Phil Snedecore featured as arranger and solotist on the new Washington Symphonic Brass recording - I


Our good friend and client Phil Snedecor is one of the busiest performer/writer/arranger/educators we know! In addition to a very busy schedule as first call sub with many of the best orchestras and chamber groups around the Washington D.C./Baltimore area, he is also a driving force behind the Washington Symphonic Brass, one of the premier brass groups in America today. For Phil's full biography, CLICK HERE.

The Washington Symphonic Brass and their new CD was written up in a feature article in the October 2006 issue of theInternational Musician. The reviews from the new CD are absolutely glowing! Here is part of the review from the AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE Nov/Dec 2006:

"This spectacular account of much (40 minutes) of Carmina Burana is one of the all-time great brass ensemble recordings, ranking with or possibly ahead of Philip Jones's Pictures at an Exhibition and anything Summit Brass ever released. The arrangement by trumpeter Phil Snedecor is first-rate, and the soloists(especially horn player Martin Hackleman) are outstanding. The group may be the best-sounding large brass ensemble I have heard."

Check out the entire review on the Washington Symphonic Brass site. With all the positive press from the CD release, Phil has agreed to share his thoughts with us on music making, writing, arranging, publishing and more.

Phil Snedecor Interview

Dave Monette: What originally attracted you to the trumpet?

Phil Snedecor: Good question. Every professional musician has a story about someone or something that caught their attention enough to inspire them enough to take up their instrument. I was in elementary school and I went to a talent show at my school where a band (from the High School) played the theme to Hawaii Five-O. I know, that dates me quite a bit! So I thought that the trumpet player was so cool! To see him belt out that tune and get the kind of reaction from the crowd he received was a life-changing event for me! I went home right away and told my Mom I wanted to play trumpet. I think we as pros have to realize that the next wave of musicians AND audience members are going to be people that had this kind of experience when they were young. You can't expect kids to react to Mahler and Strauss the way adults do. You have to get them with something they already know and show them how fun it is to play it yourself.

DM: What are your most important artistic inspirations, and how do they help you in your daily musical life?

PS: I love listening to anyone who truly enjoys making music! When I was a student in Civic Orchestra in Chicago, we got free tickets to CSO every Friday afternoon matinee. I sat there week after week mezmerized by how much fun Bud Herseth, George Vosberg, Dale Clevinger and Arnold Jacobs were having blowing down the great old war horses. They always tried to out-do each other and they always tried to play these tunes better than they had the last time they played it. It was the most inspiring time of my life. Now I listen to a lot of singers (Dietrich Fisher-Dieskau, Denise Graves etc.) as well as some trumpet artists that are really trying to do something different (like Wayne Bergeron and Jouko Harjanne, Ole Edvard Antonsen), and some of my colleges from the WSB and NSO. Listening to Marty Hackleman, in particular, always inspires me. I can't help playing on a different level when he's on the job.

DM: Please tell us some interesting background on the new Washington Symphonic Brass CD "Carmina Burana".

PS: We have to come up with three new, distinctive shows for the WSB each year to play at our venues around the DC area. This disc is a the fruit of my very practical and immediate attempt to program new and interesting material for our audiences. The title "Voices of Brass' was suggested by our principal Horn, Marty Hackleman. The works on the disc represent some of the most exciting brass writing in the literature. The composers of these works have truly "given us a voice" within these great masterpieces. I've taken it a step further by arranging these for brass and percussion only. Many people thought it would never have been possible to perform Carmina Burana with 13 brass and 3 percussion, but we do it and many people don't miss the voices.

DM: For many of us, this new CD would be the realization of a life's dream! How does it feel to listen to this new CD?

PS: I feel lucky every time I listen to the WSB that I have such a great ensemble to write for and to work with. I respect every one of these guys so much and it's a great gift to be able to perform and record with them. That said, I don't spend too much time listening to the 4 CDs we have out. I'm usually on to the next project. Every now and then I'll hear one them on the radio or I'll pop in in my CD player and think "hey-that sounds pretty good!" The farther away you get from a project, the better it sounds. As you're doing it you're too close to it to enjoy it.

DM: You are obviously a very busy performer. Please tell us about a typical week of your musical activities.

PS: Tonight I just played Clay Aikins at the Baltimore Lyric. Tomorrow I go to Norfolk, VA to play the same show. Next week I play at the National Cathedral for the Christmas shows. I'll have 10 of the WSB guys there with me and we'll be featured performers as well as backing up the 180 person choir. In the middle of that run I make a CD of Easter music (yes-Easter music) at the Shrine at Catholic University. Last week we made a CD with a very fine children's chorus from Virginia called the Shenandoah Valley Children's Chorus. For NewYear's I play orchestra shows in Philadelphia Kimmel Center and Avery Fisher Hall in NY. Oh yeah-In the middle of all of this I'm supposed to be writing a Trombone concerto for a friend of mine in the Lyric Opera of Chicago by Christmas... There's a lot of variety in what I do now and that's great, but sometimes my life is crazy.

DM: What is the best hall your regularly perform in, and what do you like about it? What are the challenges of playing in the worst hall you regularly perform in?

PS: I play a lot with the National Symphony. The Kennedy Center is better after the renovation but you still have to be very clear from the back of the hall to be clear to the audience. For me it's all about communication. If you're not clear you're not communicating. The best hall I've played was Boston Symphony Hall. That was amazing. The worst (from the orchestra vantage point of view) was Disney Hall in LA. I felt like I was alone onstage.

DM: How much do you warm up? How much do you practice?

PS: I have a 30 minute routine that I do everyday before I go do anything. It grounds me in basics before I have to go do whatever crazy thing I need to do that day. Sometimes that's all the practicing I get that day, or sometimes it's the start of a day I can work on the horn for 3 hours, but it's regularity keeps me sane. I'd be lost without it.

DM: How much time do you spend composing and arranging? Please tell us something about your approach and inspiration.

PS: I don't set aside a specific time in the day for composing. I usually do best early in the morning after my mind has had some time to quiet down. If I don't write down my ideas then they're usually lost to the thought of the day. I also keep a voice recorder with me to catch any ideas I might have during the day. Then I transcribe them later.

DM: What would we currently find in you car CD player?

PS: Anything and everything. That's my main place to listen as I drive everywhere. That's the only time I have to spend on serious listening. No distractions….

DM: Do you have hobbies outside of music?

PS: I like spending time with my kids. Going to their concerts, Cub Scouts, etc. Life's too short not to put a priority on that stuff. Also- I'm just starting to get into high-end road biking.

DM: Do you have any plans for the next WSB CD?

PS: We are about to do a concert called "Brass at the Ballet" and I‘m going to transcribe a lot of Prokofiev and Stravinsky for that. I can see that making up the bulk of our next recording. I'm also going to be recording the Sequel to my "Lyric Trumpet" CD I did with Paul Skevigton a few years ago. I'm just new starting to write things for that CD.

DM: What concerts or events are on your schedule for the next year that you are excited about?

PS: Our two next series are called "Brass at the Ballet and The WSB at the Movies" Both of these have great possibilities.

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