Trombone for dummies

I’m a relative newbie to FaceBook, and continue to be amazed by what gets put up there by friends (both real ones and the FaceBook kind). I’ve seen wonderfully funny things, very suggestive self-portraits, blow-by-blow accounts of childbirth, and countless examples of Too Much Information. If blogging is the Internet’s Ego, then Facebook is its Id; filled with primal psychic energy and completely lacking in inhibitions.

I wondered if I had run across one of the Id moments a fews ago, when I read something on FaceBook from a colleague about another colleague. The actual post was a YouTube video of an excruciatingly bad performance on horn of the main theme from Star Wars, and the comment “the Holly Mulcahy of the horn.” Well, this seemed a little mean, given that Holly is one of our violin subs (as well as an active blogger here.) To compare her to the infamous Butcher of Star Wars Themes seemed not only mean but completely unjustified.

But I had the chance to talk to Holly this week (half our sub list was in town to to play Bruckner 8), and it turned out that it really was a compliment, albeit a rather convoluted one. For Holly is famous on YouTube for the following video:

The story behind the video is on her blog. It’s well worth reading, especially the lessons she learned:

…as easy as it is for me to lay down a Mozart Symphony or Tchaikovsky orchestral work on stage, I worry about the perceptions of audience and boards. If it is so easy, why are we being paid?

My sobering experience on trombone has proven the obvious though. While I have worked very hard on violin, the years went by and it was hard to comprehend what really went into it: years of training, hours of practice and rigid determination. Of course it goes with out saying, but you really don’t notice and appreciate until you start over on something unfamiliar.

That’s an insight that’s worth however many times Ravel turned over in his grave.

About the author

Robert Levine
Robert Levine

Robert Levine has been the Principal Violist of the Milwaukee Symphony since September 1987. Before coming to Milwaukee Mr. Levine had been a member of the Orford String Quartet, Quartet-in-Residence at the University of Toronto, with whom he toured extensively throughout Canada, the United States, and South America. Prior to joining the Orford Quartet, Mr. Levine had served as Principal Violist of The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra for six years. He has also performed with the San Francisco Symphony, the London Symphony of Canada, and the Oklahoma City Symphony, as well as serving as guest principal with the orchestras of Indianapolis and Hong Kong.

He has performed as soloist with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Oklahoma City Symphony, the London Symphony of Canada, the Midsummer Mozart Festival (San Francisco), and numerous community orchestras in Northern California and Minnesota. He has also been featured on American Public Radio's nationally broadcast show "St. Paul Sunday Morning" on several occasions.

Mr. Levine has been an active chamber musician, having performed at the Festival Rolandseck in Germany, the Grand Teton Music Festival, the Palm Beach Festival, the "Strings in the Mountains" Festival in Colorado, and numerous concerts in the Twin Cities and Milwaukee. He has also been active in the field of new music, having commissioned and premiered works for viola and orchestra from Minnesota composers Janika Vandervelde and Libby Larsen.

Mr. Levine was chairman of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians from 1996 to 2002 and currently serves as President of the Milwaukee Musicians Association, Local 8 of the American Federation of Musicians, and as a member of the Board of Directors of the League of American Orchestras. He has written extensively about issues concerning orchestra musicians for publications of ICSOM, the AFM, the Symphony Orchestra Institute, and the League of American Orchestras.

Mr. Levine attended Stanford University and the Institute for Advanced Musical Studies in Switzerland. His primary teachers were Aaron Sten and Pamela Goldsmith. He also studied with Paul Doctor, Walter Trampler, Bruno Giuranna, and David Abel.

He lives with his wife Emily and his son Sam in Glendale.

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