How did the Strauss concerto go? Were you satisfied with the performance?
George (Hanson, the TSO music director) said some very nice things, and the response of the community was very gratifying. I was satisfied with parts of each performance. It was kind of an emotional time anyway, and that added another layer of expectation, from myself, mostly. But in general, I was pleased, and I figure if I can say that, it's pretty good.
Did you know that would be your last solo appearance with the orchestra when you agreed to play it?
No. My initial idea was to take a year's leave of absence in 2006-2007, not move away entirely. I was planning to ask for a leave, because I was feeling kind of weary. That's a hot seat to sit in.
Does playing the horn take a physical toll on you after many years? Or is it just emotional?
Both. Sitting in the principal chair is stressful. It doesn't matter what else is happening in the concert; if you're missing notes, everyone's gonna hear it. So for me, it's probably more emotional than physical, but by the end of May, I'm pretty beat physically as well.
How have you managed to keep the membership in your section so stable all these years?
You think that I did that? (Laughs.) I don't think I had anything to do with that. People make choices about where they want to be, and the people in my horn section just want to be in Tucson. They realize what a great city this is to live in, and they realize what a great orchestra this is.
But is playing in the Tucson Symphony something you can live on?
It's something that I can live on with my position, but I'm one of the highest-paid people in the orchestra. All the principal winds are paid around $22,000 a year. But if you go into the back of the second violin section to the per-service players (who are paid when they're needed, not on an ongoing contract), they're making around $9,000 or $10,000. The majority of us have to have other jobs. I've always taught, too.
What are you going to remember as your best and worst experiences with the orchestra?
One of the best experiences was the horn section going to China when my composition got second place in a competition in June 2000. We were invited to play my piece at the International Horn Symposium, which was held in Beijing that year, and we got to play on the Great Wall! That was pretty spectacular. The worst? I guess when the wind quintet was sent to Amado to play at the county fair, and they had no idea we were coming. We drove down there, ate a hot dog and came back. They didn't know what to do with us.
After all these years with the orchestra, are you basically leaving for love?
There you go! At the end of last season, my partner, Eileen (Jeanette, former TSO orchestra manager), and I sat down and asked, "What do we want to have for our lives?" I said I wanted a year off. She's just enough younger than I am that if she wants to move up in the orchestra management world, she needs to look at other jobs. So she did, and she got this fabulous offer from the Pacific Symphony, a real up-and-coming group. So I guess you could say I'm leaving for love, but I'm at a place in my life where I want to do something different. I'm not going to stop playing the horn, but I do want to look into massage therapy school when I get to Southern California. I'm really ready for a change.