Peter Ellefson

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Hello and I hope you are experiencing an enjoyable summer break. This is a terrific summer for me, as I have nothing on the books---ZERO playing commitments until fall! I have considered not playing at all for 3 months. What a luxury that would be! I will likely take a month off. No…I am not worried about forgetting how to play, or losing any ability. In fact, when I take extended periods of time off the horn, I end up being better for it. Attitude refreshed. Bad habits forgotten. Positive simplicity restored. Breathe in. Blow out. Resonate. Sing. Quality is all in the mind. Practicing for me is getting the flesh to behave.

When we are young musicians, we look for as many playing opportunities as possible---we fill up the summer with festivals, seminars, go, go, go etc. and it is an important developmental activity. The motto of the young musician, “never say no.” When you get farther down the career road, many people, me included, look to enjoy other aspects of our lives. In my opinion, our careers should not define who we are but merely reflect what we do.

Playing-wise, I had a wonderful year with many weeks in the New York Philharmonic. It has been my honor to play with this
nulli secundus low brass section as a substitute and extra since 2004. This marks the last of season of the marvelous principal trumpeter, Phil Smith. I’ll never forget my experiences sitting next to this fine gentleman. The only thing that is more impressive than his musical prowess is his genuine humanity, humility and steadfast character. His commanding style of trumpet playing (and that of the deceased Bud Herseth) is a style that is now very rare, if not lost. Styles change, conductor preferences change and I fear that the heroic style of brass playing, exemplified by these two paragons, has now, sadly, faded out.

I performed Kevin Walczyk’s
Talking Winds concerto with the IU Wind Ensemble in February. Each time I perform the piece, I gain more insight into what Kevin has in mind for the work. I really enjoy it. Perhaps a recording is in the future.

In March, I reunited with Mssrs. Alessi and Whitaker for a performance of Jim Stephenson’s Three Bones Concerto at the ABA convention in Montgomery. Alabama.

In May, I traveled to Oregon, where I am from, to perform
Talking Winds with the Oregon State University Wind Ensemble. It is always such a great experience being back in Oregon (other than the horrendous cell reception). I was able to spend some time on the coast, of which I have such fond memories of from childhood. I was able to go to my high school pizza place hangout, drive by all of my former schools and see the houses in which I lived. I don’t return very often so I try to reconnect to all that was important to me whenever I visit.

In addition to IU, I gave classes at The Juilliard School, Manhattan School of Music, University of Alabama and the New World Symphony in Miami. I feel very fortunate to be able to work with such wonderful young musicians.

I have a half-dozen or more solo appearances this coming school year and it has been fun choosing repertoire. Not a single piece of trombone music on the recital programs so far. We trombonists have made “lemonade” for years out of the poor repertoire for our instrument. Our best piece, in my opinion, the Christopher Rouse Concerto, is not to be played with piano and there is quite a huge drop from there. Plus, once any concerto has been played with an orchestra, playing with it with a piano is disappointing. I have been fortunate to play most of the big concerti with orchestras/bands and coming back to the piano versions make generally mediocre pieces even less satisfying. Time is our most precious resource and I want to spend mine working on real music, not merely that composed for trombone, which the traditionally historically great composers virtually ignored.

Lots of other stuff happened this year but these are some of the highlights.

There are a few new blogs posted. Thanks for checking in.
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