In the studio/on the air

In the studio/on the air

In a previous post here on The Last Trombone, I mentioned an interview I gave for Central Sound at Arizona PBS that was broadcast on Phoenix’s classical PBS radio station, KBAQ (the station goes by the sound of its call letters, KBACH). One thing led to another and I now find myself very happily working for Central Sound at Arizona PBS, as an on-air host for their weekly radio program on KBAQ, Arizona Encore!

I confess I never thought of myself as having a “radio voice” but a few weeks ago, I was asked to come to the Central Sound studio in downtown Phoenix for an audition. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, and I was very pleased when, after recording a couple of test scripts, I was asked to join the team of hosts for the show. This “retirement thing” is turning out to be very interesting for me to say the least!

For those interested, Arizona Encore! is a weekly radio program that features live performances of classical music recorded around the state of Arizona. Concerts are professionally recorded by the Central Sound at Arizona PBS staff and packaged as programs that are broadcast weekly at 7:00 pm on Tuesday evenings on KBAQ. I have recorded four programs so far and they will air on September 27, and October 4, 11 and 18.

There are several ways you can listen to Arizona Encore!:

  • Listen live on KBAQ (KBACH), 89.5 FM every Tuesday evening at 7:00 pm Arizona time. Do keep in mind that Arizona – very sensibly, I might add – does NOT recognize daylight savings time so at this time of year, we are in the same time zone as Pacific Time while in the winter, we are in Mountain Time. You can always find out the current time of day in Arizona by clicking here.
  • Listen live on www.kbaq.org every Tuesday evening at 7:00 pm Arizona time.
  • Download the KBAQ (KBACH) mobile app and listen to the show live every Tuesday evening at 7:00 pm Arizona time. The app is free and is available from the iTunes Store and Google Play:

Download the KBAQ (KBACH) mobile app from the iTunes Store

Download the KBAQ (KBACH) mobile app from Google Play

  • Download the Classical Arizona PBS mobile app and listen to the show on demand any time. New shows are uploaded each week and can be streamed at no cost at any time of day. The app is also free and is available from the iTunes Store and Google Play. The app also has additional useful features including streaming of concerts (including some Phoenix Symphony concerts and concerts by students and faculty at Arizona State University), videos, concert listings, links to websites to purchase concert tickets, and more.

Download the Classical Arizona PBS mobile app from the iTunes Store

Download the Classical Arizona PBS mobile app from Google Play

  • Listen to Arizona PBS programming live on Digital Television (DTV) channel 8.4; for more information, click here.

While I’m at it, I’d like to give a word of thanks to Arizona Encore! Executive Producer Alex Kosiorek who brought me on to the Central Sound at Arizona PBS team, and Producer Jeanne Barron who is the master of controls in the studio when I’m recording programs. We may live in the Internet age but radio is alive and well. I’m very happy to be a part of a group of people who are working hard to promote classical music here in Arizona – and around the world.

Waiting

Waiting

I’m an active person, always wanting to engage with projects, things and people that are around me. For many years, I didn’t particularly care for waiting. I don’t know many people who do. Waiting in traffic. Waiting for a movie to begin. Waiting on a line at the airport. Waiting for others to get ready to go out to dinner. Waiting often seems like a waste of time. But I don’t think so any more. As with may things, it all depends on how you look at it.

I took the photo above last month at Yellowstone National Park. I was struck by three people sitting on the boardwalk that surrounds Old Faithful geyser, one of the park’s iconic features. This remarkable geyser erupts to spectacular effect about every 90 minutes or so. Since it erupts with such regularity, great crowds come to see Old Faithful. The three people above came early. About an hour early. So they did not have to deal with this to find a good spot to watch (below):

crowd_yellowstone

This is the scene that is repeated many times each day. Several thousand – yes, thousand – people waiting for Old Faithful to erupt. The three people who got there an hour early certainly got a good seat. But they got more than that. They had some time without the crowds, time to think and consider what they had and what they were about to see. I have a feeling they felt the wait was very much worth it.

Musicians do a lot of waiting as well. Trombone players, in particular, spend a great deal of time sitting and waiting for things to happen. Consider Beethoven’s Symphony 9. Here’s the beginning of the first page of the bass trombone part, a part I played dozens and dozens of times as a member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

beethoven_9_snapshot

Look carefully. See where I played my first note of the piece? It’s in measure 414 of the second movement. I didn’t play a single note in the first movement (that movement has 547 measures). Then had to wait 414 measures (well, actually there were more than that if the conductor took the repeat) to play in the second movement. And my first note was a note that I had to get right – the other two trombone players don’t play there. By contrast, the first violin part requires eight pages of music to get to that same place in the music. So I had to do a lot of waiting before I played my first note of the Beethoven Symphony 9.

One thing I did NOT do was count rests. There are simply too many rests to count to be 100% sure you’ll count correctly. So I made it a point, for every piece I ever played, to study the full score and know and understand the piece so well that I did not need to rely on counting rests. I simply knew when it was time to play. When you count rests for hundreds of measures, you can’t do anything else; you have to concentrate to get the count right. That never interested me. (By the way, my colleagues will attest to the fact that I rarely came in wrong. I don’t say that as a point of pride but simply an acknowledgement of the fact that if you prepare thoroughly, you will not need to count every rest and can have confidence that you will come in correctly.) You’ll see why, below.

When I retired from the Boston Symphony, I received several meaningful gifts from the Orchestra and my colleagues. Several of them are hanging on the wall in my home studio.

yeo_wall

The centerpiece is a photo of the Boston Symphony and Tanglewood Festival Chorus performing Beethoven’s Symphony 9 in Symphony Hall, Boston during my last week of concerts; the photo was taken on May 3, 2012 and the performance was conducted by Bernard Haitink. The photo is beautifully framed and matted and my colleagues in the Orchestra signed the matte. It is an exceptionally meaningful artifact of my career. But if you look closely, you will see the orchestra playing – every member in full throat – except the three trombone players. Toby Oft, Steve Lange and I are seen doing what we did for so much time: we were sitting with our hands folded, trombones at the ready but they are silent.

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I haven’t done a calculation, but my guess is I have spent years of my life waiting, and much of that time was done at orchestra rehearsals and concerts. Since waiting is unavoidable, the question arises: What are you going to do while you’re waiting? You could just sit there and be bored, unhappy that you’re not DOING something. But I learned that there are a lot of things you can do while you’re waiting to play. You may come up with a different list but I think the important thing is that you HAVE a list of things that you can do to redeem the time that you spend waiting. Here are some things that I do while waiting to play.

  • Listen. I always felt like I had the best seat in Symphony Hall. I could hear every note that was played with great clarity. Sometimes I would simply listen to the great orchestra around me and enjoy it like I was attending a concert.
  • Pay attention. My students will tell you that the words “pay attention” are a theme of my teaching. So often we experience things and so much goes by without our even noticing. Sometimes I would choose a particular colleague and pay attention to what he or she was doing. While it’s true that Edward Kleinhammer and Keith Brown were my trombone teachers in college, if asked who my teachers were, I rattle off a list of dozens of names – and most of them were not trombone players. They were my colleagues in the Boston Symphony who taught me so much when I took the time to intentionally pay attention to what they were doing. I am a much better trombone player because I paid attention to string, woodwind, percussion and other brass players exercise their craft. Likewise, I learned a great deal from observing soloists and conductors. Too many trombone players are only interested in the trombone parts. Pay attention to others and you will experience tremendous growth as a musician.
  • Watch the audience. People go to concerts to hear and see an orchestra. But it’s also true that those on stage are aware of the audience. Over my nearly 30 years in the Boston Symphony, I got to know many audience members. Some I met personally; others I observed only from a distance. I recall one woman who came to concerts with her husband when I first joined the Boston Symphony. As the years went on, she began to come to some concerts with her daughter. Years later, she came with her granddaughter. And in my final years in the orchestra, she came again with her husband. It was a touching thing to see each Thursday night. It taught me something about inter-generational relationships and the love a family shares.
  • Analyze the music. When I prepare to play any piece, I study the score to understand it better. This is not just so I wouldn’t have to count lengthy numbers of rests. It is so I can enjoy and appreciate the music on a new level. I would always read the program notes written by the Boston Symphony’s expert scholars and writers and I often would read a book about the piece we were playing. With that background, I often sat during concerts and analyzed the composer’s work, seeing how themes weaved in and out, doing harmonic and rhythmic analysis. I felt that every concert was a music history lesson. I learned so much.
  • Pray. Prayer is not a singular event that I do at a particular time of day. The worship of God is something that I do all day long, all the time. The title of a book by my music-spiritual mentor, Harold M. Best, says it well: Unceasing Worship. When I had long movements where I didn’t play, I would often pray. Pray for family and friends, pray for our country and its leaders, pray for wisdom and understanding, and much more. Surrounded by God’s great gift of music, prayer flows naturally.

Waiting is an exercise; patience can only be learned while in a situation that makes you tend to be impatient. But waiting can be a great blessing, even a thrill, if you look at it as an opportunity to to do more than simply sit with your hands folded in your lap.

Remembering 9.11

Remembering 9.11

I am confident that most people who were alive on September 11, 2001 and who were old enough at the time that they have memories of that date, remember where they were when they heard the news that the World Trade Towers in New York City had been attacked by Islamist terrorists. I remember that day like it was yesterday. I was in the post office in my home town, Lexington, Massachusetts, when the counter clerk told me the news. Stunned, I got in my car and continued driving to Symphony Hall, Boston, where I was planning to pick up my trombone – the Boston Symphony had just returned from a European tour a few days earlier – and teach my students at New England Conservatory of Music. When I arrived at Symphony Hall, I gathered my trombone and other belongings from my tour trunk just as the Hall was being closed for security reasons. Classes at NEC were cancelled and I stood in front of a hardware store on Massachusetts Avenue and watched a display of televisions reveal the horror of horrors – the collapse of the Twin Towers that resulted in the death of 2,996 and the injury of over 6,000 innocent people. Confusion, disbelief, anger, despair, resolve.

I still feel a wave of emotion when I remember this. I knew the World Trade Center well, having been up to its observation deck many times. The Towers were opened in 1973, and in January 1976, my wife and I went into New York City with her parents to enjoy a day out. Our first stop was the World Trade Center where I took my first photo with our new 35 mm camera, a Christmas gift from my in-laws. That photo is above. When we got to the observation deck, we enjoyed a view we were to enjoy many more times, below.

wtc_1976_02

I also recall the first Boston Symphony tour to New York City after 9.11. The BSO went to play concerts in Carnegie Hall three times a year at that time and we had a concert scheduled on October 16, 2001. The players asked the orchestra management if, instead of flying to New York, we could take the train; our management agreed. Music Director Seiji Ozawa had changed the program, originally scheduled to be Robert Schumann’s Scenes from Goethe’s Faust, to Hector Berlioz’s Requiem.

As our Amtrak train came out from under Long Island Sound and we traveled through Queens, Manhattan came into view. It was at that moment, when the familiar skyline with the World Trade Towers simply no longer existed, that the enormity of 9.11 sank in. The only sound in the train was the turning of its wheels and the weeping of the Orchestra’s men and women.

So, it is to music we often turn to help us deal with loss, to remember, to push forward. The Boston Symphony offered Berlioz’s Requiem at Carnegie Hall. Another piece is Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, so memorable for its touching accompaniment to dramatic scenes in movies like The Elephant Man and Platoon. A piece I’ve often turned to is Arvo Pärt’s Fratres, a work I arranged  for trombone choir in 1991 with the composer’s permission (see below) for a performance at New England Conservatory. (Some may ask if  the arrangement is available; it is not. I received a license that only allowed me to arrange the piece for a single performance.) Pärt’s music speaks to me deeply and I often listen to it during periods of intense reflection. A new recording of some of his best choral music, Tintinabuli, by the Tallis Scholars, is part of my playlist today.

As we reflect on the events of 9.11.2001, here on the 15th anniversary of the attacks, may we find renewed compassion and strength for the challenging days ahead.

fratres_opart_to_yeo

And then, suddenly, the room was quiet.

And then, suddenly, the room was quiet.

Time, like an ever rolling stream, bears all its sons away…

So begins the seventh stanza of Isaac Watts’ 1719 hymn, Our God, Our Help in Ages Past.

Last week, I received word that my father, Alan Yeo, who was 85 years old, had been ill for some time, and who struggled with a number of medical issues, had taken a turn for the worse. I immediately flew to Baltimore to be at his bedside at a hospice facility.

Surrounded by family members, he was lovingly cared for by the hospice staff. The sound of his breathing filled the room and it had a rhythm that both told us he was still with us and also that his end was near.

And then, suddenly, the room was quiet.

My father breathed his last and passed from this world to the next. He was no longer in a broken, fallen world; he had gone to his heavenly home where his suffering was no more.

If you are reading this and have experienced the death of a parent you know that no matter how prepared you think you are for this moment, when it comes, it brings with it a sense of finality that cannot be explained. It can only be experienced. While we rejoice that my father knew and loved God and we have assurance of his place in his new home “over Jordan,” I am very aware I will not speak with him again on this earth. I will not hear his voice greet me with, as he always did, “What’s happening, Douglas?” I won’t hold his hand or kiss his cheek. Time has borne him away, as it does each of us.

So, now, we move on. There are details to attend to and emotions to process. But most of all, this moment reminds me of the precious nature of each day. All of us are good at wasting time; each has his own way to wile away hours in trivial pursuits. But when one you loves breathes his or her last, you are aware in a new way that your days, too, are numbered. I don’t feel much like wasting time right now.

The British writer G. K. Chesterton reminds us of the remarkable gift of each day in his poem, EVENING. I keep this poem in my Bible and read it every day:

chesterton_evening

Why, indeed, am I allowed two? Because God, in his Sovereign will, has work for me to do in another day for the cause of His Kingdom. With renewed purpose, I push ahead to be a good steward of the talents and gifts God has given me until He decides my work here is done and, like my father, He bears me home.

The Lord gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. (Job 1:21)

+ + + + +

Alan Deane Yeo passed from this world to his heavenly home on September 4, 2016 in Columbia, Maryland; he was 85 years old. Born in Brooklyn, he graduated from Westminster College (New Wilmington, Pennsylvania) in 1953 and married Jeannine Spangler (d. 1985). He served in the United States Army’s 6th Infantry Division immediately following the Korean conflict and worked as Vice-President and Secretary of S. P. Skinner Co. in New York City before answering the call to become a United Methodist minister in 1971. He earned his Master of Divinity and Doctor of Ministry degrees from Drew Theological School (Madison, New Jersey) and pastored churches in Milton (1971-1975), Hopatcong (1978-1983), Roselle Park (1983-1987) and Washington, New Jersey (1988-1993) as well as Matamoras, Pennsylvania (1975-1978).

After his retirement from full time ministry work, Alan continued in the service of the Gospel, preaching in churches, assisting in hospice, and as chaplain and teacher of New Testament at Randolph Macon Academy (Front Royal, Virginia). He will be missed by all who knew and were influenced by him and is survived by his wife of 30 years, Annemarie Andersen Yeo, his three sons, six grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and Annemarie’s daughter and grand-daughter.

Words matter

Words matter

I love to read and write. My father was Chairman of our local public library when I was a young boy and I cannot recall a time in my life when a book was less than a few feet away from me. Over the years, I have published many articles and book chapters, and am at work at this time on three books for major publishers – Oxford University Press, University of Illinois Press, and Encore Music Publishers. I am a stickler for grammar and punctuation and I take care to craft sentences that clearly express my thoughts.

One of my favorite quotations (note: it is not a quote, it is a quotation) about the importance of words is from Duke Ellington, from a 1944 article about him in The New Yorker magazine. Ellington said:

You can say anything you want on the trombone, but you gotta be careful with words.

Indeed. Words matter. Words can express the most tender emotions of the human soul and words can also start wars. We need to be careful with words.

I have long been familiar with a quotation by Joseph Pulitzer, the newspaper magnate whose name is associated with the Pulitzer Prizes for excellent writing. The quotation is in the image above, taken from the Pulitzer Prize website. It’s a superb quotation that is a real inspiration to writers.  But this quotation has a problem. A big problem.

Pulitzer didn’t say it.

I wanted to use this quotation in a book that I’m writing so I decided to track down its source (note: that’s its, not it’s). This proved difficult to do. If you Google the quotation, you will find it reproduced on countless websites. But never with a citation. And every author knows you need a citation if you’re going to quote something.

After a long search, a good friend of mine located the source. It is in Alleyne Ireland’s 1915 book, Joseph Pulitzer: Reminiscences of a Secretary. It is here that Pulitzer’s famous quotation is found, on pages 68-69:

Screen Shot 2016-08-27 at 10.18.14 AM

And when you read it, you see a very big problem.

Compare the popularized version of the quotation with the actual quotation:

Put it before them briefly so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it and, above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light. [Popularized version]

…put it before them briefly so that they will read it, clearly so that they will understand it, forcibly so that they will appreciate it, picturesquely so that they will remember it, and, above all, accurately so that they may be wisely guided by its light. [Original version]

What happened? Two phrases of the original got conflated into one phrase; what originally was “clearly so that they will understand it, forcibly so that they will appreciate it” became “clearly so they will appreciate it.” “That” and “so” got removed from all phrases. But there is more. “Wisely guided by its light” became “guided by its light.” And what is IT, the subject of the whole quotation? IT is not identified in the popularized version. But in the original, IT is identified. IT is “the truth.” Here’s the full quotation with its important subject now in place:

…it’s my duty to see that they get the truth; but that’s not enough, I’ve got to put it before them briefly so that they will read it, clearly so that they will understand it, forcibly so that they will appreciate it, picturesquely so that they will remember it, and, above all, accurately so that they may be wisely guided by its light.

The irony of the mangling of this quotation is obvious. Here are the words of a man that have been twisted to to give meaning that he didn’t intend and to NOT give meaning that he DID intend. And the whole point of the quotation, “above all” as Pulitzer said, is that the truth is given to people “accurately.” In this popularized version of Pulitzer’s words, accuracy has been thrown out the window. Even the Pulitzer Prize website can’t get the words of its famous benefactor right. What a shame.

Words have meaning. Words matter.

 

For the benefit and enjoyment of the people

For the benefit and enjoyment of the people

It has often been called “America’s best idea.” There is no country in the world with anything like it. I speak of our National Park system, founded in 1872 with the establishment of Yellowstone National Park. This week, the National Park Service – the federal agency charged with care of the Parks – celebrated its 100th birthday. We all do well to stop for a moment and consider, with gratitude, this tremendous gift in our midst.

My wife and I first began exploring our National Parks in 1978 when we took a six-week camping vacation from New York City to California and back. Since that time, we have enjoyed dozens of trips to National Parks and National Monuments, as well as to National Historic Places. It is one of the primary reasons that we moved from Boston to Arizona, so we could be in close proximity to the great national parks of the west. As the inscription atop the great arch that spans the northern entrance to Yellowstone National Park says (photo, above), the parks were established “For the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” Every time I come up to the Yellowstone Arch a deep wave of emotion comes over me. Because I have been one who has benefitted from and enjoyed these parks – places of exceptional beauty and tranquility, wonder and excitement. I can say with great certainty that I would not be the artist/musician I am today were it not for the many hours spent in our National Parks, hiking, gazing upon and engaging the tremendously diverse landscape of this piece of land the world calls the United States of America.

I have always encouraged my students to get out of the practice room and get outside so their playing would be informed by more than what was on the music stand. Appreciating the natural, created order of the universe does more than release positive endorphins into the blood stream. It changes us; it gives us a sense of perspective and certainly it inspires us. The words of Psalm 8 often come to mind as I gaze on a remarkable landscape:

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

When I look at your heavens, the world of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? (Psalm 8:1, 3-4, English Standard Version)

So here, in celebration of the anniversary of the National Park Service, is a little gallery of photos I have taken in a just a few our National Parks. We all are in debt to President Ulysses Grant who established the National Park system in 1872, to President Theodore Roosevelt who championed it, and to all those who have worked so hard to balance preservation and access so these remarkable places can continue to be enjoyed by people from around the world.

Grand_Prismatic

Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

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View from Observation Point, Zion National Park, Utah

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Delicate Arch, Arches National Park, Utah

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Swiftcurrent Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana

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El Capitan, Half Dome and Bridal Veil Falls, Yosemite National Park, California

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Jordan Pond and the Bubbles, Acadia National Park, Maine

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Cliff dwelling, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

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Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

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Grand Canyon National Park, South Rim, Arizona

Celebrating the bass trombone

Celebrating the bass trombone

I’ve been playing the trombone since I was a young boy, and the bass trombone in particular since I was 18 years old. I’ve been fortunate to have made several solo recordings that are now in the hands of thousands of people around the world – you can see a list of my recordings by clicking here. Many other fine bass trombonists have also made superb solo recordings of diverse repertoire and recently, my good friend Gerry Pagano, bass trombonist of the Saint Louis Symphony, has released a new recording.

I met Gerry in 1987, early in my tenure as a member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He was a Fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center that summer and we spent a lot of time together playing and talking. A few months after the Tanglewood season ended, Gerry won the St. Louis Symphony position. Gerry is not only an excellent player but a great person – vivacious, creative, positive. I count it a real privilege to call him my friend.

Gerry’s new recording features works for bass trombone that are accessible to talented players. It doesn’t include works that are only playable by just a handful of super professionals. As always, Gerry’s new album, Horizon, features his beautiful sound and impressive technique. Most of all, his musical artistry comes through.

I’m particularly pleased that Gerry has recorded, along with tenor trombonist Bradley Palmer, my arrangement of Eric Ewazen’s Pastorale, which I made with Eric’s permission for inclusion on my own CD, Two of a Mind, with tenor trombonist Nick Hudson. Gerry and Brad’s performance is quite beautiful and I’m very grateful for the inclusion of this lovely piece on the album.

You can obtain Gerry’s album for free. Yes. For free. Here is the link to download the tracks:

Download Gerry Pagano’s new album, Horizon.

Of course this album wasn’t free on Gerry’s end. He had to record and produce it, and has to pay royalties to composers. So if you download the album and feel like it’s worthwhile, please take the opportunity to click the link at the bottom of the download page and send a few dollars Gerry’s way to help defray his expenses. He made this album of music that he loves and his playing is truly inspirational.

In 2014, I asked Gerry to come to Arizona State University to give a master class. The class was terrific; he is such a natural communicator and his time was extremely helpful to my students. After the class, we sat down in my office and made a video of our playing Tommy Pederson’s great duet for two bass trombones, The Crimson Collop. I posted our recording – done in one take –  on YouTube and much to my surprise, it’s had over 15,000 views. Seriously? Well, we’re just happy that people have enjoyed it. Perhaps you’ll enjoy it too. Watch the video below to see two friends having a nice time together making music, celebrating the bass trombone. Enjoy.