summertime, summertime dso musicians share their summer adventures

The summer heat is waning and the musicians' parking lot is about to be bustling again. As we head into our 2018-2019 Season, DSO musicians share highlights of their busy summer.

When Johanna Yarbrough won her DSO horn audition and relocated to Detroit, she heard meowing in her walls. "Ralph Skiano (Principal Clarinet) came over and we opened the wall. A litter of kittens had been born in the attic, fallen, and were trapped in there. They were in bad shape and malnourished. I wound up keeping one, May, which is just what I needed at the time, a friend when I was alone in a new city.

In Detroit there are so many feral kittens. It broke my heart and I wanted to do something, so I started getting involved with programs that help. I wanted to take them all in to feed them, but that wouldn't have solved the problem! The programs humanely trap the cats and re-release them back to their communities after spaying/neutering. My cat Bruce (named after Batman, due to his mask-like facial markings) was feral. After I had him neutered he managed to run away before he was fully recovered. I chased him for hours! When I finally caught him, he purred in my hands and was instantly domesticated." The rest is history.

Bruce the cat and Johanna with one of her current fosters.

During the summer, Johanna's basement becomes cat central, where she fosters litters of kittens through the Ferndale Cat Shelter. For 3 weeks, she also plays in Oregon's Britt Fest, under the music directorship of Teddy Abrams (former DSO Assistant Conductor from 2012-2014). The festival was significantly affected this year by toxic air-quality levels due to the region's forest fire smoke. Unfortunately, the festival was cancelled for an entire week and played indoor at a local high school for another.

"I began playing the french horn when I was 11. My brother was in band and was getting a lot of attention. I figured I could get some too, and turns out I was pretty good. Playing horn has never felt like 'work' to me. I can't imagine what else I'd be doing with my life."

As a DSO member since 1985, Randy Hawes has played trombone and bass trombone under the leadership of Günther Herbig, Neeme Jarvi, and Leonard Slatkin. This past summer he traversed the globe teaching, playing, and attending the Ozawa Music Festival in Matsumoto, Japan, but he also left some time for the beach.

“In July, my wife Kim and I went to Aspen to play and teach at the Aspen Music Festival, where I performed Shostakovich No. 7 with an orchestra that’s a combination of professionals and students. I also played a concert with the World Orchestra for Peace at Royal Albert Hall at the Proms in London. I’ve played with them since 1995, when Sir Georg Solti founded the orchestra for a United Nations 50th anniversary concert in Geneva.

Back in Detroit, I got my visa approved and headed to Japan! I took the Shinkansen bullet train to Hamamatsu, where I met with Yoko Yamada, a pianist and colleague of mine from Northwestern University, who was home in Japan visiting family. We performed for a high school and coached the wind ensemble there after visiting the local beach! We also went to Nagoya for Trombone Day at a Dolce Music store. I taught lessons, and Yoko and I played a recital that night. It was interesting teaching; you really have to trust the interpreter with how the words and ideas are translated. Often I would demonstrate things that words couldn’t be found for."

Randy surfing and with the Seisei Wind Orchestra trombone section. Photos courtesy of Randy Hawes.

"This summer was my 8th attending the Ozawa Music Festival in Matsumoto. I took the train there also -about 3 hours northwest of Tokyo. One of the many things I love about Japan is the precision of the trains. When the second hand of a clock reaches 12 of the appointed departure time, the train moves. Efficient, fast (at between 150 and 180 mph), and quiet.

The August festival has always been a wonderful combination of opera, orchestra, and chamber music performances. All of the string section is Japanese, the winds, brass, and percussion are about 50/50 Japanese and Westerners. Musicians come from all over the world to play there."

Exploring outside Matsumoto. Photo courtesy of Randy Hawes.

"This year was one of the hottest summers in Tokyo, so it was nice to be in Matsumoto near the mountains, where it was quite a bit cooler. The festival supplies bicycles for musicians to use, making it easy to explore, as long as we remembered that in Japan you drive on the left side of the road...”

"All the travel and musical experiences we have contribute to what we bring home to the DSO!” -Randy Hawes

Ethan Allen has been a music librarian with the DSO since 2005. How is a music librarian different than the librarian at your local branch? He doesn't loan out biographies of Bach and Mozart, but instead tends to boxes of scores marked with the notes you hear played on the stage of Orchestra Hall: music librarians are the keepers of the music.

Ethan in the library stacks and paging through a score Richard Strauss marked when guest conducting at the DSO in 1921.

"I am responsible for finding, acquiring, and distributing all sheet music to the orchestra members and conductors. This includes marking up the music according to the conductor’s wishes so that most details are worked out before the first rehearsal and the musicians know exactly what is expected of them. I also hand write all bow markings into each string part so that they match the principal string parts, ensuring everyone is moving their bow in the same direction." Jokingly, he adds: "The music library is the rowdiest place at the DSO!"

Besides holding a master's degree in library science, Ethan is also a percussionist, making him a great fit for the library, as preparing the music requires an in-depth knowledge of the repertoire and how music works.

Last year Ethan got a “real” camera and started his own photography website. "This summer I was in west Michigan photographing lighthouses and spent nine days canoeing and backcountry camping in the Boundary Waters wilderness in northern Minnesota."

Michigan Lighthouse by Ethan Allen

"Boundary Waters is wilderness with no roads or development. There are hundreds of lakes that are only accessible by canoeing and portaging, where you carry all of your gear and canoe from lake to lake if there isn’t a passable river connecting them. The campsites are all very secluded and sometimes you can have an entire lake or island all to yourself. The breathtaking scenery is teeming with wildlife and is a great way to (literally) unplug."

Photo: Ethan Allen

"We are fortunate in Michigan to have so many gorgeous lighthouses and it’s been a fun project to see as many as I can. Not only are they beautiful structures to photograph but going to find them is great way to see parts of the state I wouldn’t have traveled to otherwise."

"If we were in charge of getting our own music, it would be disastrous!" -DSO horn, Johanna Yarbrough, on the vital role music librarians play in ensuring a successful performance.

Shannon Orme recently returned from her hardest bike ride yet: a nine-day trek across the wilds of Idaho, skirting the Sawtooth Mountain Range, and often only a stone's throw away from the plentiful water spots found along the Idaho Hot Springs Route. "I completed a 540 mile loop starting in Sun Valley, climbing a total of 35K feet, carrying everything I needed for the whole trip on my bike and back. Every summer I play at the Tetons Music Festival, and I map a bike route from there. People are in Idaho because they want to be outdoors and that's where my biking began. I had done a triathlon, but I went into a local shop, Fitzgerald's Bicycles, and was encouraged to buy a touring bike, and start doing self-supported bike touring. This summer was my first time using an off-road bike and bike packing."

Photo: courtesy of Shannon Orme

Shannon is a clarinetist for the DSO, the orchestra's only bass clarinet -her specialty. "In fourth grade my aunt noticed I would quietly sit and watch my grandmother play piano. I would touch the keys respectfully, not harshly jamming them down, and she suggested I should get music lessons. At the instrument petting zoo at school that year, I chose the clarinet; my mother's old clarinet had been in our basement, and it was just what I wanted to play."

"It doesn't matter how many people already play the piano or flute. It's important for kids to pick what they'll play themselves, so they'll connect with what they're doing." -Shannon Orme

Biking is a great way to meet the locals wherever you're riding. "Everyone is really friendly when you're on a bike." On a past ride in Montana, Shannon passed a car on her way into town. She went into their small library and discovered the townspeople had put out a call that a cyclist was coming through. They welcomed her, ready with suggestions on whose yard she should camp in that night.

Shannon with her off-road bike and the gear she packed with this summer.

Shannon's dream is to someday complete the Tour Divide, a 6-week trek across the Continental Divide. "You have to be a very good bike mechanic because of how rural it is, and I would need time to get back into playing shape. There's no practicing when you're out on a bike; you'd have to haul your clarinet along!

What draws me to biking is the sense of freedom: there is just you, on a bike, with the road ahead of you. That freedom rejuvenates my mind; now I'm ready to be back playing clarinet!"

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