For the first 20 on 20 (of 2020) we caught up with Australian native Donna Parkes, Principal Trombone of the Louisville Orchestra and the Colorado Music Festival!
1. What was your first instrument and how old were you when you started?
I started on a school Yamaha trombone when I was 9 years old. I was very fortunate to have a great band program at my school in Australia.
2. Could you describe what would be your perfect day?
My perfect day starts with a run on the beach in Australia followed by a swim, a great cappuccino, and a day filled with music-making and time spent with family and friends.
3. Most memorable performance?
My most memorable performance was when I had the chance to play Mahler 3 in Japan at the Pacific Music Festival under Michael Tilson Thomas. Members of the Vienna Phil were performing with us and Ian Bousfield had travel issues getting to Japan so instead of playing assistant I got to play Principal. A wonderful and amazing concert in so many ways for me.
4. Who were the most significant teachers/mentors in your life?
I was lucky to have great teachers very early in my education. Simone DeHaan, Danielle Joynt, Ian Perry, Michael Mulcahy, Ron Prussing, and Charlie Versnon all had a huge impact and really put my playing on the trajectory that led to all of my opportunities.
5. Can you think of something you’ve been meaning to try, but just haven’t gotten around to it?
Dance lessons. I would love to take any kind of dance lessons – ballroom, swing, salsa – seeing amazing dancers is so inspiring to me – just need more time in my schedule.
6. Favorite symphony?
This is a tie between Brahms 4 and Mahler 2 – please don’t make me choose!
7. Who was the last person that made you cry and why?
The guy who rear-ended me recently. I had never been involved in an accident and my horn was in the trunk (luckily okay) but we forget how stressful being in an event like that can be.
8. If money was no object, what would you buy?
I would buy plane tickets for my family and friends to travel anywhere and everywhere. I would fly them to visit and to see parts of the world that they have always wanted to see. Travel is the key to such adventure and joy!
9. What is one thing most people don’t know about you?
That I think squirrels are adorable. We don’t have them in Australia so for me they are unique! I even have a squirrel feeder in my back yard…
10. Opera or ballet?
I am always under the stage for both, so have not seen as much of either as I would like to have, but ballet is stunning and the sheer beauty and physical prowess gives it the win for me.
11. First job?
My first full time orchestra job was in Norfolk, VA with the Virginia symphony orchestra – I played there for six seasons and they were some of the best colleagues I have ever worked with. Amazing people who have a culture of real care for each other – what a great first gig it was.
12. Favorite sports team?
The Australian rugby team, the ‘Wallabies’, despite already being out of this year’s world cup.
13. If you could invite one person to dinner tonight, who would it be?
Michelle Obama – to convince her to run for president.
14. Coffee or Tea?
It used to be tea in Australia but am now a solid coffee drinker.
15. Favorite book?
A Fortunate Life – by Facey, or any Bill Bryson book.
16. Favorite movie?
The Castle – perfectly encapsulates Australian humor and makes me laugh out loud every time.
I have one sister, Kelly – who was a trumpet player and now is on faculty teaching music education at Columbia University – we are extremely close and I love having her in the States with me.
18. Favorite piece to play?
Any Mozart mass – when the trombones get to play beautiful vocal lines and phrases.
19. Least favorite piece to play?
Mahler 4 – why leave us out, Mahler?
20. Dogs or cats?
We have neither because we travel too much.