The genesis for this project goes back to 2007, when I lost my wife, Robin, to sarcoma. To honor her memory, I asked several composers to each write a new work for a series of recitals I would perform to raise funds for the Sarcoma Foundation of America (SFA). The SFA does incredible work to raise awareness of this terrible disease, and most importantly, to raise money for research to cure sarcoma. All the composers I contacted were enthusiastic about the project. Each wrote an incredible piece of music, and all of them donated their work. I’ll always be grateful to them: Jack Gallagher, Joe Turrin, Glen Cortese, Eric Ewazen and Jim Stephenson. This album includes the pieces written by Jim and Eric, but all the music is very special to me.
Eric Ewazen’s music was always a favorite of mine and Robin’s. As a matter of fact, her favorite piece in my repertoire was the second movement of Eric’s Sonata for Trumpet and Piano. When I mentioned this to Eric, he included a reference to that movement in Eternal Spring, as well as a clever quote from the Mozart Bassoon Concerto, Robin’s favorite piece in her own repertoire. Eternal Spring is now a staple of my repertoire. I rarely perform a recital without including it on the program.
The only composer represented in the SFA recitals with whom I did not have a previous relationship was Jim Stephenson. The project needed one more piece, and I was a fan of Jim’s music, so I called him out of the blue. After only a short conversation about the project, Jim offered to write Remember Forward. It’s a moving piece, and I encourage you to read Jim’s note on its meaning.
Jim and I became friends after he wrote Remember Forward, and so it was natural that I went to him when I needed a new piece to perform at the opening of the International Trumpet Guild Conference (ITG) in 2015. Spinning Wheel was commissioned by the Northwestern University Bienen School of Music. Unfortunately, circumstances didn’t allow for me to give the premiere at ITG, so I wanted to be sure to include it in this album.
The other tribute in this album is to my teacher and friend, Armando Ghitalla. I began my studies with “Mundy” while still a high schooler in the Boston area, and followed him to Ann Arbor to be part of his very first class at the University of Michigan in 1979. Mr. G, as we called him, was a very special teacher, performer, mentor and, eventually, friend. I tried to see him every year after I left Ann Arbor. When he fell ill and eventually passed in 2001, I took over his trumpet studio at Rice University. It was an honor that he asked me to take on this responsibility. Including Jim Stephenson’s Elegy to Mundy on this album is my way of expressing thanks to him for everything he was and is to me.
The final piece on the album is also part of my tribute to Armando. William Perry wrote two Dance Pieces, for trumpet and orchestra, for the last album Mr. Ghitalla recorded. While not part of the original release, you can hear these two gems on the album A Trumpet Legacy. For this album, I asked Mr. Perry for a piano reduction of these pieces, and he generously agreed.
For the trumpet aficionados, a note on my instrument choices for the album. I am a Yamaha Artist and perform nearly everything using my wonderfully crafted Yamaha B-flat and C trumpets. However, two pieces on this album were not on my Yamahas, but rather on Tottle trumpets that formerly belonged to Armando and which he gifted to me in 1996. Elegy for Mundy was performed using a Tottle C trumpet (a standard three-valve instrument, not the four- or five-valved trumpet he became famous for playing). The “Imperial Waltzes” from Perry’s Two Dance Pieces was performed on Mundy’s Tottle E-flat trumpet. For the “Bolero”, I used a Yamaha, but not my Artist model; rather, I used Mr. G’s Yamaha B-flat prototype, which he helped develop in the 1980s while teaching at the University of Michigan.