Festival Of New Trumpet Music To Honor Wilmer Wise January 13th

Wilmer Wise

On Wednesday, January 13th at 7:30 p.m., The Festival of New Trumpet Music (FONT Music) will honor esteemed trumpet player Wilmer Wise with a special concert and reception at Abrons Arts Center in New York. This festive presentation, which will feature performances by FONT Music co-founder Dave Douglas, Wise himself and a number of surprise special guests, will serve as both a fundraiser for the organization and the opening night of Forward Flight, its third and final event of the 2009-10 concert season. Forward Flight, which celebrates the eclecticism of the trumpet in contemporary music with a variety of concerts and free workshops on both of Abrons Arts Center stages, will continue through Saturday, January 16th.

Tickets for the opening night benefit concert are $35, which also includes a membership in FONT Music and admission to the pre-concert reception, and can be purchased here. Tickets for the other three nights are $15 ($12 for students with ID and FONT Music members) per night and can be purchased at (212) 352-3101 or online. A festival pass is also available for $40 ($30 students with ID and FONT members). Passes can be purchased here. The Abrons Arts Center is located at 466 Grand Street (at the corner of Pitt Street) on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Venue information is available at (212) 598-0400 and http://www.abronsartscenter.org

FONT Music is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that sustains trumpeters and new trumpet music by commissioning composers, producing concerts, presenting workshops and panels, and supporting music programs in New York City’s public schools. Founded in 2003 by trumpeters for trumpeters, the organization and its diverse programs are currently overseen by Douglas and a volunteer board featuring some of contemporary trumpet music’s most celebrated practitioners.

It has presented over 200 concerts by emerging artists and creative pioneers alike at venues all over New York, commissioned new works from more than a dozen young trumpet players and paid tribute to a variety to the instrument’s legendary performers. “By definition,” adds the New York Times‘ Nate Chinen, “the Festival of New Trumpet Music prizes a spirit of innovation; that ‘new’ in the title is no accident.” Learn more about FONT Music at http://fontmusic.org

About Wilmer Wise:

More than two decades before Wynton Marsalis was famously straddling the worlds of jazz and classical music in the 1980’s, trumpeter Wilmer Wise was blazing a trail for musicians with the versatility to perform in settings ranging from jazz to Broadway to the highest levels of the classical music establishment. As an African-American musician of advanced abilities and an impressive classical pedigree coming onto the scene in the years leading up to the height of the Civil Rights Movement, Wise carved a unique path as the only black trumpet player in the ensembles he performed with in the early days of his career.

Fifty years and a wealth of experience later, his eclectic and groundbreaking body of work includes faculty positions at Morgan State University and Johns Hopkins University’s Peabody Conservatory and countless collaborations with many of the most prominent musicians, composers, conductors and ensembles of the 20th Century. Working with everyone from Pablo Casals to Placido Domingo, Philip Glass to Steven Sondheim, Rudolph Serkin to Leonard Bernstein, the Marlboro Festival Orchestra to the New York Philharmonic, Quincy Jones to Weather Report and many others in between, Wise has truly been there and done that.

Born in Philadelphia on December 21st, 1936, Wise began playing the trumpet when he was eight years old. His first teacher was Anthony DelCampo, a general music teacher at the local high school who also taught Wise’s fellow Philadelphians, Eddie Fisher and Mario Lanza. DelCampo’s class featured students on various instruments, giving Wise early experience playing with other musicians, transposing music into various keys and reading in different clefs thanks to the teacher’s insistence that the students learn solfeggio.

Growing up, his main musical influences at home were his mother’s player piano, which his sister also practiced on, and the radio shows favored by his father, including live broadcasts of the New York Philharmonic. He was also a fan of cornetist James F. Burke, a veteran of Dr. Edwin Franko Goldman’s famous band and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, thanks to Burke’s performances as a soloist with the The Cities Service Band of America, which had its own weekly radio show from 1948-1954. Little did he know at the time that he would fulfill his childhood dreams by performing with both Burke (as a member of the Trenton Symphony) and the New York Philharmonic in the coming years.

Wise went on to study for six years with the legendary Sigmund Hering, a forty-year veteran of the Philadelphia Orchestra and widely considered the most influential trumpet teacher of his day, as well as Hering student Gil Johnson, Sam Krauss and Nat Prager, before turning professional in 1960. He began his career as the only black musician in the orchestras for the Broadway show previews in Philadelphia, including Showgirl with Carol Channing, and also performed as a guest soloist with groups such as Quincy Jones’ band as they passed through town. In the early 60’s, he also joined the trumpet section of Johnny Lynch’s Club Harlem Band of Atlantic City, which already included Johnny Coles and Lamar Wright.

In 1965, Wise began a five-year stint as the Baltimore Symphony’s Assistant Principal Trumpet. In a city that was slow to accept racial integration, the only place he could live was the Mount Royal Hotel, a well-known haven for African-American entertainers such as Flip Wilson and Richard Pryor, who Wise already knew from his days in Philadelphia. That same year, he also joined the Symphony of the New World, a fully integrated orchestra that featured both black and white performers, as well as men and women. The group, which also featured Joe Wilder on first cornet, was sponsored in part by the Ford Foundation and played its own concert at Carnegie Hall. 1965 was also the year he toured Europe as first trumpet in the Marlboro Festival Orchestra, conducted by Rudolf Serkin, and played on the ensemble’s famous recordings with cellist Pablo Casals.

One of the first jobs he got upon relocating to New York in 1970 was playing in the American Symphony conducted by Leopold Stokowski. A year later, he played in his first show on Broadway, Lovely Ladies and Kind Gentlemen, an unmemorable flop that actually led to a more lucrative job at Madison Square Garden. Wise would go on to become a first-call trumpeter on Broadway, playing lead trumpet in more than 30 shows, including five of Steven Sondheim’s biggest hits and their original cast recordings. He also played lead trumpet on the only recording of West Side Story conducted by Leonard Bernstein, as well as on many of Philip Glass’ movie soundtracks. His most long-lasting job was as the Brooklyn Philharmonic’s principal trumpet, a position he held for more than three decades until his retirement in 2003.

“At nearly 73, he is still playing at the top of his game,” declares cornetist/composer and fellow Festival of New Trumpet Music board member, Taylor Ho Bynum. “Wilmer shows that all these streams of contemporary music are deeply intertwined; that American music is not about the differences between genres, but the conversations and exchanges amongst them. It’s a great honor to work with him on the FONT Music board, and to hear him and fellow trumpet legend Lew Soloff perform Ornette Coleman’s ‘The Sacred Mind of Johnny Dolphin’, and talk about his long and prestigious career as part of the free FONT Music Workshop Series, is going to be amazing. I’m so glad we’ll be able to honor him, hear him play and give him the recognition he deserves at this year’s Forward Flight event. ”

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