• Interview with Henry Charles Smith

    International Tuba-Euphonium Association Oral History Project

    Oral History Interview of Mr. Henry Charles Smith III

    Recorded in Bloomington, Indiana October 5th , 2001
    Henry Charles Smith III
    Carole Nowicke
    Approved by Narrator, January 2002
    , International Tuba-Euphonium Association
    This article appears with permission of the ITEA. It it one of over 40 such interviews with famous tuba and euphonium players, which are available to all ITEA members.
    See this blog post to learn more about the other oral history interviews.



    Henry Charles Smith III

    Henry Charles Smith won the Grammy with the Philadelphia Brass Quintet for the "Best Classical Record of the Year" in 1969. While on the conducting staff of the Minnesota Orchestra, he conducted more than 1,000 concerts. As principal trombonist with the Philadelphia Orchestra, he played more than 2,000 concerts with Eugene Ormandy and many of the 20th century's other great conductors. As trombone and euphonium soloist, chamber music player, and writer and editor, his recordings and editions are internationally known.

    Guest conducting engagements include the Detroit, Dallas, and Kansas City symphonies; St. Paul Chamber Orchestra; and the Indianapolis, San Antonio, and Phoenix symphonies. He has served on the faculties of the Curtis Institute of Music, Indiana University, Temple University, and the University of Texas, and is a Professor Emeritus at Arizona State University. Mr. Smith has been a frequent guest conductor, speaker, clinician, and soloist across the United States. He has conducted the Young Artist Orchestra at Tanglewood for 16 years. He recently completed his 12th and final season as music director of the South Dakota Symphony.

    Biographical note courtesy of Mr. Smith.

    Mr. Smith describes his early musical experiences, mentioning studies with Donald Reinhardt, Robert Lambert, and Charles Gusikoff, his education at the University of Pennsylvania and the Curtis Institute of Music, and the influence of William Kincaid and Marcel Tabuteau. He discusses his recordings with Glenn Gould, the Philadelphia Brass Ensemble, "Torchy Jones Quintet," and the famous Antiphonal Music of Gabrieli recording with the brass sections of the Philadelphia, Chicago, and Cleveland brass ensembles, as well as his solo albums on trombone and euphonium. Among works Mr. Smith commissioned were the Alan Hovhannes Symphony No. 29 for euphonium and orchestra, the Donald White Lyric Suite, and Charles Forsberg's Serenade for Euphonium and Orchestra, he discusses the background of the pieces as well as several trombone works by John Davison. He was also involved in changing the design of the valve ports and tuning mechanism for the Conn Constellation euphonium. Mr. Smith ends the interview by mentioning some of his former students at Indiana University.

    This interview was conducted on October 5th , 2001 in Mr. Smith's hotel room in Bloomington, Indiana. He was visiting Bloomington to conduct the Bloomington Camerata Orchestra.

    Abstract written January 18th, 2002

    Carole Nowicke: It is October 5th, 2001, and we are talking with Henry Charles Smith in Bloomington, Indiana. If you could begin by telling me about where you grew up and your early musical experiences?

    Henry Charles Smith: I grew up in a western suburb of Philadelphia in an area called the Main Line in Lower Merion Township. Actually, my home was a little borough called Narberth, which was surrounded by Lower Merion Township. I went to the public schools there. I started playing the violin the second grade, and I somewhere along the line attended some high school football games at Lower Merion High School which had a fantastic music ed. program -- the whole district did. I saw this marching band and I thought to myself, "Some day I would like to play in that band." So, in addition to the violin, I thought maybe I should study a wind.

    So I signed up for clarinet in the sixth grade. I went to my first clarinet lesson and they handed me a baritone horn. I wasn't sure it wasn't a clarinet, and I didn't want to ask any stupid questions. [laughs] They handed it to me and they said, "Now blow," and I blew and a nice F came out. My first note was F -- it's still one of my best notes. [laughs] I was hooked, right away.

    It turned out that the whole thing was a wonderful conspiracy between my parents and the music people. I was kind of an loner, unathletic, and a less-than-good student at that point, and they thought that maybe if I could get a hold of a big instrument, one that was almost the size that I was, and if I should happen to do well on it -- then maybe that would bring me out of my cocoon and into the world. Which is exactly what happened. The baritone horn, I did well at it, and by the time I was in high school I was winning state championships in the music forensic competitions they had back in those years in Pennsylvania. All of a sudden I became an excellent student and found out that it was O.K. to be me. [laughs] I didn't have to be an athlete to be O.K. It did all those wonderful things that music can do for kids. I've been there and it brought me out of my shell. I found out that it was O.K. to be a good musician.

    Then in the junior high, I started playing trombone. I had sat in junior high school orchestra playing my baritone horn and I looked over and I noticed that every time I put down the 1st valve, that the trombone slide went out somewhere near the bell. So it was almost as if the first time I picked up the trombone I was able to play it because I could see the obvious correlation between the two.

    I played all through high school and I played on school instruments, then somewhere along the line I got a hold of, or bought. maybe my last year in high school, was it the Constellation? Short-action valve, the action was just about 3/4 of an inch, you could go flying -- the valve action was wonderful. It was a small-bore horn, but very flexible. So I played one of these all through college. I went to the University of Pennsylvania, and then I went to Curtis Institute.

    While I was in high school, for a year or so I studied with Donald Reinhardt, who one day said to me... He did two very important things -- well, more than that. He said, "Every day, play Bolero as part of your warmup." So I did. Then when I had to play it with the Philadelphia Orchestra a few years later, it didn't make it easy, but it made it more predictable, and I knew I could play it. The other thing he made me do was to learn to read seven clefs. This has been enormously helpful as a player, and also as a conductor, because the seven clefs, of course, can be the basis of all transpositions. For score reading it has been an enormous boon to me because it is just second nature to read all these clefs and to transpose. Those were some of the wonderful things that Don Reinhardt did for me.

    Then during high school, and while I was going to the University of Pennsylvania I studied trombone with Bob Lambert who was then the associate principal in the Philadelphia Orchestra. Charles Gusikoff then was my teacher at Curtis Institute. Actually it was Bob Lambert's slot that I won in 1955. He left Philadelphia to become principal trombone with Reiner in the Chicago Symphony, and so that left the assistant slot in Philadelphia open. So I won that slot, and then a year and few months later I became principal.

    So, that's it in a nutshell.
    My teacher, Charles Gusikoff had played all of the valves -- the euphonium and the bass trumpet in the Philadelphia Orchestra, and when I arrived, I was invited to do that all the while I was there. Every year we did lots of Wagner. Ormandy had some wonderful symphonic "syntheses" of music from the Ring, which of course involves the bass trumpet. I went to Mt. Vernon when Vincent Bach was still holding forth there, and he made me up a wonderful combination C/Bb bass trumpet. At that point, actually I was involved with the Conn Corporation in the development of the 24I and the 25I. So very early on I had one of these, and that was the instrument that I played in the Orchestra for "Bydlo" and the Planets, and Don Quixote (which we played a lot) and Ein Heldenleben and these things. So, that's in a nutshell.

    Nowicke: Did you ever play in any of those Italian festival bands or anything around Philadelphia?

    Smith: Not for any enduring period of time. I played with once or twice with them. Of course the literature I grew up on was Bride of the Waves, and Napoli, and Del Staiger's Carnival of Venice. I played those a lot, and won some competitions on them when I was in high school. I think it's a shame if brass players don't know and study these pieces because it's a wonderful bit of our past and our heritage. Back in those days we didn't know about the Wagenseil alto trombone concerto, and trumpet players scarcely knew that Haydn had written a trumpet concerto when I was a kid. [laughs] We've found out a lot, and of course a lot of wonderful music has been written for all of our instruments since then. These "band in the park" solos I love, and on trombone I've played the Thoughts of Love, and Atlantic Zephyrs, and Blue Bells of Scotland, and all these things.

    Nowicke: Did you ever hear any of those marvelous old players over in Willow Grove?

    Smith: A few times I did. I didn't get over there often. All the while I was growing up we didn't have a car. During the second World War, my Dad wasn't in an essential industry and he could only get, what was it, three gallons of gas a week, which wasn't even enough for him to get to work, so he just sold the '37 Ford and we went on the bus and the train. So, I didn't get over to Willow Grove too often because that was a ways around the suburbs, but I have heard a concert or two there.

    Nowicke: I know everybody played there, Pryor, and Creatore, and Sousa

    Smith: Of course most of those guys were somewhat before my time. [laughs]

    Nowicke: Yes, but there were bands which continued [past the leader's death]. Fred Williams did a talk on the Willow Grove bands at the Great American Brass Band Conference this year. That was fun because of course I never saw Willow Grove.

    Smith: It was a great tradition.

    Nowicke: So you have bachelor's and a master's from Penn?

    Smith: Just a bachelor's degree, a B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania, a Bachelor of Arts, and then the Artist Diploma from Curtis Institute. I had signed up, actually, to come and do graduate work at Indiana at that point, but then, much to my surprise I got the job in the Philadelphia Orchestra, so that was the end of my formal academic training. [laughs]

    Nowicke: Abe Torchinsky said that the thought your degree was in mathematics.

    Smith: I had a sort of a minor, I guess, in math. I always liked math. I'm good at counting. You know, it's a good thing -- trombonists need to be able to count 855 bars of rest and make the correct entrance, and I'm able to do that. [laughs]

    Nowicke: That would help a lot. Now, how about some of the small ensemble recordings you did, like the "Torchy Jones."

    Smith: Oh, right. Well, yes, funny you should ask. We made a number of recordings, and actually all of them, save the Torchy Jones have been reissued by Sony on C.D.s. Let's see if I can remember them, this may be out of order. There was one called The Glorious Sound of Brass, with early, early pieces, Pezel, Holborne, Reiche, and people like that -- with basically a sextet (we made it a sextet by adding Dee Stewart frequently on euphonium). Then some pieces were enhanced by several other players. The two most famous ones are the Festival of Carols in Brass, and that went great guns, and still does. We still get a friendly reminder around the first of February of those recordings -- and that's out on a C.D.

    Nowicke: I grew up with those.

    Smith: That's right, and you still hear them in airports and shopping centers. In fact my wife was shopping in Dayton's a couple of years ago and one of the cuts from the Christmas album was playing, and my wife said to the clerk, "That's my husband playing on that recording," and the clerk said, "Well, I'm very happy for you, but I get so tired of hearing that 12 hours a day." [laughs]

    Then, of course, the other famous one was the Gabrieli recording which we did with the Chicago, Cleveland, and Philadelphia brass. That was done, on, if I recall, about 1968 on Good Friday and Saturday. We had tried to schedule it for a number of years, but as you can imagine, to find a couple of days when all of those people from all those orchestras were available...

    It happened that because it was Easter weekend, all of the orchestras were doing choral works (not to include the Verdi Requiem which involves a lot of brass) they were probably doing Mozart and Bach. So we were able to get these people together on a Good Friday and then the Saturday before Easter. We had one recording session Friday afternoon, if I recall, and then two on Saturday. In some cases we were greeting old friends, in other cases, we all knew of each other, but it was like a reunion anyway, because brass players are friendly types. So we sat down, and the tape rolled, and we didn't rehearse, and we didn't even tune in any formal way, but we all warmed up in the same space. By the time we were ready to record, we were all playing at the same center of pitch.

    That recording, of course, to the musicologist and the purist -- they don't like it, because it's big, round, rich and robust sound. It's 20th century rendition of Gabrieli and the instruments that Gabrieli would have heard wouldn't have sounded much like that at all. But the sound is scrumptious and it won us the Grammy for the best classical record of 1969. So, we were very happy with that.

    Then we made two recordings with a slightly enlarged Philadelphia Brass Ensemble with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. One was a festival of hymns, and the other was a Christmas album with some arrangements by Arthur Harris for both of those. Actually those are still available. The Christmas one was called Joy to the World, and I've forgotten the name of the other one. Still, those records are available on C.D. and cassette.

    The final one that we did, Gil Johnson, and Mason Jones, and Torchinsky and I each recorded the Hindemith sonatas with Glenn Gould. We did it in the ballroom of Eaton's department store in Toronto and we recorded at night (he liked to record at night). Mason did the two sonatas, the horn sonata and the Eb horn sonata. We did them three or four months apart -- we weren't all there at once. I was there, it was late May or early June, and Glenn Gould picked me up in his old Cadillac, with an overcoat and a scarf on, and it was warm evening. He was eccentric, but I think he was an honest eccentric because he was absolutely a genius and he just saw the world and music differently than the rest of us -- and for good reasons of his own. You can't fault that. I found him very delightful to work with. He had played with the Orchestra several times, so we knew each other a little bit. One of the wonderful, neat things that happened before the recording, about a month before we got together, he called me late one night, and for about an hour and fifteen minutes over the phone we sang the Hindemith trombone sonata to each other, so we kind of had a rehearsal over the telephone. It was wonderful, it was very productive. So when we got together it was as if we'd already had a very good rehearsal on it. He has his own unique way of recording and editing, and actually we recorded the Hindemith Sonata, a 14 minute piece. We recorded eight hours one night, and six hours the next night. But when we were finished, all the decisions had been made about which edits and where the splicing would happen. It was wonderful, it was just a thrilling experience.

    All of those sonatas are on the slow side, because of Glenn Gould. He insisted, and in each case we let him prevail. In the case of the Hindemith trombone sonata [sings] -- all the dotted rhythms (which so often come out like so much machine gun fire) he felt that he needed to have room to move around and do some expressive rhythmic and dynamic things, and at a fast tempo he was unable to do that. He said, "Now, I can play it as fast as you like..but I just...." So, he persuaded me, and so they are probably the slowest recordings, which made them a little harder to play. [laughs] It's easier to go fast on some of those things.

    Then the other one you referred to, the "Torchy Jones Quintet" we masqueraded, not very seriously, as Gil Johnson, Sy Rosenfeld, Mason Jones, Hank Smith, and "Torchy Jones" was Torchinsky's name. A man named Frank Hunter did the arrangements, and it was basically the brass quintet plus a rhythm section of three, a drum, a bass, and a guitar, if I recall. There recently has been a limited pressing, a kind of a private pressing of a few C.D.s, so there are a few C.D.s around of that. [laughs] It still sounds very well to my ear. It's nice playing, it's relaxed playing and the arrangements were just tailored to us. We had a contract to make multiple records of this sort with Columbia records and Ormandy got wind of it and thought it was beneath our dignity and had the project cancelled, so we only made one recording and shortly after it was out it was withdrawn from the market. We felt that the boss had something to do with that, and probably our mistake was not asking him to conduct. [laughs] He would have been fine with it then, probably, but it's one of those things. So, it's kind of a collector's item. I do recommend it, it's good listening.

    Nowicke: I notice that you had it listed on your albums. One small form of rebellion against Mr. Ormandy.

    Smith: It's a nice record.

    Nowicke: I have a heard an illegal tape dub of that from somebody who has the record.

    Smith: At this point, you know, how illegal can it be after all these years?

    Nowicke: Abe Torchinsky told me about surprising Mr. Ormandy a little after you won the Grammy for your quintet album. Going to the rehearsal and he didn't know what was happening.

    Smith: I don't remember that.

    Nowicke: Somebody came in to take photographs. He hadn't caught wind of it and he was afraid it was going to be another jazz record. Since you'd won something he couldn't really complain very much.

    Smith: That probably all happened after I left, because I left the Philadelphia Orchestra just at the time we made the record, but then before the award I had departed. So I probably missed this event that you are speaking of.

    Nowicke: He also said that you had made some very nice publicity pictures for the jazz album that were going to go into Life, maybe, until Ormandy had your record pulled.

    Smith: Of course I don't want to give the wrong impression about my feelings about Ormandy, because I really owe my career to him. [laughs] He chose me.

    My musical concepts are very much from him [Eugene Ormandy], and, speaking of that, if you'd like, when I was a student I used to buy the 35 cent seats and climb up to the amphitheater and hear the Friday afternoon or Saturday evening concerts, and I'd sit there and listen to the sound that Charles Gusikoff made. When this man was in his prime, he made the biggest, most amazing sound on the valves as well as the trombone.

    I was particularly fixated and fascinated with the concept of sound and phrase with Tabuteau, in particular, and Kincaid, the first oboe and the first flute. Those people, I think, along with Sol Schoenbach, the bassoonist, and Ralph McClain, and then Anthony Gigliotti. I think these people have had more to do with the way America's orchestras, and now the world's orchestras play and phrase than any conductor. I think these people have had a bigger impact on the questions of sound and phrase and style than any conductor has.

    When I had a score (when I could afford to have a score, sometimes I'd borrow one from the library) I would sit up in my seat in the amphitheater and I would be particularly interested in the oboe parts. The next day I would likely go home and play the oboe solos on my trombone and try to make them sound like Tabuteau had sounded the night before -- which was a pretty big order. [laughs] This is where my concept of sound came from, the concept of sound in that orchestra, the ability to be immensely colorful and individualistic when the occasion found it appropriate, and then the ability on the other hand (in Brahms or something like this) to be able to blend with some other instruments so that you can't tell the instruments apart -- and everything in between. This is what I heard in this orchestra.

    Stokowski really started that, and encouraged it. He hired incredibly great solo players, and in the appropriate places, he encouraged great freedom and great range of color. This part of playing -- symphony orchestras today are so efficient, they are so accurate, and everybody can play every note correctly, and in tune, and at the right time. But the kinds of artistic chances that Kincaid, and Tabuteau, and McClain, and Sol Schoenbach would take -- every time you'd come to something it would be a little different, and they would do incredible things to shade and color the sound and do something interesting to a phrase. I think we've lost some of that in this day and age. They would bring goose bumps.

    On several tours his last couple of years, Kincaid, for an encore at the end of the whole concert we would play the Night Soliloquy of Kent Kennan, which is for solo flute, and harp and strings. Every night it would be different, and every night it would bring more goose bumps. It was absolutely amazing to sit back there my horn in my lap and just listen to this man play, and hear how he colored sound and would take incredible artistic chances and the results were amazing every time.

    Nowicke: That's what several people have said to me about the problem with Boston trying to replace Chester Schmitz. There are plenty of people who can play all the notes, but there is something missing.

    Smith: That's right. Then there's the great Anton Horner, who was a great horn player in Philadelphia for years. He preceded Mason Jones. I don't know if he was there from 1912, but almost -- he was an early hire by Stokowski and he played until Mason started playing in the late '30's. Even when I was there in the '50's and '60's, and he was 80's and 90's and he came to the concerts. We all knew where he sat up in the family circle, and we'd be warming up and we'd see him come in, and he'd give a little wave, and we'd give a little wave back. [laughs] This man played the horn with incredible character and color, and you'd hear him miss a note now and then, but who cares? If you can play the horn like that, and be so musical and so fascinating, feel free to miss a note every now and then, who cares? I'd rather hear somebody like that play with real interest and real artistic originality and integrity than somebody who is perfect and uninteresting.

    Nowicke: You mentioned the Verdi Requiem, did you ever have a chance to play that on baritone? The band arrangement?

    Smith: Oh, the band arrangement. I did once, and I can't think where. It was early on. Yes, that's a wonderful arrangement.

    Nowicke: I don't know if it was Laurendeau, or who arrangement it. I've played that, and that's the time you really want to play euphonium.

    Smith: Oh, it's good. What is it,"Ingemisco" the great tenor aria, the euphonium has the melody. One of my other favorites in band playing was " The World is Waiting for the Sunrise," for that wonderful euphonium obbligato, while the band plays [sings] like a stop chorus, and the euphonium is playing a [sings] wonderful Db major thing. That's one of my favorites. I miss the old writing, and the new wind band literature the euphonium is not quite so much the cello it used to be. I think it's almost safe to say (I'm not sure) although I made much of my living as a trombonist, primarily, I don't think I ever played trombone in a band, I always played euphonium, because the parts were so much more interesting, and very often the trombone parts were not all that interesting in band. Interesting trombone parts were in orchestra.

    Nowicke: I find even in the (newer) brass band literature it doesn't seem that they exploit the euphonium or baritone as much as they should -- or the alto horn, which is a lovely instrument.

    Smith: That's right.


    Nowicke: One piece I played when I was playing in National Brass, which was a group Glenn Call put together, which were all professional military band people (and me...that's a little bit of pressure). We played the Horovitz Euphonium Concerto, and the second movement of that would just break your heart, it's so beautiful. Steve Bulla was playing in that band, so he did a Shenandoah arrangement for us. Lovely writing by someone who understands those instruments, well.

    Smith: There have been a couple of very prominent TV commercials in the last couple of years that have used the euphonium quite prominently. I can't think of what they were -- was it a bank commercial or some financial? I can't even think how it went, but I remember hearing it a lot. The sound is so rich and so special, and the lyrical possibilities are so -- I mean as a player, I could always make a longer line on a euphonium than on trombone, somehow because of all the bends in the tube, it gave resistance to the euphonium. I remember in the Symphonic Synthesis from the Die Frau ohne Schatten by Strauss there is a lovely trombone solo [sings] and I played it on trombone in rehearsal, and the next day I brought my euphonium in without saying anything, and Ormandy started conducting and I picked up the euphonium and played it, and ever after then (I guess if he were alive and still conducting that piece, which of course he is not) he was hooked on the euphonium. [laughs]

    Speaking of that, and my dear friend Torchinsky. One time at May Festival Abe was deathly sick. He had the flu. I mean, it was just awful--he couldn't get out of bed. It was the opening night of May Festival, when the Philadelphia Orchestra usually played, late April, early May. On the program were the Harris Third (which has euphonium anyway) and then the Russian Easter Overture. I had always played the solo trombone in the middle of the Russian Easter on trombone, so Ormandy asked me since Abe was sick and there wasn't anybody else to play that part, if I would play the tuba part on euphonium, which I was happy to do. [sings] It's kind of a high middle tuba part, it worked fine on the euphonium. I had the trombone sitting on the riser behind me, and I was going to pick it up and play the trombone solo in the middle, and then pick up the euphonium, and finish the piece playing the tuba part. When the solo was approaching, I reached back to the trombone sitting on the riser, and it was ice cold. I thought, "There is no way I can get this thing warm and play." So the trombone solo came and I just played it on euphonium, much to Ormandy's surprise. There wasn't anything he could do. [laughs] He liked it. He liked it just fine. Of course there's an old recording of Stokowski doing that in which he had a bass singer actually doing that, it represents the sound of a Russian Orthodox priest chanting. [laughs]

    The euphonium worked just fine! Ormandy looked terrified at first, then I started playing and he looked back and smiled. So, all was well, and fortunately, Abe got over the flu and he was back the next night. [laughs]

    Nowicke: Well, then he lied to me, he told me he only missed one concert in his career.

    Smith: He didn't miss many, I'll tell you. None of us did. I don't know that we were afraid to miss, but you just didn't miss. Back in those days -- my last year with the Philadelphia Orchestra, 1966-67 -- I counted them up (I was just curious) I played 213 concerts. They didn't have the rotating vacations that all the orchestras have now.

    So we were saying with Ormandy, he wanted everybody on the stage, including even the assistants in the winds, even if they had little or nothing to play. He wanted to know if the soloist, or principal player ran into a problem that the assistant was there and ready and able to go.

    Nowicke: That seems very sensible.

    Smith: But no time off, and no sabbaticals, and no leaves. If you requested six months off, you were gone. The concept didn't even exist in the business. Of course when I was in the business, it was just the beginning of the pension funds, and the non-dismissal clauses and that sort of thing. Before I was in the business, why, you could be here today and gone tomorrow. No security and the people that retired just had little or no pension. Actually, Sol Schoenbach, the great first bassoonist back in the late '30's...after Stokowski left, that was the beginning of more security and of pension funds. When Stokowski was around, there was no time for this. Sol was very instrumental in getting the pension fund for the Philadelphia Orchestra established.

    Nowicke: And that was also before the 52 week year.

    Smith: Long before, yes. The 52 week year started happening in the early '60's, I guess.

    Nowicke: So you still had to figure out what to do in the summer.

    Smith: That's right, my first contract with the Orchestra was in 1955 and it was a 32 week season, and the minimum salary then was $145 for 32 weeks, but you could do quite well on that, and as assistant I earned $10 over scale, and then when I became principal it went up quite a bit from that. But still, it was 32 weeks, and then there was the Robin Hood Dell which was kind of mutually optionally for a while, then it became part of the contract in the late '50' s and early '60's, and then they added to that the Saratoga Festival, and all of a sudden you've got year around employment, basically. One of the great joys of being in that orchestra was learning from Ormandy, but also the colleagues I had. Abe Torchinsky made a sound on which you could build a fantastic chord -- you know? [laughs] The pitch was clear and clean, and the sound was beautiful, and you could make a chord with that, and I played a lot of octaves with Abe and a lot of them were pretty good, too. Then our brass trombonist during those years was Robert Harper, he is deceased now. He would never play a double rotor. He always had a single rotor. You know, Bartok had no idea of the monster he was creating with that [sings] glissando. Bartok couldn't have cared less that the bass trombone had to go from low B to F. But the whole industry changed to accommodate that one measure, and now of course it's a more complete instrument.

    Nowicke: Well, if you have an F bass with a rod...

    Smith: Sure, then it's no problem. That's right. But the whole concept of the F attachment... When I joined the Orchestra, my audition and the first year I played on a straight Conn 8H with no valve. I never even owned a valve until about my third year in the orchestra. I went from the Conn to a Bach 42, just a straight 42 (which was a wonderful instrument), then finally, Conn made me up a 88H about my third year in the business. Principal players and very often second players just had straight horns, and the only one in the section with the attachment was the bass.

    Then Howard Cole was our second for years, and then my treasured friends and colleagues Keith Brown and Dee Stewart. Keith Brown came first, he was assistant, then when I would be playing the valves, he would play principal. Great player. Then he went on to the Metropolitan Opera as principal, then he went into conducting at Temple University, then he came here to Indiana, of course. When Keith left, Dee Stewart came, and what a great player. He was assistant for a time, but then he played second for years, then when I left he played all the valves. He gave this incredible recital last night which I wish I could have heard. I was rehearsing the Camerata. Were you there by chance?

    Nowicke: No, I had a rehearsal.

    Smith: There is so much going on here, he was saying yesterday, that about two-thirds of his students were scheduled out of being able to hear his recital. As you know, he played the Don Quixote of Strauss complete with piano, and bass trombone, and tenor trombone, and alto trombone, and bass trumpet, and euphonium.

    Nowicke: And wind machine!

    Smith: I wish I had heard it, I'm sure it was something. He is a great player and he's a great teacher. It's wonderful -- as was Keith, and Keith did all this wonderful transcribing.

    It's funny, now I'm devoting myself entirely to conducting and I keep a trombone and a euphonium kind of sitting on the couch in the basement in case I should pick them up and play them. The one that I am more likely to pick up first is the euphonium [laughs] because it is easier to get something going somehow for me. It was always more natural. I remember realizing one day about my third year in the Philadelphia Orchestra (and 98% of the job was trombone) but I thought to myself one day, "Finally I think I am playing the trombone as well as I can play the euphonium." It's the most natural -- I guess whatever you do first is the most natural.

    Nowicke: The Conn -- did you do any design changes on that instrument? Somebody told me that you had designed a new receiver for the Constellation, and a kicker?

    Smith: I wasn't involved in that part of it. I was involved with some of the lengths in the valve slides for tuning -- for the best possible compromise. I was very involved in the mechanism, the thumb mechanism with which you manipulate the whole tuning slide. So basically we engineered the horn, a lot of horns are built so that there aren't any, or many notes that are flat, but there are some that are sharp inherently, when you have a lot of valves in combination. In those cases you could adjust downward with this tuning mechanism, so I was very involved in that. Then I wrote a little four page flier in which I showed the fingerings for the notes in the pedal range, and gave some examples. When you bought the instrument you got a copy of my little flier. So, I was involved in that, and I was also involved in the shape, not just the length but the shape of the valve ports. We did some experimenting and found what seemed to work best.

    I always played the 24I (which is bell front) because I was either in front of a band playing a solo, and I wanted the sound to go out, or in the back of an orchestra, where I wanted the sound to go forward. But I would be the first to admit with the bell up it's a more even, more wonderful instrument, but every situation in which I ever found myself playing, I wanted a bell front because I wanted the sound to go forward rather than up into the curtains. So that was a compromise, but with the bell up the instrument was better in tune, it was more even, and more responsive. Interesting.

    Nowicke: Bob Rusk told me about hearing you playing the Hovhannes.

    Smith: The Symphony No. 29. I commissioned that. I gave Alan Hovhannes $2000 and asked him for a twelve or fourteen minute piece for orchestra and euphonium. He came up with a four movement piece, about 25 minutes. I think it's a gorgeous piece. It's just a magnificent piece. There's still a tape on my shelf where we did a national broadcast with the Minnesota Orchestra, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski was conducting. It was the time at which I was associate conductor of the orchestra, and Hovhannes was there. It was so interesting. Hovhannes likes to write a lot of his music in half notes and whole notes and he wrote incredibly slow metronome markings, half note equals 38, half note equals 42, or 46. I said, "I can't sustain these phrases."

    When he heard them -- he said, "Play for me," after just a minute or two he said, "They are all wrong." He said, "Take your metronome marks, don't take mine." [laughs]

    In a room filled with silence and just the music in your head, it's one thing, but actually when the music comes alive and someone has to play it... Of course, very often if it's too slow to play, then it's also too slow to comprehend on the basis of the audience, of hearing a phrase. So all of the metronome marks are slow. I don't know whether he actually changed them or not. I don't think he did, he just said, "Go faster."

    Then a couple of years later Conn Corporation recommissioned the piece for band. I premiered that at Interlochen. I like it better for an orchestra. He wrote it with the basis of lush strings and euphonium. Other pieces I've commissioned, actually, John Davison is a good friend of mine (I haven't seen him for years) he wrote the Trombone Sonata and the Trombone Concerto. The Sonata I had played with him at the keyboard a number of times around Philadelphia and I said, "This should be published." One day we both had free, I said, "Come on over to the house," he came over to the house and we ran a tape and he sat down at my piano and I played. I said, "Let's make a tape," and the first person he sent it to was Shawnee Press (Delaware Water Gap, Pennsylvania) and they published it. It's become one of the most often-performed pieces for both trombone and euphonium in the whole literature. In fact, there were a number of years there when Davison and Hindemith were the most frequently performed pieces. So I had a hand, I think, in the fame of that piece. Beyond that, I commissioned him to write a rhapsody for euphonium and piano which hasn't had a lot of play, but I wish it had.

    Then I commissioned Donald White to write the Lyric Suite. We did the premier of that -- I organized a euphonium festival when I was a professor here at I.U. Don White came over, and Charles Webb was my pianist. This is a wonderful piece, which was subsequently published by G. Schirmer, and then Don White later made a band transcription. So, it's gotten a lot of play and it's one of the staples of the literature. It's a wonderful piece. A little personal note on the Lyric Suite is that the opening notes, B natural, C, and Eb? I have to tell this on myself, before the performance there in the Recital Hall, he said to me, "Do you notice anything interesting or unusual about the opening theme?" I said, "No, B natural, C -- a couple of my favorite notes."

    We have known each other for years, and he looked at me and said, "You dope, it's your initials in German! H, C, S." [laughs] Which is the main theme of the first movement of that piece. [laughs] So I felt kind of stupid. I still correspond with Don White. He is in a retirement home in Colorado Springs. What a great man, and he has made a terrific contribution.

    The other piece, the fourth piece that I commissioned, was a Serenade for Euphonium and Orchestra by Charles Forsberg, who is a faculty composer at St. Olaf College in Northfield. It is four short movements, the whole piece is about fourteen minutes, and it's wonderful. I've conducted it here and there with a couple of my students, in fact, a student that I had here at I.U., Jay Hildebrandt, has for years been the professor at the University of Delaware, and I was guest conductor of the Delaware Symphony a couple of years ago, and he's the bass trombonist. He played this euphonium piece with the Delaware Symphony. I would like it to get a lot more play, it's a fantastic piece, it goes together easily, and it's a very meaningful piece.

    Of course, the problem is that it's hard for euphonium players to find an orchestra to play with, unless it's the trombonist in the orchestra who likes to play euphonium. So, those are the four pieces that I have directly commissioned, and I am proud of all of them. I wish that they'd all get more play.

    Nowicke: If you were a tuba player, I could look you up in the Tuba Source Book, and I'd find everything that had been commissioned by you. Since they didn't put euphoniums in the Tuba Source Book, I don't know. How about pieces dedicated to you?

    Smith: Oh, gosh, well there are a number of orchestral pieces dedicated to me as a conductor, but that's kind of another subject. I guess probably those four pieces were commissioned by me, and also dedicated to me. [laughs]

    Nowicke: Somebody else suggested to me, a trombone player, that perhaps your Morceau Symphonique was the first time anybody had recorded a trombone solo with orchestra.

    Smith: That may well be. It was certainly early-on. That was a transcription by Lyman Starr who had been the trombone man at the University of Illinois, and was the librarian for years at Interlochen. Actually, the old Coronet recordings that I made with Bob Buxbaum in Columbus, Ohio. He, with his old Coronet label, was the first person to come out with all the winds playing solo with piano. I believe that those solo recordings, I made two volumes of trombone and one of euphonium, and somewhere along the line there on one those, I did the Haydn trumpet concerto on bass trumpet. [laughs] It works fine, once you get past the shock of the first note. You hear the introduction, then you come in on an Eb, but it's the wrong octave! It works just fine as a bass trumpet piece.

    Those were among the early recordings. I'm told that those two trombone recordings and one euphonium were among the first solo and piano recordings. A lot of the present day trombonists and euphonium players tell me that they grew up listening to those recordings. I'm kind of proud of it.

    Nowicke: Yes they did, and you can also look at it and say that a lot of it is the same literature, too.

    Smith: That's right, and a lot of literature has come since then, thank goodness. I played the Jacob Concerto, and I played the Davison Sonata, and I played lots of transcriptions, and made a solo out of the "Bydlo" from "Pictures."

    Nowicke: That's fun.

    Smith: Well, why not? It's originally piano music anyway. [laughs] The Johann Friedrich Fasch cello or bassoon concerto that I recorded, and then some Italian songs, Nina, and Mendelssohn's "If With all your Heart You Truly Love Me," from Elijah, and some of these things. One of the points I like to make to lower brass students and players is: Transcribe. Transcribe from voice, from cello, from bassoon, from anything you can, because if we only study the music that was written directly for us, then our musical perspective is very, very, limited. The same is true of percussion, in particular. My friend Alan Abel and Charlie Owen in the Philadelphia Orchestra were really the pioneers in percussion ensemble, they just made the point, if you only study the parts written for percussion, you are very limited as a musician. So, play Bach, play unaccompanied Bach on euphonium and trombone. Learn about Bach, learn about how to phrase in Baroque ornamentation and all this sort of thing. It's part of your musical background and training.

    Nowicke: You mentioned one of your students earlier, anybody in particular you'd like to mention that studied with you here?

    Smith: Well, gosh, I had great crew. I mentioned Jay Hildebrandt. Who were my students? Mary Ann Craig who is now the president-elect -- she'll be president in 2002] of the I.T.E.A., the former T.U.B.A. organization. She's the president, and now she's becoming a very fine conductor, she's at Montclair State University. She got her master's degree with me here, and she was the first person I believe in the history of I.U. to get a performer's certificate on euphonium. That was kind of unheard of and some of the people judging that competition didn't even know what a euphonium was. So, it was really something that she did that.

    Who are my other students? I remember all sorts of neat guys but they are the ones that come to mind. Ric Fecteau was here, he was the principal in the North Carolina Symphony for a number of years. Arlen Eichman, I've lost track of him. There was a whole crew. As soon as we've finished this interview I'll think of eight other names. [laughs]

    Nowicke: Of course. Bob Rusk told me that you coached his brass quintet. He said, "I wasn't really good that year," that he was overshadowed by the Don Harrys and the Jerry Lackeys.

    Smith: We had Don Harry, and Lon Gormley studied some euphonium with me. Oh gosh, who else, and I did coach some quintets. I had a trumpet player in one of the quintets who was Marshelle Coffman who went off and I don't know if she still is, but she was principal trumpet in the Stockholm Philharmonic.

    Nowicke: She's living in Chicago now, I don't know what she's doing.

    Smith: Is she? And Floyd Cooley was here. Oh, who else? The tuba department here was a who's who of people who have gone on to do extremely well.

    Nowicke: Bob said that your quintet coaching was very meaningful to him.

    Smith: I love to play quintet, and of course all musicians should play chamber music.

    Nowicke: You never quite know who is going to influence you.

    Smith: That's right. You don't know at the time, and you only find out years later.

    Nowicke: Tabuteau.

    Smith: He never knew.

    Nowicke: He was the most important influence on Arnold Jacobs, too.

    Or some voice teacher you had, or Bill Adam -- everybody said they took Bill Adam's brass class they really got a lot out of it. Don Harry considers him one of his teachers.

    Smith: Sure, that's right. You never know who is going to respond to what it is you are doing at any given moment.

    Nowicke: You are doing a master class today?

    Smith: Yes, from 2:30 until 4:00. If somebody wants to play for me I'd be happy to hear.

    Nowicke: I hope they play something different, every time I go to one of these they play Tuba Mirum.

    Smith: I have some thoughts on auditions, too, which I'll share with them. Of course back when I got in the business, there were no committees, there were no screens, there weren't even any lists. You were expected to know the literature. You had no idea what you were going to play when you got in there. There was just Ormandy and me on the stage. There were 59 trombones that day, and 22 violas. He chose one trombone and one viola from that number of players, and he gave every audition just one-on-one, standing beside you on the stage. It's a different ball game now. Now you have to figure out how to get to the finals, you have to get their attention. You have to do something better than anybody else.

    Nowicke: And you don't necessarily know what that is.

    Smith: That's right.

    Nowicke: As the case in Boston and the tuba chair.

    Smith: It's tough.

    Nowicke: Abe told me that when he auditioned for N.B.C. he just sat there and played excerpts, all by memory.

    Smith: When Jim Pellerite came and played the flute audition for Ormandy, (he replaced Kincaid for a year, and then he came back to I.U. He was happier teaching than playing) he just went on the stage and said, "Good morning Mr. Ormandy," and took the music stand and set it aside, and said, "What would you like to hear?" That isn't what won the audition, the fact that he played better than anybody else won him the audition, but having it all memorized was certainly probably an important part of the process of his preparation.

    Nowicke: I don't know how much psychological manipulation you can do when you're behind a screen, can you?

    Smith: Not much. But you can lead off. Very often you are permitted to play something of your choice, and you can lead off either with an excerpt or a solo that's absolutely your strongest suit. That's about the best advice you can get. [laughs]

    I think I'd better turn into a pumpkin. We have a luncheon date in just a few minutes.

    Nowicke: Thank you very much.

    Smith: Yes, it was a pleasure.

    [End of interview]

    Photo of Dave and Henry Charles Smith, 2012


    This article appears with permission of the ITEA. It it one of over 40 such interviews with famous tuba and euphonium players, which are available to all ITEA members.
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