Month: June 2017

I am the duet man, goo goo g’joob

I am the duet man, goo goo g’joob

I’m sure many readers of The Last Trombone remember John Lennon’s nonsense song, I Am The Walrus, and its iconic line, “They are the egg man, I am the walrus, goo goo g’joob.”

Well, I feel a little bit like a revised version of that song title, because this week, I won’t be the egg man, but I’ll be the DUET MAN. I’m heading to University of Redlands in Redlands, California, for the 46th International Trombone Festival. The Festival is an annual event and I’ve been very happy to have been asked to perform and teach at many of these events.


This week, I’ll be doing several things, including playing duets on recitals with three of the leading trombonists of our time. For those who may be attending, I thought I’d give you a heads up of my activities. You can also download the ITF program (free) and see the full lineup of events and performers (and if you turn to the next to last page, you’ll see me smiling at you).

Wednesday, 5:00 PM, University of Redlands Memorial Chapel – James Markey Recital

This is a late addition to my schedule. My good friend Jim Markey, who succeeded me in 2012 as bass trombonist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, is giving a recital and had planned to play a duet with another player. At the last minute, that fell through, so on Friday, he called me and asked if I’d be willing to play Steven Verhelst’s duet for bass trombones, Devil’s Waltz, with him. How could I refuse even on short notice?; this is such a nice opportunity for me to play together with Jim. Below is a photo of Jim and me in the basement of Symphony Hall in Boston in April 2012, shortly before my retirement from the BSO.


Here’s a video of Verhelst’s piece played by my friend, Ben van Dijk, in a version that he did by overdubbing himself. This is a superb composition in which the two players parts are creatively intertwined. Playing it will Jim will be great fun.

Thursday, 5:00 PM, University of Redlands Memorial Chapel – Megumi Kanda recital

Megumi Kanda, who is principal trombonist of the Milwaukee Symphony, has been a good friend for many years, and she is playing a recital at the ITF that will end with our performing an arrangement of Twila Paris’ Lamb of God. We performed this duet a few years ago at a masterclass I gave in Indiana as part of the Masterworks Festival. Here is a photo of Megumi and me taken last year when the two of us performed at a seminar at Duke Divinity School in North Carolina. We will be playing together again at Duke Divinity School this fall; more on that to come later.


Friday, 4:00 PM, Loewe Recital Hall, University of Redlands – class with Megumi Kanda. The One Hundred: Effective Strategies for Successful Audition Preparation.

Megumi and I are both authors of books titled The One Hundred. These books – hers for tenor trombone and mine for bass trombone – are published by Encore Music Publishers and include orchestral excerpts and commentary for 100 symphonic works. Our class will focus on strategies that players can employ to help them have better success at auditions. It will be a fast moving session, and as part of the class, we will be working with the winners of the International Trombone Association’s Louis Van Haney Tenor Trombone Orchestral Excerpt Competition and the Edward Kleinhammer Bass Trombone Orchestral Excerpt Competition.


Saturday, 2:30 PM, University of Redlands Memorial Chapel – Gerry Pagano recital

Gerry Pagano is bass trombonist of the St. Louis Symphony, and we’ve known each other since he was a student at the Tanglewood Music Center in the late-1980s. We are good friends and are planning to record a CD of duets for bass trombone later this summer. More on that later. Gerry asked if I would be willing to play a duet with him on his recital at the ITF and, of course – Yes! We’ll be playing Two Songs from Three Emily Dickinson Songs by Michael Hennagin. I don’t have a video of Gerry and me playing this piece although a few years ago, I played these songs with my friend Randy Hawes, bass trombonist of the Detroit Symphony (who I also first met when he was a student at the Tanglewood Music Center in the mid-1980s). So here is a video of Randy and me playing the first of these songs, “Heart We Will Forget Him”, at a masterclass Randy gave at Arizona State University a few years ago. Beautiful music. I loved playing this duet with Randy and I know I will love playing it with Gerry.

And if you’d like to hear Gerry and me play together, here’s a video of the two of us playing Tommy Pederson’s The Crimson Collup, recorded in my office at Arizona State University. It’s one of the pieces we’ll be recording for this summer for our new CD.

So there you have it – three duets on recitals with my good friends and colleagues, ┬áJim Markey, Megumi Kanda and Gerry Pagano, and a shared class with Megumi. If you’re a trombone player, consider heading out to Redlands for the Festival. There’s still time to get there!

It is still Grand.

It is still Grand.

The Last Trombone has been quiet for a few weeks, with my being very busy with a number of things. But I’m back on the grid to share a few things with readers.

I love the Grand Canyon. Arizona’s nickname is The Grand Canyon State. And why not? The Grand Canyon is one of the natural wonders of the world, the product of the extraordinary artistic hand of our Sovereign God. It is there, in all of its vast, quiet majesty, for our pleasure, for our wonder, for our imaginations.

My wife and I had a chance to get away from the Phoenix area’s summer heat last week and spend a few days at the Grand Canyon where it was about 20 degrees cooler. I cannot count how many times we’ve been there. No matter: each time it is new.


We didn’t have time to go down in the Canyon on this trip so we spent our time with a leisurely hike along the South Rim’s trail, from the El Tovar hotel out to Hermit’s Rest. With every step we were aware of the sense of awe that Charles Higgins felt when he penned these words that appear over an entrance to the El Tovar hotel:

Dreams of mountains, as in their sleep they brood on things eternal.

Indeed. Things eternal. That is what we think of as we gaze over the landscape. The Grand Canyon has shaped us.

A few years ago, when I was Arizona State University’s trombone professor, The ASU Desert Bones Trombone Choir recorded its first CD, Of Grandeur, Grace, and Glory. I chose as the cover image a photo I took of the Grand Canyon. Is there a better subject in the world to illustrate the idea of grandeur?


And in 2014, when the International Trombone Association conferred on my its highest honor, the ITA AWARD, the ITA Journal wanted to run a story about me. The editor asked me for some photos and I chose the one below for the cover. It had to be the Grand Canyon.


I’ve taken thousands of photos of the Grand Canyon. I can’t restrain myself. Yet not one can adequately capture the majesty of this remarkable place. But I keep trying.


I also enjoy seeing how artists have looked at the Grand Canyon through their own, unique eyes. One of my favorite paintings of the Grand Canyon is by Charles H. Pabst. Titled Mystic River, it hangs in the lobby of the El Tovar Hotel. Its Art Deco style, the dramatic use of the yellow/orange color palate, and the stillness of the water gives much to think on.


Of course, the most important thing about the Grand Canyon is summarized by a plaque at on the Lookout Studio that overhangs the South Rim, a reminder of what all that my eyes see is all about:


It’s always difficult to get a good photo of this important reminder; the light never seems to be right when I’m there. So here is the text with its important Truths:

O Lord, how manifold are thy works!

In wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of Thy riches.

  • Psalm 104:24

And below, a prayer:

Father almighty, wonderful Lord, Wondrous Creator, be ever adored;

Wonders of nature sing praises to You, Wonder of wonders –

I may praise, too!

Another of these plaques, types of which I have seen all around the world in England, Greece, Israel and throughout the United States, is found at Hermit’s Rest, with a mighty hymn of praise:


Sing to God, sing praises to His name;

Lift up a song to Him who rides upon the clouds;

His name is the Lord, exult before Him.

  • Psalm 68:4

Back home in Phoenix, my attention has turned to other tasks, but the memory of this short trip to the Grand Canyon remains with me. If you’ve never been to the Grand Canyon, I hope you will come someday. I’m sure it will change you, too.