Category Archives: Music

Episode 022 – Conductor Grant Cooper: Mathematics/ Electrician/ Trumpet – Quite a Business Card!

Grant Cooper, former Music Director of the West Virginia Symphony, like many entrepreneurs, is a man without a plan, but with a nimble attitude.  Hear how a young trumpet virtuoso from New Zealand reached for the stars and ended up on the podium of major orchestras, composing new works, editing and producing in the recording studio, and creating a career in the United States that has spanned over 4 decades.



My Music

Episode 020 – Who the Heck is that Kid in the Clarinet Section?

Charleston, West Virginia Symphony concert-goers of the 1950’s may have been surprised to see a 13 year old boy playing bass clarinet at concerts. Over the next four years, young Larry Combs would gradually graduate to the first chair in the section, at the ripe old age of 17. Larry would go on to Interlochen, the Eastman School, where he paired with world famous jazz musicians, on to the military, and on to the symphony orchestra positions and career that catapulted his name to the heights of the clarinet world. Larry literally built his name and reputation into a brand, and was one of the titans of the clarinet world for 3 decades, holding the principal clarinet position of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1978 until his retirement in 2008.

Episode 018 – Stanley Hasty of the Eastman School of Music – One of the Clarinet Jedi Masters

Sometimes a gifted individual steps out of the limelight and turns his energies to teaching, and discovering a methodology that leads others to greatness.   Joe Torre of the New York Yankees is a prime example in sports.  Stanley Hasty was such a clarinetist and teacher.  For 2 decades, he worked his way around the country in some of the most illustrious principal clarinet positions.  Then, at the request of Howard Hanson, he was brought to the Eastman School of Music for a teaching career that lasted 4 more decades.  Join me in an interview with clarinet Professor Elizabeth Gunlogson from the University of New Hampshire, who has written the definitive work on Stanley Hasty’s career, and knew this remarkably influential man in a way his students almost couldn’t.



Lesson with Hasty

Episode 016 – The Inv-Asian of the American Symphony Orchestra

In 1977, the Chicago Symphony hired its first Asian musician, John Bruce Yeh, in the clarinet section.  Twenty-one years later, Robert Chen took over the concertmaster position, arguably the most notable position in a symphony orchestra.  Since that time, the CSO, along with orchestras across the U.S., has seen an explosion of numbers of Asian audition winners, both American and foreign born.  Hear the story of these two high-profile American symphony  musicians, how both of their parents made their way to Los Angeles, and how the entire demographic

of the modern American symphony orchestra is changing.



Episode 014 – Just Who are the Heroes in a Symphony Orchestra?

If you attended concerts by the Cleveland Orchestra in the early 1950’s, or concerts by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra from the mid-1950’s to the early 2000’s, you undoubtedly were listening to Harry Taub playing in the violin section.  In Buffalo, you would have frequently heard him playing the violin solos from the concertmaster’s chair, since he served as the Associate Concertmaster for five decades.  It’s a long and distinguished career, certainly, but there is so much more to the story, and to the man.  Listen to his life story, as told by his wife of 50 years, Suzanne, and two of his children, Samuel and Sharon.

Episode 012 – No Average Joe – Questions from a Carolina Listener

For the last episode of season 1 of Stages to Success, I respond to questions posed by a faithful listener since episode 1, Joe from the Carolinas.   Joe wants to go deeper into the mind and motivations of the performer, on the concert stage and in the commercial real estate sales office.  Drawing on some of the interview material from season 1, as well as some off air discussions, I reflect on Joe’s questions.    Join us for Season 2 of the podcast, scheduled for October.

Episode 010 – On Mozart and Baseball

Know a little about baseball, and want to learn about Mozart, or vice versa?  Jump into the parallel universes of Jim Moffitt,  36-year clarinetist of the Hawaii Symphony and for even longer, a walking encyclopedia of baseball.  Join John and Jim as they flit back and forth from two of Jim’s passionate provinces, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and the St. Louis Cardinals.

Episode 008 – Hey Comrade, No Frisbee in Red Square – The Career Changing Moments for Violinist Frank Almond

Violinist Frank Almond’s career began in one of the first U.S. Suzuki studios, in San Diego California. From quitting the violin in his teens, to acceptance into the Juilliard School in only a few short years, his career took him to Moscow, a violin competition memorialized in an ’80’s documentary, to concertmaster positions in New York City Ballet, Texas, London, Holland, and Milwaukee-where his career took maybe the strangest turn of all, all due to an email from out of the blue. Listen to this 4th of July episode that will tie together the worlds of America, Soviet Moscow, and the Italian Baroque.


Episode 006 – From the Barn to the Concert Stage

Episode 6 of “Stages to Success” is an interview with Susan Slaughter, retired principal trumpet of the St. Louis Symphony and Gail Williams, retired Associate Principal Horn of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.  Through the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s, Gail and Susan reigned imperiously in the brass sections of their respective orchestras.  Susan recorded extensively as principal trumpet in St. Louis, and Gail’s Chicago Symphony brass section was generally regarded as the finest in the world.   Gail  and Susan are pioneers among women in brass sections, and title chairs.  Listen to their tales of skyrocketing to the pinnacle of their careers, which each started in rural America.

Episode 004 – The Six Million Dollar Musicians, Doug Prosser and Chris Wu

Episode 4 of “Stages to Success” is an interview with Doug Prosser, principal trumpet of the Rochester Philharmonic and Chris Wu, from the first violin section of the Pittsburgh Symphony.  Doug and Chris both stared down the barrel of a career-ending injury very early in their promising careers.   Their returns to the symphony orchestra are remarkable and inspiring.   Hear how Doug had to rebuild from the very beginnings of his studies, and how Chris cheated death and came back to his career that has taken him to concerts around the world.