Seven Positions is a short, written, shoot-from-the-hip interview series launched by davidbrubeck.com. Each position is a response to a question. Positions one through five will remain consistent while the sixth and seventh positions will be tailored to each interview. We are proud to have Jeremy Morrow, recently appointed bass trombonist with the New World Symphony, join us for the fifth installment of Seven Positions.
The New World Symphony (NWS), located on Miami Beach, is America’s Orchestral Academy, and home to dozens of gifted young orchestral performers drawn from the most outstanding musical institutions throughout the United States and the world. Each orchestral “fellow” receives lodgings, a stipend and the experience of working with NWS Founder and Artistic Director, Michael Tilson Thomas. After winning their chair, each fellow is introduced and invited to perform for Tilson Thomas. Rather than a perfunctory excerpt of a few measures, Jeremy Morrow performed the entire breadth of “New Orleans” by Bozza.
Taken by Jeremy’s musicianship and passion for the bass trombone, Tilson Thomas decided on the spot to commission a new composition for the young musician. The result, Dicke: “O Bury Me Not”, will be given its world premiere at 7:30 pm on Saturday the 20th of April at the New World Center. Morrow, a recent graduate of Northwestern University, holds the promise of performances yet to come and adds the refreshing perspective of thoughtful youth to Seven Positions.
What do you look for in an instrument?
It’s really quite simple for me. I play on whatever is the vehicle for my best sound. Smart practice and expressive intent makes a good instrument have the sound I desire.
How do you conceive of describe, or visualize an ideal tone quality?
I think of my ideal tone quality as a pure golden ball. In every playing setting (orchestra, chamber, solo, etc.), the golden ball can be bouncing in different courts, but purity of sound should be achieved at all times. My teachers spent a great deal of time stressing this point, and I certainly think it is one of the most important qualities of a great musician.
What is your secret to a beautiful legato?
Lots of time playing slow and low melodies. Butter …
What helps you achieve musical expression?
Listening is huge. Listening not just to those who play your instrument brilliantly, but to those who can do inspiring things in other realms. I believe that listening is not just hearing with the ears, but understanding the intentions of the performer. Channeling the expressive abilities of all types artists and performers is something that I pursue regularly and enjoy doing!
Name two inspirations. One musical and one non-musical.
One of my biggest musical heroes is Brian Wilson (yes, from the Beach Boys). His journey from California surf pop-star to the very imaginitive, expressive, and deep musical genius he became is often overlooked. Wilson’s compositional abilities and understanding of music created an introspective experience for listeners that is quite amazing-(listen to “Pet Sounds” and the finally released “Smile Sessions”!). I know you’ve asked for one musical inspiration, but I can’t fail to mention my teachers from Northwestern, Michael Mulcahy, Peter Ellefson, and Randy Hawes, who have influenced me more than I probably even know!
Non-musically, Michael Jordan is a huge inspiration to me. His combination work-ethic, talent, ability, outlook on his game, and charisma are things everyone can learn from. I often think about the feeling of achieving his greatness on the musical level.
How would you compare the preparation and literature for bass trombone and tenor. What are the expectations?
Bass trombone is much less frequently written for than the tenor. The existing literature certainly offers reasonable variety and all sorts of challenges for the performer, but I am excited that the instrument’s capabilities are being further realized by composers, and that more and more exciting new music is being written.
The expectations for bass trombone performances (especially in the past), have not seemed to be at quite the high level of the expectations for tenor trombone performances. This is perhaps due to the naturally (and traditionally) heavy nature of the instrument. I do believe this tradition of the non-virtuosic bass trombone is changing as we speak. More great music is being written, and the demands for mastering the instrument are increasing. It is an exciting time for bass trombone repertoire and the future of the instrument.
7th Position JeM
As a young musician, how do you envision the future of classical music and attracting new audiences. Will traditions change?
The future of classical music is clearly hazy. Many think it is dying. In many ways, it is indeed fading away. I truly think the most important and necessary issue to consider is the audience. The relationship between the audience and the stage must change. The traditional divide of orchestra musicians simply playing a concert with an audience watching is not enough these days. Sure, a performance with invigorating musicianship and excitement is attractive, but the modern world has so much media an audience can find attractive. Hearing a symphony orchestra play is an absolutely special experience that cannot be legitimately copied, but today, I feel as though orchestras as a whole must approach performances as ways to connect with the audience and bring them in to the experience. It is more than just “hearing.” Technology is becoming a popular way to bridge the gap, as are educational and social events. At the New World Symphony, outreach to the audience is a large part of the performance vision. From displaying image and video above the orchestra during the music to personally speaking with patrons in the lobby after concerts. Orchestras must attract a diverse audience to be successful, so extreme variety in programming is imperative. I think the key to “saving” classical music is to make performances more relatable and intriguing to the person that knows nothing or very little about the art.
Best trombone playing you’ve ever heard?
Perhaps most moving trombone solo performance I ever heard was Dave Taylor at the Summer Trombone Workshop in Philadelphia. He played arrangements of Schubert lieder that nearly made me cry. The best orchestral trombone playing I’ve heard live was a Chicago Symphony Bruckner 8 performance – there was so much passion and power; I’ll never forget it.
Best trombone playing you’ve ever done.
I’m really not too certain about this one. I’ve performed ‘New Orleans’ by Eugene Bozza a few times and really been happy with the music I made. I also used to play in a great trombone quartet at Northwestern, ‘Gold Standard 100% Whey Trombone Quartet’ — we had some very musically absorbing performances that have stuck with me.
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Interested in more “Seven Positions” tm Interviews?
Ben van Dijk
Denson Paul Pollard
Erik Van Lier
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