Monday, October 24, 2011

Summer of Many Styles

Contributed by Len Morse

Being musicians, we realize that we each have busy, non-musical lives outside of the Montgomery Village Community Band. We engage in various activities to keep our lives moving, hopefully in the directions we want: jobs, family, relationships, finances, friends, and other facets of human existence come together when we’re not at a MVCB rehearsal or performance venue.

As for the musical highlights of my summer, the academy (see below) was by far the highlight of my year, so it will take up most of this article.

The members of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (or any professional music ensemble, for that matter) are not that much different from us, except for the glaring fact that they play music for a living. Outside of that, they are regular folks just like us, with hopes, fears, histories, and many stories to tell.

Having been lucky enough to take part in the 2011 BSO Academy last June, not only did I learn a bunch from many of the musicians, but I met a few of them and got a peek into their lives as ordinary people. With the help of the BSO website, here are a few gems (in score order!) about the professionals I learned from and/or spoke with. All photos are by Christian Colberg.

Andy Balio, Trumpet

Andy is extremely knowledgeable about the mechanics of trumpet playing, and gave a seminar on practice techniques. No detail escapes him, and he’s an excellent teacher. Trivia: He founded, the idea behind which is to preserve classical music while creating financially viable orchestras.


Rene Hernandez, Trumpet

Along with Andy Balio, Rene ran the BSOA trumpet master class. He has what one might call a zest for life, and with a very outgoing personality and frequent jokes, he struck me as being a “class clown” as a kid. Trivia: For six months, he stopped playing and sold party boat cruise tickets.


John Vance, Trombone

John coached our BSOA brass quartet (one of many small ensembles). He is a patient teacher with a down-to-earth personality. His dedication to the craft is such that, after a lip muscle injury, he opted to undergo surgery—without anesthetic for the last half hour—so he could eventually continue playing. Trivia: He started his playing career in a Mexican orchestra.



David Fedderly, Tuba

David gave BSOA seminars on breathing. He is extremely knowledgeable and infuses his clinics with plenty of wit and humor. He also owns the Baltimore Brass Company, which sells new and used instruments. Trivia: He did carpentry and cleaned out bear cages to earn the money for his first tuba.


Marin Alsop, Conductor

I found Maestra Alsop to be extremely efficient on the podium, with a wonderful sense of humor, yet quite open and approachable outside of rehearsal. During a few of our BSOA group lunches, she made time to come around to each table and ask for our opinions on the program, and how it might be improved. This is just one example of her continuous quest to make classical music accessible.

The BSO has also hosted a series of one-night rehearsals/performances over the past several months in a program called Rusty Musicians. Community musicians are invited to register and (assuming you’re accepted) download music for your performance alongside the BSO players at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore. The latest of these was last Tuesday, September 20th, and I played, while also catching up with many of my former BSOA participants. We performed music from Romeo & Juliet and a couple of movements from the Carmen suite.

I also performed at the Maryland Renaissance Festival in Crownsville, Maryland. After learning that I was interested in playing there, a friend who is one of the herald trumpeters invited me to join them because the entertainment director wanted three trumpets instead of two. Her decision, plus good timing, allowed me to fulfill this childhood dream. Yes, I was in costume, but I was not wearing tights/leggings (they’re just long socks).

Otherwise, the usual Rockville Band, Columbia Band, and Fugitive Brass Quintet outdoor gigs rounded out my summer nicely.