Category: Japan

The music goes on.

The music goes on.

There are no concerts today at Carnegie Hall, or Symphony Hall, Boston, or in Edman Memorial Chapel on the campus of Wheaton College (IL) where I teach trombone. The Star Spangled Banner won’t be sung tonight before any sporting events. The world of live, public performances of music is shuttered now—all around the world. To even write these words seems incomprehensible. Yet, for the good of humankind, we are taking extraordinary measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Even as we do what we can, we pray that God will deliver us from this pandemic and also give us the eyes to see and the ears to hear what it is that we should learn from this challenging experience.

It is an adjustment, for sure, to not be able to listen to live music and to make it together in community. In addition to the loss of the performances themselves, we ache for the musicians who were to have played them. Most of those players are not getting paid now. Many of our country’s top symphony and opera orchestras have been telling their players that their salaries will be reduced or cut completely in the coming days, although many employers say they will continue to pay for their players’ health insurance benefits. Freelance musicians are adrift, with neither salaries or health insurance. Tomorrow is April 1; rents and mortgages are due and without any income, many people are facing an existential threat. These are real challenges that are felt by all of us in the trickle-down connectedness of our world.

My own trombone playing is now being done solo, by myself. Many engagements that I had planned for these weeks—a solo appearance at a brass band festival in Seattle, a masterclass at Interlochen Arts Academy, concerts in Helsinki and Japan with the Finnish National Radio Orchestra—have been cancelled and I expect more planned engagements will be cancelled as well.

Yet music is still important to us, and there are still ways to hear it. While watching performances in front of a computer or smartphone screen can’t take the place of live music, with a set of headphones, earbuds, or AirPods, or connecting those devices to a larger stereo system or television or other remote speakers, we can enjoy performances from the past on demand. Many orchestras and popular music groups are offering superb videos of recitals and performances. A a quick look throughYouTube brings countless offerings.

I think one of the most interesting classical music offerings is that by the San Francisco Symphony. Click HERE to go to the orchestra’s YouTube channel and their fantastic series of documentaries and performances by several composers, Keeping Score. The programs are superbly produced, the Symphony sounds fantastic, and Michael Tilson Thomas’ commentary is informative and engaging. Have a look!

I’ve put together a few videos of my own performances that have enjoyed some popularity on YouTube. Below, you’ll find performances I gave while I was professor of trombone at Arizona State University (2012-2016), several from my time with the Boston Symphony and Boston Pops (1986-2012), a video I made in the YAMAHA factory in Japan about how trombones are made, and a few other surprises. We pray for the day when we can all go to enjoy music while sitting chairs in concert halls, jazz clubs, and sports arenas. Until then, we can be grateful we live in such a time as this when we have at our fingertips so many enjoyable and inspiring performances to help us get through each day. For each of the videos below, you can view them right here on The Last Trombone or click on the YouTube link that’s provided..

The Star Spangled Banner, arranged by Robert Elkjer. Arizona State University Desert Bones Trombone Choir, Douglas Yeo, conductor at Chase Field, Phoenix, August 31, 2014. I have played the national anthem at more sporting events than I can count, including Super Bowl XXXVI in 2002 as a member of the Boston Pops Orchestra. When I came to Arizona State University, I wanted to share that great experience of playing the national anthem at a sporting event with my students. We played at Arizona Diamondbacks baseball games several times, as well as at several ASU games. This performance was from the first of our appearances at Chase Field; the video was made and supplied to us by the Diamondbacks. Click HERE to view this on YouTube.


Making trombones. A tour of the YAMAHA Toyooka factory in Japan with Douglas Yeo, 2004. I have been playing YAMAHA trombones since 1986, and in 2004, I was asked to make a video of a tour of the YAMAHA factory where many of their trombones are made. It’s a fascinating process—as you can see. Click HERE to view this on YouTube.


Prayer from Jewish Life, No. 1, by Ernest Bloch, arr. Gordon Cherry. Douglas Yeo, bass trombone; Aimee Fincher, piano, 2014. This performance was recorded on my 2014 faculty recital at Arizona State University. Bloch’s Prayer was originally written for cello and was beautifully arranged by my friend, Gordon Cherry, former principal trombonist of the Vancouver Symphony and owner of the music publishing company, Cherry Classics. Click HERE to view this on YouTube.


Heart, We Will Forget Him from Three Emily Dickinson Songs by Michael Hennagin. Douglas Yeo and Randall Hawes, bass trombone; Aimee Fincher, piano, 2015. In 2015, I invited my friend, Randy Hawes (bass trombonist of the Detroit Symphony) to give a masterclass at Arizona State University. At the beginning of the class, we played this beautiful duet by Michael Hennagin. This was recorded in the large rehearsal room where we had our weekly ASU trombone studio class. Click HERE to view this on YouTube.


The Chief  for bass trombone and trombone ensemble by John Stevens, and A Song for Japan by Steven Verhelst. Douglas Yeo, bass trombone solo, with members of the Nagoya Trombone Association, 2018. In 2018, I traveled to Nagoya, Japan, to be the guest artist at the Nagoya Trombone Festival. The gala concert at the end of the Festival included several trombone ensemble works, including John Stevens’ tribute to the great trombone teacher, Emory Remington, The Chief, and an arrangement of Steven Verhelst’s beautiful A Song for Japan. The two pieces are combined in this video, below. Click HERE to view this on YouTube.


Demonstration of a buccin (dragon bell trombone) at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Douglas Yeo, buccin. While living in Boston, I had a long and happy relationship with those in the Musical Instrument Gallery of the Museum of Fine Arts. I gave many concerts and demonstrations there, and conducted a great deal of research in its back rooms. A few years ago, I recorded some demonstration videos on several MFA-owned instruments, including a buccin made by Jean Baptiste Tabard around 1830. I’m playing a bit of the buccin part from Hector Berlioz’s Messe solennelle. Note the tongue that moves in the instrument’s bell throughout! Playing the buccin is like playing the trombone with your eyes closed; with the bell over my head, I don’t have the bell in front of me as a visual reference point to aid in accurately hitting all of the slide positions. It is a great challenge but great fun to play, with its deep, teutonic sound and rather unconventional overtone series that is related to but not exactly like a modern trombone. Click HERE to view this on YouTube.


The Lost Chord by Sir Arthur Sullivan. Douglas Yeo, ophicleide; Kimberly Marshall, organ, 2012. In 2012, I gave my first faculty recital at Arizona State University. The concert featured me playing bass trombone, bass sackbut, serpent, and ophicleide, all accompanied by ASU’s organ professor, Dr. Kimberly Marshall. She had been the Director of the ASU School of Music when I was hired and I told her that I wanted my first recital to be a collaboration with her, in thanks for her confidence in hiring me. This performance of The Lost Chord, a well-known Victorian era vocal and instrumental solo, features me playing the ophicleide, used extensively in the nineteenth and early twentieth century particularly in France, Belgium, and England (although it was in use around the world) before the nearly universal adoption of the tuba as the preferred bass brass instrument. Click HERE to view this on YouTube.


Rhapsody for Bass Trombone by Stephen Bulla. Douglas Yeo, bass trombone, with the New England Brass Band; Terry Everson, conductor, 2008. I was music director of the New England Brass Band for 10 years, from 1998–2008. We played many concerts together, and also recorded five compact discs in Boston’s Symphony Hall. My last concert with the Band was at Hope Church in Lenox, Massachusetts, near the summer home of the Boston Symphony, Tanglewood. This performance is from that concert, and I chose to play Rhapsody by my good friend, Steve Bulla, who succeeded me as music director of the NEBB. I recorded the Rhapsody in 1996 with England’s Black Dyke Mills Band on my first solo CD, Proclamation, and it was always a joy to play it with my hometown band, the NEBB. Click HERE to view this on YouTube.


Southern Gothic from Three Imaginary Landscapes by James M. David. Douglas Yeo, bass trombone with Sangmi Lim, piano, 2019. In March 2019, I traveled to Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, Texas, to give a recital and masterclass. I performed the recital on my YAMAHA YBL-822G bass trombone with a carbon fiber bell, tuning slide, and outer hand slide by Dave Butler of Butler Trombones in Dallas. I’m very enthusiastic about Dave’s work with carbon fiber and you can hear the result for yourself. This video was put up without editing out my introductory comments where I speak about the carbon fiber trombone so if you want to go right to the music, drag the slider to 1:24. Click HERE to view this on YouTube.


The Crimson Collop by Tommy Pederson. Douglas Yeo and Gerry Pagano, bass trombones, 2014. In 2014, I invited my friend, Gerry Pagano, bass trombonist of the St. Louis Symphony, to give a masterclass at Arizona State University. We opened the masterclass with a performance of this great duet by Tommy Pederson but after the class, we learned that the camera operator forgot to hit RECORD. So after the class, Gerry and I went back to my office and recorded the duet. It’s an informal collaboration between two friends that later led to us deciding to make a CD of bass trombone duets. More about that below. Click HERE to view this on YouTube.


Star Wars Main Title by John Williams. Boston Pops Orchestra, John Williams, conductor, 1993. This performance was recorded in 1993 in a concert from the Boston Pops Orchestra’s tour of Japan. The concert was entirely of John’s music and that evening was one of the highlights of my career with the Boston Symphony/Boston Pops. Yup, look at all of that 90s hair. . . The trombone players in this performance are Norman Bolter, Douglas Wright, Darren Acosta, and me. Click HERE to view this on YouTube.

There are also several other videos from that 1993 concert that appear on YouTube that can’t be imbedded here on The Last Trombone. If you’re interested, click HERE to see the March from Raiders of the Lost Ark, and click HERE to see Adventures on Earth from E.T.


Selections from Horn Trios, Op. 82 by Anton Reicha, arr. John Ericson. John Ericson, horn; Douglas Yeo, bass trombone; Deanna Swoboda, tuba, 2013. This performance of several trios by Anton Reicha was given at a Trombone Studio class at Arizona State University in 2013. Subsequently, my good friends John Ericson, Deanna Swoboda, and I recorded a CD on Summit Records, “Table for Three,” that included these trios and other pieces for horn, bass trombone, and tuba. The performance is rather informal but it’s a very happy memory of many nice collaborations with these friends. Click HERE to view this on YouTube.


Bone Moan by David Jones. Ryan Haines, trombone solo; Arizona State University Desert Bones Trombone Choir, Douglas Yeo, conductor, 2015.  I met David Jones in the 1990s when he was a student at New England Conservatory. I conducted several performances of his superb work for tenor trombone solo and trombone choir, Bone Moan, with the New England Trombone Choir at New England Conservatory with Douglas Wright (now principal trombonist of the Minnesota Orchestra) as soloist. The opportunity to conduct the piece again arose when I was at ASU and Ryan Haines, who at the time of this recording was the jazz trombone teacher at ASU, gives a great performance of this evocative and unusual piece. Click HERE to view this on YouTube.


Song for Lotta by Jan Sandstrom. Douglas Yeo, bass trombone; Aimee Fincher, piano, 2013. I have played Jan Sandstrom’s Song for Lotta many times over the years, in recitals all around the world, including in China and Japan. I have found it is a very powerful final piece on a recital. Rather than something flashy, I like playing something soft and contemplative which gives the audience something special to think about as they leave the concert hall. Click HERE to view this on YouTube.


Theme and Variations on Arkansas Traveler by David Herring. Douglas Yeo, bass trombone; Natural State Brass Band, Rusty Morris, conductor, 2010. The world of the British-style brass band has been important to me for many decades. Earlier in this article, you saw a performance by me of Stephen Bulla’s Rhapsody for Bass Trombone with the New England Brass Band. I’ve also enjoyed a long friendship with members of the Natural State Brass Band of Little Rock, Arkansas, especially the band’s former music director, Rusty Morris. In 2010, I joined the band on their tour of England, both as guest conductor and guest soloist. A bonus of the trip was that my wife and oldest daughter played baritone horn and bass trombone with the band on the tour. David Herring’s piece based on the familiar folk tune, Arkansas Traveler, and was especially written for me to perform on this tour. This performance was recorded in a Wesleyan Church in Bolton, England, just north of Manchester. Click HERE to view this on YouTube.


Below 10th Street by Tommy Pederson. Gerry Pagano and Douglas Yeo, bass trombone; Mike Lake, Hammond Organ and drums. 2017. In August 2017, in the thick of the heat of the Arizona summer, Gerry Pagano and I came together make a new CD of duets for bass trombones, FRATRES. We recorded the album in the studio of Michael Lake, a tremendously gifted jazz trombonist, recording engineer, and digital media guru. The album has many duets by Tommy Pederson (including The Crimson Collop which you have seen earlier in this article). Mike had the idea to add accompaniment to several of the duets and Below 10th Street features Mike on Hammond B-3 organ and drums. Thanks to Mike’s drone, he put together a promotional video of Gerry and me in the Sonoran desert north of Phoenix, horsing around with our trombones to the background of our performance of Below 10th Street. Fun times. For those interested, I start the piece, followed by Gerry, although our parts go back and forth between the top and bottom voice throughout. Click HERE to view this on YouTube.


Quidditch from Harry Potter by John Williams. Boston Pops Orchestra Brass Section. While I was a member of the Boston Symphony/Boston Pops Orchestra, I played many concerts with John Williams; earlier you saw several videos of performances of his music with the Boston Pops Orchestra from our 1993 Japan tour. Here is a video of John’s arrangement of his Quidditch—a game played by Harry Potter and his friends—from a performance in the early 2000s. The video begins with a little spoken commentary from John. The trombone players are Norman Bolter, Darren Acosta, and me. Click HERE to view this on YouTube.


Dear Lord, I Love Thee, by Wycliffe Gordon. Arizona State University Desert Bones Trombone Choir, Douglas Yeo, conductor, 2015. The great jazz trombonist, Wycliffe Gordon, is a good friend, and he came to Arizona State University in April 2015 to give a masterclass for my students. He brought along some music he had written and later that month, I decided to include one of them on our trombone choir concert. Click HERE to view this on YouTube.

His piece, “Dear Lord, I Love Thee,” is beautiful in its simplicity. Wycliffe composed words to the piece which he included in the trombone parts. It is a fitting benediction for this playlist that reminds us that while the concert halls around the world are dark, the music still goes on. In this challenging time, Wycliffe’s prayer is shared by me and so many others, as we turn to God, the giver of everything, for guidance and sustenance.

Dear Lord, I love thee. Saviour that saved me.

Lost, my soul was in sin, cleansed, made whole from within

     by my Lord God, Jesus, who made me and saved me.

He’s God! God, mighty Lord, God who saved me.

Wretched my soul was in sin, then He gave me life anew.

Dear Lord, I love thee. Saviour that saved me.

Came inside and made me whole.

Blessed me, then saved my soul!!!




A musical miscellany

A musical miscellany

I was trained as a classical musician although I am very grateful my musical life did not fit narrowly into that single stylistic box. I am a firm believer in the value of the pluralistic musical life, whether as a performer or listener. During my long career as bass trombonist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra (1985-2012), I was very fortunate to play much of the important canon of western orchestral music that contained trombones: Beethoven (Symphonies 5 and 9), Mozart (he didn’t score for trombones in his symphonies, but I played his Requiem and several operas), all of the symphonies of Brahms, Schumann, Mahler, Tchaikovsky, and Bruckner, the tone poems of Richard Strauss, and so much more. And this I was blessed to do with some of the finest conductors of the twentieth and twenty first centuries—including Leonard Bernstein, Bernard Haitink, Seiji Ozawa, James Levine, Simon Rattle, Sir Colin Davis, and many others—and great soloists—including Mstislav Rostropovich, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Yo-Yo Ma, Jesseye Norman, Evgeny Kissin, Thomas Quasthoff, Gil Shaham, and many others—who inspired me in countless ways.


[Above: My final bow at Symphony Hall as a member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, May 2012. Behind me, standing, are concertmaster Malcolm Lowe and conductor Bernard Haitink following a performance of Beethoven Symphony No. 9.]

After graduation from Wheaton College (IL) in 1976—where I studied trombone with Edward Kleinhammer (bass trombonist of the Chicago Symphony from 1940-1985) and I have now come full circle as the College’s trombone professor since fall 2019—my wife and I moved to New York City. There I had a remarkably diverse performing life, playing concerts with the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra and American Symphony, Broadway shows (many performance of “The King and I” starring Yul Brynner), studio jingles and record sessions, jazz bands (including the Gerry Mulligan Big Band, the Elgart Band, and the Dave Chesky Band), and the Goldman Band, with which I played many concerts under the batons of Richard Franko Goldman and Ainslee Cox.


[Photo above: That’s me, warming up before a concert by the Goldman Band, summer of 1977, at the Guggenheim Bandshell next to the Metropolitan Opera House, Lincoln Center. That summer, by the way, was when the New York City blackout of 1977 occurred on June 13, 1977. I was playing a concert with the Goldman Band at Lincoln Center at the moment the blackout struck. Seriously. But that’s another story. In this photo, sitting next to me, which his back to the camera, is trombonist Fred Braverman. Other members of the band at that time included William Arrowsmith, then principal oboist of the Metropolitan Opera, Abraham Perlstein, who had been the second trombonist of the NBC Symphony, and Bill Barber, tuba, who had played with Miles Davis in the seminal “Birth of the Cool” recording sessions and concerts. I learned a lot from my time playing in the Goldman Band. A. Lot.]

In all of this musical activity in New York City I was a free lancer, and a substitute in groups (apart from the Goldman band where I was a full member for four summer seasons, 1977-1980—six concerts a week for six weeks each summer). From day to day, I didn’t know what kind of music I might playing. The phone would ring, I would accept an engagement, gather up my trombone and bag of mutes, and head off to play. This plurality of musical styles served me well when I joined the Baltimore and then the Boston Symphony Orchestras, where “pops” concerts required me to play credibly in a host of styles.


Some of the richest fruit of my early experience in the jazz and commercial worlds came when I performed the two Bass Trombone Concertos written by my friend, Chris Brubeck, with the Boston Pops Orchestra. Working with Chris was pure joy, as was meeting his father, Dave Brubeck. I played Chris’ first Bass Trombone Concerto several times with the Boston Pops, including a performance of the third movement, “James Brown in the Twilight Zone,” on national television as part of the “Evening at Pops” television show. The photo above shows me performing the Concerto with the Boston Pops in 2011, with Keith Lockhart, conductor (photo by Michael J. Lutch). Susan Stempleski reviewed the concert for and wrote, in part:

Lockhart introduced Douglas Yeo, bass trombonist of the Boston Symphony and Boston Pops orchestras, who delivered a wonderful and lively rendition of “James Brown in the Twilight Zone”, a movement from Chris Brubeck’s jazz-flavored Concerto for Bass Trombone and Orchestra. Yeo’s virtuosic performance electrified the audience. Brubeck was in the audience.


In 1996, I began my exploration into early music, first with serpent, then ophicleide, then the early trombone (often referred to as “sackbut”), buccin (dragon bell trombone), and six-valve trombone. This opened another musical world to me, where I have taken part in performances of music that I would not have ever played on bass trombone. I’ve played serpent on a host of pieces with orchestras (both modern orchestras and early music groups) including Hector Berlioz’s Messe solennelle and Symphonie fantastique, Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 5 (Reformation) and Meerestille und glückliche Fahrt overture (Calm Seas and Prosperous Voyage), ophicleide on Berlioz’s Damnation of Faust and Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and early trombone on Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 and L’Orfeo. And I’ve given many recitals that feature serpent, ophicleide, six-valve trombone, and buccin, such as when I gave a concert on nine different instruments in 2015 at the Hamamatsu Museum of Musical Instruments in Hamamatsu, Japan, shown in the photo above.

Today, in this season of life since I retired from the Boston Symphony in 2012, I feel exceptionally blessed to continue to explore playing music in a host of styles, genres, and types of ensembles. Recent months have brought a number of rewarding musical experiences into my orbit. I do not take this for granted, and I am grateful that I continue to get invitations to do interesting things with a trombone (or another instrument) in my hand.


In December 2019, I was in Austin, Texas, taking part in performances of Felix Mendelssohn’s oratorio, Elijah. The concerts were organized by George Dupere, Chief Musician of Redeemeer Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Austin. I have played this piece many times, both the bass trombone and ophicleide parts, and I never tire of it. Never. The piece is so masterfully composed, and it contains such tremendous drama. This time, I played ophicleide with a fine orchestra including some of our brass section, above (left to right): Jamey Van Zandt, Nathaniel Brickens, and Owen Homayoun, trombones, and Chris Carol and Shelby Lewis, natural trumpets.


Just a few days later, I switched musical gears into the jazz world. I was delighted to be asked to be part of an “all star” brass jazz ensemble that was put together by YAMAHA for the Midwest Clinic, an annual convention held in Chicago. The Clinic features classes and performances over several days, and is one of the largest (the largest?) such events in the world. Our concert featured some terrific Christmas music, including carols arranged for trumpets, horns, trombones, tuba, and rhythm section by Stan Kenton, Ralph Carmichael, Sam Pilafian, JD Shaw, Jose Sibaja, and others. Boston Brass made up the core of the group and our trombone section (shown in performance above) consisted of Wycliffe Gordon, Domingo Pagliuca (of Boston Brass) and me. Great guys; great players. John Wittman conducted (shown in the photo on the right).


The trumpet section? Not a bad lineup, actually. Ha! Actually, this was a remarkable group of some of the greatest trumpet players in the world, shown backstage with me before the concert: Jose Sibaja (Boston Brass), Allen Vizzutti, Wayne Bergeron, (me), Jeff Conner (Boston Brass), Rex Richardson, and Jens Lindeman. Any questions?


It was such a pleasure to work with Wycliffe Gordon once again. He needs no introduction and it’s no secret to say he is one of the finest jazz trombonists of our time, for a long time member of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra (I first met him at a joint concert between the LCJO and the Boston Symphony Orchestra), and now leader of his own combo. He has more albums out than I can count, and we are simpatico in so many ways. For years I’ve referred to Wycliffe as “my brother from another mother.”

In 2015, Arizona State University hosted Wycliffe for some masterclasses; this happened  while I was Professor of Trombone at ASU. I included his trombone ensemble piece, Dear Lord, I Love Thee on our April 2015 concert. Have a look and listen, above (to open this video in YouTube, click HERE). It was really, really great to see and work with Wycliffe again at the Midwest Clinic.


February 2020 brought more fun in a different musical world. My good friend Megumi Kanda—principal trombonist of the Milwaukee Symphony— and I travelled to St. Louis to give a joint recital and masterclass, sponsored by the St. Louis Low Brass Collective (STLLBC). Megumi is a superb player and wonderful person (I often refer to her as “my sister from another mother”), and we have done a number of joint events over the years. We also are authors of books about trombone orchestral excerpts and performance. Published by Encore Music Publishers, the annotated orchestral excerpt books, The One Hundred: Essential Works for the Symphonic Trombonist and The One Hundred: Essential Works for the Symphonic Bass Trombonist. To all of you who are reading this who have made our books part of your library: Thank you! And if you’re interested in the books, just click the links on the titles, above.

We began our masterclass with a duet, a movement of Philipp Telemann’s Canonic Sonata No. 3 that I arranged for inclusion in my book, Trombone Essentials, published by G. Schirmer.



We continued the class by each speaking to the assembled audience and then working with several young players. As you can see from the photos above, Megumi and I tend to be  similarly demonstrative when we teach. How about a caption contest?! By the way, I should mention that Megumi is the recipient of the International Trombone Association’s 2020 ITA Award, the Association’s highest honor. She is so deserving of this honor, and it’s a pleasure for me—the 2014 recipient of the ITA Award—to welcome her into this special group of trombonists who have been so honored. I am at work on an article about her to be published later this year in the ITA Journal. Stay tuned; she has quite a story to tell!



Our recital on February 17 featured us playing solos and duets. I even used my six-valve trombone to perform Hector Berlioz’s Orasion funèbre from his Grand symphonie funèbre et triumphale. I want to send a shout out and big thank you to my good friend, Gerry Pagano (bass trombonist of the St. Louis Symphony) and all of those in the STLLBC who made this trip possible.


From a solo and duet recital in St. Louis I came back home to the Chicago area to play chamber music. On February 21, the Wheaton College Artist Series presented a concert that featured the Chicago-based brass quintet, Gaudete Brass, as well as organist Nicole Simental and the combined Wheaton College choral groups, conducted by Jerry Blackstone. The centerpiece of the concert was a performance of Morton Lauridsen’s Lux Aeterna. On the first half of the concert, Gaudete Brass performed Ingolf Dahl’s Music for Brass Instruments; Dahl was Lauridsen’s composition teacher at University of Southern California and the piece requires six players. I joined Gaudete Brass as its second trombonist (selfie of me with Gaudete Brass after a rehearsal in Edman Chapel, above).


[Photo above: Gaudete Brass in Adams Art Gallery on the campus of Wheaton College after our performance. (Left to right) Bill Baxtresser (trumpet), Joanna Schulz (horn), Charles Russell Roberts (trumpet), me, Paul Von Hoff (trombone), and Scott Tegge (tuba)

I have played Dahl’s piece on numerous occasions with groups in performances around the world. But I have to say that this collaboration was, to me, particularly special. First, Gaudete Brass is a superb group of musicians. They play at the highest level and it was a joy to work with them; I hope we will do more things together. Nice people, too! Also, the concert was held in Edman Memorial Chapel at Wheaton College, where, as a student there from 1974-1976, I took part in many concerts on that stage. Many memories came flooding back as I played in Edman Chapel with Gaudete Brass. And there was this. . .


In December, Gaudete Brass and I had a rehearsal in the Fine Arts Building, on Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago. That building has very special meaning for me: it was there, on the ninth floor, that I had my weekly trombone lesson with Edward Kleinhammer (bass trombonist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1940-1985) while I was a student at Wheaton College. I had not been in that building since my last lesson with him in May 1976. Walking through the front doors brought back a flood of memories.



After the rehearsal with Gaudete Brass, I climbed the stairs up to the ninth floor, to once again walk down that long hallway (which has not changed a bit since 1976) and stand in front of room 918 where Mr. Kleinhammer had his studio. As I stood there, I reflected on how those lessons impacted me in so many ways. I could not go in the room this time, but I remember every detail of that small space: two chairs, two music stands, a table for music, and a sink (the bathroom is down the hall). This photo, below, shows the two of us after my last lesson in room 918 in 1976:


In that room my life was changed.  If you did not see it earlier, click HERE to read the photo essay/tribute I wrote about him last year on what would have been his 100th birthday. He was a remarkable man.

And there is more to come. While my planned trip to Seattle to be guest soloist this weekend at the Northwest Band Festival was cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak in Seattle, my calendar is full of other events in the coming months, including masterclasses at Interlochen Arts Academy and the Csehy Summer School of Music, performances with the Finnish National Radio Orchestra in Helsinki and Japan (unless the coronavirus has something to say about that trip), teaching at the Pokorny Seminar—hosted by Chicago Symphony tubist, Gene Pokorny—and teaching at the Wheaton College Summer Music Camp. Details may be found on the schedule page on my website,

[Header photo: Boston Symphony Orchestra, Bernard Haitink, conductor. My final performance in Symphony Hall as a member of the Boston Symphony, May 9, 2012; Beethoven Symphony No. 9. Photo by Stu Rosner; courtesy the Boston Symphony Orchestra.]

From Texas to Japan – help the Univ. of Texas Trombone Choir get there in 2020

From Texas to Japan – help the Univ. of Texas Trombone Choir get there in 2020

For many years, I have enjoyed a close relationship with the University of Texas (Austin) trombone studio, and its Professor, Dr. Nathaniel Brickens. Nat is one of the most highly-respected trombone teachers in the world, a former president of the International Trombone Association, and a superb player and – most of all – one of the nicest people I know. I have been fortunate to have travelled to UT several times to give masterclasses, perform as soloist with the UT trombone choir, and conduct the choir and large groups of trombonists that came to campus. The photo below shows me conducting a massed choir at UT last year with the UT trombone choir and trombonists from local universities and high schools. That took place during the most recent of my trips to Austin. We were performing Simon Wills’ Tinguely’s Fountain. As you can see, everything is BIG in Texas!


The UT Trombone Choir has been invited to perform at the 2020 International Trombone Festival that will be held in July in Osaka, Japan. This is a huge honor for this group, which is one of the finest collegiate trombone choirs in the world. As one who has been to Japan to teach and perform fifteen times over the years (most recently just a few weeks ago), I know first hand how valuable this trip will be for the UT trombone students who will be visiting Japan for the first time. It is a tremendous opportunity to put this fine group center-stage at the premier trombone event for 2020 – which is also the year of the Summer Olympic Games in Japan. This kind of cross-cultural musical experience will be invaluable both for the UT trombone students, but for those attending the International Trombone Festival, many of whom will be from Asia.

I’d like to ask you to consider contributing financially to help make this trip happen. As you can imagine, it takes not only a huge amount of organizing to get the UT trombone choir to Japan, but a lot of money as well. The trombone choir has started a HornRaiser program, UT’s crowdfunding platform. Click


to visit the University of Texas trombone choir HornRaiser page.


Once there, you can view a video that describes their planned trip to Japan, and have the opportunity to join others in supporting the UT trombone choir as they prepare to represent UT, Texas, and the United States at the International Trombone Festival in Japan. My wife and I have just contributed $500 towards this, and while no contribution is too small – every dollar helps and your donation is fully tax deductible – I’d like to urge you to give generously to help these fine students. Donations are accepted by credit card so anyone in the world can help in this effort. This fund raising program just started and continues for a few more days. Please help these students spread their great music making to Japan.

Thanks so much for your help. And, as they say at University of Texas,



Inspired in Japan – the 25th Hamamatsu International Wind Instrument Academy and Festival

Inspired in Japan – the 25th Hamamatsu International Wind Instrument Academy and Festival

I have been to Japan 14 or 15 times in my life; I’ve lost count. I first travelled to the island nation in 1986, on tour with the Boston Symphony and its music director Seiji Ozawa. More Boston Symphony and Boston Pops Orchestra (with John Williams, conducting) tours followed over the years. I have also been to Japan many times to teach and perform at the Hamamatsu International Wind Instrument Academy and Festival. I was on the faculty of the first Academy in 1995 and this month, I returned to Hamamatsu for the seventh (or eighth?) time to take part in its 25th anniversary event.


The Hamamatsu International Wind Instrument Academy and Festival has grown to be an event of major importance for wind players. Jointly sponsored by the City of Hamamatsu, the Hamamatsu Cultural Foundation, and YAMAHA Corporation, the Academy and Festival assembles an international faculty of wind instrument teachers and performers. Each teacher chooses a class of eight students from recorded auditions, and students receive four lessons during a week. Lessons are open —they are conducted in large rooms with plenty of seating—and teaching rooms are always full of those who want to learn from the teachers. As such, each lesson is as much a masterclass as it is a private lesson. Before the teaching part of the event begins, the faculty always give an opening concert which, over the years, has taken different forms. Sometimes faculty play solos with piano, sometimes they play chamber music, and sometimes they take part in large ensemble performances.


I was delighted to be invited to the 2019 Academy and Festival. Of the fifteen faculty members—there were between one and three classes for every wind instrument—there were four Americans: Otis Murphy, saxophone (professor, Indiana University), Chris Martin, trumpet (principal trumpet, New York Philharmonic), Gene Pokorny (principal tuba, Chicago Symphony), and myself. The other brass faculty members were Jeroen Berwaerts, trumpet (professor, Hochschule für Musik in Hannover), Jens Plücker, horn (principal horn, NDF Elbphilharmonie Orchester), and Anthony Caillet, euphonium (international soloist). Apart from Anthony, who I met and worked with for the first time, I knew all of the other brass faculty from our working together at previous Hamamatsu Academies.


Before the Academy started, several faculty members were invited to visit the YAMAHA Innovation Road Museum. This is new, a telling of the history of YAMAHA Corporation. The museum was fascinating to me, having been involved with YAMAHA since 1986.


Among the many interesting things about the Innovation Road Museum is that many of its instruments were available for the public to play. While we were visiting, we saw dozens of children playing pianos, guitars, and other instruments. This is a huge commitment on Yamaha’s part, since these instruments get heavy use and eventually need to be replaced. But this “hands-on” aspect of the exhibit showed how YAMAHA is committed to engaging the public with its work. Gene Pokorny (above) had a moment with a Sousaphone and his single note—played with GREAT enthusiasm—got everyone’s attention.


I learned a lot of the company’s history, including the fact that Torakusu Yamaha, the founder of YAMAHA Corporation, was originally named Torakusu Yamaba. He changed his name to Yamaha because he thought that name would be of greater interest to the export market. I learned many new things!


This year, the opening concert featured a brass ensemble that performed the world premiere of a newly commissioned work by Eric Ewazen, Hamamatsu Overture. The same ensemble played movements of Hans Werner Henze’s Ragtimes and Habaneras. Originally for brass band, it had been arranged for the Concertgebouw Brass. I had previously conducted this piece with a brass band (at the Boston Symphony’s summer home, Tanglewood, with members of the Boston Symphony, Empire Brass, and students from the Tanglewood Music Center—Henze was also in the audience for the performance) and I found this arrangement to be spectacular, and quite faithful to Henze’s original. It was such a pleasure to play in this brass ensemble. Was playing in a group ever easier or more rewarding than this, with such accomplished (and nice!) players? I don’t think so.


For the second half of the concert, the Festival had assembled a wind ensemble. The 15 faculty members made up the core of the group while it was filled out with other professional Japanese players. This was, for brasses, mostly a “one-on-a-part” band. I had not played in a band since the summer of 1980 when I played my last concert as a member of the Goldman Band in New York City (I was a member of the Goldman Band from 1977-1980) although I have conducted many bands over the years. The program consisted of several classic works for wind ensemble: the Second Suite of Gustav Holst, Darius Milhaud’s Suite Francaise, an arrangement of “Elsa’s Procession to the Cathedral” from Richard Wagner’s Lohengrin, and John Philip Sousa’s march, The Thunderer. Once again, playing in this band while sitting next to Anthony Caillet and Gene Pokorny was a rare and tremendously satisfying experience. The transparency of playing was notable, and the ensemble came together in a beautiful, rare way.

Here is a video of our performance of the Second Suite of Gustav Holst (edited by Ito Yasuhide), which you can also watch on YouTube:

Here is a video of our performance of Elsa’s Procession to the Cathedral of Richard Wagner (arr Hiroshi Hoshina), which you can also watch on YouTube:

And here is a video of our performance of The Thunderer of John Philip Sousa, which you can also watch on YouTube:


I was also very grateful to have been asked to pen a few words of congratulations to the Festival for inclusion in the opening concert program which you can read above.



We gathered on stage after the concert for a photo of the Academy professors. Two photos actually, each of which tell part of the story of our very enjoyable shared collaboration.


From the opening concert we began our days of teaching. My class had five tenor and three bass trombonists. Five women and three men. Over the years, I have had many different kinds of students. There is no age limit for the Academy, so in the past I have had both young players and professionals. This year, all of my students were young. One was 17, others were in college/university, and a few had recently graduated from college. But, wow, they had such talent! It was a joy to work with them; they were all eager to try, learn, experiment. I chose three phrases as the motto for our class:

Pay attention.

Try everything.

Chase greatness.

If we pay attention to everything around us—not just other trombone players—there is much we can bring to our artistic/musical expression. If we try every option for every decision we face as musicians—where to breathe, what slide position to use, etc.—we can benefit from the improvement we make each day and not become fossilized with ideas that we implemented when we first laid our eyes on a piece of music. And from the Chicago Bears, I brought “chase greatness.” You must first know what greatness IS and when you see it, run after it, hunt it down, embrace it, and make it yours. My students bought into this and worked very hard. All of them —ALL of them!—had major breakthroughs in their playing at each lesson. I cannot remember ever seeing this happen. But this class was special. Very, very special.


Another nice aspect of this event was the fact that my translator was Nozomi Kasano (on the right in the photo above). I  first met Nozomi at the 10th Hamamatsu Academy and Festival in 2005. She subsequently came to Boston to study with me at New England Conservatory of Music where she earned a graduate diploma and Master’s degree. The then returned to Japan where she won the position of bass trombonist with the Japan Century Orchestra in Osaka. I am so proud of her. This was the third time Nozomi had been my translator in Japan (she did this six years ago at the 20th Academy, and two years ago when I was the guest artist at the Nagoya Trombone Festival). She knows me so well, and translates more than just my words—she translates ME. Also, our class pianist was Hitomi Takara (in the middle in the photo above), a superb artist with whom I had worked with at the Academy in the past. She was my accompanist five years ago at the 21st Academy, both for my class and for me when I gave a recital at the Hamamatsu Museum of Musical Instruments. Having them with me again made the trombone class room a very, very happy place.


Speaking of the Musical Instrument Museum, I enjoyed another visit before the Academy started. I was surprised and delighted to find video screens installed throughout the museum where visitors can both hear and see several instruments being played. This is a great addition to the musical instrument museum, and my surprise was even greater when I went to look at the museum’s serpent collection and found a video there of me playing serpent during my recital.


The Academy also features a concert of student performers. Each class holds an audition of all of its students and one player from each studio is chosen by the professor to represent the class on the student concert. The winner that I chose to represent the trombone class on the concert was Miho Ogose, a University senior. She played the first movement of Eric Ewazen’s Concerto for Bass Trombone. Like all of my students, she played with exceptional musicality. All of us in the trombone class were so proud of her and her performance was absolutely great. Look at the photo above, taken right after the concert. The look on Miho’s face—surrounded by other trombone players from our class who were congratulating her on her performance—reflects the joy of music and music making. It was a special moment for all of us.


The Academy and Festival concluded with a farewell party at Mein Schloss, a German beer hall near the ACT City Hamamatsu complex where all of our concerts and teaching took place (we also stayed at the Okura Hotel ACT City). This is always a fun event, with plenty of food and drink, and performances by each class. Some are silly, some are more serious, and when we drew lots to determine the order in which classes would play at the party, the trombone class drew last! So we wrapped up the festivities with performances of my friend Stephen Bulla’s arrangement of Londonderry Air and an arrangement of 76 Trombones that I commissioned from my friend Ken Amis, tubist of the Empire Brass. Fun times.


As my plane took off from Tokyo and I watched the Pacific Ocean come into view, I reflected on my days in Japan. I have so many memories from my trips to that fascinating country. I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with so many Japanese students over the years. I have friendships with many players and teachers, as well as many employees of YAMAHA Corporation, with whom I have collaborated for many years to make the bass trombone (YBL822G) and mouthpiece (Douglas Yeo Signature Series Mouthpiece) that I have played for so long. Wonderful food, interesting experiences, deep friendships, students who are eager to learn. It all combined to make for an especially satisfying trip. While it is true that “there’s no place like home,” traveling around the world has opened my eyes to many things and has made a deep imprint on how I think and live. Thank you, Hamamatsu International Wind Instrument Academy and Festival, its organizers (especially Naoki Suzuki of YAMAHA), faculty, translators, pianists, and students. All of you are a big part of my life. Thank you for this time we shared together. I hope to see all of you again soon.


[Photo above: Sunset at 38,000 feet, above the clouds, over the Pacific Ocean. August 11, 2019.]

[Featured photo at the top of this article: Several faculty members of the 25th Hamamatsu International Wind Instrument Academy and Festival after the Opening Concert. Left to right: Otis Murphy, Jean-Yves Fourmeau, Nobuya Sugawa, Anthony Caillet, Gene Pokorny, Douglas Yeo.]