Bad to the Bone: Trombonist Jeremy Wilson will perform at Blair

wilsonAs a young graduate student at the University of North Texas, trombonist Jeremy Wilson figured he’d probably become a jazz musician. North Texas, after all, has one of the country’s finest jazz programs. But then one day he got a call from Ian Boussield, principal trombonist of the mighty Vienna Philharmonic.

“He had heard an audition tape I’d made for a competition and wanted to meet me,” says Wilson. “When he found out I was just a master’s degree student from Tennessee, I think he was shocked.”

Anyone attending Wilson’s recital on Sunday, Sept. 28 at the Blair School of Music’s Turner Hall will understand immediately what captured Boussield’s imagination. Now an associate professor of trombone at the Blair School, Wilson plays with an interpretive sweetness and sensitivity that would be the envy of a musician of any age.

The call that Wilson received from Boussield marked the beginning of an extraordinary five-year musical journey. Just 25, Wilson joined the roster of the Vienna Philharmonic and its sister organization, the Vienna State Opera. “I suddenly found myself playing the greatest music of the Western world on pretty much a nightly basis,” says Wilson.

No kidding. During his tenure with the Vienna State Opera, Wilson gave more than 550 performances of 85 different operas, including five complete productions of Richard Wagner’s monumental Ring Cycle. He also traveled with the Vienna Philharmonic to 28 different countries in Europe, East Asia, the Middle East, Australia and North America.

His favorite performance?

“That would be my last one with the Philharmonic,” says Wilson. “I played Lorin Maazel’s arrangement of Wagner without Words at Carnegie Hall, with Maazel himself conducting.”

After five years, Wilson decided he and his family weren’t meant to live abroad. So when the opening at the Blair School of Music was announced, he applied and was quickly hired. (What other applicant could match Wilson’s experience of playing with the Vienna Philharmonic every night?)

On Sunday, Wilson will perform a strikingly original program with pianist (and Blair dean) Mark Wait. Most trombone programs always seem to revolve around transcriptions of orchestra pieces – basically, second-hand music. Wilson and Wait, however, will devote their program to a surprising amount of original and substantial music for trombone and piano.

The program will include Paul Hindemith’s Sonata for Trombone and Piano (1941) and Kazimierz Serocki’s Sonatina for Trombone and Piano (1954). Wilson’s youthful interest in pop and jazz comes to the fore at the end of the program with performances of Max Steiner’s “Tara’s Theme” from Gone with the Wind and Bart Howard’s “Fly Me to the Moon.”

The performance starts at 8 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 28 at Turner Hall and is free. Classical fans who appreciate brass playing of the highest level should plan to attend.

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About John Pitcher

John Pitcher is the chief classical music, jazz and dance critic as well as co-founder of ArtsNash. He has been a classical music critic for the Washington Post, the Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle, National Public Radio’s Performance Today (NPR), ArtNowNashville.com and the Nashville Scene. His writings about music and the arts have also appeared in Symphony Magazine, American Record Guide and Stagebill Magazine, among other publications. Pitcher earned his master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, where he studied arts writing with Judith Crist and Phyllis Garland. His work has received the New York State Associated Press award for outstanding classical music criticism.