Changing performance focus from trombone to conducting was a challenge. I had been a trombonist since I was 8 - that made for 32 years practicing and performing on the instrument. Sure, the first few years might not count, but when do you start counting? To take up another “instrument” at age 40 was a real eye-opener.
For a guy who almost never experienced nerves, you should have seen me at my audition at the start of that summer in Aspen. They were looking for four fellows to do the lion’s share of conducting, and the other 36 of us were going to get whatever podium time was left. I was shaking – pretty badly. In retrospect, I know that my nervousness came from being unprepared, or at least not quite ready for prime time. You can bet that these days I over-prepare. I don’t ever want to feel that again!
That summer turned out to be life-altering. Not only did I learn from the conducting teachers – David Zinman, Murry Sidlin, and Jorma Panula – but I also met many conductors, some of whom I’m still in touch with today. Most are still very active in one way or another in the field. I could not have predicted that the following summer, I would be invited to conduct the Aspen Music Festival’s Fourth of July concert. Now, after 17 years of performing that concert, I am more grateful than ever for that first summer in Aspen, and how it changed my professional focus.