Jim Pugh taught me my first trombone lesson. I only had one with him but it made a big impression. I was a senior in high school and subbing (i.e. being recruited) with the University of Oregon jazz band for a concert with Jim. I remember my dad paying $20 for the lesson and I really had no idea what Jim was talking about regarding ii-V7-I progressions etc. but it was great to be in the same room with him.
Warren Baker, retired Principal Trombonist of the Oregon Symphony. "Bake" was my first trombone teacher and the reason that I attended Linfield College in McMinnville, Oregon. His emphasis was on consistency of sound. We spent months perfecting Marsteller page 6, #1. Previous to this, I didn't realize how difficult it was to play 5 notes in a row with the same attack, body and release. Bake was insistent that all of his students drilled on fundamentals daily.
In the summer of 1982 I attended the Empire Brass Quintet Symposium at Tanglewood. Mark Lawrence was the trombonist at the time (there seemed to be a revolving door on the trombone chair in the EBQ). Mark made an important impression as he was the first world-class trombonist I had ever heard. It was such a thrill to hear him play nearly every day for 4 weeks. His free sound, clear technique and ease of approach were astonishing. His playing remains a model for me to this day.
After graduation from Linfield I had to decide where to attend graduate school. I was an avid reader of the ITA Journals and had noted that the most recent orchestral auditions had been won by students of Frank Crisafulli. My good friend, tuba player Mike Grose (now tuba professor at the University of Oregon), was studying at Northwestern University so I decided that I wanted to join him and go where the action was. “Mr. C”, as we knew him then was an important key to my eventual success. My lessons with him were remarkable. The best playing of the week was done in my lessons with him. The rest of the week was spent trying to recapture the great feeling I had in those lessons. He was very encouraging----and that SOUND! I loved playing duets with him.
Being in Chicago in the early to mid-80s was a treat. I was able to hear so much terrific brass playing. Of course, the Chicago Symphony was at the top of the brass-playing heap. I was able to get a couple of lessons with Edward Kleinhammer, who had such a methodical approach to playing and teaching. It was terrific to sit next to him and listen (and listen hard) to his pianissimo playing. That is one thing that gets overlooked about the CSO low brass. Not only were they able to play with a staggering fortissimo, they were able to play so incredibly softly.
Prior to one audition for the Baltimore Symphony, I had a lesson with Jay Friedman at his place out in Joliet. It was fun to see the horses and his training facilities. I remember a couple of interesting things about that lesson. First of all, I forgot my music. (d’Oh!) I came to discover I had it all memorized anyway. Secondly, I have never since been able to play “The Ride” as loudly as I did that day when playing it with Jay. Lastly, Jay imparted to me his magnificent way of playing the soft solo from the Mahler 3rd Symphony. Jay has the most amazing control at pianissimo that I have ever encountered. It is inspiring.
While I was in Chicago, I was never able to afford a lesson with Arnold Jacobs. After I had been away for a while, and had a teaching job, I decided it was time to take the plunge. I had watched a couple of lessons of various friends but had never had a lesson one-on-one. I still refer to the notes from that lesson. Mr. Jacobs was every bit as efficient with his words as he was with his air. He could cram so much meaning into his words. I have tapes of his masterclasses that he gave in the summers at Northwestern and should listen to them more often. What a master teacher he was and continues to be even after his passing!
I lived in Chicago at a pivotal time. I witnessed Edward Kleinhammer’s last season in the CSO, a season of substitutes and Charlie Vernon’s first season with the orchestra. A few years later I returned for a lesson with Charlie. Charlie was able to take the Jacobs ideology and apply it specifically to me. I remember how my sound changed when playing duets with Charlie. My sound filled out and became much more resonant and singing. The adage, "A picture is worth a thousand words" could be modified to "Demonstrating a single great sound is worth a thousand words."
While I was living in Portland I had a couple of lessons with Seattle Symphony trombonist, Stephen Fissel. Steve had been a student of Keith Brown at Indiana University and had also been a student of Frank Crisafulli. Steve was very encouraging to me and I loved his sound. I also sensed a real dedication to trombone playing from Steve. I had no idea at the time that we would eventually spend 10 years sitting next to each other in the Seattle Symphony. His dedication to the trombone never waned.
When I decided to return to school for my doctorate, I had a choice of the assistantships at Eastman or at Indiana University. For several reasons, I chose IU. M. Dee Stewart had, and continues to have such a fine reputation as a teacher. He had been one of the teachers of two of my heroes, Joe Alessi and Mark Lawrence. He is also an efficiency expert and an effortless player. Piano students, oboe students, horn students---all play for him because he is able to detect wasted energy and get the students to play with less effort. Little did I know then that 10 years later we would be colleagues on the faculty of IU. It is an honor for me to be on the faculty with one of my teachers.
I had been a fan of Peter Norton’s playing for years---so I decided that while I was close to Cincinnati (in Bloomington) I should get a lesson with Pete. Pete is one of the truly talented trombone players out there and is a sound machine. One of the most memorable quotes from Pete, concerning some high falutin’ interpretation I was applying to an excerpt was, “Orchestras want Sears, not Gucci.” ‘Nuff said.
The last teacher I have had or probably ever will have is Joseph Alessi. I first met Joe in March of 1999, when he came to the Seattle area to play the Creston Fantasy, Blue Bells and I Cover the Waterfront. I knew Joe had little rehearsal time with the Cascade Symphony so I offered to be his stand-in. It was a great honor for me to help prepare the orchestra for Joe’s concert. A few years later the same orchestra invited me to perform the Jim Pugh Concerto with them. In 1999, I was lucky enough to land a participant slot in the first Alessi Seminar, which was a week that changed my life. To be around Joe every day, to hear him play, watch him teach and just to witness the intensity with which he approaches everything he does was inspiring. I traveled a few times to New York for lessons. Now, every note I hear him play is a lesson in itself for me. Joe has been very good to me over the years and even though we only met a few years ago, I feel as though I have known him all of my life. I am humbled to have my hero as my friend.
In reviewing this list, I have been truly blessed by the great teachers I have had and could literally go on for pages on each person. I hope they all know how important they have been to me. Thank you.