The elusive “Rochut No. 1.”

The elusive “Rochut No. 1.”

The name Joannès Rochut has been known to generations of trombone players around the world, thanks, in part, to the three volumes of Vocalises of Marco Bordogni that he arranged for trombone. Published as Melodious Etudes for Trombone Selected from the Vocalises of Marco Bordogni, Rochut’s books were published in 1928 by Carl Fischer of New York City. The date is significant: it was during Rochut’s tenure as principal trombonist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1925-1930 that he published the books that made his name so famous to trombone players. Most players today are unaware that Rochut played in the Boston Symphony, and his tenure in Boston will be the story of a subsequent article on The Last Trombone.

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But if most players today are unaware of Rochut’s connection with Boston, those who first bought his Melodious Etudes certainly knew about it, since his affiliation with the orchestra was printed on the cover of the Melodious Etudes. See the photo above of my early copy of Book I.

There is something about Rochut’s books that has puzzled many trombone players and scholars. Rochut transcribed and arranged 120 of Bordogni’s Vocalises. 119 of them have been identified in Bordogni’s works. But No. 1 of Book I has never been found in Bordogni’s oeuvre. So who wrote it?

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Many people have assumed that Rochut composed this etude. It happens to be one of my favorite exercises in Book I and I, too, have puzzled over this, wondering who wrote it. [As an aside, note that Rochut’s first name is spelled “Joannès.” Unfortunately, Carl Fischer’s new edition of “the Rochut book” does not spell his name correctly, but that is a story for another time. . .]

A few months ago, the mystery solved itself. A needle in a haystack surfaced as I was doing research for one of the books I’m writing at this time. I had some correspondence with Gary Spolding about his planned edition of Bordogni for trumpet and we discussed “Rochut No. 1.” As a result of our conversation, I located a copy of 26 Etudes Techniques d’apres Bordogni by Louis Allard and Henri Couillaud.

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Published in Paris in 1927 – a year before Rochut’s Melodious Etudes – Allard and Couillaud’s book contains original exercises in the style of Bordogni. And on page 12, exercise 11 is found:

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What is this? It is none other than “Rochut No. 1.” Except it’s not. It’s Allard and Couillaud’s No. 11. Allard and Couillaud were the chickens; Rochut was the egg.

Louis Allard and Henri Couillaud were trombone professors at the Paris Conservatoire; Allard from 1888-1925 and Couillaud from 1925-1948. Rochut studied with Allard at the Conservatoire; in fact, Rochut won the first prize in trombone there in 1905, playing Sigismond Stojowski’s Fantasie.

So here we have a situation. Rochut’s No. 1 was published in 1928. Allard and Couillaud’s No. 11 was published in 1927. Clearly authorship of the etude points to Allard and Couillaud (1927), not Rochut (1928). Which begs the question: why did Rochut include it in his book when it had been published in another book (in France) the year before? Was he paying tribute to his teacher? If so, why did he not credit Allard and Couillaud as the composers? Did Rochut (and Carl Fischer) pay royalties to Allard and Couillaud (the Carl Fischer gives no credit to another publisher for their printing of No. 1)? Or did Rochut assume the etude was by Bordogni; perhaps he just missed the “après” in Allard and Couillaud’s book title? What was the response of Allard and Couillaud (and their publisher) when they saw their etude reprinted in Rochut’s book. Allard and Couillaud’s book is forgotten; Rochut’s book continues to be one of the best selling trombone books of all time.

Spend a few minutes with Allard and Couillaud’s printing of their etude, above; there are some significant differences between it in their book and the way it was reprinted in Rochut’s book (including tempo, dynamic, a different note, and phrasing, as well as the repeat).

Now, the hunt is on to find Allard and Couillaud’s original piano accompaniment to Etude 11. Another haystack; another needle to be found.

[Photo at the top of this article: Joannès Rochut (standing) with his Lefevre trombone, and Georg Wendler (seated, horn), 1926. Detail from a photo of the Boston Symphony Orchestra brass section, 1925.]

 

Reflections on the Second Nagoya (Japan) Trombone Festival

Reflections on the Second Nagoya (Japan) Trombone Festival

I don’t think I could possibly count all of the times during my long career when I have traveled to schools, colleges, and universities to do some teaching or performing, or attended trombone festivals or symposiums as a guest artist. It would certainly number in the hundreds throughout the United States, Canada, South American, Europe, Africa, and Asia. I have always enjoyed working with trombone players around the world and I recently returned from a week in Japan where I was the guest artist for the Second Nagoya Trombone Festival.

As I mentioned in my earlier post about the Festival — made before the trip — I have been to Japan twelve or thirteen times. I’ve lost count. Many of these trips were tours with the Boston Symphony (conducted by Seiji Ozawa) or Boston Pops Orchestras (conducted by John Williams), and other times were to teach and perform at the Hamamatsu International Wind Instrument Academy and Festival. The First Nagoya Trombone Festival, hosted by the Nagoya Trombone Association, was held in 2016 and Jörgen van Rijen, principal trombonist of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam, was the guest artist. I was very honored to be asked to come as guest artist for this, the Second Nagoya Trombone Festival, held on May 5-6, 2018..

Here are a few reflections about my time in Nagoya, a time that was very special to me in many ways.

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Before the Festival began, I spent an afternoon teaching at Aichi Prefectural University in Nagoya. The University’s trombone professor is Hiroshi Kurata (about whom I recently wrote on The Last Trombone), and it is the undergraduate alma mater of Nozomi Kasano Flatt, bass trombonist of the Japan Century Orchestra in Osaka. I met Nozomi in 2004 when she was a student in my class at the Hamamatsu Academy and Festival and she subsequently came to Boston to study with me; she earned a Graduate Diploma and a Master of Music degree at New England Conservatory of Music. It was a special joy for me to have Nozomi as my translator in Nagoya, both during my masterclass at the University and also at the Festival. The photo above shows the students with whom I worked at the University, with Professor Hiroshi Kurata on the left and Nozomi Kasano Flatt on the right.

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I worked with several students who played solos, and also with an orchestra trombone section. The level of talent at the University was very high as was the level of attention of the audience members. I ended my teaching sessions with a lengthy question and answer period where several students asked engaging questions about a life in music. Kurata San was kind enough to take Nozomi and me to dinner at the finest sushi restaurant I have ever enjoyed – a small restaurant with just a handful of seats and a private chef; it was a memorable experience in so many ways. A few years ago I saw the documentary “Jiro Dreams of Sushi.” Never did I even dream that I would have a culinary experience of the quality shown in that movie. But I did, thanks to Kurata San. The photo above shows a piece of sushi as a work of art. It is impossible to describe but something I will never, ever forget.

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The Nagoya Trombone Association organized the Nagoya Trombone Festival and among the many people who worked hard to put it all together was my host, Hiroshi Tanaka (shown above with me after the Festival’s final concert along with the announcer for the concert).

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Tanaka San had engaged a superb pianist for my recital, Shoko Gamo (shown above with me after a rehearsal) and we enjoyed a very, very fruitful collaboration. I have rarely worked with a pianist who possessed such tremendous abilities as well as a very deep, emotional side to her musical personality. And a very nice person, too!

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The festival took place over two days. I gave a masterclass on the first day, working again with some very talented students. The photo above shows me working with a student; Nozomi Kasano Flatt is translating for me.

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In addition, I gave a lecture on the history of the trombone — in 50 minutes! This was a whirlwind for sure, with nearly 100 Powerpoint slides in my presentation and Nozomi working hard to keep up with my pace. She did a great job. One of the great things about her translation skill is that she captures the character of my spoken personality. This does not happen all the time when I need a translator and it really helped those in attendance understand what I was talking about. I have rarely given a lecture for such an attentive, engaged audience. In the photo above, I have just told the audience that I was going to do the impossible — talk about 500 years of the trombone’s history in a very short time. This image from the movie Home Alone captured my feelings about the impossibility of the task!

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The Festival also had a number of instrument companies present so participants could try out different trombones. It was great for me to see friends from YAMAHA who were present at the Festival. YAMAHA has been so great to me over the years and our relationship goes back over three decades, to 1986. In the photo above are Ken Takei, Naoki Suzuki, me (with my YAMAHA YBL-822G bass trombone), and Michio Ohse.

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Before I headed to the Festival on the second day, I took a long walk to Nagoya Castle, one of the great castles of Japan. I have been to Nagoya once before, on a Boston Pops Orchestra tour, but it was nice to get to the Castle, something I had read about but had never visited previously. It is a very special, majestic, peaceful place.

Day Two of the festival included my giving a recital. My program was an eclectic mix of repertoire:

Widmung — Robert Schumann, transcribed by Douglas Yeo

Sutenaide Kudasai — Jan Kaňka

Sonata No. 6 from 18 Canons Mélodieux — George Philipp Telemann, arr. Douglas Yeo

Sonata for Bass Trombone and Piano — Alec Wilder

Canzone — Girolamo Frescobaldi, arr. Eddie Koopman

Sonata for Alto Horn and Piano — Paul Hindemith

Sång till Lotta — Jan Sandström

Each piece had a particular reason for being on the program.

In recent years, I have always begun recitals with Schumann’s great paean of love to his wife, Clara, Widmung. It always reminds me of my wife, especially when I am far away from home. I also like to give my accompanist a superb piece of art music to play on my recitals and this piece certainly fits the bill. Shoko was very happy to play Schumann’s beautiful song; she told me she often plays it in the arrangement for solo piano by Franz Liszt. Her playing was spectacular.

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Several years ago, I became aware of the work of Czech composer Jan Kaňka. A trombonist himself, I found his Sutenaide Kudasai (the title is in Japanese and is roughly translated, “Please don’t throw it away”) to be very engaging and I thought the Nagoya Trombone Festival was a great place for me to perform it for the first time.

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I was then joined by Nozomi Kasano Flatt for one of Telemann’s remarkable canons, a piece that I had arranged for my book published by G. Schirmer, Trombone Essentials, and that I also recorded with Gerry Pagano on our new compact disc, Fratres. Playing a duet with Nozomi on my recital was very important to me and it was an absolute joy to collaborate with her on my recital.

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I wanted to perform a piece by an American composer and I chose Alec Wilder’s Sonata for Bass Trombone, a piece that for many years was the most frequently performed  piece ever written for bass trombone. Over the years, I have written several articles about the Sonata for the International Trombone Association Journal and in a serendipitous convergence of events, I had just recently happened to meet Russ Schultz, who as a student of Emory Remington at Eastman School of Music gave the world premiere of Wilder’s Sonata on March 24, 1969. The photo above shows Russ and me in a diner in Fort Worth, Texas two weeks before I went to Japan; it was great to finally meet him and then play the Wilder Sonata in Nagoya.

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I then turned to Eddie Koopman’s arrangement of the first Canzone by Girolamo Frescobaldi, in a version with pre-recorded accompaniment. For this performance, I used a buccin — a dragon bell trombone used in France and Belgium in the early nineteenth century. I love playing historical instruments and the buccin is the coolest kind of trombone. This particular buccin (photo above) is a one-of-a-kind instrument that was made by YAMAHA; it is a fantastic instrument with a great, unique sound. Eddie Koopman’s techno-pop-Rennaisance accompaniment brought this old piece and instrument right into the twenty-first century.

The other major work on the program was Paul Hindemith’s Sonata for Alto Horn and Piano. It is the least performed of Hindemith’s Sonatas and it works very well for bass trombone, transcribed down an octave. Shoko Gamo had a fiendishly difficult part that she performed with superb technique and style. The Sonata also has a poem by Hindemith, The Posthorn, that the composer requires the soloist and accompanist to recite before the last movement. While Hindemith’s poem is in German and English, I wanted to recite it in Japanese. I asked my good friend, Megumi Kanda, principal trombonist of the Milwaukee Symphony, if she would translate it for me so Shoko and I could read it during the recital. I read the first part of the poem and Shoko read the second part. I practiced this very hard! The audience was very supportive in my reciting this in Japanese — people told me they actually understood what I was saying!

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Finally, I ended with Jan Sandström’s beautiful song, Song for Lotta. For many years I have ended recitals with this beautiful piece, slow and soft, very emotional, and different than the kind of loud piece that people usually play as a final piece. Shoko’s playing was exceptionally sensitive and the audience responded with great enthusiasm and warmth.

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At the end of the recital there were flowers and congratulations all around. But there was more to come.

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One of the great things about the Festival was seeing so many former students who had been part of my class over the years at the Hamamatsu Academy and Festival. Here I am (above) with several of them — and there were others, too. It was great to see them and talk about their progress and successes since we had last met.

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The Festival ended with a gala concert that featured members of the Nagoya Trombone Association’s organizing committee trombone ensemble. I performed as soloist in John Stevens’ The Chief, dedicated to Emory Remington (above),

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and I also conducted the ensemble in Stephen Bulla’s arrangement of Londonderry Air (above).

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The concert concluded with all of the Festival’s participants coming on stage for a performance of two pieces: Steven Verhelst’s A Song for Japan (above), especially arranged for this concert, and Tommy Pederson’s arrangement of 76 Trombones. What a sound! And what great playing from all of the players, from students to players who were older than me.

Here is a video of my performance of The Chief, and also of A Song for Japan. I hope it will give you a sense of the great music making we all heard from so many people at the Festival (to view this video on YouTube, click HERE):

Following the concert, we had a group photo. And then another, with everyone raising a hand and shouting:

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The word isn’t really translatable into English, but it captures the joy of a job well done — with great enthusiasm. It was a word that was used throughout the festival — always with a big smile.

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We followed the concert with a reception — food and games and prizes, and each participant went home with a little bag of chocolates that had been designed by Shiori Tanaka, Hiroshi Tanaka’s wife who is also a very fine percussionist. This was the first time I’d ever seen my photo on a piece of chocolate — I guess there is a first time for everything!

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I left Nagoya the following day with a feeling of deep satisfaction. I made many new friends and met many old friends. To Hiroshi Kurata (below),

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and Hiroshi Tanaka (below, as we enjoyed some traditional Nagoya kishimen at the airport just before I returned home), you have my deepest, sincerest thanks. Thank you for hosting me at the University and at the Festival, and for becoming new friends. Making music with you and your students and colleagues was a great, great pleasure.

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And to Nozomi Kasano Flatt,

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I cannot say “thank you” enough times. She was a tremendous help to me in so many ways, and I am so proud of her and her success.

The trombone brings people together around the world and I am a very fortunate person to have been to Japan so many times to engage with interested and interesting players and teachers who have taught me far more than I could possibly offer to them. Thank you, Nagoya Trombone Association. I hope we can work together again soon. The International Trombone Festival may be in Japan in 2020 — the Olympic year — and it would be the first time the ITF would be held in Asia. I hope that happens; it would be great for Japan, for Asia, for the trombone.

One thing is very clear to me: Nagoya is a place for the trombone. I am fortunate to have been part of its most recent Trombone Festival, and to feel a new kinship with this great city in Japan.

To my Japanese friends:

ありがとうございました

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Memorial Day

Memorial Day

Tomorrow is Memorial Day in the United States.  Observed annually on May 30 from its establishment in 1868 until 1970, it is now observed on the last Monday in May.

Memorial Day is a national day of remembrance for the men and women who have died while serving in the United States’ Armed Forces. For most people, it’s a holiday, part of a three day weekend, the unofficial beginning of summer. But it is important that we consider that the cliche—Freedom isn’t free—is actually true. Were it not for those who serve and have served in our armed forces, and for many of those who made the ultimate sacrifice and died in while serving, we here in the United States would not enjoy the freedoms we have today. Those freedoms are protected each day by those who, in the words of our national song, America the Beautiful, “more than self their country loved.”  We honor them on this Memorial Day.

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I have great respect for the men and women who serve in the United States military, who daily work to preserve the freedoms we have.  I am proud that my father, Alan Yeo (1930-2016), shown in the photo above, served in the United States Army from 1953-1955, in the days following the end of the Korean conflict. My father was stationed at Fort Ord, Monterey, California, as part of the 6th Infantry Division. I was born in May 1955, just before his discharge from the Army. My dad never went to Korea; never left U.S. soil. But he answered the call and served, and played his part along with countless others who have done the same.

Through my many years of teaching, I have been privileged to be the trombone teacher of many students who have subsequently gone on to serve in the U.S. military. At the moment, I have three former students on active duty, all in the United States Navy: Zachary Hollister (Bachelor of Music, New England Conservatory of Music; bass trombonist, U.S. Navy Band, Washington, D.C.), Ryan Miller (Master of Music, Arizona State University; trombonist, U.S. Navy Fleet Forces Band, Norfolk, Virginia), and Timothy Hutchens (Doctor of Musical Arts, Arizona State University; trombonist, U.S. Navy Band Southwest, San Diego) all are serving our country with a trombone in their hands as members of some of our military’s finest bands. I am honored to have been their teacher, and respect and thank them for their service.

Memorial Day. Remember.

 

 

 

“It is the hope of man translated into a piece of music.”

“It is the hope of man translated into a piece of music.”

I’m reflecting on my recent trip to Japan, something I will write about more presently.

Among the many new friends I made on my trip to Nagoya, where I was guest artist at the Nagoya Trombone Festival, was Hiroshi Kurata, trombone professor at Aichi Prefectural University. Kurata-San game me two of his CDs as gifts. They are treasures, and unlike anything I have heard and seen before. That’s because Kurata-San is not only a superb tenor trombonist. He is a tenor. A singer. And his albums, Speranza and Tromvoce, feature him both singing and playing the trombone. It works. It really, really works. This man is a fine, fine trombonist and a fine, fine singer. More than that, he is a fine artist / musician.

This afternoon, while I was driving home from church, I was listening to Tromvoce. Among the tracks was an arrangement of themes from Giacomo Puccini’s Turandot by K. Ohashi, for trombone and voice titled Turandot Fantasy. When Tanaka-San got to the famous Act III aria, “Nessun dorma,” I pulled off the road so I could pay attention. I have loved this aria as so many others have loved it since Puccini wrote it in 1926. Kurata-San sang the aria magnificently, and when I got home, I got out my copy of the June 21, 1993 issue of The New Yorker that contains an article about the great Italian tenor, Luciano Pavarotti. The article, “The Last Italian Tenor” by David Remnick, is a riveting piece of writing, and in it Pavarotti is remarkably candid. And insightful.

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There were a few paragraphs from the article that I have used in many masterclasses, and I used them again in Japan while working with students. My message was this: What we do with the trombone in our hands is important. What we do as artists / musicians / trombonists is consequential because it makes a difference in people’s lives. I quoted Pavarotti’s comments about “Nessun dorma.”

The end of this aria contains these dramatic words:

Dilegua, o notte!              Vanish, o night!

Tramontate, stelle!          Fade, you stars!

Tramontate, stelle!          Fade, you stars!

All’alba vincerò!              At dawn, I will win!

Vincerò! Vincerò!            I will win! I will win!

Read Pavarotti’s comments below:

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To me — and I am not alone in this thinking — this is the essence of music. Communication with an audience of an essential truth that speaks directly to the heart. The emotion of “Nessun dorma” is inescapable and Pavarotti’s comments are very, very insightful. What kind of singer are YOU? One who tries to make your music making “perfect” at all costs or one who, with honest, heartfelt expression, takes chances and wishes to change people’s lives in the process?

Listen for yourself. First, here is a recording of Pavarotti in concert from 1994. His performance, which is recorded live, is very fine. Watch it so you can observe Pavarotti’s face. “In this there is all the hope of a man,” Pavarotti said. Here, he sings it. Observe the look on his face as he sings the final Vincerò! I mean, REALLY look at his face at the final cadence; you will see exactly what Remnick was referencing in his article. This is musical and emotional  involvement of the highest order. [NOTE: due to copyright restrictions, you may not be able to watch the video embedded in my blog but you CAN watch it on YouTube by clicking here.]

Here is another performance, below, a studio recording, the one I just listened to before I sat down to write this blog post. I have it on CD and LP and have never tired of it. No video, just audio. The performance is a little more polished than the one above, recorded in the early 1970s. The treatment of the final vocal cadence is, to my mind, stunning. [NOTE: due to copyright restrictions, you may not be able to watch the video embedded in my blog but you CAN watch it on YouTube by clicking here.]

Haven’t had enough of “Nessun dorma”? Then click on this link for an article that has links to 10 more performances. Each has something to say.

I end this blog post where I began, with my friend, Hiroshi Kurata. Here is a video of him playing and singing “Nessun dorma.” Any trombone player will appreciate the difficulty of what he is doing here. No overdubbing. This is a live recital. Playing the trombone with great beauty and expression, then immediately singing with tremendous passion. This is a rare accomplishment. [ To view this video on YouTube, click here.]

Thank you, Kurata-San. Thank you, Pavarotti. Thank you, God, for this remarkable gift that we call music that can stir our hearts.

Vincerò!

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Keith Brown (1933-2018)

Keith Brown (1933-2018)

My trombone teacher during my freshman year of college at Indiana University (1973-74), Keith Brown, died today after a long battle with Parkinson’s Disease.

Keith Brown’s name is certainly known to thousands upon thousands of trombone students and professionals. If one did know that he had been a member of the Indianapolis Symphony (1957-58), the New York Brass Quintet (1958-1959), the Symphony of the Air (1958-1959), the Philadelphia Orchestra (1959-1962), the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra (1962-1965), the Aspen Festival (1957-1969) the Casals Festival Orchestra in Puerto Rico (1958-1980), Professor of Music at Temple University (1965-1971), and Professor of Trombone and conductor of orchestras at Indiana University (1971-1997), one certainly knew him from his dozens of publications for International Music Company, including ten volumes of orchestral excerpts. “The Brown Books” were known to players by the color of their covers. “See you at 7 o’clock for excerpts; bring the red, yellow and blue Brown books” was often heard coming from the lips of college trombone players. Everybody had them.

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His editions of the Kreutzer Violin Etudes, and the K. Stephanovsky Bass Trombone Etudes are on my music stand every day. Every day.

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Those I bought in my first weeks of studying with him along with Richard Fote’s edition of selected studies by G. Kopprasch; the photo below shows the first page of my Kopprasch book. His students will recognize his handwriting at the top of the etude with the date he first assigned it to me: 9/26/[1973], the first semester of my freshman year.

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I met Keith Brown in Boston in January 1973. I was a senior in high school, and by virtue of my being first chair trombone in New Jersey All State Orchestra in 1972, had been selected to be a member of the All Eastern Orchestra in 1973. The orchestra – made up of students from the states of Maryland northward through New England – met in Boston and Keith Brown was the conductor. My trombone section included Doug Elliott, the renowned mouthpiece maker, and trumpeter Dennis Alves, who is now Director of Artistic Planning for the Boston Pops; I played bass trombone. It was actually the first time I had ever played bass trombone, and the program consisted of Leonard Bernstein’s “Overture to Candide,” Dvorak Symphony No. 8 and Brahms Symphony No. 3. Mr. Brown spoke to me several times during that week and he encouraged me to apply to Indiana University and come to study with him. So I did.

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I learned a lot from Keith Brown. A lot. It was with him that I really started working seriously on the bass trombone. During my first semester, I played in Orchestra 4 at IU, in a section along with William McElheney who became a very close friend; he later went on to be a trombonist with the Vienna State Opera (Vienna Philharmonic) for many years. It was with that orchestra I first played Tchaikovsky’s Symphony 5. With Keith Brown conducting.

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By my second semester, I was playing in IU’s top orchestra, the Philharmonic, where I played Alban Berg’s opera, “Wozzeck.” As a freshman. It was a heady time for me, plowing through repertoire with Mr. Brown, developing my low register, learning orchestral repertoire. His students formed a trombone choir that played at his church on Easter Sunday 1974, followed by a dinner at his home. We called him “Coach,” and we referred to him among ourselves as “K.B.” Long before NIKE had adopted the slogan in 1988, Keith would tell me, in lessons, “Doug, just do it.” He even gave me a button with that slogan.

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He was kind, generous, and helpful (even if he did sometimes have a cigar in his hand during a lesson!). This photo below shows Keith Brown and me at my last lesson at IU, May 3, 1974. Earlier that year, I had decided to transfer to Wheaton College in Illinois. Not because I was unhappy at IU, but because there was this girl going to Wheaton in the fall. My high school sweetheart, Patricia, and this August we will celebrate our 43rd wedding anniversary. Wheaton also brought with it the opportunity to study with Edward Kleinhammer, bass trombonist of the Chicago Symphony. But that is a story for another time.

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Over the years, I kept in touch with Mr. Brown. He was always happy to hear my voice on the phone, and when he started a sentence with, “Well, very honestly, Doug. . .” I knew I needed to pay attention. I went to IU in 2010 to give a masterclass and spent an afternoon with Keith at his home. We had a great time remembering old times, and he was so proud of my long career as a member of the Boston Symphony (1985-2012).

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In 2010, the Boston Symphony trombone section consisted of Toby Oft (principal), Steve Lange (second) and myself (bass). As it turned out, all three of us studied with Keith Brown at Indiana University, at least for a time. So in 2011, Toby, Steve, and I got the idea to invite Keith and his wife, Maggie, to the Boston Symphony’s summer home, Tanglewood, to hear three of his former students play together in one of the world’s great orchestras. The program: Tchaikovsky Symphony 6. Seeing Keith in the audience, front and center, grinning from ear to ear, standing and cheering for Toby, Steve, and me, is something I will never forget.

After the concert, everyone came with their families over to our home for a cookout. It was a wonderful time of conversation, remembering our lessons with Keith, talking about the orchestra business. It was a beautiful day. Memorable. It was the last time that I saw him.

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[Photo above: Steve Lange, Toby Oft, Keith Brown, Douglas Yeo – July 11, 2011]

Keith and I would talk on the phone from time to time in the years that followed. But Parkinson’s Disease began to ravage his body and he little by little slipped away. Today, he breathed his last. I’m glad he was a part of my life, as he was a part of so many lives. Part of me is who I am today because of Keith Brown.

[Header photo of Keith Brown from his LP recording, Keith Brown: Trombone, Golden Crest Recital Series RE 7043, recorded c. 1972]

Returning to Japan

Returning to Japan

I have been to Japan more times than I can count — maybe 12 or 13 times — and on my many trips, I have always had a trombone in my hand. During my nearly thirty years as bass trombonist of the Boston Symphony, I took part in many Boston Symphony and Boston Pops Orchestra tours to Japan, conducted by Seiji Ozawa and John Williams. The first of these tours, in 1986, led to my introduction to YAMAHA, which resulted in the beginning of my long, productive, and happy relationship with the company and its people. Together we have worked to develop the YAMAHA YBL-822G bass trombone and YAMAHA Douglas Yeo Signature Series Mouthpiece that I have been playing for decades.

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I have also traveled to Japan many times to serve on the faculty of the Hamamatsu International Wind Instrument Academy and Festival, an annual event that brings together an international group of teachers and performers to work with talented students. Sponsored by YAMAHA and the City of Hamamatsu, times working at the Academy have been memorable.

Next week, I will return to Japan once again, as the guest of the Nagoya Trombone Festival, sponsored by the Nagoya Trombone Association. During the two day Festival, I will play a recital (accompanied by a superb pianist, Shoko Gamo), perform as soloist with a trombone ensemble, conduct two trombone ensembles, and give a lecture on the history of the trombone. Here are a few more details:

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One of the special joys of this trip will be to see my former student, Nozomi Kasano Flatt, who plays bass trombone in the Japan Century Orchestra in Osaka. I met Nozomi in 2004 at the Hamamatsu Academy where she was a student in my trombone class. She subsequently came to Boston where we worked together for three years and she received her Graduate Diploma and Master of Music Degrees at New England Conservatory. I am exceptionally proud of Nozomi and all of her accomplishments and in 2014, she served as my translator for my class at the Hamamatsu Academy. Next week, she will be my translator once again, and we will also play a duet on my recital.

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One of the pieces I will play on my recital is an arrangement of a Canzone by Frescobaldi by Eddie Koopman. Koopman’s electronic accompaniment gives a new flavor to this piece from the Renaissance and to inject something different into my recital, I will play it on a buccin, a dragon bell trombone. In 2015, I gave a recital at the Hamamatsu Museum of Musical Instruments and played this piece on a buccin made by YAMAHA. It’s a great instrument, made by YAMAHA factory workers in their spare time. It’s very nice of YAMAHA to let me use this instrument once again in Nagoya where I will be able to bring a very different kind of trombone sound to the audience.

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In addition to my work at the Nagoya Trombone Festival, I will also give a masterclass at Aichi Prefectural University. While there, I will work with several talented young trombonists and also have an informal talk with the students about my life in music. Here is a poster with some more information about my time at the University.

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Japan. Nagoya. Trombone. Music. Friends.

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Trombones in Texas: y’all come!

Trombones in Texas: y’all come!

Texas. It’s a big state. And it has a lot of trombone players.

Next week I’ll be in the Lone Star State, giving masterclasses and performing at University of Texas, Austin (Dr. Nathaniel Brickens, Professor of Trombone) and Texas Christian University (Dr. David Begnoche, Associate Professor of Trombone). I’ve been to these two schools and worked with these fine teachers on previous occasions; it has always been a joy and pleasure to work with their students and enjoy time together.

If you find yourself in Austin or Fort Worth, Texas next week, come on by to some of the events listed below. Here’s a flyer with some of my University of Texas, Austin activities:

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Click on the TCU logo below; it will take you to the website of the TCU Trombone Summit, to be held on Saturday, April 14. It’s an all day event with masterclasses by several artists and a gala concert at night. If you can’t view the image below, click HERE to go to the TCU Trombone Summit website.

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I’d also like to say that I’m very grateful to YAMAHA Corporation of America for their kind sponsorship of my appearance at these Texas events. For information about the YAMAHA YBL-822G trombone that I play — I began my very happy relationship with YAMAHA in 1986 — click HERE.

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