Monday, September 12, 2011

SOLO - Marco Pierobon Trumpet

Personal and Powerful

I have always made it a policy in my blogs to avoid writing reviews and in the last five years or so, since I started the blogs, I have only written two, one for trumpet and one for ophiclide; I have never written one for tuba and probably never will.

In the past few years there has been a surge in the number of solo trumpet CDs released and many of them have been wonderful, but in most cases a piece of the puzzle has been missing; in the new CD, SOLO, with Italian trumpet player Marco Pierobon, the puzzle is complete. Marco Pierobon has the power of Bud Herseth, the 19th century awareness of Timofei Dokshizer, the technical freedom of Rafael Mandez and the great lead player skill of Harry James. But there is more!

In this CD we can listen to an extraordinary assortment of repertoire:
Alexander Arutiunian: Trumpet Concerto in Ab Major
Oskar Böhme: Trumpet Concerto, transcribed for winds by Goeffery Bergler
James Curnow: Concertpiece
George Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue, arranged by Timofei Dokshizer
Alexander Goedicke: Concert Study
Michele Mangani: Theme for Trumpet (written for Macro Pierobon)
Allen Vizzutti: American Jazz Suite.

All of these great pieces can certainly stand-alone, but Marco’s versatility in these performances is absolutely amazing; quite simply, all the various styles represented are exactly right. But there is still one more thing that needs to be pointed out: Marco is Italian and as well the comparisons with the great trumpet players mentioned above, he has that visceral passionate musicality that we associate with Luciano Pavarotti. For example, every time I listen to the THEME FOR TRUMPET by Michele Mangani it makes the hairs on my arms stand up.

By the way Michele Mangani is the conductor of the Orchestra di Fiati delle Marche (Marche Wind Orchestra), which is the very able band accompanying this album.

In all fairness I have to disclose Marco was one of my students in the mid 90s when I was working with the brass of the Italian Youth Orchestra at the Fiesole Scuola di Musica in Toscana. I’m sure I haven’t allowed that association to influence this review. Please listen to this remarkable CD and judge for yourself.

Tokyo, September 11, 2011

Bonus - take a look at this short video for an insight into Marco Pierobon's playing (watch all of it)

Monday, August 01, 2011

Four Shark Stories

Ever since I was a young boy I can remember the men in my small world telling colorful stories about their fishing adventures, sometimes about the ones that got away but also the ones they caught. However, something in my undeveloped and naïve perceptive abilities told me these stories were untrue or at least exaggerated. It asks the question how was I able to tell these were “Fish stories” at that young age? Retrospectively I believe there is something basic, natural and instinctive in both the telling and the hearing of these stories, everyone knew it was more entertainment than integral reporting, maybe it’s something like some aboriginal tribe acting out the happenings of the day around the campfire with song, dance and story telling.

In my late teens and early twenties I was an enthusiastic diver and I spent my summers in Southern California in a diving school for a large number of other divers like myself; I was away from the harsh winters of upstate New York while attending the Eastman School of Music. It became clear very early on that this group of quasi Neptunites loved to tell shark stories with the same exuberance with the same clear proclivity to exaggeration that the old men showed when I was a boy, but the exaggeration regarding shark stories was developed to a much higher level and a greater sense of drama; still clearly fictitious.

This seems to be a strange introduction to the telling of my four shark encounters. The fact is I almost never tell these stories because; I get the feeling that even before the first word my listeners are thinking, “Ohoh, here comes another shark story”. Well, please believe me, the shark stories following are true; I was there!!

Story #1: This is a short story; it was summer 1957 and it was my second dive using SCUBA at Catalina, a beautiful island 26 miles of the cost from Los Angeles Harbor. The Sunday diving boat became a habit for the next few summers.

My partner on this dive was a much more experienced diver than I and quite simply I was just following on his dive. We were gliding `just above the flat sand bottom when he brushed away the sand from an irregular spot, the tail of something big was exposed and my friend immediately grabbed it and was suddenly was being pulled along the bottom by what was clearly a shark around 5 feet long. It had the shark form with the fins, the head and… the teeth. It also had what seemed to be beautiful wings. I was to find out later that this was an angel shark, a very tranquil shark. When my friend let go of the tail the shark settled back on the bottom and camouflaged itself again in the sand again.

Now it was my turn! I did as I was told by the underwater sign language of my friend; I grabbed the tail and enjoyed a very exciting 30-second ride. Unforgettable!

On that same dive I was presented my first taste of sashmi (raw fish). My friend opened a beautiful shell, cut out the meat with his knife, cut away the rim and cut the morsel in half, he took out his SCUBA mouthpiece and ate it.

For the second time in 10 minutes it was my turn again. I took the other piece of shellfish and ate it 60 feet under water; it was delicious, with just the right amount of salt. I learned back on the boat that it was a scallop; in Japan it’s called Hotate and is considered a delicacy.

That was a good day.

Story #2: During a day off from the New Hampshire Music Festival in 1960, I decided to go to the coast and take my first dive in the Atlantic. I was diving alone, which I was taught never to do but the mystic of the deep compromised my reason. My interest was to look at the many lobster traps in the area. At about 20 feet they were easy to find and each of the traps had two or three lobsters inside. I love lobster and my temptation was great but just as I was considering the ethics and logistics of stealing just one lobster I saw what was clearly a shark, it was over four feet and almost black. It just hovered above the traps and seemed motionless. Suddenly the moral question of stealing was clearly resolved and I quickly left the area.

To this day I question if the shark was real, robbing the trap would have been so easy that I wondered if the motionless shark was a decoy and placed there to discourage any divers from looking for a free dinner. If so, it worked very well.

Story #3: Back at Catalina on a weekend trip with a tuba playing friend who had 35 foot schooner, we planned on a weekend of spear fishing and abalone diving. After a night of sleeping in the boat we took an early morning dive without SCUBA. We were just swimming on the surface and were essentially nautical sightseers. The shark appeared instantly, it was about 6 feet long and seemed interested in what we were doing in its territory. I was amazed at its beauty, how could a beast be so perfect, perfection in “aqua-dynamics”.

My reaction was to freeze, to be suspended on the surface and to move absolutely as little as possible. I learned in diving school that there is nothing in the sea clumsier than a human being; the best defense was to be as motionless as possible.

The shark struck me as non-threatening, but still it had my full attention. Suddenly, for no visible reason the shark lurched, turned 180° and disappeared, all within a quarter second. I stayed in the motionless “hanging” position for another minute. Finally, I took my head out of the water and looked for my friend; I saw him on top of some very sharp rocks protruding out of the water and covered with barnacles. While my reaction was to freeze his reaction was to swim as fast as possible to a “Safe place”! When I got to the rock I could see that in his haste he just climbed straight up the rock as fast as possible without regard to the sharpness of the barnacles, his legs were badly cut and bleeding abundantly, not a good thing while avoiding a shark. Dan was not advantaged by diving school! We waited about an hour for scabs to form on his legs, then swam back to the boat and had lunch.

Story #4: Through the seventies I took an annual short vacation to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, with my daughter Melody. Each year there I would take a swim across the bay, it was my private proof of manhood task. It was a reasonable swim, probably 500 yards in warm and not too rough water, always a pleasant and quasi-spiritual experience. This particular year was a little different, ten minutes into the swim I found myself surrounded be what seemed to be a huge school of barracuda, to be honest I really don’t know if it was huge, I’d never swam in a school of barracuda before. They were swimming in a circle and the water appeared to be boiling from their movement. Quickly, I decided to end this annual proof of manhood and to go back to the shore.

With the Barracuda gone and the shore about 100 yards away, just when I was feeling safe the fin appeared! I thought, I hoped, it was a dolphin. It wasn’t, that was a shark fin and it was moving in circles around me;I had seen that same sequence several times in Movies, this time it was real. I’ll never know how long it stayed with me, even though I successfully maintained my cool I’m not sure if those circles lasted five minutes or a half hour---- it seemed a lot longer! There was nothing I could do, I just treaded water and kept my eyes following the fin. As I worked my way little by little toward the beach, the shark finally disappeared and when I was standing at the water’s edge on the beach there was a small group of people to welcome me plus three lifeguards.

I’m proud to have stayed cool but out of the water I began to realize the seriousness of the event and with what I’m sure was an accelerated heart beat I instinctively found my way to the bar located in the hotel swimming pool and enjoyed a couple of the specialties, coco locos.

So, a little break from the musical sphere, a little brag credit and a little dealing with that exciting part of my life that I miss sometimes.

August 1, 2011, Tokyo

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Totally New Experience!

A Totally New Experience!

A couple of days ago, while searching the web for a tuba edition of the Schubert Serenade for a student, I encountered something quite unexpected.

I went to Google, entered “Schubert Serenade for Tuba” and the first thing listed was Big surprise, this was extraordinarily fine playing for a young girl between approximately 16 and 18, I first thought she must be a tubist from one of those extraordinary Japanese high school bands. The tone seemed very pure and focused for what appears to be a student model Yamaha BBb tuba, the vibrato is exactly what I like and the musicianship is evident especially for such a young player. Her name is Ayako (a beautiful name) and although I could point out a few musical and tubaistic issues, in general I would say her potential was formidable.

As I listened further I was flatterd that she had clearly listened closely to my recording of the same Schubert Serenade and had imitated it to every small detail; I began to get concerned that she really needed to develop her own musical identity. Very quickly, I noticed few strange things; she didn’t need to breath, her fingerings made no sense, and that the imperfections (very few and very small!) came at exactly the same places that I had made in my recording 26 years ago!

Clearly it was an excellent job of miming; she had obviously listened to my recording many times and thoroughly practiced the mime. This all was clear within only ten or twenty seconds; the first ten to see it was mime and the second ten to believe it!

My reaction was a combination of laughter and pride, an unusual combination! They say imitation is the highest form of flattery! I couldn’t help but think of all the times I have pulled all the shades in my house and secretly conducted Mahler symphonies to recordings of Zubin Mehta or Simon Rattle. Perhaps I should video that and put it on YouTube!

May 22, 2011, Tokyo

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Heifetz Syndrome

It’s difficult to admit the mistakes one has made or even worse, mistakes that were made repeatedly. I’ve made a few but in the case of this article I’ll limit my words to what I call the “Heifetz Syndrome”; thank God we learn with time, the greatest teacher of all!

Joshua Heifetz is the name of perhaps the most famous violinist of all time, who, in his lifetime, recorded virtually every major work written for violin. Further, Joshua Heifetz had, and frankly still has, the reputation of being a cold player, a master technition, a perfectionist, but a cold musician. Quite simply, that’s wrong, very wrong!

I once heard a concert of the Los Angeles Philharmonic with Joshua Heifetz playing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in 1955 when I was 17 years old and indeed it was perfect. Because it was perfect and because the chronic indoctrination and chatter of that time, I accepted that it must have been a cold performance even though I was very moved by it; I was young and too easily accepting of what I was told.

About ten years later I listened to a Heifetz recording of the Tzigane by Ravel, a virtuoso piece with strong Hungarian, French and Gypsy flavours. Of course, the playing was perfect but it was also passionate, fiery and with enormous rhythmic energy. Recently, in preparation for this article, I listened to many other recordings of the Ravel Tzigane, which although great, frankly, did not compare to Heifetz recording. That Heifetz was cold could not have further from the truth, Heifetz was a was a warm, expressive and passionate musician. Sadly, the technical perfection that was part of Heifetz, the complete musician, served to distract from his extraordinary musicality.

Recently, just by chance, I uncovered an old live recording, probably a radio recording, hidden away in an unlikely cyber-corner of my computer, of Mahler’s 6th Symphony with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Claudio Abbado that I believe was made in 1972. It was an absolutely superb performance, but one of the most outstanding aspects of it was the extraordinary horn playing of the solo horn player Henry Sigismonte; it was sensitive, and heroic, powerful and delicate. It was also perfect!

Now it’s time for an uncomfortable true confession; at the time I thought it was cold playing.

As well as being the solo horn player of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Henry Sigismonte, who sadly passed away in 1989 at the early age of 53, was one of the main horn players in the Hollywood studios; probably everyone has heard Henry in films, television, recordings and most likely in advertisements. Perfection was a required quality of those who were successful in the Hollywood studios and Henry was certainly both a successful and a perfect player. Why, how, I could have allowed myself to not hear his abundant beauty and artistry? I was experienced enough in 1973 to not be confused by the “Heifetz Syndrome”.

Composer Gunther Schuller, tells the story: Once while driving over the Austrian Alps, he listened to the Vienna Philharmonic playing a profound and beautiful performance of the Beethoven Pastoral Symphony. As the story goes it had all the magic and beauty of that pastoral countryside. Several years later, while driving back to New York City on the New Jersey Turnpike, he was listening to a performance of the same symphony but this time it was a poor performance that had absolutely none if the sonic imagery of the one he remembered in Austria. It was the same recording!

Beauty is, certainly, in the eyes (or ears) of the beholder but in music it is the responsibility the listener to keep our vision as clear as possible; it's tragic if a bad day or a bad road trip can change our perceptions to the degree of missing greatness.

Henry, Bravissimo.

Tokyo, May 15, 2011

Sunday, April 03, 2011


When I arrived home from my biennial spring tour in Europe, I only had two things in mind; to get rest and try to get past the 180° change to the Japanese clock jet lag and to check the house for any earthquake damage---there was none. But I had a surprise; it was the 50th anniversary of the New York recital I gave in Carnegie Recital Hall on March 31, 1961 and I was amazed and moved by how many people remembered it.

Something has to be said: First of all, thank you all for your comments and accolades, of course, it was a huge deal to me on that Friday night 50 years ago but I had no idea what a defining moment it was to be to my future, and by the reaction of all the notices I received on Facebook, TubeNet, Skype, and the e-mails yesterday and today, I have to be aware now that it was also a defining moment for tuba.

In the past I have tried to avoid making these essays, articles, blogs, or whatever one wants to call them, too personal; until April 1 (today) the next blog was going to be a very comfortable pedagogical essay called “AIR”. Well, after this is done it will be the next; I think now, though, the recital of 50 years ago requires a retrospective.

The idea for the New York recital came from a fellow student at the Eastman School of Music by the name of Fred Lieberman; he approached a clarinetist in school named Elsa Ludewig and me with the idea and we both said yes very quickly. Elsa was a superb player but the post concert publicity for her was small compared to mine; the reason, the only reason, was that New York’s first tuba recital attracted more attention. I got great reviews, it seems most of the critics 50 years ago were just very surprised that a tuba could do anything but be comical not to mention be good! Plus the combination of my name, Bobo, and tuba inspired the great writer and poet John Updike to write the following poem:

Eskimos in Manitoba,
Barracuda off Aruba,
Cock an ear when Roger Bobo
Starts to solo on the tuba.
Men of every station -- Pooh-Bah,
Nabob, bozo, toff, and hobo --
Cry in unison, "Indubi-
Tably, there is simply nobo-
Dy who oompahs on the tubo,
Solo, quite like Roger Bubo!"

Of course, Mr. Updike wasn’t there but those two words, Bobo and tuba, together triggered his genius for words to create the poem.

I was a little nervous before the recital but when I arrived at the hall there were 23 telegrams, mostly from my Los Angeles musical heroes that would later become colleagues, wishing me good luck. My teacher at the time at Eastman, Donald Knaub, the incredible basstrombonist of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, had offered me the following advice: “When you walk on stage and face the audience, imagine that they all nude except for wearing fishing boots”, plus when entering through the stage door my trousers caught on the door and caused a rip; I wasn’t only smiling, I was laughing! I think all those things helped me to get a good start.

For not having much repertoire to choose from 50 years ago I think the program I selected wasn’t so bad:

The Bach bass arias were melosmatic and worked very well instrumentally, the Prince Igor’s Aria, quite simply, has beautiful melodies that sound great on tuba. The two French pieces worked well, although one would have been enough. The Two Songs written by Robert Spillman in 1957 was the first piece written for me and is still frequently performed. The Hindemith and Alec Wilder Sonatas, although hugely different, were about all that were available then by known composers and the Suite Concertante by Armand Russell, who tolerantly played contrabass in the Rochester Philharmonic for six years with my bell only a few feet from his ear, was written for me in 1959.

Of the many letters I received at this 50 year career terminal the most personally touching was from my old student and good friend Norm Pearson, who is the present tubist in the Los Angeles Philharmonic and who has given me his permission to include it in this article, it’s part of the whole 50 year experience I would like to share:

 Congratulations on the 50th anniversary of your Carnegie Hall recital! 
 You set the standard for every tuba player in the world then and kept it going for fifty years. You set the standard of sound, technique and musicianship on the tuba that is still awe inspiring. I know, today there are some incredibly gifted young tubists who are real musical artists but when it comes to an inspiring and dynamic musical performance you are still without peer. A Roger Bobo recital, master class or even ensemble concert with “Roger Bobo the sideman” were awe-inspiring events. Your technical command of the tuba, your musicianship and commanding and charismatic stage presence were inspiring to me and made me excited about music and the tuba.
 I will never forget the sound in my right ear on all of those performances of Alpine Symphony, Also Sprach, Symphonie Fantastique, Rite of Spring etc…. the most beautiful, articulate robust tuba sound I have ever heard and always musical. It was always about the music: that is easy to forget as an orchestral tubist. I want to remember the music I heard from you in the orchestra and never forget it IS about the music.
 Thank you for taking me on as students 30 years ago (yes, 30 years!). Thank you for the inspiration and thank you for believing in me. I was blessed to be in Los Angeles at that time with you, Tommy and Jim. I know my life would have taken a much different and not as satisfying path. I will continue to be inspired by what you taught me in those lessons and will be forever grateful. Thank you.

Certainly, I was aware of the recital’s importance to me but I was astonished at its seemingly importance to the present day tuba evolution, I had a vision, or should I say I was constantly trying to catch up with that beautiful sounding tuba in my minds ear. Predictably, after a lot of years, I started to lose ground in this quest for excellence and it became clear was time to step down. Now, today there are tubists that play beyond those sonic images that motivated me years ago. Many have been my students, now they teach me and inspire me to become better teacher. We continue!

Looking forward to returning to “Air” and the pedagogical stuff I usually write, and hoping in the wake of this self-indulgent essay it not to be confused with hot air.
Tokyo, April 1 (no joke), 2011

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Love What You Do

I’m reluctantly about to play the “I’ve been around a long time and learned a lot” card. Sometimes things are so obvious we miss the presence of poignantly clear and valuable information. The conducting and masterclass tour that began exactly one month ago is coming to an end in a week, and those obvious things that can be so easily missed have now become clearly visible through the course of this musical junket.

After a week of dog sleds and reindeer far inside the Arctic Circle in Lapland, I started work with the fantastic brass section of the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra; it was a week of pleasure and gratification. Finally, also in Tampere, Finland, I had two full days of masterclasses with the brass players of the Tampere Conservatory. I was amazed at the openness, quickness, and positive enthusiasm from both the professionals in the Tampere Philharmonic brass section and among the students in the conservatory. Maybe because of the relaxation from my Lapland vacation or maybe because I’m just more experienced in the art of observation, it was clear that the brass musicians I met in Finland really loved their work.

The tubists in the brass ensemble, Harri Miettunen, of the Tampere Philharmonic and Harri Lidsle of the Lahti Symphony and my host for the incredible Lapland adventure, are perfect examples of highly respected players and teachers that adore their work; this positive approach to music has had enormous influence on the students, which was abundantly audible during the Tampere masterclasses.

A hidden benefit of loving ones work in the music profession is that it can morph into that hard to define aspect of charisma. I once wrote an essay called “CHARISMA” (See my blogs), and asked if it can be taught, perhaps loving what one does is the key to teaching that very valuable, yet elusive aspect of music performance and teaching. Arnold Jacobs, who clearly loved both playing and teaching, generated both musical excellence and charisma, it radiated from him even through a telephone conversation. Maurice Andre has it, as do Christen Lindberg, Steven Mead and many others, just to mention a few from our brass community; their love for what they do supports their charisma.

Then there’s the dark side. I have a very dear friend and valued colleague who frequently said, and I fear believed, “A good musician is a scared musician”, what a miserable philosophy for pursuing the art of music.

And reflecting on myself, I hope I also have these positive qualities and a love and passion for my work. I know I am increasingly enjoying teaching and I know that my students are getting better, but quickly, I must remind myself that all students everywhere are getting better.

I feel safe in sharing my joke with my readers, I call it “My secret”, but please remember it’s a joke: I hope to live a lot more years, I hope to live so many years that I will be able boast that all tubists in the world and half the brass players have been my students.

I love my work.

Started in Tampere, Finland, March 10, 2011. Finished on a train between Zurich and Lausanne, Switzerland, March 23, 2011

Monday, March 21, 2011

Fiesole Photos

Fiesole is located on a hill just about seven kilometers north, above Firenze, (I use the name Firenze because it is correct Italian, it has a phonetic beauty and the name “Florence”, to this Southern California boy, denotes a smoggy unattractive suburb in greater Los Angeles.) I suppose in present day reference Fiesole would be called a suburb but the fact is this beautiful city of the Middle Ages flourished here long before Firenze. Just about a thousand years ago Fiesole was overpowered By Firenze and through the millennium grew to be one of the very prestigious parts of Florentine society with beautiful villas, most of them with an expansive view of the amazing skyline of Firenze. At first sight one wants to stare at this view but in a very short time the daily activities on the Piazza Mino became just as beautiful in their unique charming way.

I’m free now after four eight-hour days of masterclasses and working with the winds of the National Youth Orchestra. It was a nostalgic feeling being here again. My first stop was the pharmacy where I had shopped for the 15 years I worked at the Fiesole Scuola. My quest was to buy a long-term supply of antibiotics without the required prescription as I had done several times before. I asked the lady at the pharmacy for the antibiotics in my poor Italian and, of course, she told me it was impossible without a prescription.
“But I bought antibiotics here many times in the past without a prescription, the owner always let me have them”
She went and asked the owner, he looked through the door of his office, saw me, and told her it would be ok. Italy can sometimes be such a reasonable place!

It was time for lunch and I took a seat at the sidewalk restaurant where I had eaten so many times. There was the very loud sound of men sawing all the branches off the trees across the piazza but I knew the work would stop in a few minutes; nobody works after 1:30 in Italy. Those trees would be covered in rich green by June. The macho padrone was standing at same door as five years ago, looking tough as he scanned the piazza mostly concentrating on the abundance of pretty girls passing by. And many older men with thick Mediterranean features and absolutely full heads of gray hair were passing that same door stopping to talk to the padrone. I ordered a pizza and linguini pesto; I was embarrassed when I discovered I was slurping the linguini the same way that is considered good manners in Japanese noodle houses.

The Fiesole Scuola di Musica was the principal reason I was able to quit my job with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra; I was on sabbatical with pay from the orchestra for one year starting in 1998, but after only a few months it become abundantly clear that I really didn’t want to go back to LA, not after a year, not ever. Thanks to the Fiesole Scuola, I was able to do that, after the sabbatical money stopped it was tough for a few years but things got better.

From the very first time the Fiesole Scuola contacted me I was told the economics of the school were feeble but they would like to have me on the faculty. I was in no position to negotiate and I started working immediately. The school operated from one of the fine old Fiesole villas and it now has expanded into what many think is Italy’s best music school. However, the expansion and the prestige don’t seem to have changed the economics. I have worked eight hours a day for four days and my honorarium was less than I made last week in Switzerland for one three-hour class! The reimbursement for my travels is not nearly enough to cover the costs even calculating after having arrived in Europe from Japan, the hotel is trying to be good, but still I live on the 3rd floor and the elevator is broken! The one very good thing is that I can sign for my meals at the Pizzeria San Domenico, which is one of my favorite restaurants; that almost makes working here worth it, Almost! So the pay is bad and the conditions are poor, would I ever consider coming back under circumstances like this? Sure; Maybe!

Fiesole, Italy, March 21, 2011

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Anticipating the Road Again

It’s nothing new for me; I’ve been doing it for years but in this case it’s been two years since the last real tour, perhaps that’s the reason for the excitement. For me a tour has always been viewed as a vacation, a change from the norm, and it’s been that way ever since the early 60s when I went on tour with the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam. And again I’m struck by the advantages of being an orchestral tubist.

In 1962, during my first weeks with the Concertgebouw Orchestra they took a tour to the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland with George Szell conducting. In that first week were several performances of Mahler’s 1st Symphony, which just in itself was hugely exciting, being new in that orchestra, having George Szell conducting and taking part in the Edinburgh Festival. And the tubist’s advantage: The second week of the tour was all Beethoven; the tuba didn’t exist during the time of Beethoven, I had a free week in Scotland. I took a train and headed north toward the Hebrides and spent several incredible days on the Isle of Skye.

In 1967 The Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra went on a 10-week round-the-world tour, which included playing in Tehran, Iran for the Coronation of the Shaw, certainly, that was a long long time ago! We also went to exotic venues such as Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, Romania, East Germany, Bulgaria and to our conductor, Zubin Mehta’s home, India. My life changed on that trip; from then on I could never get enough travel.

Until the last five years, my life was spent waiting for the next trip and I never had to wait long. I was spending half my time on planes and trains en route to my various teaching positions in Italy, Holland, Switzerland and England, my summer gigs in Greece, Spain and Canada and the frequent concerts and masterclasses, which included about everywhere including Japan.

Five years ago I took a full time teaching position at the Musashino Academia Musicae in Tokyo, Japan and for the first time in my adult life I was content to stay where I was, I had had enough of chronically being on the road, Japan, Tokyo and Musashino fulfilled my needs for the exotic.

Now for the first time in two years I’m facing another one of those 12-hour flights and 5 weeks of smaller flights and train trips. The first few days I will be in London visiting my daughter, Melody, whom I haven’t seen in two years. The next two weeks I will be working, well, working and vacationing in Finland. My work will be conducting a concert with the brass section of the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra and two days of classes at the Tampere Conservatory.

But there is much more; the first week in Finland I will go Lapland above the arctic circle with my good friend and tuba colleague Harri Lidsle and take a dog sled trip, eat reindeer and salmon, and hopefully enjoy the aurora borealis. What else do you do with a free week in Finland? (Pictures will arrive later)

Then on to classes in Zurich, Italy (Fiesole Scuola di Musica, where I got I start after leaving the Los Angeles Philharmonic) and back to London with a class at the Royal Collage of Music.

I think, I hope, this short trip will be enough to satisfy my wanderlust tendencies for the next couple of years and Tokyo will feed my need for the Exotic. And still, I’m experiencing that pre tour excitement that doesn’t seem to wane with age and experience.

More to follow.

Tokyo, February 18, 2011