20 on 20 for October features Jeffrey Dee! Mr. Dee is Principal Bass Trombone of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Artist Lecturer of Bass Trombone at Carnegie Mellon University, and Adjunct Professor of Bass Trombone at Duquesne University.
1. What was your first instrument and how old were you when you started?
I grew up in Plano, TX and started the trombone in 6th grade (I was 12 yrs old). My parents wanted me to learn the discipline of an instrument, even if only for one year. I wanted to play flute, as that was small enough to fit in a backpack. My band director, Ken Valliant, said I had “trombone lips” and set me on the course to where I am now! The first trombone I owned was a Blessing 88.
2. Describe what would be your perfect day?
Relaxing on the beach or on a boat, with no sound but the water…this would be my perfect day.
3. Most memorable performance?
I cannot choose only one “most” memorable performance, but they all have occurred during my time with the Pittsburgh Symphony. My colleagues continue to amaze me, and the PSO + Honeck have had too many transcendent concerts to single out a particular one.
4. Significant teachers/mentors in your life?
Ken Valliant got me started on trombone and taught me the value of being an ensemble member. Bob Burnham helped me fall in love with the instrument and show me its many capabilities. John Kitzman enforced a professional standard that propelled me towards a professional career. Don Harwood “tightened the bolts” and, though example, taught me the importance of work/family balance. Joe Alessi, like John Kitzman, was direct and uncompromising with his standard and has imprinted that on my everyday practice. There are other players and teachers that have had profound influence on me (directly and indirectly), and I am grateful beyond words to them all.
5. Something you’ve been meaning to try, but just haven’t gotten around to it?
My colleague, Craig Knox, and I have been talking about taking archery lessons together…someday this will happen!
6. Favorite symphony?
If I was forced to choose only one favorite symphony, it would have to be Mahler’s 9th. His masterful use of harmony invokes a wide palette of emotions, and the finale is simply heartbreaking.
7. Who was the last person that made you cry and why?
The last time I cried was when the veterinarian told me it was time to say goodbye to my dog, Turbo.
8. If money was no object, what would you buy?
A private island off the coast of Cozumel.
9. One thing most people don’t know about you?
Before becoming a musician, I always wanted to be a marine biologist. I have a love/fear relationship with the ocean, and have always been fascinated to learn more.
10. Opera or ballet?
Ballet. Operas have wonderful moments, but don’t hold my attention. Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet ballet contains some of the greatest music written, in my opinion, and Tchaikovsky ballets are a playground for bass trombone!
11. First job?
My first job was a busboy at Steak and Ale. I was 15 years old, and happy to stop mowing yards in the Texas heat. My first professional orchestral job was in Shanghai, China.
12. Favorite sports team?
I don’t follow sports, but do enjoy watching from time-to-time. As a kid, I was a Dallas Cowboys fan. Living in Pittsburgh now, I am starting to appreciate the Penguins, Steelers, and Pirates.
13. If you could invite one person to dinner tonight, who would it be?
Theodore Roosevelt. He was a fascinating human being, and accomplished more in one lifetime than I could in 10.
14. Coffee or Tea?
15. Favorite book?
I return often to Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel. It is therapeutic for my cluttered mind.
16. Favorite movie?
Big Lebowski, Goonies, and Princess Bride are a three-way tie. I don’t rewatch movies often, but I’m always up to see these again!
I have an older sister, Alyson. Growing up, she was very protective of me. There are few people on the planet that I admire as much as her…she is the kindest person I know.
18. Favorite piece to play?
This is impossible to answer. I enjoy performing orchestral music over solo repertoire for the teamwork aspect. The synergy of a refined, professional orchestra is a powerful drug for me. Brahms, Mahler, Prokofiev, Strauss, Shostakovich, Bruckner, John Williams, Sibelius, Schubert, and Tchaikovsky (for example) all provide unique experiences that prohibit me from choosing a favorite.
19. Least favorite piece to play?
Not a huge fan of Liszt’s orchestral works or Leroy Anderson.
20. Dogs or cats?
Dogs! We recently rescued a wonderful little guy named Mitch. He’s a cattle dog/German shepherd mix. Any bad day can be erased by the tippy-taps of a dog excited to see you!