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20 questions on the 20th with Michael Sachs

This month we feature Michael Sachs, Principal Trumpet of the Cleveland Orchestra, esteemed faculty of both the Cleveland Institute of Music & Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music, and music director of Strings Music Festival in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, since 2015. Mr. Sachs is the author of several pedagogical trumpet books, and has also been extensively involved in the acoustic design and play testing for the creation of the new Bach 190 C trumpet and 25M lead pipe, as well as the Artisan line of Bach Stradivarius trumpets.


1. What was your first instrument and how old were you when you started?


I first started on a King cornet when I was 6 and a half years old.

2. Could you describe what would be your perfect day?

Tough question depends what time of the year you are talking about. Maybe being someplace warm in southern California or Maui close to a beach. I would be get up not too early, have a nice breakfast overlooking the ocean.…..put in a nice hour of warm up (likely Stamp, Clarke, Bai Lin and Arban)….head out and play a round of golf…..enjoy a nice lunch……go to the beach and chill for a bit before enjoying a really nice dinner. End the day hanging and laughing with friends.


3. Most memorable performance?

Probably performing Mahler- Symphony No. 8 in Carnegie Hall with Robert Shaw conducting in 1995……also playing Mahler- Symphony No. 5 at the Salzburg festival, Mahler Symphonies No. 1 and 3 at Royal Albert Hall in London, and Bruckner- Symphonies No. 4, 5, and 8 at St. Florian Abbey outside of Linz all a close second.


4. Significant teachers/mentors in your life?

Ziggy Elman (my first teacher), Tony Plog, James Stamp, and Mark Gould who were my primary teachers, along with Louis Ranger, Chris Gekker, William Vacchiano, Alan Dean, Bud Herseth, Vince Cichowicz, and Arnold Jacobs, all of whom I took lessons from at various junctures. Other mentors and role models include- Tom Stevens, Armando Ghitalla, Roger Voisin, Phil Smith, David Zauder, John Mack (Principal Oboe here in Cleveland when I started), and Tom Morris (Executive Director in Cleveland when I started).


5. Something you’ve been meaning to try, but just haven’t gotten around to it?

Surfing. I grew up in Santa Monica and spent a ton of time at the beach, but never surfed, always body-surfed and boogie-boarded.


6. Favorite symphony?


The last Mahler Symphony that I’ve played (right now that’s No. 5).


7. When was the last time you cried, and why?


Watching my daughter playing (and winning) her last tennis match her senior year of high school earlier this year.


8. If money was no object, what would you buy?


Many more historic trumpets- I own a few but if money was no object I’d scour every source I could find and see where some wonderful old instruments were hiding, and get them. I’m not really a car guy but a pristine ’62 Austin-Healy and/or ’66 Shelby Mustang would probably be in the mix somewhere.


9. One thing most people don’t know about you?


As a little boy, I wouldn’t go to sleep unless I had my satin blanket nearby.I hate pickles, can’t have them even near my food.


10. Opera or ballet?


Opera. I love the action and the drama along with the silly stories.


11. First job?


Fourth/Utility Trumpet with the Houston Symphony.


12. Favorite sports team?


Los Angeles Dodgers. My mom and dad grew up huge Dodgers fans in Brooklyn and moved to LA two years after the Dodgers did. Went to many games growing up including the 1978 World Series with my mom.


13. If you could invite one person to dinner tonight, who would it be?


Living- Barak Obama (maybe Sandy Koufax!).Dead- Thomas Jefferson, Anton Weidinger, Gottfried Reiche.


14. Coffee or Tea?


Probably Tea. I don’t drink much coffee at all unless I’m at a nice Italian restaurant and then I’ll sometimes have an espresso, but only if I don’t have to perform later!


15. Favorite book?


Doris Kearns Goodwin- Team of Rivals, David McCullough- John Adams.


16. Favorite movie?


Godfather I and II, with Young Frankenstein, Legends of the Fall, Full Metal Jacket, earlier James Bond movies, Casablanca, Highlander, and Inherit the Wind all close seconds. Have to also toss in Animal House, Billy Jack, Up in Smoke, The Last Dragon, Blood in Blood Out, and The Warriors for their absurdity factor.


17. Siblings?


One- I have a sister who is a year older than me and is a writer living in San Francisco.


18. Favorite piece to play?


Any Mahler Symphony.


19. Least favorite piece to play?


Tchaikovsky- Capriccio Italien, Lizst- Faust Symphony, Bizet- Farandole from L’Arlesienne Suite…..Just not my favorite pieces of music to hear.


20. Dogs or cats?


Dogs- I grew up with big German shepherds!

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