It was announced this past week that Phil Smith is planning to retire from the NY Philharmonic in June 2014, after a 35 year tenure as the principal trumpeter there. I was informed of this news via an article posted on the WQXR FM-Radio Station website.
Being myself a trumpeter from the NY area, I grew up always hearing about the legend of William (Bill) Vacchiano–as the long-time tenure player with the NY Philharmonic; 38 years! I was fortunate to meet, briefly get to know, & even play along side him in his very senior years–in a community concert-band setting, down at Lehman College in the Bronx; what a great gentleman & teacher he was.
I think we often take for granted the great people that come after legends like that. For me, Phil Smith is one of those talents. I definitely went to hear him perform a few times & I fortunately attended a master class that he once gave at the Westchester Conservatory of Music—he always sounded amazing & definitely was also a great teacher, gentleman…& Christian. But to my own detriment, I guess I assumed that he’d always be there. 35 years?–really, has it been that long already? But he even still LOOKS so young! ‘Life’ is just flying bye…& yet HIS time at the NY Philharmonic, like Vacchiano’s, has also proven an illustrious career.
I think my all-time favorite recording of Phil Smith is his reading of Aaron Copland’s ‘Quiet City’ with Leonard Bernstein. Not flashy, just incredibly beautiful subtle tone & phrasing; & I have never heard that piece performed better ANYWHERE—before or since.
I really like the picture above, which I also grabbed from that same WQXR blog—of Phil with Joseph Alessi (trombone)—who is another benchmark staple of the NY Philharmonic Brass Section. But there is significance to the other photo that I also chose to posted here. It was candidly taken in 2002 at the ITG (International Trumpeters’ Guild convention)—of Phil Smith with Bill Vacchiano; student with teacher, successor with legend.
Phil Smith has created a legacy in NY—in his own right. For that we thank him…& wish him all the best as he begins a new chapter as a professor at the University of Georgia’s School of Music.
And we await any promising news of the next possible successor,
who will hopefully prove worthy enough to fill such big shoes.