Severinsen Says Practice Makes Perfect, MHS Students Listen

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

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  1. Posted March 1, 2011 at 5:43 am | Permalink

    I just found this website and this great story after an evening on YouTube of nostalgia of days gone by. Seeing this reminds me of the special guy Doc is…teaching others, inspiring and entertaining us even now. He inspired me in my music and yes, like Tommy, I hate scales!!! Thanks for sharing with kids…you are the best Doc. Now I will try to type in these two words under here so this can get posted……do I have bad eyes or are these things crooked???

  2. Posted February 15, 2011 at 4:12 am | Permalink

    I am so glad that I ran across this web site and these reviews. I wanted to comment on the previous one dated January 25, 2011 regarding Doc’s visit to a local high school. I also met him at my local high school in Spencer, Iowa in 1965. I was the first chair trumpet, and having watched “The Tonight Show” for years, this was a big event for me. Doc had another concert date the next day in Detroit, and he needed to be driven 5 hours to the Minneapolis Airport to catch his flight. My Dad and I volunteered to do so. Of course, I looked forward to 5 hours of discussion about the trumpet. As we left town Doc said he was hungry, so we stopped at a local truck stop for a burger. He commented on how great it was, and my Dad asked if he liked good beef. Doc raised beef at the time. For the next five hours my Dad and Doc talked about beef. So much for the trumpet. However, two weeks later I went to a convention of state bandleaders. After his talk he said, “Excuse me gentlemen, but I see a good friend back there.” It was me! We talked trumpet for awhile. Doc came back the next year, and the first thing he asked was about my Dad. I lost track of him over the years, and I am glad I found him and his music once again. Thanks, Mike Swanson

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