Month: February 2017

199: Perseverance and excellence

199: Perseverance and excellence

This article starts with football but even if you’re not interested in that sport, if you stick with it, you’ll see how football flows to music after a few paragraphs.

My students know that I often turn to sports – usually football – for metaphors about excellence, motivation and perseverance. My wife and I have been football fans for many years. We have season tickets to the Arizona Cardinals and we attended many New England Patriots games when we lived in Boston. I attended Super Bowl XXXVI (Patriots defeated the St. Louis Rams) where I played the National Anthem and pregame show as a member of the Boston Pops Orchestra, and my wife and I attended Super Bowl XLIX (Patriots defeated the Seattle Seahawks) here in Arizona just two years ago. Fun times. Great memories.

But there things in football that I turn to over and over as I work with students to help them develop the engine that drives their pursuit of excellence. One of them is the number 199.

When I would attend college football games, I often remarked that very, very few college football players ever end up in the National Football League. The NFL draft has seven rounds; there are 32 teams. That means there are 224 players chosen in the regular draft; several others are chosen as “compensatory picks” and some undrafted players are also signed by teams. The hard reality is that most college football players never play in the NFL. It’s an elite group. Like being a member of a great symphony orchestra.

In the 2000 NFL draft, there were 254 college players chosen in the draft. Number 199, chosen with a compensatory pick in the sixth round, was Tom Brady, from University of Michigan. Six other quarterbacks were drafted before him.

Brady, of course, went on to be arguably the best quarterback in NFL history; some analysts consider him to be the best PLAYER in NFL history. He has led the New England Patriots to five Super Bowl victories; he is a four time Super Bowl Most Valuable Player.

But when the Patriots drafted him at 199 in the 2000 NFL draft, he was a long shot to make the Patriots’ roster. The Patriots had no idea if he would make the team. But Brady had ideas of his own. Brady knew he had what it takes to make a difference on a team. All he needed was a chance.

Tom Brady used the fact that he wasn’t picked until 199 in the sixth round as fuel for his engine. He wanted to prove everyone wrong. When he first met Robert Kraft, owner of the Patriots, Brady said, “Mr. Kraft, drafting me was the best decision you ever made.” I’m sure Kraft’s eyebrows raised a little. But Brady knew he had something. And in his second year with the Patriots, thrust into the starting quarterback role when quarterback Drew Bledsoe was injured, Tom Brady led the Patriots to their first Super Bowl championship.


One of my favorite t-shirts is one  by Under Armour that simply says “199.” It’s a reminder that sometimes you know you have something to offer but you just need a chance to prove it. The chip that Tom Brady carries on his shoulder, the chip that says, “You thought I was only good enough to be 199 but I will show you that you are wrong,” is a reminder that motivation to pursue excellence comes in many shapes and sizes, and from many places.

Tom Brady also has one of the most disciplined work ethics of any person I have known. He absolutely is the embodiment of a phrase I often use: “Success comes from delaying present pleasures for future rewards.” Brady is fanatical about caring for his body, his diet, his physical regimen, for getting the sleep he wants/needs, for engaging in mental stimulation. These things keep him from other recreational pursuits or dietary desires that would throw him off his disciplined routine. There will be time, when he retires someday, for those other things. For now, he remains disciplined to achieve his goals.

A few weeks ago, I was interviewed by the website The interview focused on what is required for a musician to win a position as a section member in a symphony orchestra. The result was a straight-shooting dialogue that I want to share with readers. In the interview, I talk about perseverance, the sacrifices needed to succeed, and the importance of two words that most people don’t really understand at all: Work. Hard.

Click HERE to read my interview on

Everyone has a ceiling. Not everyone will succeed at the highest level. Some people with tremendous talent don’t have the discipline needed to succeed at the highest level. Some people with a tremendous work ethic don’t have the talent needed to succeed at the highest level. But everyone CAN succeed at SOME level. The idea that you only need to work at something for 10,000 hours to succeed is foolishness. Practice doesn’t make perfect: practice makes permanent. If you don’t know how to practice something CORRECTLY, then you will get excellent at playing it poorly. And unless you understand the real meaning of the word “perseverance,”  you will never know where your talent and work ethic can take you.

Tom Brady found out. Number 199 became number 1. Not by accident. Not by getting “lucky.” He got there by combining his God-given talent with perseverance and hard work. He had what it took even when others didn’t see it. As my teacher, Edward Kleinhammer (bass trombonist of the Chicago Symphony, 1940-1985) said:

World class trombone players do not just happen. Their talents are forged in the dual furnaces of determination and diligence.



A new book – The One Hundred: Essential Works for the Symphonic Bass Trombonist

A new book – The One Hundred: Essential Works for the Symphonic Bass Trombonist

Over the last year and a half, I have been at work every day on a new book that has actually taken me 40 years to write. I’m very pleased that The One Hundred: Essential Works for the Symphonic Bass Trombonist is now at the printer and available for pre-order; copies will be shipped in March.

I took my first professional symphony orchestra audition in 1977, the year after I graduated from Wheaton College. That audition was for the Minnesota Orchestra. I didn’t win; the audition was won by Max Bonecutter, although I was one of four players in the final round and got cut at the same time as Charles Vernon, bass trombonist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra who at the time was bass trombonist of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. That was the beginning of a process that eventually brought me to the Boston Symphony in 1985. Over these many decades, I have been engaged in  studying the orchestral literature and learning all I could from colleagues, conductors, authors and many others. I brought the full orchestra score to most works to rehearsals, I took notes about how conductors were handling certain passages, and I noted when there were misprints and mistakes in my part. I have hundreds of scores, books and facsimile editions in my personal library and I have gotten great pleasure from studying them over and over again.

After having played the standard orchestral repertoire many times over, served on dozens of audition committees and taught hundreds of lessons in this music, I was glad that eighteen months ago, Wesley Jacobs, owner of Encore Music Publishers, asked me if I would like to write an annotated orchestral excerpt book for bass trombone.

I was delighted to be asked to undertake this huge project, and to have a book stand alongside the two other important annotated orchestral excerpt books in The One Hundred series:  The One Hundred: Essential Works for the Symphonic Tenor Trombonist (by Megumi Kanda, principal trombonist of the Milwaukee Symphony) and The One Hundred: Essential Works for the Symphonic Tubist (by Wesley Jacobs, retired tubist of the Detroit Symphony).

In an effort to write the most comprehensive book on the subject of bass trombone orchestral repertoire preparation, I collected as many sources as I could to inform my scholarship. Take, for instance, the well-known passage from the fourth movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. Below you can see the first page of this important excerpt as printed in my new book (FYI, the watermark, 2021, is the Encore Music Publishers catalog number; this image is from the final PDF proof of the book):


I’m sure the music looks mostly familiar to those who have played this part. But I did not simply duplicate what I have seen in various editions of the symphony. Below you can see all of the sources that I consulted to inform both my commentary and my presentation of Beethoven’s music:


I used two different editions of the full orchestra score, two editions of the bass trombone part, two books about Beethoven, a book about the Ninth Symphony, a critical commentary about the Ninth Symphony and a facsimile of Beethoven’s manuscript to the piece. All of these sources, in addition to my own performance notes that I had taken during my dozens of performances of this great work, all were utilized as I put together this single page in my book. I have corrected some mistakes that have appeared in earlier printings of this music, and provided some insight into both how I approach playing this music and how conductors have led it during rehearsals and performances as well. I endeavored to leave no stone unturned and provide readers with the best, most accurate information to help them in their preparation.

While our aim was to have a book that contained 100 works, there are actually 109 works in my book. Among those works that we wanted to include were 30 that are currently under copyright, for which we needed to obtain a license and pay royalties to copyright holders in order to reproduce them in the book. We anticipated that some of the copyright holders might not give us permission to reproduce so I came up with a list of 110 works to include in case we came up short with copyrighted works. We were very pleased that 29 of the 30 copyright holders graciously agreed to license us. This left us with more works than we had originally intended but we decided to include the additional nine works over the intended 100; I have a feeling nobody will complain! The result? A book with 360 excerpts from 109 works by 49 composers.

If you are interested in more information about this new book or would like to order a copy, there are three ways you can do this:

The website of Encore Music Publishers will lead you to a page about the book; it is featured on the website’s first page. While there, have a look at Encore Music Publisher’s many other fine publications, including the edition of the Arban Complete Method for trombone and euphonium by Joseph Alessi and Brian Bowman, and the Complete Vocalises by Marco Bordogni edited by Michael Mulcahy.

Encore Music Publishers has created a website for the three books in The One Hundred series. This is a convenient gateway to information about all three books in the series, for tenor trombone, bass trombone and tuba.

I have put a page on my own website devoted to The One Hundred. There you can get a fuller account of how this book came to be, and you can also download a free PDF with 10 sample pages from the book so you can see the front and back covers, table of contents, preface, and four sample pages.

I want to thank Wesley Jacobs, owner of Encore Music Publishers, for working with me so I could – at last – write this book. It has been a labor of love, something I have wanted to do for a very long time. It is very, very satisfying to know that soon, it will be in the hands of students and players around the world.




Life is full of ups and downs. Nobody is immune from hard knocks and I don’t know a person in the world who has not faced tough times and discouragement. In recent days, I’ve been talking to a number of people who are struggling with difficulties. It’s then that you find out the true meaning of the word “friend” – how to be one and how to be grateful for one.

I thought I’d share three items that have come to mind in the last few weeks that I have shared with friends who have been going through some tough stuff. Each speaks to a different kind of situation and each offers encouragement and hope. When you’re working hard to make lemonade out of the lemons of life, when “stuff” is piling up all around, when you can’t see a way out of a problem, Rudyard Kipling, William Shakespeare and the Apostle Paul have something to encourage us.



by Rudyard Kipling (first published in 1895)

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make a heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!


Sonnet 29

William Shakespeare (first published in 1609)

When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself, and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featur’d like him, like him with friends possess’d,
Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
For thy sweet love remember’d such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.


I Corinthians 13 (English Standard Version)

Apostle Paul (written between approximately 53-57 AD)

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant  or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

The Sackbut, The Psaltery and The Dulcimer – 1954 recording

The Sackbut, The Psaltery and The Dulcimer – 1954 recording

A few weeks ago, I posted an article on The Last Trombone about Fake News and The Trombone. One of the things that has caused a lot of confusion about the origin of the trombone is the fact that the King James Bible (1611) translated an Aramaic word for a form of lyre as “sackbut.” Sackbut is an early word for the trombone and, faced with an Aramaic word they didn’t understand, the KJV Bible translators substituted a word for something they DID know that sounded similar. Hence, the myth that the trombone dates from ancient times (rather than the 15th century) gained traction.

In my ongoing research on the trombone for several of my book projects, I came across a recording made in 1954 by a doo-wop group, The Collegians, with the Sid Bass Orchestra. I saw the 45rpm record on sale on an auction site and sight unseen, I decided to buy it. The title of the song? The Sackbut, the Psaltery and the Dulcimer.


That got my attention. Those are three of the instruments that are found in the King James translation of the Bible, in Daniel, Chapter 3, verse 5:

That at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of music, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the King hath set up.

The connection between the recording and the Bible verse was immediately apparent to me. So I bought the record, not knowing what I was getting. And, wow, I am glad I bought it. I found myself owning a recording of an absolutely charming song. The songwriters – who are only identified as Hoffman-Manning-Sloane – crafted a clever story about six musicians at in ancient Babylon who played sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, harp, cornet and flute. They stuck the harp in for good measure. The Sid Bass Orchestra’s trombone section has a prominent role, of course. It’s well sung and played, and adds something to what we know about how the trombone was used in popular culture.

You can hear this cute song on YouTube by clicking this link or click on the video image below (if you’re reading this message in an email message, you won’t see the video image below):

If you don’t smile when you hear this, you don’t have a pulse. The trombone in Biblical times? No, that’s fake news. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have a little fun with the idea. The Collegians sure did, and we can, too.