On Friday, I had the opportunity to visit Yale University for a performance of my trombone concerto, “Harvest.”

I’d never been on the campus before – it’s not as if I could ever have gained admission to the school – and I was excited to visit the school that educated 5 US Presidents, 49 Nobel Laureates, Cole Porter, and AEJ’s dad.

Upon my arrival, Thomas Duffy, Yale’s Director of Bands, gave me a tour. One building we didn’t enter: the Scroll and Key tomb, home of one of Yale’s secret societies.

Little known fact: Scroll and Key membership consists entirely of cats. Siamese cats.

Spring has come to Yale!

This stunning building, designed by Gordon Bunshaft, is the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. The “windows” are translucent marble, designed to protect the books from direct sunlight.

A shot of the interior.

A fancy case…

… containing one of 48 surviving copies of the Gutenberg Bible, the first major book produced on a printing press in the 13th century.

Continuing the walking tour… This is where they house the visiting scholars from Dartmouth.

(I’m slowly learning the fun of disparaging “other” Ivy League institutions.  I say “other,” as if I’m a member of any.  But still, it’s fun, and I recommend it.  You could say things like Seth Myers’s recent joke from SNL about the student who falsified his transcripts to Harvard.  “He’s been sentenced to four years at Cornell.”  You need to tell that joke in a cartoonishly haughty voice.)

The Yale Library no longer uses card catalogs, of course, but the drawers are still there – empty.

Some things that Yale-folk read. Forbes, and…

The Yale School of Music.

A poster for the concert!

The concert was in Woolsey Hall – a beautiful structure that holds a massive pipe organ.  Organ music would sound spectacular in there with the 15-second reverb and heavy low frequency response, but fast wind ensemble music? I guess we’d see!

The Yale Concert Band is not part of the (graduate) School of Music. It’s a volunteer (non-credit earning) ensemble, consisting primarily of Yale University undergrad students who major in things other than music. So basically this is a group of super-smart students who will eventually Rule the World, but they like playing in band (i.e., they’re My Favorite People™), so they do this as an extra-curricular activity. The contrabassoonist is normally a sax player. The timpanist? Also normally a sax player. So how’d the concert go?

It was great. The soloist, Yale School of Music trombone lecturer, Scott Hartman, is an awesome player. (I later learned that he was the trombone soloist in the Brass Band of Battle Creek’s performance of “Asphalt Cocktail” in 2010.) Scott is very theatrical in his performance, at times firing these blasts of power left-to-right across the audience, following with a glissando aimed straight ahead but up towards the balcony. I loved it.  The second movement was beautiful, and the last movement was light and fun.  And that first movement: badassery.

And the band? They nailed it. This was the first non-music-major ensemble I’ve heard play the piece, and I had no idea what to expect, but as I told them all after the concert, they played the sh*t out of the piece. (Sax-turned-contrabassoon-player: You should play more contra. Sax-turned-timpani player: play more percussion. Your time is better than some percussionists I’ve heard…) I really hope I get an opportunity to return sometime soon to work with Tom Duffy and his ensemble again. Next time, I hope to somehow get into the School of Music’s building, where I can contribute to the corruption of the minds of Yale’s composers-in-training.

It might sound goofy, to be able to say “I spent the day working at Yale” makes me feel proud and humbled. I’m just relieved they didn’t ask to see my SAT scores.


Tobias Baskin says

I like your music! And awesome to read you thought the YCB did justice (and more !!) to your amazing concerto, not least because son is in the band. Smile.

Danelle says

*insert slab of bitterness regarding Yale's loss of my application materials and subsequent rejection of me due to an incomplete file*
It's okay- Julliard is like the Yale of music schools anyway.

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