Friday, February 17, 2023


Our one-sentence lesson came quite unexpectedly at Tanglewood one summer as we were all set to perform Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man. The occasion was Tanglewood on Parade, and in the audience were many well-known music icons. The pressure was on us big time!

The great Roger Voisin was conducting us as we awaited our moment in the spotlight. Leonard Bernstein and his entourage were finding their places in the box seats. Next, we heard from our maestro, "Ok, boys, we're going to play it twice."

We tried to hide our panic and quickly steady our breathing. We made our way through the fanfare heroically yet very carefully. Then, as we were catching our breath and trying to restart our embouchures for the second time, Mr. Voisin slyly smiled and whispered, "That'll be all, boys. Good job." 

Lesson: plan to play everything twice. Live for the next moment, the next piece, the next day. Accuracy and drama for sure, but without wasting precious energy. 

Saturday, February 04, 2023


My wife and I were students at the Cleveland Institute of Music, and the orchestra had just finished an amazing performance of Mahler 5. All of us were walking on air, ready to take on the musical world. It was a great concert! No nerves, no fear, just genuine enthusiasm. We had just conquered the great Mahler Fifth Symphony! Life was good indeed! 
But then came that one-sentence lesson I had not expected and which I have not forgotten. The principal horn of the Cleveland Orchestra stopped me backstage and said, "having a good sound is not enough, you know!" 

I shrugged and tried to dismiss that comment, but he was right. Soon enough we all learn that our strengths alone won't carry us very far. Weaknesses must become strengths. A one-trick trumpet player won't last long. We need a whole bag of tricks. 

In addition to a pleasing sound, we need a great sense of rhythm, unobjectionable intonation, outstanding musical instincts, and not least of all, a generous portion of people skills!

Our best lessons are often unexpected and unwelcomed.