Friday, February 15, 2008

Another Hero is Gone

Quietly yesterday in Auburndale, Massachusetts a hero passed from the trumpet scene. Roger Voisin is dead at 89, once the youngest member ever of the Boston Symphony. He was born in Angers, France, and studied with his father Rene and the great George Mager whom he joined in the BSO at the age of 17. Roger's tenure began in 1935 and ended in 1973. He led the section as principal from 1950 to 1965. He was equally renowned as a teaching mentor for his countless number of inspired students.

In our home in N.J. the recordings of the BSO and their televised broadcasts could be heard regularly. One could get a free lesson just by tuning in. Those shots of the trumpet section provided enough inspirational ammo to send me straight to my room for hours of practice. Although he never gave me a lesson, I have taken many from him. Those solo trumpet recordings on the Kapp label with the bright red, blue, or green velour on the cover gave me regular injections of needed energy. Mr. Voisin's wonderfully stylized playing left impressions that I will never forget.

I loved the fact that each of the BSO trumpeters had totally different embouchures. They seemed to break all the rules of mouthpiece placement, aiming in all directions. But never mind, what came out of their bells was on fire. Roger Voisin was king in those days. He was arguably the most energetic orchestral player of all time. Of course there have been many greats, each with distinctive qualities and strengths, but none with the personality and character of Roger. His playing was instantly recognizable.

Those summer days at Tanglewood in the late 60's were like a trumpet student's heaven. Great players were everywhere. Mr. Voisin's way with music was infectious, and we seemed to learn by osmosis. Whether he was coaching or conducting brass ensembles, or driving us through sight-reading exercises, we got quick, blunt, practical instruction always with his dry humorous wit. Solfege was one of his skills, and he drilled us relentlessly to develop those needed reading and rhythmic abilities.

To condense such a brilliant career is impossible. Known well in the publishing world, he left us several of the International volumes of orchestral excerpts that are must-haves for trumpet libraries. Numerous pieces have been edited and arranged for trumpet. But Roger's legacy for me was his enormous energy, stamina, musicianship and confidence. For so long Roger Voisin was that vibrant, spirited, and wonderfully belligerant hero of the trumpet section. Now sadly, his trumpets and the man lie silent.

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