No matter how well prepared we are, those worst nightmares have a way of happening anyway. These are probably quite mild by comparison, but here are some well remembered heart-racing moments.
Orchestra stands for a bow at the end of the concert, and my chair slips over the protective lip on the riser. We sit and I tumble all the way to the floor. Do I climb up or stay there obscured by the riser until the applause stops?
It's a Carnegie Hall Pops concert, and as usual we are juggling three or four horns as well as a bevy of mutes. One very fast Harmon mute change was so fast that the mute never made it to the bell. It was frantically fumbled and literally thrown all the way through the viola section where it rolled around and around next to one of the cellists who was staring at it quite alarmed. It then got slowly passed back to its red-faced owner.
The trumpet case felt unusually light that day. Getting to the opera rehearsal and opening the case, I found only my piccolo trumpet. No time to go home. Puccini doesn't sound right an octave higher, but the rehearsal must go on. I made it through the entire three hour rehearsal, and the conductor was never the wiser.
All excited about my lesson in Chicago with Arnold Jacobs, I couldn't wait to get back to Cincinnati and apply some of those neat concepts in the next rehearsal with Maestro Schippers. The lesson was about learning to warm up in a shorter amount of time and being much more efficient, etc. He had warned that I wouldn't always have the luxury of a lengthy warm up. I had forgotten to reset my watch from Central to Eastern Time. As I walked into the rehearsal, the orchestra was already tuning. I had ice cold chops and no warm up at all! Of course the first entrance required trumpets. Not a good day.
Tours always seem to be accident-prone. On one New York trip I lost a camera, a back support cushion, a watch, a razor cord, and a D trumpet! Amazingly I got the trumpet back.
The Carnegie Hall stage has only one entrance, and exit. Once you're out there, there is no turning back. (There's a lesson there somewhere.) The huge food selection at one of those 24-hour buffets that afternoon turned out to be a bad idea. We battled our way through Heldenleben that night, and I was sure I was going to have to make a mad dash though the entire orchestra to get off stage, and not for the off-stage trumpet calls. The battle was intense, but we finished it and I made it just in time. Not a good night, but it could have been a lot worse.