From a professor’s point of view
Having been a Fulbright Scholar at the Academy of Music in Vienna after earning my BA from the University of Miami, I well knew the many benefits of being able to study in a foreign country. However, I had never dreamed that I would eventually return to Austria as a professor, and would have opportunities to represent the now renamed University of Music and Performing Arts by giving master classes at other network universities around the world. Mahidol University in Thailand was just one of these, but throughout the 9 years that I have been going there, my relationship with the faculty and students has become very personal. I have been able to follow the progress of the students, especially those with whom I worked from the Pre-College Department. It is wonderful to see how they develop. Interestingly enough, there’s a growing number of girls not only studying trumpet, but also taking over the first chair positions in various youth bands and orchestras.
My main purpose in traveling to Thailand was to support Mahidol’s professor of trumpet, Dr. Joseph Bowman, in widening the students’ musical horizons. Dr. Bowman’s trumpet professor at Arizona State University played many of my recordings for his students. So when the opportunity presented itself through ASEA, he was excited for me to come to Mahidol University. Over the years, we have developed a wonderful friendship. When he spent a few days in Vienna before attending a conference in Budapest, I was not only able to show him many of the interesting musical sights in Vienna, but we also took him to Rohrau, the humble birthplace of Joseph Haydn, and Schloss Esterhazy in Eisenstadt, where Haydn composed most of his works, including his famous trumpet concerto.
In addition to the normal duties of teaching trumpet techniques, there have always been extra classes, where I had the opportunity to expand into other fields, such as music education, stage presence (showing videos of my own TV performances), ensembles (both trumpet and brass ensembles – whereby the tuba ensemble won 1st prize in a national competition). Through almost 40 years as a concert soloist with symphony orchestras, chamber orchestras and concert bands, I have many musical ideas and tips to enliven performances. Especially important to me was to show and teach the elements of the Viennese style, as I had learned them from Prof. Helmut Wobisch, former principle trumpet of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. There is a special articulation which brings elegance and finesse. “Trumpets are masculine instruments, so they don’t use vibrato.” Instead, intensity is used for the emotion. Rhythmical figures are more exact and reigned in by the “Philharmonic hesitation”. These elements are especially important in playing the Viennese Classical concertos composed by Haydn, Hummel and Neruda. On my most recent trip in November, 2018, I was even asked to demonstrate various trumpet techniques in a composition class. I always enjoy the challenge of bringing in new perspectives for the students and to excite them in their accomplishments. It’s also been rewarding to play with the brass colleagues on several faculty programs.
What sets Mahidol University apart from other universities? First, the College of Music has a beautiful campus, set on a lake. Their facilities, including sufficient practice rooms, are outstanding, and members of the faculty have great relationships with both colleagues and students. The new Pre-College building, also on the lake, is nearby, making it easy to integrate the musical activities of high school and college students. They have beautiful concert and recital halls, plus the spectacular new Prince Mahidol Hall, where the Thailand Philharmonic performs. Also very special is the College of Music restaurant, which is built out over the lake, and is a perfect place to dine with new friends and colleagues. The comfortable Salaya Pavilion Hotel, which is also a hotel training center, is only a 5 to 10 minute walk from all these facilities. Being a nature lover, one of my favorite activities on these walks is to look for a “prehistoric looking” monitor lizard, either swimming or sleeping up in a tree. On this past trip, I was delighted to spot one sunning itself on the bank. It was about 4 ft. long – I observed it and it observed me. However, I then decided to look farther up the bank to try to find another one, and was startled to discover a 10 ft. monitor lizard, who was quite close and who was also observing me. That seemed a good time to move on down the path quickly.
My work with the students has always been at the center of my trips. But of course, ASEA is an exchange program, so I was extremely happy to learn that one of the girls had won a scholarship to study with me in Vienna. Lalitta Pheanwirattanachai braved the cold Austrian winter to work in preparation for her graduation recital and exam. We invited her at Christmas to our home in southern Austria, where she saw her first snow. During Lalitta’s year in Vienna, there were several special exhibitions and programs about women musicians, and I was glad to be able to integrate her into a girls’ trumpet ensemble, which performed on these occasions.
It was a worthwhile year for Lalitta, and her appreciative family became my “family” in Bangkok. Since I usually arrive in Thailand a day or 2 earlier to deal with jet lag, these “extra” days have been used for “family” outings to the floating markets, the river Kwai, Woodland (thousands of exquisitely carved wooden sculptures), a cave, a village museum of old Thai homes, soccer playing elephants and a glorious evening dinner cruise on the Chao Phraya River through Bangkok. These have been magical moments for me to learn more about Thais and their culture. Thai families are very close and loving. They also like to eat. I am always amazed that they can eat so much and stay so slim! It’s a joy to see how Lalitta and her 2 sisters and brother interact with one another and their parents.
I’m grateful to Lalitta and her family for taking me into this very special relationship. This year I was able to share in the celebration for Lalitta’s youngest sister graduating from college.
As much as I try to give to the students, I always have the impression that I have received even more from them in return. These feelings are built on mutual respect and admiration. If only more people would recognize the similarities in all races and cultures, but still truly appreciate the beauty and enchantment of our differences, the world would be a much better place. I am especially grateful to have had such a wonderful career in the field of music, which brings joy to so many people. I want to infuse the students with this joy and enthusiasm, and give them the musical and technical tools for successful careers.
I am also grateful that my career gave me the opportunity to travel around the world and to meet new friends and colleagues, who have greatly enriched my life. Music is truly an international language!