future article on The Last Trombone—along with the CD packaging. If you came to my recital, an usher put a copy of the CD in your hand as you left the Concert Hall. It is only 46 years overdue, but we finally made the recording we had hoped to make way back in 1976.

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Joseph Haydn, arr. Donald Miller: Achieved is the Glorious Work from The Creation

My recital ended with a piece that was the signature piece for our 1974–1976 Wheaton College Trombone Quartet, Donald Miller’s arrangement of Achieved is the Glorious Work from Joseph Haydn’s The Creation. I was joined on stage by three of my current students at Wheaton College: sophomore Michael Rocha, senior Daniel Casey, and Senior Jonah Brabant. It seemed fitting to close the recital in a way that came full circle for me, from my student days at Wheaton College to my time now as the College’s trombone professor. A Senior Recital.

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Berliner 62Z – an early trombone record from 1897

Berliner 62Z – an early trombone record from 1897

By Douglas Yeo

The history of trombone solo recordings has yet to be written. This puzzles me. How is it that an enterprising trombone-playing doctoral student, looking for a worthy dissertation project, has not yet entertained the thought, “What was the first audio recording of a trombone solo?”, and then set out to explore the situation? But to my knowledge, this hasn’t happened.  [A caveat: Edward Bahr’s DMA document, “A Discography of Classical Trombone/Euphonium Solo and Ensemble Music on Long-Playing Records Distributed in the United States” (University of Oklahoma, 1980) was limited in scope and did not cover the pre-LP record era.] With all of my current research and writing projects on my plate, I don’t have the time to undertake this study, but the subject interests me enough to keep an eye out for information that might be useful in informing the arc of recorded trombone solo history. That said, “first claims” are not really so important in the big scheme of things. What is of greater importance is what the solo playing on early recordings tels us about musicianship and trombone technique at the time.

Trombonists are aware (or should be aware) of solo recordings made by Arthur Pryor, the celebrated trombone soloist of John Philip Sousa’s Band. Pryor made dozens of recordings as a trombone soloist for various companies, and many more as a conductor. He was also a prolific composer. The Discography of American Historical Recordings (DAHR), which is maintained by University of California Santa Barbara, lists over 1300 recordings when one searches for “Arthur Pryor.” This number includes recordings of Pryor as a trombone soloist, as a conductor, and recordings of his works by others. The 26 tracks of Pryor playing trombone solos that were released in 1983 on Crystal Records as Trombone Solos Performed by Arthur Pryor (Crystal LP S451) and in 1997 as Arthur Pryor: Trombone Soloist of the Sousa Band (Crystal CD CD451) include just a small sampling of Pryor’s trombone solo discography, and they feature recordings that he made between November 1, 1897 and September 21, 1910 on Victor, Berliner, and Monarch records.

The Crystal recording includes copious notes about the recordings, the music played, and Pryor, including what claims to be a complete discography of Pryor’s trombone solos, duets, quartets, and sextets. This list, which relied in part on the listing of Pryor recordings in James R. Smart’s The Sousa Band: A Discography (Washington DC: Library of Congress, 1970) lists several cylinder recordings that Pryor made “c. 1895” for Columbia and the Chicago Talking Machine Company. To my knowledge, copies of these wax cylinders have not been found (for an insightful discussion of why so few of these early Columbia have survived, see this article on the ARSC—Association for Recorded Sound Collections—blog) or at least their discovery has not been made public. The dates of these recordings are not known with certainty, although the Columbia recordings were listed in a Columbia Records catalog in 1895 (for an updated listing of Columbia recordings, see The Recordings of the Columbia Phonograph Company, 1889-1896 , compiled by Mason Vander Lugt for the National Recording Preservation Board, 2017). Clearly, Pryor made or planned to make some wax cylinder solo recordings by 1895 but in the absence of having actually found one, it is possible that the Columbia catalog published recordings they were planning to make and, for one reason or another, they were not recorded, manufactured, or distributed.

The evolution of recorded sound from wax cylinders to records occurred in the late 1880s, with the production of single-side 5-inch diameter records by the Berliner Gramphone Company. Emile Berliner is credited as the inventor of the gramophone record.  For a superb summary of Berliner’s pioneering and influential work in the nascent recording industry, I recommend James R. Smart, “Emile Berliner and Nineteenth-Century Disc Recordings,” The Quarterly Journal of the LIbrary of Congress (Summer/Fall 1980, Vol. 37, No 3/4, 422-440). Also of interest is the article on the Library of Congress website, Berliner Recordings at the Library of Congress. Among Berliner’s early 5-inch discs (which were manufactured between 1889 and 1892 before he switched to 7-inch discs) is Berliner 116, a recording of an unknown trombone soloist playing an unaccompanied version of the German drinking song, Im tiefen Keller. A fragment of this recording, which is one of the earliest records ever made (the exact date of the recording is not known) may be heard HERE (click on “To listen” on the linked page).

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Paul Charosh’s book, Berliner Gramophone Records: American Issues, 1892-1900 (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1995), is the most comprehensive resource of information about Berliner records. With Charosh’s book in hand, one can put together a timeline of Berliner trombone recordings, and the DAHR database of Berliner recordings provides additional information. From this, we can see that Arthur Pryor’s first recordings on disc were made on July 2, 1897, when he recorded Sweet Lorena Ray (Berliner 3300), Exposition Echoes (Berliner 3301), and The Palms (Berliner 3303).

In December 2021, my friend Kevin Mungons—with whom I co-authored the new book, Homer Rodeheaver and the Rise of the Gospel Music Industry (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2021)— told me of an auction of Berliner records—part of the Hazelcorn Phonograph Collection—that was taking place at Donley Auction Services in Union, Illinois.

Berliner 3303, a 7-inch diameter record featuring Arthur Pryor playing The Palms (Gabriel Faure), recorded on July 2, 1897.

Among the offerings at the auction was a copy of one of Arthur Pryor’s Berliner recordings, The Palms (3303). Since this recording is well known to collectors (and a transfer is available on YouTube), I did not feel a need to acquire this record (it eventually sold for $300). But there was another record at the auction that caught my eye.

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Berliner 62Z, a 7-inch diameter record featuring Romance for Military Band with Military Band, Washington, D.C., recorded on May 27, 1897.

Berliner 62Z, a 7-inch diameter, single-sided disc, was listed as Romance for Trombone, performed by “Military Band, Washington, D.C.” But what got my attention was the date of the recording that was etched into the disc: May 27, 1897. This date was more than a month before Pryor’s first Berliner disc recordings. I began looking around and I found a transfer of a copy of Berliner 62Z at Yale University. The page about Yale’s copy didn’t have any more information about the recording but as I listened to it, it didn’t sound right. Something was wrong. Still, hearing it told me that I really wanted to obtain this copy of Berliner 62Z at the auction. It was clear to me that this was one of the earliest trombone recordings ever made on a record (as opposed to a wax cylinder). Also, while the soloist was unidentified, the band was not named with much specificity, and the composer’s name was absent, I liked the piece. So, I placed a bid with the auction house and waited. I won.

Kevin and I traveled to Donley Auction Services to pick up the record. It was in rough shape, very dirty, and it had a few divots as well. But Kevin thought it would clean up nicely so I left the record with him for him to make a transfer. He has excellent equipment to make this kind of transfer from an early record—something he did many times during our research about Homer Rodeheaver—and I knew he would do what he could.

While Kevin was preparing to make the transfer, I started looking around for more information about Berliner 62Z. Having established that the record was made over a month before Arthur Pryor’s first records, I thought that I had just purchased an important part of trombone history. The first thing I set about to do was to identify the piece. With only the title Romance for Trombone to go on, I began thinking of all of the trombone solos I know that have that title. Of course, there is the Romance for trombone by Carl Maria von Weber which, actually, probably was not composed  by Weber. The Yale recording of Berliner 62Z instantly showed that it was not that Romance. Berliner records could only hold two minutes of music; the piece attributed to Weber was much too long, anyway. And it wasn’t the Romance by William Grant Still, a piece that Still had composed for saxophone and piano (and orchestra) that I transcribed for trombone solo at the request of Still’s daughter, Judith Anne Still. Berliner 62Z  had to be something else.

Entries for Romance for Trombone (versions for band, and orchestra and piano) by Charles William Bennet, from the Catalogue of Copyright Entries: Part 3: Musical Compositions, New Series, Volume 12, Part 2, Last Half of 1919, Nos. 8-13.

I then decided to look through the Catalog of Copyright Entries, a valuable resource I’ve used many times to track down copyright and publication dates of musical compositions. A long search ensued to find a piece titled Romance for trombone with band that was composed before 1897. I found a piece with that title in the Catalogue of Copyright Entries: Part 3: Musical Compositions, New Series, Volume 12, Part 2, Last Half of 1917, Nos. 8-13.

The composition was by C. W. Bennet, and it had been published by Carl Fischer. But why was it listed in the 1917 catalog? The piece was listed as having been first copyrighted on December 13, 1889. The 1889 catalog is not available online, but Romance was up for copyright renewal in 1917, hence its listing in the 1917 catalog. So, I had a candidate for the piece, but I needed the music to make a positive identification.

I then went to Worldcat, the comprehensive database of library collections around the world, and I found several libraries that had a Romance by Bennet. A band version was held by the Chatfield Music Lending Library in Chatfield, Minnesota, and a version for trombone and piano was held by University of Arizona Libraries. I first turned to Chatfield. The Library provides a tremendous resource to researchers and conductors by loaning out sets of music from their large collection. I had used their services while researching my recently published eight-part series of articles for the International Tuba Euphonium Association Journal, A Comprehensive History of Tubby the Tuba: More than a Melody—More than Oompah. Chatfield had provided me with music to an arrangement of The Tubby the Tuba Song that was available nowhere else. Chatfield’s catalog didn’t mention that their copy of Romance was a solo for trombone but I decided to order the set and see what came my way. The staff at the Chatfield Music Lending Library could not have been more helpful—especially Library Manager Jerel Nielsen—and it was only a matter of hours before I had the answer to my question: Berliner 62Z was a recording of Charles William Bennet’s Romance for Trombone.

The conductor score/Solo Cornet part to the band arrangement of Charles William Bennet’s Romance. Courtesy of the Chatfield Music Lending Library.

The first (solo) trombone part to the band arrangement of Charles William Bennet’s Romance.Courtesy of the Chatfield Music Lending Library.

I then ordered the copy of Romance for trombone and piano from University of Arizona via Interlibrary Loan. The music arrived in a week—it was a match to the piece that Chatfield had. But I noticed one thing right away: Look at the trombone melody line in the first measure of the Agitato section. In the band version, the third note is a G-natural. But in the earlier version for trombone and piano, that note is a D-natural. On the recording, the soloist plays G-natural. Since Bennet had preserved his copyright at the time the band version was published, we can probably assume that Bennet made the change himself—although the change was in place as early as 1897, as evidenced on the Berliner 62Z record—and it’s hard to argue with his decision. Keeping the melody in an ascending line seems to heighten the tension of the Agitato section.

The trombone solo part to the trombone/piano version of Charles William Bennet’s Romance. Courtesy of University of Arizona Libraries.

Now that I had the music, I knew the key of Romance. The published music was in F-major. Now I understood why the Yale recording didn’t sound right to my ears: their transfer was made at the wrong speed. Many people assume that early records were recorded and played back at 78 revolutions per minute (rpm). However, according to James Smart’s article, Berliner records were made at between 66 and 72 rpm. The Yale transfer of Berliner 62Z played in A-flat, a minor third higher than Bennet’s published key of F-major. Yale made its transfer at 78 rpm which was much too fast. However, since I published this article, I have been in contact with Yale University’s Collection of Historical Sound Recordings. The Director of the Collection, Mark Bailey, has informed me that they are aware that some of their Berliner records were digitized at the incorrect speed and they are at work on a speed correction project. This is welcome news, since Yale’s collection of over 700 Berliner records is such an important resource in our understanding of these early recordings.

Kevin cleaned the record and when I saw it, it seemed like a completely different disc. With the dirt and grime removed, it was clear that the record grooves were still there, even in the divots, and with the key of the piece firmly established, he made a transfer at 66 rpm. The result was a transfer that played in F-major.

The transfer was revelatory. While there was a lot of hiss and surface noise which is typical of recordings of the period, the performance—in the correct key of F-major—sounded more settled than the Yale transfer in the wrong, higher key of A-flat major. And it was clear that the trombone soloist was a good player. I sent the recording of the raw transfer to another friend of mine, William Conant, who plays E-flat bass (tuba) in the New England Brass Band, a group for which I was music director from 1998-2008. Bill has helped me on many occasions by applying gentle noise reduction to transfers of old recordings that has been useful in bringing out more of the sound of the original performance. After a few tries, he came up with a version of Berliner 62Z that allowed both the band and the soloist to be clearly heard.

One interesting thing immediately jumped out to me. When looking at the music, it was evident that in order to fit the performance of Romance onto a Berliner disc that could contain only two minutes of music (Kevin’s transfer of the record at 66 rpm clocks in at 1:57), a four measure interlude in the middle of the piece had been cut from the performance. Cuts like this were common in the early recording era in order to fit a piece on one side of a disc, and it was interesting to see one applied to the Berliner recording of Romance.

Having established the name of the composer, obtained the music, learned the key of the piece, and with a great transfer of my record in hand, there were still more problems to solve. Who was Charles William Bennet? What was the band, and who was the soloist? The record simply said, “Military Band, Washington D.C.” There was more work to do.

I found a little information on Bennet. The Wind Repertory Project, citing the Heritage Encyclopedia of Band Music, reports that Bennet was born, raised, and died in Massachusetts (March 19, 1849-May 24, 1926). He served with the 56th Regiment-Infantry, Massachusetts Volunteers during the American Civil War where he began playing cornet. He eventually played euphonium, and enlisted in the United States Navy, serving for 30 years. In 1909, The Musical Observer (New York) printed a business card for William Charles Bennet on its “Directory” page (below). The Chatfield Music Lending Library has 32 of Bennet’s compositions. Bennet seems like a forgotten but interesting person and composer. We need more research to understand more about him, his life, and work:

Directory entry for Charles William Bennet, The Musical Observer, Vol. III, No. 7, July 1909, page 1.

Paul Charosh’s book on Berliner records speculates that the “Military Band, Washington D. C.” was probably Haley’s Concert Band, and the DAHR database, citing Charosh, makes the same conclusion. Charosh and the DAHR database show four issues of Berliner 62 – two recorded on May 27, 1897 (Berliner 62 and Berliner 62Z) with “Military Band, Washington D.C.,” one made on December 29, 1898 with an anonymous band (Berliner 62X), and one with no take number or date, but listed as recorded by “Haley’s Concert Band of Washington D. C.” I needed to learn more about Haley’s band.

I began a lengthy search to see if I could find any references to Haley’s Band around 1897. The first reference I found was from the Washington Times of December 1, 1895, an advertisement for the band’s first concert. The conductor was listed as Will[iam] A. Haley, and his group was called “Washington’s New Military Concert Band.”

Advertisement for the inaugural concert of William Haley’s Military Concert Band from the Washington Times (Washington DC), December 1, 1895, page 4.

An article in The Evening Star (Washington DC) from March 4, 1897, gave a brief biography of Haley, who was born in Washington DC in 1857 and played flute and piccolo in the United States Marine Band. He left the Marine Band in 1877, then played in several groups around the country, and subsequently formed his own band in 1895 composed of ex-members of the Marine Band. Haley also led an orchestra that played at the inauguration of President William McKinley in 1897.  Another article  in the Evening Star from November 27, 1897 referred to Haley’s band as the “Washington Military Concert Band.” Connecting the dots, it did not take much to lead to the reasonable conclusion that the “Military Band, Washington D.C.” that performed on Berliner 62Z was Haley’s “Washington Military Concert Band.”

 

Article about William Haley’s Military Concert Band with a mention of the band’s trombone section members, from The Evening Times (Washington DC), November 27, 1897, page 6.

But who was the trombone soloist on the record? I’ve found several clues. In an Evening Star review of a Haley Band concert from April 5, 1897,  the trombone section of Messrs. Stone, Kruger, Meilhausen, and Thierbach were singled out for their fine playing in an arrangement of Meyerbeer’s Les Hugenots. On November 27, 1897, The Evening Times (Washington DC)—see the image above— featured an article that promoted an upcoming concert by Haley’s Band in which it announced another performance of the Meyerbeer arrangement, “by the great trombone section, Messrs. Stone, Kruger, and Muellhausen [this name is variously spelled “Meilhausen,” “Muehleisen, and “Muellhausen” in contemporary newspaper articles]. With the names of the trombone players in Haley’s band identified in April and November 1897, and Berliner 62Z recorded in May, 1897, it seems logical that the same players participated in the April, May, and November 1897 concerts and recording. And, since the players were not listed in alphabetical order, it’s likely that the players were listed in their order of position in the trombone section, with Mr. Stone playing first trombone.

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Article from the Evening Star (Washington DC), November 28, 1896, page 24.

But there are more clues about the identity of the trombone soloist. After I first published this article, I continued looking for more information about the trombone section of Haley’s Washington Military Concert Band. I found several references to the band’s trombone soloist, Harry A. Stone, in announcements and reviews of Haley Band concerts. The newspaper announcement above, from the Evening Star (Washington DC) on November 28, 1896, mentions H. A. Stone, trombone soloist with Haley’s band, “who is said to be fully equal to Arthur Pryor on the trombone.”

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Advertisement in the Washington Times (Washington DC), November 29, 1896, page 12.

The next day, November 29, 1896, a small advertisement (above) for the forthcoming concert by Haley’s band mentioned Harry A. Stone as the concert’s featured trombone soloist.

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Review of a concert by Haley’s Washington Concert Band, the Evening Star (Washington DC), November 30, 1896, page 10.

Two days later, a review of the concert (above) appeared in the Evening Star which waxed enthusiastically about “Mr. Harry A. Stone, the trombone soloist of the band . . . Mr. Stone’s work on the trombone showed his complete mastery of the instrument.”

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Announcement of United States Marine Band Concert, the Evening Star (Washington DC), July 10, 1886.

Harry Stone trombone Marine Band July 1886

Announcement of United States Marine Band Concert, the Evening Star (Washington DC), July 31, 1886.

Digging a little deeper, I learned that Harry Stone was a member of the United States Marine Band under the leadership of John Philip Sousa. In July 1886 (clipping above), he was soloist in a performance of Cujus Animan from Rossini’s Stabat Mater. A few weeks later, he played Let All Obey by Michael William Balfe. (clipping above). Stone’s performance on July 10, 1886 may have been his first appearance as soloist with the Marine Band. I reached out to Master Sargent Kira Wharton, Chief Librarian/Historian for the United States Marine Band, and she filled in some more information about Harry A. Stone. He went by two names – Henry A. Stone and Harry A. Stone. As I’ve continued to research Stone, I have found only a few references to him as Henry, including his Marine Band muster roll records, and the program, below, from a concert the Marine Band played on October 2, 1890 in Washington DC for at a banquet at the annual meeting of the National Wholesale Druggists Association.

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Program for a United States Marine Band Concert featuring Henry Stone, trombone soloist. Proceedings of the Sixteenth Annual Meeting of the National Wholesale Druggists Association, Arlington Hotel, Washington DC. October 2, 1890.

Harry Stone enlisted in the Marine Corps on May 6, 1886, served in the Marine Band from 1886-1893 at which time he left the band (he was among many players who left the band after John Philip Sousa left the Marine Band to form his own band in 1892), played in William Haley’s band from its establishment in 1895 to 1899, and rejoined the Marine Band in 1899,  serving there until retiring in 1917. An article in the Washington Times (July 2, 1899)—below—mentioned that Stone was originally from Massachusetts, and he “has the honor to be the first trombone soloist who played the principal part for that instrument upon a slide trombone, the previous custom having been to employ a valve instrument for that place.” I asked Sgt. Kira Wharton about this—was Stone the first Marine Band trombonist to use a slide trombone?—and she said that photos of the Marine Band from the 1880s show players with slide trombones, so the article probably refers to Stone playing slide rather than valve trombone in the 21st Infantry Band.

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An excerpt from an article about the United States Marine Band that writes about Harry Stone, principal trombonist of the Band, the Washington Times, July 2, 1899.

An article in the Evening Star (April 1, 1899)—below—stated that Harry Stone was rejoining the Marine Band, having left in 1893 after John Philip Sousa left the band.

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Article about trombonist Harry Stone rejoining the United States Marine Band, the Evening Star (Washington DC), April 1, 1899.

There is more to Harry A. Stone. A search of census records found him in the 1900 United States Census, below.

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Cropped image from United States Census, 1900, Washington DC, showing the entry for Harry A. Stone (line 47)

The Census record tells us several things. First, he called himself Harry, not Henry. He was a boarder, 41 years old (born in November 1848), single, and a musician. He said he and his parents were born in Canada, that he immigrated to the United States in 1861, and he was not a US citizen. I puzzled over this for a bit as I wondered how a non-US citizen could be a member of the United States Marine Band. But then I remembered research I had done on the mouthpiece and musical instrument maker Vincent Bach, who was born in Austria (his name at birth was Vinzenz Schrottenbach; he changed it to Vincent Bach while in England at the outbreak of World War I. Bach immigrated to the United States in 1914 and played associate principal trumpet in the Boston Symphony. Then (quoting from my entry on Bach in my new book, An Illustrated Dictionary for the Modern Trombone, Tuba, and Euphonium Player), “In 1916, despite not being a United States citizen, Bach was inducted into the U.S. Army where he served as a sergeant and bandmaster for the 306th Field Artillery Band at Camp Union, New York.” He became a US citizen in 1925. Further communication with Marine Band Librarian/Historian Sgt. Kira Wharton confirmed that citizenship was not a requirement for membership in the Marine Band or the military in general at the time Stone was in the band.

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A paragraph about Harry A. Stone from an article about United States Marine Band members who are also composers, the Washington Post (Washington DC), September 17, 1906.

News articles also made mention of Harry A. Stone’s Canadian ancestry , as evidenced in the paragraph (above – Stone is referred to as “French Canadian”) in an article from 1906 about U.S. Marine Band members who were also composers. It also seems that Stone’s compositions were performed on numerous occasions, as evidenced by the review of a concert by William Haley’s Band  from April 1897—below— that mentioned a performance of Stone’s march, Matinee Girls as well as a fine performance by members of the the Haley Band’s trombone section.

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Review of a concert by William Haley’s Band with a mention of Harry Stone as the composer of The Matinee Girls, the Washington Times, April 5, 1897.

As an aside, United States Marine Band Historian Master Sergeant Kira Wharton also told me that Louis M. Kruger, who played trombone in Haley’s band with Harry A. Stone, had also been a member of the U.S. Marine Band. Kruger served as a trombonist in the Marine Band several times, from 1874-1897, 1880-1885, 1891-1895 (he then joined Haley’s Washington Military Concert Band where he played alongside Harry A. Stone), and again from 1898-1917. Kruger also apparently played viola on outside gigs.

In 1905, Harry A. Stone was advertised as a featured soloist with the U. S. Marine Band in a concert on December 3, 1905 (below). This is just one of many examples of advertisements of US Marine Band concerts that featured Stone as trombone soloist.

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Announcement of United States Marine Band concert with Harry A. Stone, trombone soloist, the Evening Star (Washington DC), December 3, 1905.

In 1907, Harry A. Stone was appointed to the faculty of the University of Music and Dramatic Art in Washington DC (below).

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Announcement of the appointment of Harry A. Stone as trombone teacher at the University of Music and Dramatic Art, Washington DC, the Evening Star (Washington DC), September 22, 1907.

Of particular interest was the discovery of a photograph of Harry Stone (below), from an article published in 1902 about the the United States Marine Band.

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Photograph of trombonist Harry Stone, part of an article, “Will Washington Lose the Marine Band?”, the Washington Times (Washington DC), March 9, 1902.

After I discovered this photo of Harry Stone, I asked U.S. Marine Band Librarian and Historian Sgt. Kira Wharton if the Band archives had any photos from Stone’s years of service in the Marine Band. She sent two photos of the band that were taken during Stone’s first enlistment in the band (1886-1893) which I include below with her permission.

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United States Marine Band in Philadelphia, 1887. Photo courtesy of U. S. Marine Band Archives.

This photo (above) is interesting on several levels, including the presence of a helicon in the center, back row, an instrument that was used in the band before the invention of the Sousaphone in 1895. Based on the verified photo of Harry Stone that appeared in the Washington Times in 1902, Sgt. Wharton and I believe that Harry Stone, who is identifiable by his square chin and small, cropped mustache, is seen standing in the front right of the photo.

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Trombonist Harry A. Stone (cropped from the larger photo, above, of the United States Marine Band in Philadelphia, 1887). Photo courtesy of U. S. Marine Band Archives.

A second photograph of the band (below) was taken in 1891 for publicity for its 1892 tour. Sgt. Wharton and I believe Harry Stone is shown standing at the left end of the group of four trombone players, in the back row. He does not appear to have a mustache in this photo.

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United States Marine Band in Washington DC, 1891 (publicity photo for the Band’s 1892 tour). Photo courtesy of U. S. Marine Band Archives.

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Trombonist Harry A. Stone (cropped from the larger photo, above, of the United States Marine Band in Washington DC, 1891). Photo courtesy of U. S. Marine Band Archives.

There is more research to do and one should not jump to conclusions, but at the moment, I believe a reasonable preponderance of the evidence allows us to conclude that Berliner 62Z, recorded on May 27, 1897, featured the Romance for Trombone and Band by Charles William Bennet, performed by Harry (AKA Henry) A. Stone, the first trombonist of the Washington Military Concert Band of Washington DC, conducted by William Haley. This record is certainly one of the earliest records to feature a trombone solo with an accompanying ensemble.

As I continued my research, it became clear that Berliner Records thought that Romance for Trombone was a significant piece and that their recording of it was an important entry in their catalog. In late 1897, an article about Berliner Records appeared in several popular publications. This article was more like an “infomercial,” a paid advertisement in the guise of an article, replete with photographs and drawings, designed to entice readers to add Berliner Records and a Berliner Gramophone to their home. The article by Cleveland Moffett, “Through the Needle’s Point,” appeared in The Cosmopolitan (Vol. 23, No. 6, October 1897), Frank Leslie’s Popular Monthly (Vol. 44, No. 5, November 1897), and Scribner’s Magazine (Vol. 22, No. 6, December 1897).

“Through the Needle’s Point” by Cleveland Moffett. Scribner’s Magazine, Vol XXII, No. 6, December, 1897. Advertising supplement, pages i-ii.

Moffett’s article includes a list of 18 Berliner records arranged as a program that one could play at home for family members and guests “for pleasure, for instruction, and for general benefit.” Among the 18 records are three that feature the trombone: Berliner 62Z, Romance of the Trombone [sic], Berliner 3310, Happy Days in Dixie, recorded by Arthur Pryor on July 27, 1897, and Berliner 826Z, Adeste Fidelis (O Come, All Ye Faithful), recorded on July 22, 1897 by a quartet of members of Sousa’s band that included Walter Pryor (brother of Arthur) and Henry Higgins, cornet, and Marcus Lyon and Arthur Pryor, trombone. Clearly, the Berliner 62Z recording of William Bennet’s Romance was thought of highly enough to include in this list of select Berliner records, a list designed to appeal to a broad audience of potential home listeners.

What does Berliner 62Z add to our knowledge base of early trombone playing and recordings? Certainly the soloist, who my research leads me to I believe was probably the Washington Military Concert Band’s first trombonist, Harry A. Stone, does not exhibit the kind of technical prowess shown by the great Arthur Pryor in his recordings of The Blue Bells of Scotland and other such works, despite newspaper reports that Stone was “fully equal to Arthur Pryor on the trombone.” But Bennet’s Romance is a piece that emphasizes musical expression and drama. And the soloist communicates that, even over its short, two-minute length. Listeners will notice that Stone plays some of the eighth notes as sixteenth notes, thereby heightening the motion of the musical line. He also seems to be struggling a bit with his breath control, but we must keep in mind that both the soloist and the band were closely gathered around a recording horn and were playing loudly so they could be picked up by the recording equipment. The piece has a modest two-octave range, but Harry A. Stone always plays with appropriate style; his vibrato is never overdone.

By now, you’re probably thinking, “OK, Professor, all of this is really interesting. But can I hear the record?” Yes. I’ve just uploaded the audio file with images to YouTube and you can hear and view it HERE:

Berliner 62Z offers a window into the early years of trombone solo recording while at the same time it brings back to life a piece that has been long forgotten, William Charles Bennet’s Romance. Bennet’s Romance was published by Carl Fischer, a major music publishing house, which indicates that it was considered to be a worthy addition to band concerts and trombone recital programs. Berliner also considered the piece to be significant enough that it promoted their recording of Romance among its most highly recommended releases, a record that families could enjoy at home while assembled around the Gramophone. As one of the first records to ever feature a trombone solo with an accompanying ensemble, it is an ancestor of the plethora of superb trombone solo recordings that are with us today.

I want to express my thanks to Kevin Mungons, William Conant, Sgt. Kira Wharton, and Gary King for their assistance in my research about Berliner 62Z, Harry A. Stone, and the preparation of this article.

Publications

Publications

By Douglas Yeo

When I graduated from high school in 1973, I received two awards in addition to my diploma. That I received the senior class music award was probably not a big surprise to most people in my community, considering that I had played in All-State band and orchestra in two states (New York, and then in New Jersey when my family moved there after my sophomore year in high school), All-Eastern orchestra, and was selected as a member of the McDonald’s All-American High School  Band. But in addition to the music award, I also received the senior class English award. What a minute. It seems people are always saying, “Music and math go together.” Not for me. My mind seemed to reject math and science; I got through those classes by the grace of God and the mercy of my teachers. English was my favorite class when I didn’t have a trombone in my hand. History was a close second.

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The 1973 senior class music and English awards from Jefferson Township High School (NJ) that were presented to me on graduation day.

My love of words was instilled in me by my father who, when commuting to work on the Long Island Railroad for 20 years, read The New York Times by the time he arrived at Penn Station in Manhattan, and read the New York Post on the way home. He subscribed to The New Yorker magazine, and he was a Trustee of our local public library. That’s my dad, Alan Yeo, in the photo below, third from the left, with other town officials and library Trustees at the laying of the cornerstone ceremony for the new Valley Stream Public Library on November 17, 1962.

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Town officials at the laying of the cornerstone for the Valley Stream (NY) Public Library, November 17, 1962. Mayor Henry Waldinger is second from left (the library was renamed in his memory in 1968), and my father, Library Trustee Alan Yeo, is third from left.

Books and reading were part of the fabric of our family—it seems we were always at the town library getting books to read—and while I “read the classics,” Shakespeare, and plenty of great fiction by the time I headed to college, it was reading about real events and history that really got my attention. My father taught me the importance of a broad vocabulary – both spoken and written vocabularies. I came to love words, and wordsmiths who used them in evocative and creative ways.

Over the years, I’ve written dozens of published articles, blog articles, book chapters, and books, and I continue to enjoy the chase of research and the happy discipline of writing. I especially like to tell stories about musicians and the instruments they play. My research on diverse individuals and musical instruments has brought me in contact with a host of really interesting people who have helped me along the way.

The other day, someone wrote to me and asked if I could share one of my articles with him. This happens a lot, and I’m always happy to do so. But that got me thinking about putting together a list of some of my publications along with links to free downloads of many of my articles, and information about books and other resources. So, if this interests you, here goes, and enjoy.

PUBLISHED BOOKS

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PUBLISHED BOOK CHAPTERS

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PUBLISHED DICTIONARY ENTRIES

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  • Serpent. Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments, Second edition. Oxford University Press, 2014.
  • Buccin. Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments, Second edition. Oxford University Press, 2014.

SELECTED PUBLISHED ARTICLES

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SELECTED ARTICLES FROM THELASTTROMBONE.COM ABOUT INDIVIDUALS, ENSEMBLES, AND MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS

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Remembering a Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day thrill: the McDonald’s All-American High School Band, 1972-1973

Remembering a Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day thrill: the McDonald’s All-American High School Band, 1972-1973

By Douglas Yeo

Thursday, November 25, was Thanksgiving Day here in the United States, a national holiday when families and friends gather together for fun, food, and fellowship. This year, we were blessed to have our whole family together for Thanksgiving, something we missed in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Even in the midst of the pandemic storm, we all have so much for which we are thankful.

This year, our grandson, who is in kindergarten, brought home a fun assignment for Thanksgiving weekend. It was a kind of scavenger hunt—watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and check off a list of things you see. Marching band, clown, singer, baton twirler, drums, turkey, big balloon. You get the idea. It was a fun little project that Caleb completed in about three minutes. But it didn’t take a scavenger hunt for our family to watch the whole parade. We watch it every year because in 1972, I was marching and playing trombone IN the parade. And in the Tournament of Roses Parade every January 1.

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In 1967, McDonald’s Corporation established the McDonald’s All-American High School Band. In its early years, it was a marching band with 101 players—two high school students from each of our 50 states and one student from the District of Columbia. Over the years, the band grew to include members from Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, and eventually, McDonald’s added a jazz band to its All-American Band program. In 1992, McDonald’s discontinued the All-American Band although it continued sponsoring its All-American basketball teams which it had founded in 1977.

In the fall of 1972 I began my senior year in high school; by then I had been a member of many high school honor band and orchestra groups. These were in both New York State—where my family lived in Queens and Valley Stream until my father changed jobs and we moved to New Jersey in 1970—and in New Jersey, where we lived in Oak Ridge. All-County Orchestra and All-State Band (New York), Region Wind Ensemble and Orchestra, and All-State Orchestra (New Jersey), and All-Eastern Orchestra. Unbeknownst to me, my high school band director nominated me for the McDonald’s All-American Band.

I vividly remember the day in September 1972 when I was sitting in English class (my favorite class in high school, with my favorite teacher, Mr. Patrick Clancy) at Jefferson Township High School in Oak Ridge, New Jersey, and a call came over the loudspeaker for me to come to the main office. Puzzled—getting called to the office was not a regular thing for me—I headed down to the office and was surprised to see my mother running up the hallway to meet me. She was holding an envelope and when we met, she breathlessly handed it to me. I took one look at the return address and my heart skipped a beat. I furiously tore open the envelope and this letter was inside:

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For a 17 year-old high school kid, this was big. Really, really big. Me, an All-American High School musician? An all-expenses paid trip to march in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in New York City and the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California on New Year’s Day? Seriously?

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My name badge for the McDonald’s All-American High School Band, 1972–1973

I took the bus from our home in Oak Ridge, New Jersey to Manhattan to join other members of the Band for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. We were drilled in marching by Al G. Wright, Director of Purdue University Bands. There were 16 trombones in two ranks that led the parade. I was assigned to the second rank. I was a little disappointed, since what trombone player doesn’t want to be in the first line, leading the band? But my disappointment changed to joy when Al Wright pointed to the player in front of me. It was clear that he had two left feet. After a couple of rehearsals, Al Wright pointed to him and barked, “YOU! MOVE BACK TO THE SECOND RANK. NEW JERSEY! GET UP HERE NOW!” I was now in the front, and I made sure Mr. Wright knew that I had a left and a right foot. Yes, sir!

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Promotional flyer about the McDonald’s All-American High School Band that was handed out at New York metropolitan area McDonald’s restaurants, fall 1972

The conductor of the McDonald’s All-American High School Band was Paul Lavalle, the celebrated music director at Radio City Music Hall who had also led the Cities Service Band of America from 1948–1956. While we were in New York, the band attended a show at Radio City Music Hall where we saw the newly released movie, “1776” and saw Mr. Lavalle conduct Radio City’s orchestra and its famous dance team, The Rockettes. We also gave a performance at the famous ice rink at Rockefeller Center.

Each band member wore their own band’s uniform and then McDonald’s gave each of us a hat and overlay that was emblazoned with our state name. The parade in New York City was a blur. It was cold. I remember that we got up at 3:00 in the morning to be bussed down to the Macy’s store at 34th Street and Sixth Avenue for a rehearsal in front of cameras. All of the brass players were playing on plastic mouthpieces so they did not freeze to our faces. As the parade kicked off, spectators often called to us, “Hey, New Jersey! Do you know Fred Jones in Bayonne?” Ha! We marched, we played, we were proud. My parents and my girlfriend (now my wife of 46 years) and her family watched me on TV. It was a great, great day.

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Jeffrey Venho, trumpet (Glen Rock High School, New Jersey), Betty White (television commentator hostess  of the 1973 Tournament of Roses Parade), Paul Lavalle, Salli Noren (Tournament of Roses Queen, 1973; her name is often misspelled as “Sally Noren”), Douglas Yeo, trombone (Jefferson Township High School, New Jersey), November 1972.

Among the things we did in New York was have our photograph taken for local and national publicity. The other person selected to play in the Band from New Jersey was trumpeter Jeffrey Venho from Glen Rock High School (I recently learned that Jeff attended the Juilliard School of Music and since graduation in 1977, he has been an active freelance player in New York City, and trumpet professor at Hofstra University). We were photographed with Betty White (yes, that Betty White) who was the television commentator hostess of the Tournament of Roses Parade on January 1 (John Wayne was the Parade’s Grand Marshall), Salli Noren, who was the 1973 Tournament of Roses Queen, and Paul Lavalle. When we arrived in California, we were given a copy of our photo, signed by Mr. Lavalle. Also while we were in New York, members of the Band had the opportunity to audition for Gunther Schuller, President of New England Conservatory of Music. NEC was offering two full scholarships to Band members. While I did not win one of those positions, I finally did get to NEC, as a member of its trombone faculty from 1985 to 2012 for all of the years I was a member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

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The cover of the official program for the 1973 Tournament of Roses Parade

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The 1973 Tournament of Roses program listing for the McDonald’s All-American High School Band

A two-page advertisement for the McDonald’s All-American High School Band, pages 33–34, 1973 Tournament of Roses Parade program.

If the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in New York was a surreal experience, nothing could have prepared me for the Tournament of Roses Parade. I flew from JFK International Airport in New York to Los Angeles International Airport where a limousine was waiting to take me to the UCLA campus where we would be staying. A limousine? For me? I recall, as I got to curbside at LAX, stopping and looking for a moment at a palm tree, the first palm tree I had ever seen (except for watching episodes of “Hawaii-Five-O” on television). Having left snowy and cold New Jersey a few hours ago, that palm tree got my attention. While I had been born in Monterey, California (my father was in the US Army, stationed at Fort Ord in Monterey from 1953–1955), my family took the long train east to Queens, New York, after my father was discharged—when I was just a few months old—so for all intents and purposes, this was my first trip to the west coast. Al Wright drilled us in marching all around the UCLA campus, and the Band went to see a performance of Leonard Bernstein‘s Mass at the Los Angeles Forum.

The Band also took part in the daily parade down Main Street at Disneyland—Hey, Tom Brady! You’re not the only person who’s going to Disneyland! After the parade, we all stashed our instruments in the busses and then broke up into groups—and tore up Disneyland. In our uniforms. Hats, too. There’s nothing quite like going down the Splash Mountain log flume with your All-American Band hat plume fluttering on the way down to the water. And it looks a lot different when it’s wet!

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The McDonald’s All-American High School Band marching in the Tournament of Roses Parade, Pasadena, California, January 1, 1973. I am in the front rank, third from the left (marching on the double line in the street).

Tournament_Roses_parade_patch_1973

The commemorative patch that I and other McDonald’s All-American High School Band members received after the 1973 Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California

January 1, 1973 dawned bright and clear, and I had never seen so many people as I did on that day, lining the parade route, cheering and shouting. It was truly an unforgettable experience, marching in the front rank of the Band. Little did I know what my life and career would bring going forward. I didn’t march in any more parades, but I did take many more trips to places around the world as a member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra (1985–2012), and in the years since my retirement from the BSO. Those kinds of trips started with the McDonald’s All-American Band. And all because I had a trombone in my hand.

When I returned home, the rest of my senior year flew by but the memories of the All-American Band stayed with me. McDonalds had given all of us a Ronald McDonald watch. I wore it every day for a long time.

The Ronald McDonald Watch that was given to me as a member of the 1972–1973 McDonald’s All-American High School Band. It still keeps great time.

My mother was especially proud of the certificate I had received, and it hung on a wall in our family’s home for many years.

And a few months later, I received a letter of thanks from Fred L. Turner, President of McDonalds.

My experience in the Band was memorable beyond words, and each year, when we watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Tournament of Roses Parade, I remember with a smile on my face what it was like to be there nearly 50 years ago.

As I was getting ready to write this article, I learned that a group of alumni of the McDonald’s All-American High School Band formed the  “The All-American Alumni Band” in 2019 (unfortunately, McDonald’s would not let them use the corporate name in the name of the group). I had long wondered if there was a way to connect with former members, all of whom I lost touch with over the years. So I will reach out to this new group, as a proud alumnus of the Band. Even though I don’t use Facebook, I would love to have the opportunity to reminisce with other members of the Band, as I’ve done with my good friend, Wycliffe Gordon, who was in the Band in 1984–1985. When Wycliffe and I were most recently together in 2019, playing in an All-Star brass ensemble sponsored by Yamaha Corporation at the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic in Chicago, we talked about our time in the McDonald’s All-American High School Band, and what it meant to us. There certainly were many others in the Band who went on to notable careers in music and other professions, and it would be fun to meet with (and maybe perform with) others who had the same life-changing experience as I did on Thanksgiving Day 1972, and New Year’s Day, 1973, thanks to the McDonald’s All-American High School Band. I’ll always be grateful to McDonald’s for giving me an unforgettable experience in the All-American High School Band. And, each year, as I tip my hat to all of the players in bands that march in the Macy’s Thanksgiving and Tournament of Roses parades each year, I am very well aware of how that experience is shaping this generation of young musicians, just as it shaped me.

Doug_Wycliffe_2019_12_18

Two happy alumni of the McDonald’s All-American High School Band: Douglas Yeo (New Jersey, 1972–1973) and Wycliffe Gordon (Georgia, 1984–1985)