Today and Wednesday we have a special treat. I have asked a a church friend to give us some insight into a wonderful part of God’s Creation: music. Doug’s career is impressive. But we didn’t know that when we met him. The first thing we heard about was his beloved New England Patriots. Doug and his wife Pat are super fans! But the main thing that strikes you when you meet Doug is his love of Christ. We found later that he is internationally known in his field. We were astonished at his accomplishments. Here is what we have come to learn over time.
Douglas Yeo joined the faculty at Arizona State University (asutrombonestudio.org) as Professor of Trombone in 2012 following a 27-year career as Bass Trombonist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. A graduate of Wheaton College (Illinois) where he studied trombone with Edward Kleinhammer, and New York University, he was also Music Director of the New England Brass Band from 1998-2008. His five best-selling solo recordings as well as his DVD, “Approaching the Serpent: An Historical and Pedagogical Overview” – have met with critical acclaim. He has authored dozens of articles for many music publications including some of the most prestigious peer-reviewed Journals such as the Galpin Society and Historic Brass Society Journals. As a teacher, he has given trombone masterclasses on five continents and has held residencies around the world including the International Trombone Festival, Banff Center (Canada), Hamamatsu International Wind Instrument Academy and Festival (Japan), Fourth International Trombone and Tuba Festival (Beijing) and the Dutch Bass Trombone Open (Holland). His website, yeodoug.com, was the first website on the Internet devoted to the trombone, and continues to be one of the most influential websites of its kind, with hundreds of thousands of visitors since it was launched in 1996.
Wow. As you can see, Doug knows music. So I thought the best way to hear from Doug was to post my questions and his responses, in interview form. We will do this in two parts, today and Wednesday.
Britta: When you and your wife hosted us for dinner, my family and I enjoyed seeing your music room and hearing stories about your career. I was struck by the large picture (above) with you, sitting at rest, during a performance of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. You said, “And here I am, doing what I did for most of my career, waiting‘¦” (see closeup below) I had never thought about the times that members of the orchestra are at rest, while others play. Can you explain more about why you had to “wait” so much and what you did while at rest?
Doug Yeo: Composers use trombones – and we usually are used in a group of three – in sparing, particular ways. The great composer Hector Berlioz said about my instrument, “The trombone is, in my view, the leader among the class of wind instruments I have described as epic. It possesses to the highest degree nobility and grandeur. It commands all the accents – grave or powerful – of high musical poetry, from imposing and calm religious tones to a frenzied clamour. The composer may at will make it sing like a chorus of priests, threaten, utter a subdued lament, whisper a funeral dirge, raise a hymn of glory, break out in dreadful cries, or sound its formidable call for the awakening of the dead or the death of the living.” Berlioz was right: the trombone has a unique voice. As such, composers use us sparingly to provide color to the music, to provide a soft, supportive bed of chords over which other instruments play the melody, or in a dramatic use of the loud, full power of the instrument.
Because of the trombone’s unique role, trombone players spend a lot of time counting rests in music. I often say that my life as a trombonist is one of sitting still for long periods of time, waiting for the moment when I will play as soft as possible or as loud of possible for a very short period of time.
Of course, with that kind of time on my hands, I have to do SOMETHING! First, when I play in the orchestra, I have the best seat in the house. I get to survey all of my colleagues and I always enjoy WATCHING and HEARING them exercise their tremendous gifts as players to bring the music to life. I learn a lot from watching people play instruments other than the trombone. I also LISTEN carefully to the structure of the piece that’s being played – the way the melody works with the harmony, how the composer puts various instruments together to make tonal colors, and to simply enjoy the beauty that is going on around me. Other times, when I might have a long period of rest – such as in Symphonies of Beethoven, Schumann and Brahms where I might not have a single note to play for 15-30 minutes at a time – I PRAY and MEDITATE. I pray for my colleagues and the conductor who are exercising their musical gifts, and for the audience who is receiving this sublime gift of music. And I am always thanking God that He has allowed me to be a part of this great experience of making music in community with others.
Doug has more to say but I want to pause here to highlight some of his comments and continue the remainder of my “interview” with him next time. Today, if you find yourself at rest, or even in the midst of chaos and in need of rest, remember that you are part of God’s Orchestra, so:
- Watch and Hear, observing those around you. Life is a miracle. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible (Hebrews 11:3).
- Listen for the structure of the piece He has written for you. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Eph 2:10).
- Pray for others and Meditate on the opportunity God has given you to “make music” with other, living in community. Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him a threefold cord is not quickly broken (Ecc 4:9-12).
Thank you Doug for sharing your thoughts with us – there are some really wonderful insights coming next time. Here’s hoping that everyone has a harmonious day! 😉
Britta ~ I am justAgirl…just like you!