Saturday night Sandy and I went to the Springfield Symphony to hear a guest appearance by Gene Pokorny, principal tuba player for the Chicago Symphony since 1989. During the course of his performance of CONCERTO FOR TUBA AND ORCHESTRA and BLUE BELLS OF SCOTLAND, Pokorny did things that no normal tuba would ever aspire to. Our friends, Dr. Yates and Mrs. Janet Trotter made Pokorny’s appearance possible. We’re grateful.
Sandy landed us tickets in the second row so we could watch the guest artist’s artistry up close, a real boon. As I watched the faces of the musicians, I was reminded of those days in my early life when I, too, was privileged to sit in the symphony. I was selected when I was in high school and became principal trombonist before I was twenty. Those memories mean a lot to me. I have a picture hanging on my office wall. Here’s a picture of it. It didn’t turn out well but that’s me with my brown hair sticking up, in the center of the back row. My longtime friend Jim Shannon is on my left. He and I were friends and rivals for first chair from junior high school on. Jim went on to a distinguished career as a musician and teacher and we remain in touch.
We rehearsed on Tuesday nights. As I recall we were paid $1.25 per rehearsal and $2.50 per concert. I could be wrong. Maybe it was $2.50 and $7.50. Anyway, not much. Jim, if you read this and remember what we were paid, I hope you’ll join in. The point of being a musician is rarely about money. It’s about the joy of being good at something, surrounded by others who are good too. Last night made me want to go the closet, get my horn out of its case, and just hold it for a while. The chops are long gone. But not the memories.