The trombone and words: Duke Ellington

The trombone and words: Duke Ellington

When most people think of Duke Ellington, they remember the superb jazz musician – composer, arranger, pianist – and the great players who worked with him in his bands. Joe “Tricky Sam” Nanton, Juan Tizol, Lawrence Brown – these are names imbedded in the jazz lore of trombonists. This is reason enough to remember Ellington, but most people aren’t as aware that Ellington was also a deep thinker, a brilliant man who had a lot to say about music and music making, and many other subjects.

The three part series of articles about Ellington by Richard O. Boyer that appeared in The New Yorker magazine in June and July 1944 is “must reading” for any student of music. Part 1 is available to read online; click HERE to read it in The New Yorker archives. Unfortunately, parts 2 and 3 are only available to subscribers of the magazine but you can find back issues in many libraries.

But there is one small thing in part 3 that got my attention in a big way. Boyer wrote, speaking of Ellington,

New acquaintances are always surprised when they learn that Duke has written poetry in which he advances the thesis that the rhythm of jazz has been beaten into the Negro race by three centuries of oppression. The four beats to a bar in jazz are also found, he maintains in verse, in the Negro pulse. Duke doesn’t like to show people his poetry. “You can say anything you want on the trombone, but you gotta be careful with words,” he explains.”

Richard O. Boyer, “Profiles: The Hot Bach–III,” The New Yorker, Vol XX, No. 21, July 8, 1944, p. 27.

Oh, wow. There is a lot to unpack in these sentences, but I want to particularly draw your attention to Ellington’s quote about being careful with words. I wrote about this subject – being careful with words – on The Last Trombone several months ago (click HERE to read my article from August 2016 about the importance of words). As I keep working on several book projects, I keep Ellington’s quotation in front of me at all times: “You gotta be careful with words.” Now, I LITERALLY keep Ellington’s words in front of me, thanks to a nice little bit of artistic work by my friend, Kevin Mungons. Kevin and I are collaborating on a book for University of Illinois Press about Homer Rodeheaver, the trombone-playing song leader for evangelist Billy Sunday in the first third of the twentieth century. When I shared Ellington’s words with Kevin, he was so taken by them that he made up a poster that I now have hanging up in my home office (see the photo that appears at the top of this post; if you’re reading this by email and don’t see that image, click on the title of this post to see this article, including the featured image, in your web browser). I love it. Kevin made this poster in the style of an old Blue Note jazz album.

Ellington Trombone Quote

The next time you sit down to write something, remember Ellington’s words. He’s right: with a trombone in your hands, you can say anything. But words? You gotta be careful. Very careful!

Musical instruments in Hamamatsu: Their voices are alive

Musical instruments in Hamamatsu: Their voices are alive

Among the great joys of my life is time spent in many museums around the world, particularly museums and parts of museums that are devoted to musical instruments. I write about these from time to time because musical instruments are such an important part of my life, and I enjoy seeing, hearing and playing instruments both old and new.

I have had a nice friendship for many years with Kasuhiko Shima, Director of the Musical Instrument Museum in Hamamatsu, Japan. The Museum in Hamamatsu is the only museum in Japan that is devoted to musical instruments and I have visited there many times over the years. in 2015, I gave a recital there, playing many of the Museum’s instruments for an enthusiastic audience that was so eager to learn about old instruments and what they sound like.


This is one of the things I like about the Hamamatsu Museum in particular: they give regular programs where many of their instruments are played. Also, most of the museum’s instruments are not under glass or in cases. Rather, you can get very close to them and examine them from many angles. Audio and video guides help visitors to better understand the instruments as well.

I’ve been asked to write a Preface to a new book about the Hamamatsu Musical Instrument Museum. I could have just written, “The museum is terrific – come and visit!” But I used this invitation as an opportunity to talk a little more deeply about my views of creativity and music. Yes, please do visit the Musical Instrument Museum in Hamamatsu. But no matter where you see or hear instruments, I hope this little essay will give you a new sense of perspective as we think about WHY musical instruments are so important in our lives. This catalog will be published later this year and I will let readers know when it is available. For now, here is my introductory essay. . .

•  •  •

People often ask me why I chose to play the trombone. I tell them that I didn’t choose the trombone. The trombone chose me.

When I was nine years old, my school gave me the opportunity to play a musical instrument. Like most of the boys in my class, I wanted to play the trumpet. It was small, shiny and loud. But by the time the school band director got to people whose name was at the end of the alphabet – like me, whose last name begins with “Y”, the next to last letter in the English alphabet – the trumpets had already been given to other students. I was very disappointed when I was handed a trombone. Very disappointed.

I recall walking home from school that day feeling sad. The trombone seemed very large and heavy in my hand. But then something happened. Something wonderful and surprising happened. When I opened the case and put the trombone together and produced my first note, my whole world changed. With one note I my eyes were opened. One note! If one, could there be two? Yes! And then three! Notes came forth at my command. In time, with a great deal of work and a lot of guidance from people who cared about me, I learned how to play scales and songs. I sat in a band and then in an orchestra and a jazz ensemble. I realized that with the trombone in my hands, I could say things that I could not say with my voice. I could speak of love and pain, joy and sorrow. I could sing about sunrise or sunset, of a turbulent sea or a calm mountain lake. These were things the words from my mouth could not adequately express.


Since those days long ago, I have used the trombone as my expressive voice in one of the great orchestras of the world, the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Under the skilled baton of inspiring conductors like Seiji Ozawa, Leonard Bernstein, James Levine, Simon Rattle and Bernard Haitink, the trombone has taken me around the world, all over the United States and to Africa and South America, Europe and Asia. And especially to Japan, a land with a people who have a rich, abiding love for music and music making. One of the great joys of my musical life has been my exploration of old instruments, the predecessors of the instruments that I use in the modern symphony orchestra. This interest brought me to learn to play instruments with strange, curious names, like the serpent, ophicleide, sackbut and buccin. Once completely unknown to me, these old instruments have now become my friends, and these friends are often found in museums around the world–including the Hamamatsu Museum of Musical Instruments–where I have been privileged to give talks and concerts to teach others about their mysteries.

Yet not everyone understands the most important thing about musical instruments.

Several years ago I was in Germany, presenting a scholarly paper at a conference about musical instruments and playing a recital on the serpent, an ancient musical instrument that was invented over 400 years ago to accompany the singing of chant in the church in France. One of the conference participants, who was the director of a well-known museum in Europe, scolded me: “Mr. Yeo, your serpent is 200 years old. It should be in a museum! Why are you playing it?” To which I quietly replied, “Because it was made to make music.”


The modern idea of a museum dates only from the eighteenth century, and most museums are places where objects are preserved and displayed for the enjoyment, edification and education of the public. They are important repositories of pieces of the cultural history of the human race and the natural history of the world we inhabit. Preservation of artifacts is a role that all museums share and we are the grateful beneficiaries of the care that museums take to restore and display objects that inspire, challenge and inform our views of both history and the future.

Yet when we see a musical instrument hanging on a wall in a museum, we are often left with more questions than answers. How do you hold it? How was it constructed? What does it sound like? Why does it look like that? What is it made of? Is there anything on the back of the instrument? We can – and do – admire the instrument’s beauty as an object of art, like a statue or a painting, the product of a skilled craftsman. But to do so greatly limits our appreciation and understanding of a musical instrument, and if this is all that a museum can offer to the visitor, then the museum has become nothing more than a graveyard, a final resting place for the bones of something that was once vibrant and alive but now is silent and dead.

When observing a musical instrument, we are faced with even more fundamental questions: what is music? Is it sound? Or is music simply the dots written on a piece of paper in a kind of secret code, with clefs and notes and flats and sharps? Is it the idea of a vibration of a column of air before it is heard? Is all sound music, or is all music sound? Or all of these? Or none? Can music be touched or can it only touch us? Can music exist without a physical mechanism of some kind to push it from thought to idea to reality?

In our modern time, we often observe that music, however we define it, is everywhere. We hear sounds of different pitches – high and low – and in different dynamics – loud and soft – in the cry of a baby, the playground song of a school child, the voice of an opera singer, the utterance of the kabuki performer. All of these use their bodies to create sound, and the organization of these sounds one after another becomes, in a way that science cannot fully explain, something we call music. Museums cannot hold this sound; it cannot ever be replicated or made again in exactly the same way. Music like this has been with us since before recorded history, and the diversity of sounds that have come from human voices are as many as there are sands in the sea.


But somewhere, at some time now lost to the ages, someone had an idea. Not content to simply make sounds with his or her voice, someone made a discovery. It was probably, at first, the clapping of hands. Or perhaps it was the snapping together of fingers. A new sound came forth, something that did not require the use of lungs and vocal chords. Voice and body now produced two sounds from the same person. But while related, these sounds were very different, unlike each other.

Close your eyes and travel back to that moment, the instant where voice and hands first came together. There was now more than melody. There was an accompaniment to singing, something that could provide rhythm, even harmony. Close your eyes even more tightly and imagine the next moment. The moment when the hands picked up two sticks or rocks and a musical instrument was born.


Born! From the mind came an idea – pick up two sticks or two rocks. Why? What was in the mind of man that caused him to do this radical, new thing? The idea conceived an action – strike them together. Why? This had never been done before. Would it be pleasant or dangerous? Was it done with anticipation, or joy, or fear? The action made a new sound, never before imagined but now there was no turning back. The simple act of striking two natural objects together blossomed. Who first found a conch shell on the beach and, after eating the succulent snail, thought to cut off the tip of the shell and blow air into it past his vibrating lips to create a note that resonated across the shore to a distant place? Now man had done another new thing: he changed a natural object with his own hands to make it something never before seen nor heard. Another musical instrument had come to life.


But one note was not enough. If one note could be made, surely there could be two. Thought, trial and error, accident, intention, practice, and skill – these all combined to bring forth another new idea: tighten or loosen the lips while they vibrate. With no knowledge of physics or what we now call the overtone series, higher and lower notes came from the shell. What is this? One object but now two sounds? If a shell, why not carve out a sounding chamber of wood? If sticks could be hit together, could they strike something else? Strike a rock, a tree, a bone. And what if the tree was hollow? Would that make a different sound? Imagine! IMAGINE! Could an animal skin be stretched over a bowl of wood and then struck and still another new sound come forth?


Who was it that discovered that a vine stretched and then plucked would make a sound – a harmonious tone? And imagine you were there when for the very first time the vine was stretched more tightly and plucked once again and yet a different tone came forth. One tone, then two, then three, then more. And why did this all happen?

The explosion of music had begun. Instruments came forth in all cultures, fashioned in myriad ways all around the world. They were blown, struck, plucked and bowed. Vibrations came from lips, strings, membranes and reeds. Ivory and bone, turtle shells and rope, wood and clay and pottery, iron, copper, silver, gold, glass and brass. All of this was put to use in the service of music – an idea, a thought, a concept, a need – that somehow spoke to the heart of mankind and expressed something that words could not say.


But there was yet more. It seemed it was not enough to simply fashion an instrument for the purpose of creating a new sound. No – now you must close your eyes again; yes, really close them – there had to be more. The sound was a sound of wonder, and wonder beheld truth and beauty, joy and pain, love and hurt. The instrument needed to reflect the imagination of the sound. And so the craftsman appeared. Instruments began to exhibit beauty for their own sake. They were curved and rounded, sometimes straight and angular. Jewels and pearls decorated them; designs both simple and complex appeared on them. While these shapes and adornments sometimes changed the instrument’s sound, they mostly brought pleasure to the eye and the eye brought imagination to the brain. Images were carved into them, of deities, of children, of mythological beings. They took fanciful shapes of animals both real and imagined, and those who played them were greeted with wide-eyed and open-eared wonder. Instruments were given names like Heike-biwa, gamelon, lur, ocarina, bagpipe, euphonium, harpsichord and violin. Some took the name of the one who first imagined them, like Saxhorn or Heckelphone. In time, instruments evolved and changed. New materials were used, new methods for shaping them were devised, and new ways were envisioned to use them. Old instruments were discarded in favor of the new. As musical instruments took on a role as more than simply sound-makers or sound-amplifiers, as they spoke of beauty and wonders, invoked God, as they inspired the very soul of men and women with both their sight and sound and the technique of those who brought forth their sounds, another idea was born.


We must preserve them. More than that, we must remember why these instruments were made, what they were used for. We must understand how they were put together, what they sounded like. And above all, we must keep them alive to allow them to continue to sing their songs of the ages to those of us living in a new time.

Into this idea of preserving, of restoring, of displaying, of understanding and of keeping alive came the Hamamatsu Museum of Musical Instruments. At the time it was opened in 1995, it presented a radically new idea for a museum. It was not the first museum in the world devoted to the display of musical instruments. But at its heart, the mission of the Hamamatsu Museum of Musical Instruments was not simply to restore and display musical instruments for the enjoyment of the eye. The Museum’s mission – from the very beginning – was to recognize that instruments were made to make music.


Look around the Hamamatsu Museum of Musical Instruments. What do you see? Instruments hang on walls and are displayed on tables. But they are not behind glass. You can examine them very closely; you can see their extraordinary detail. So you first can appreciate them as objects for the eye. But there is more. Oh, there is so much more. Dozens of video screens show how the instruments are held and played. The instruments come to life, breaking free from the walls on which they are displayed to make music once again. In the hands-on room, you can play instruments yourself; nobody will tell you not to touch them. In its regular series of concerts and classes, instruments are put into the hands of skilled performers who make them sing again, as they did many years ago. In this, the Hamamatsu Museum of Musical Instruments – The Space of God, Prayer and Beauty – speaks to all people from all countries and all cultures. There each person on earth finds something familiar, something from which they came, a respect for their ancestors and the past while inspiring us as we all move into to an ever more complicated and uncertain future. The instruments are restored to their glory as if they were made yesterday but their sounds are heard once again, speaking deep into our lives, our imaginations and our souls. The Hamamatsu Museum of Musical Instruments has banished the glass case in favor of accessible instruments, live concerts, educational programs, video screens and audio samples played through headsets that ensure every visitor leaves having had a comprehensive experience. Let other museums put their instruments in graveyards. Musical instruments in Hamamatsu are alive! Come, learn, enjoy and be inspired.


Monteverdi. And A Trace of Grace

Monteverdi. And A Trace of Grace

Last week, a good friend of mine was singing Claudio Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610, the Vespro Della Beata Vergine (Vespers of the Blessed Virgin). This is an extraordinary work, one that I have loved since I first heard it many decades ago. I was very fortunate to have an opportunity to play the Vespers in 2003 as a member of Boston’s Handel and Haydn Society. This was a unique performance that was semi-staged (statues of the Virgin Mary were plentiful at those performances) at the Colonial Theatre in Boston’s theater district. The photo below shows the winds of that performance (clockwise from bottom left): Michael Collver , Paul Perfetti and Kiri Tollaksen (cornettos) and myself, John Faieta and Robert Couture (sackbuts).


All of this thinking about Monteverdi has had me listening to a lot of his music in the last few weeks, and I turned in particular to my favorite recording of the Vespers, that by Boston Baroque conducted by Martin Pearlman. Here’s a short video with highlights from a Boston Baroque performance of the Vespers from 2014. If you can’t view the imbedded video below, click HERE to view the video on the Vimeo website.

Most people, if they know Monteverdi’s music at all, know the Vespers. But he wrote so much more.

One of my favorite Monteverdi pieces, one I never tire of listening to, is his aria, Si dolce è il tormento. It is a haunting, plaintive melody of an irregular length that is sung over an interesting, even curious bass line. It has been sung by many of the world’s finest singers. Scored for singer with continuo – it has been performed with a host of accompaniments –  it seems most effective, to me, when the accompaniment is simple rather than complex. Here is a performance by Anne Sophie von Otter. If you can’t view the imbedded video below, click HERE to view the video on the YouTube website.

Von Otter is one of my favorite singers, and she had a lead part in one of the most memorable concerts I played when I was a member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra,  conducted by James Levine. These were performances of Les Troyens by Hector Berlioz where von Otter had the role of Dido, the Queen of Carthage. It was electrifying, stunning, unforgettable. The Boston Globe‘s review is glowing but words cannot really express that beauty and power of those performances.

But I take nothing away from Sophie von Otter when I say I have particular affection for a performance of Si dolce è il tormento that my good friend, Michel Godard, organized. Michel is an exceptional player of the serpent, an instrument I’ve been playing since 1993. He is also a man of unusual and special creative abilities, and he has recorded many albums of music that features his playing serpent. These albums are classical, jazz and what Gunther Schuller referred to as “third-stream,” a synthesis of classical music and jazz. His CD, Monteverdi: A Trace of Grace, includes a remarkable performance of Si dolce è il tormento. Guillemette Laurens has a deep, rich voice with a unique timbre, and the combination of theorbo, violin, serpent and electric bass accompaniment is beautiful to behold. I am not such a purist (read: snob) that I cannot enjoy creative treatments of classic works. Treated with respect, love and care, great music can live in many forms. Michel and his collaborators bring all of that and more to this beautiful performance.

Fortunately, Michel’s recording session was captured on video and you can enjoy it below. If you can’t view the imbedded video below, click HERE to view the video on the Vimeo website.

Monteverdi. A Trace of Grace, indeed.

[The photo at the top of this post shows my serpent d’église by Baudouin (Paris, c. 1812). The photo was taken in my room at Kloster Michaelstein, Germany, when I was there presenting a paper and giving a concert at the symposium, Der Zink: Geschichte, Instrumente und Bauweise, in 2009.]


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.