20 Questions with Rebecca Cherian

Rebecca Cherian was awarded the position of co-principal trombone of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra by Lorin Maazel in 1989, and has been a trombone instructor at Carnegie Mellon University since 1993. Cherian was a founding member of the International Women’s Brass Conference in 1994 and served as the IWBC Newsletter Editor for five years. A California native, Cherian began her professional career at the age of 16 as trombonist with the San Jose Symphony under the direction of George Cleve. At the age of 17, she appeared as a soloist with the San Francisco Symphony as a result of winning First Prize in their Young Musicians’ Awards.

Cherian earned her Bachelor of Music Degree from the California Institute of the Arts, and her Master of Music Degree from the Yale School of Music. While in school she was awarded First Place in the Atwater Kent Brass Competition and Outstanding Chamber Music Performer at Yale. She studied with Miles Anderson, Robert Szabo, and John Swallow.

Before becoming a member of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Cherian held positions of principal trombone with the Springfield Symphony in Massachusetts and the Rhode Island Philharmonic. She was trombone instructor at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, the Hartt School of Music, and Wesleyan University. As a freelance artist, she toured with the Israel Philharmonic under the direction of Leonard Bernstein, and performed with the Boston Opera, New York City Ballet, Hartford, New Haven and Vermont Symphonies, and Goodspeed Opera House. In September 1993, Cherian enjoyed the honor of performing at the White House in Washington, D.C. as part of a 15-woman ensemble of brass and percussion players for the opening reception of the Annual International Women’s Forum. The group performed the world premiere of Joan Tower’s fanfare, Celebration, which was dedicated to Hillary Clinton. Cherian appears regularly as a soloist and master class Clinician at the IWBC.

Cherian released her second solo CD, L’Invitation au Voyage, in 2015. Both her first CD, Water Awakening, and L’Invitation au Voyage are available through cdbaby.com or amazon.com. She can also be heard on “From the Back Row,” a recording on Albany Records of the Low Brass Section of the Pittsburgh Symphony, and numerous recordings of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Lorin Maazel, Mariss Jansons, and Manfred Honeck.

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

 I started trombone as my first instrument when I was 10 years old.

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

A perfect day: 3 gourmet meals prepared by someone other than myself, shared with my family and friends, no dishes to wash, no laundry, a walk or bike ride in a gorgeous place like Buttermilk Falls, Ithaca, a great book, tea and scones, time with my animals.

3. Most memorable performance?

Mahler 7 with PSO on my first European Tour in 1989 in Warsaw, Poland.

4. Significant teachers/mentors in your life?

My first teacher, Robert Szabo, and John Swallow at Yale were both essential to my becoming a professional.

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

Kayaking.

6. Favorite symphony?

I love Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony despite the fact it has no trombones.  

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

A few weeks ago reading a very poignant book.

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

I would have a tennis court and swimming pool in my backyard.

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

I draw and paint.

10. Opera or ballet?

Opera.

11. First job?

San Jose Symphony when I was 16 years old.

12. Favorite sports team?

Steelers.

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

Hilary Mantel.

14. Coffee or tea?

I love coffee but drink tea for the most part now.

15. Favorite book?

It’s very difficult to narrow it down to one book. Tail of Crumbs by Kim Sunee, The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy.

16. Favorite movie?

My Life as a Dog.

17. Siblings?

Yes.

18. Favorite piece to play?

Mahler 2.

19. Least favorite piece to play?

Brahms 2.

20. Dogs or cats?

Cats and dogs, in that order.

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