For more than an hour and a half Monday, Carl Hilding “Doc” Severinsen, renowned trumpeter and leader of the NBC Orchestra during The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, spoke to a captivated crowd in a cafeteria of Manchester High School about the trials and tribulations of a life in the music industry.
He also filled the audience – many of whom were not even born the last time Severinsen played before The Tonight Show’s studio audience – in on the story of his life, which included a sojourn in the Army during World War II, his slow and steady rise to success in the recording industry and, for one young fan who was curious, the meaning of the word “druthers” (slang term for someone’s preference).
“Think seriously about what you are doing and what you want to do and do it,” Severinsen said in response to a question about his inspiration.
While another young fan wanted to know the biggest obstacle Severinsen, 83, had to overcome in his professional career.
“My biggest obstacle in my trumpeting career was myself,” Severinsen said. “By being lazy when I should have been practicing. By doing things that were not helpful to being a trumpet player, or anything else.”
He also confirmed that trumpet players make the best kissers (although he may have been operating with a bias).
Afterwards, Severinsen, and The San Miguel Five kicked off the 2011 Manchester High School Professional Concert Series in the Bailey Auditorium.
But for the more than 100 students, parents and teachers who attended Severinsen’s informal, lighthearted question and answer session, it was as instructive and entertaining as any musical performance Severinsen might have been able to muster.
“I think it was inspiring,” said Juan Vivar, a sophomore at Manchester High School who, like Severinsen, plays the trumpet. “It tells me I have to keep following my dreams.”
Having Severinsen kick off the high school’s 2011 professional concert series was something of a dream come true for Band Director Keith Berry as well.
Berry, a graduate of the University of Hartford’s Hartt School, said Severinsen was an inspiration to him as a young musician. So when Berry discovered while browsing the Internet this summer that Severinsen wasn’t retired, and in fact planned to play a concert at Carnegie Hall at the end of January, he got in touch with his management, who got in touch with Severinsen, who agreed to the concert at the high school Monday. It was somewhat more complicated than that, Berry said, and might have involved an impassioned email he wrote to Severinsen.
“He’s mainly here because the guy inspired me as a student,” Berry said. “So when I found out that the very person who inspired me was still performing, I had to try to give that back to my students.”
Prior to Severinsen’s performance, the Manchester High School Jazz Ensemble was scheduled to perform Monday evening. Severinsen and The San Miguel Five will next perform with the New York Pops on Friday at Carnegie Hall, while the next schedule performance of the Manchester High School Professional Concert Series will be the U.S. Navy Band’s Sea Chanters Chorus on March 22.
By David Moran, Manchester Patch