Auditions & Appointments / Los Angeles Philharmonic / Music News & Info: Classical

LA Phil comings and goings (part 3 of 3): new faces — and two familiar ones — come to town

Nathan Cole, new LA Phil First Associate Concertmaster (photo: Chamber Music Festival of Lexington)

Ahhh, it is July, and a classic Southern California Summer is brewing: the sun is shining with no clouds in sight, there is a slight breeze in the air to keep you cool, and the water temp is in the high 60′s and climbing. Once the waves grow higher than their current ankle-slapper status, conditions will be ideal.

Of course, another harbinger of Summer in So Cal is the beginning of concerts at the Hollywood Bowl. The Playboy Jazz Festival kicked this off in mid-June, and the official season at the famous Cahuenga Pass venue was launched a few days later with the annual HB Hall of Fame inductions. Since then, we’ve had Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Mariachi USA Festival, and a Grease sing-a-long (as a sewn-into-her-leggings Olivia Newton John would say, “Tell me about it, stud . . .”), among other things. The Hollywood Bowl Orchestra join Hall & Oats — yes, they’re still around — this coming 4th of July weekend for some 80′s pop standards complete with FIREWORKS!!!!! (If you want to chime in on how awesome it will be to scream “I can’t go for that — no can do” at the top of your lungs, click HERE to vote over at Tim Mangan’s blog)

The Bowl is also the official Summer home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.  The orchestra has had a few weeks off from concerts and doesn’t begin its residence until next weekend when they perform the music to West Side Story live as the film plays in HD on the big screen over their heads.

As previously mentioned, the LA Phil will be down two of their first-chairs in the upcoming 2011-2012 season when both Principal Cello Peter Stumpf and Principal Trumpet Donald Green step away from the orchestra; at the same time, some holes get plugged as four new players will be joining the orchestra, plus two players return after multi-year stints elsewhere. They fill various positions in the strings, woodwinds, and brass, a few of which have been vacant for some time. Some will start at the beginning of the Bowl season, others will join when the orchestra returns to Walt Disney Concert Hall later in the year. Let’s take a quick look at who they are (titled chairs first) . . .

  • Nathan Cole, First Associate Concertmaster: Mr. Cole has been a violinist with the Chicago Symphony since 2002, and before that he was Principal Second Violin with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. He has performed as guest concertmaster of the Houston Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony, Seattle Symphony, and many others. A native of Lexington, KY, Mr. Cole has been music director of the “Chamber Music Festival of Lexington” for many years.
    • He won the audition for his position in the Fall of 2010, and joined the orchestra at the beginning of 2011 for two weeks at WDCH and its subsequent European tour; the photo on the right was taken during the orchestra’s celebration of Gustavo Dudamel’s 30th birthday while performing in Cologne (if you want to know why he’s wearing the hat, read the story on his blog HERE).
    • He takes the spot vacated when longtime Concertmaster, Alexander Treger, retired (with, I might add, absolutely no fanfare or notice from the powers-that-be in the LA Phil front office — not sure what that was about).  While both Cole and Treger have been or will be listed just below Martin Chalifour in the first violin section, you’ve probably noticed that their titles are different, with the LA Phil now having a similar title structure as the Cleveland Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, and Philadelphia Orchestra, among others.  Mr. Chalifour retains the title of “Principal Concertmaster,” unique to the Los Angeles Phiharmonic.

  • Lyndon Johnston Taylor, Principal Second Violin: Mr. Taylor fills the position vacated by, well, Lyndon Johnston Taylor. After serving 17 years in the LA Phil, ten of them as Principal Second Violin, he moved to New Zealand with his wife and took the position of Assistant Concertmaster with the New Zealand Symphony for a few years. While he was gone, his old orchestra held auditions to replace him, getting close enough to offer trials to some players in the 2009-2010 season; however, none of them were chosen. At the 2010 LA Phil season opening gala, Mr. Taylor was seen back in his old chair, and returned for the same concerts and European tour as Nathan Cole played.
    • Not content with being a premiere violinist, Mr. Taylor happens to be an excellent viola player too. He has performed on that instrument in solo and chamber music concerts locally and abroad, and was even a candidate to be Principal Viola of the San Francisco Symphony. If that weren’t enough, he holds a BS in Chemistry and only switched to being a full-time musician in the middle of earning a joint MD-PhD in Cell Biology; he eventually did earn a doctorate degree – a DMA at Julliard under the legendary Dorothy DeLay.

  • Andrew Bain, Principal Horn: Judging by the multiple previous discussions on Tim Mangan’s old blog at the Orange County Register (HERE, HERE, and HERE) and also on Out West Arts, Principal Horn is a lightning rod of a position. Indeed, this is true at other orchestras, as both Dale Clevenger of the Chicago Symphony and Philip Myers of the NY Phil have been getting raked over the coals by their respective local critics. Into the breach steps Mr. Bain, who won the third open audition for Principal Horn held by the LA Phil in the past five years. Currently Principal Horn with both the Melbourne Symphony — yes, the one in Australia — and the Colorado Music Festival, he previously has been Principal Horn of the Queensland Symphony, the Muenchner Symphoniker, and Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra, in addition to a number of teaching positions.
    • Before the previous Principal Horn, William Lane, had finished his distinguished 37-year career with the orchestra, the LA Phil had two separate auditions to try to find his replacement, with no winner either time. The orchestra then invited some players in for trial weeks:
      • Erik Ralske, then acting Associate Principal with the NY Phil was given an offer, but chose to accept a competing offer to join the Met Opera Orchestra as their Principal, allowing him to keep working/playing in Manhattan. As The New York Times reported, it is an interesting dynamic of orchestral auditions — especially at this level — that Mr. Ralske would get offers from two top orchestras but be denied the position by the NY Phil, the orchestra he had been playing in for 17 years.
      • William Caballero, Principal of the Pittsburgh Symphony, then came to Los Angeles and played a successful trial, including an appearance in the 2010-2011 season opening gala concert where he was prominently featured playing Rossini. He eventually turned down the offer to become Principal of the LA Phil, choosing to remain in Pittsburgh; despite this, he joined the orchestra (and Messers. Cole and Taylor) for the January concerts and subsequent European tour, earning notice both locally and abroad for his playing in the Beethoven 7th and the Mahler 9th.
    • For any hornists who may read this, you’ll probably notice that Mr. Bain is holding an Alexander 103, weapon of choice for the vast majority of German & Central European orchestras. Given the fact that Mr. Bain did his postgraduate work in Deutschland, this isn’t really surprising. Of course, the vast majority of orchestras in North America do NOT use Alexanders, and the horn sections on this side of the Atlantic have noticeably different tones and timbres from their Germanic brethren. So how did Mr. Bain win the audition in Los Angeles with that horn? Well, he didn’t; word on the street is that he switched in 2008 to an Atkinson Geyer AG2000 from that very exotic location: Burbank, California. Apparently, he made the switch with the hopes that it would help him with auditions in America; it looks like the move worked.
  • Akiko Tarumoto, section Second Violin: If the name and/or face rings a bell for some of you, it should: Ms. Tarumoto was a violinist with the LA Phil from 2000 to 2004, spending two years in the second violin section before getting promoted to first violins.
    • She left Los Angeles after winning an audition in the first violin of the Chicago Symphony. I remember seeing her perform in some chamber work, most especially doing some of the Shostokovich Quartets that were performed as part of the LA Phil’s Shostokovich symphony cycle at the time. I was disappointed to have a player of her caliber leave the orchestra, and I’m glad that she’s back.
    • The obvious question is: “Why would she want to come back as a second violin if she’s been a first violinist in Chicago in addition to already been promoted to first violin in a previous stint here?” The answer is pretty straightforward, actually: since 2006, Ms. Tarumoto happens to also be Mrs. Nathan Cole, and this gives her an opportunity to join her husband here in Los Angeles. Now, before anyone starts throwing around accusations of nepotism, the LA Phil held an open audition in March 2011 to fill a vacant spot in their second violin section, and Ms. Tarumoto won it fair and square. Should this really surprise anyone?  Someone who has previously proven that she can win auditions for the LA Phil and CSO clearly has the chops to win another audition at this level, not to mention the fact that she played with the orchestra for four years and understands the playing style needed to match the section. So unless you’re a hardcore conspiracy theorist when it comes to the world of orchestral auditions (and believe me, they exist), you can chill out.
  • Michael Myers, 3rd/utility Trumpet: Just so we’re clear, we’re not talking about this Michael Myers or even this one, but rather this one. Mr. Myers has been playing with the Grant Park Orchestra since 2009, as well as serving as acting 2nd trumpet with the Atlanta Symphony this past season and previously as acting 2nd trumpet with the Oregon Symphony. Mr. Myers happened to win his audition in January 2011 over finals competitors that included principal and section trumpet players in orchestras in the US, Mexico, and Malaysia. He then played a trial in early March a week or so before Maestro Dudamel became Daddy Dudamel with the eventual birth of his son, Martin Dudamel. Apparently, Gustavo took some time away from nesting to call Mr. Myers directly to give him the good news. He takes over for Barry Perkins, Pacific Symphony Principal Trumpet who had been unofficially filling in for this past season after the retirement of long-time Philharmonic trumpeter, Boyde Hood, in 2010.
  • Jacqueline Arrington, 2nd flute: After graduating from the University of Michigan with her Bachelor’s, Ms. Arrington went to the University of Cincinnati to earn her Master’s degree before winning a Fulbright scholarship allowing her to study in Germany with Andreas Blau, Principal Flute of the Berlin Philharmonic. I can’t list any professional experience because she doesn’t actually have any yet:  the LA Phil audition she won this past May was her first professional audition EVER. After she plays a trial this summer, the orchestra will decide whether or not Ms. Arrington will be offered the position full time; if she is successful, she would take over for Larry Kaplan, ubiquitous local flutist, who has been acting 2nd flute the past couple of seasons after Cathy Karoly was promoted to Associate Principal.

(UPDATE, July 22, 2011 —  This quote from Jackie Arrington’s Facebook page:

  • Hi Everyone!  So I did not win the position in LA Phil. I had a great concert and a wonderful 12 days with the orchestra. Thank you so much for your prayers and support. I am encouraged and inspired by my time here. The Lord has been so good to me and blessed me with so much.I owe everything to Him and I know that He has a plan! Thanks again!
  • Here is a video of Ms. Arrington in action:

In my mind, the most noteworthy thing about many of the recent hires, especially the principal players, is that offers were made immediately after the open audition — without a trial week. Indeed, Mr. Cole, Mr. Bain, and Ms. Tarumoto were all offered their positions without a trial, a trend which seems to have begun when David Buck was hired to be Principal Flute. It is unclear whether this is a matter of (a) the auditions yielding very clear winners, (b) the orchestra relying more heavily on the tenure process as a de facto extended trial, (c) the audition committee and/or Dudamel making a point of making clear offers out of auditions (including trials), or (d) some/all of the above. Regardless of the reasoning, this trend is liable to help the LA Phil continue to get the best qualified and most capable candidates showing up to their auditions since they know that someone will likely get an offer at the end of the process.

  • True, it is a veritable buyers market where conservatories and universities continue to pump out high quality candidates while the number of paying orchestra gigs continues to decrease, especially those in the so-called “top tier” like the LA Phil; however, it is still good to NOT have the reputation that some orchestras have of continually holding auditions without hiring anyone.
  • Lastly, I wonder if the timing of the Principal Trumpet auditions is yet another way of maximizing the number of high quality candidates to show up: orchestra players typically have a little more flexibility during the Summer to do all sorts of things (teach, play in festivals, take auditions) than they do during the winter season. Having auditions in July certainly can’t hurt when you are trying to attract the best players.

The Los Angeles Philharmonic still has a few vacancies which it needs to fill, most notably at Principal Trombone where it has repeatedly and unsuccessfully tried to find someone to take over after Steven Witser’s tenure was tragically cut short. They also had two cellists retire last year, and it is unclear whether or not they will be able to replace both of them. In the meantime, now you know some of those new faces in the orchestra when you see them in the Bowl this summer or at WDCH this Fall.

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7 thoughts on “LA Phil comings and goings (part 3 of 3): new faces — and two familiar ones — come to town

  1. Some of your information is incorrect. For example, as of today, Sunday July 10, Jackie Arrington has still NOT played a single note with the LA Phil and has certainly NOT been offered a second flute position yet. She is scheduled to have her trial period during the next two weeks and the decision will be made AFTER that. You should be checking your information more carefully before publishing it as facts.
    On the other hand, i am pleased that you are not speculating here about the reasons for and circumstances of Alex Treger’s retirement. Without knowing all of the relevant facts, it would have been unwise to do so.

    • Thanks for the correction, MarK. I’ve edited the post accordingly.

      I think it is surprising and disappointing whenever the orchestra fails to acknowledge when a longtime member, especially a principal, retires. In my humble opinion, they should be recognized from the stage like Messers. Breidenthal, Royval, and Watt were a few years back, or when eleven players — titled and section players alike — retired in the late-90′s and were feted at the Bowl.

      I certainly understand if/when someone has a personal preference against being called out while on stage, or if circumstances surrounding someone’s departure are sensitive; in either of those cases, it would be reasonable to avoid a public gesture. At a minimum, the player should be publicly thanked in some way, even if it is a one paragraph press release , regardless of the reason for their departure. Perhaps something as simple as, “Orchestra A would like to announce that Musician X has retired. We would like to thank him/her very much for their N years of distinguished service to the orchestra (including __ years as Principal), and wish him/her the best.” To do so would be professional and polite.

      In contrast, doing absolutely nothing except removing their name from the orchestra roster where it has been for twenty or thirty years — as was done with Mr. Treger and others before him — seems, st the very least, rude and uncourteous.

      I think the most glaring and extreme example of this was with the Pacific Symphony: when founder and former Music Director Keith Clark left the orchestra, all reference to him was purged and his name appeared nowhere on the official record for over twenty years; the tiny blurb about him that currently appears on their website seems remarkably like a scrubbed-down version of the Wikipedia article on him forming the orchestra. No matter what one might think of him as a musician or music director, Mr. Clark certainly didn’t deserve to be treated like the Egyptian pharaoh, Akhenaten, who became persona non grata after his demise.

  2. As a general rule, i agree with you. But every good rule allows for rare exceptions. As a general rule, of course.

  3. Lyndon Johnston Taylor is wonderful, I heard him at the Carmel Bach festival playing solo about ten years ago and it is still in my top 5 all time performances. I can see why only he could replace himself!

  4. Pingback: At the LA Phil, some faces in new places « All is Yar

  5. Dear Mr. Haven,

    I personally would like to thank you for your comments on the instrument on which Mr. Andrew Bain won his audition on for the position of principal Horn in the Los Angeles Philharmonic. It is not often that an instrument maker is given such recognition. We are humbled that our AG2000 model Horn is now being heard so close to our factory workshop giving myself and our craftsman the opportunity to hear there creations in a world class orchestra. A small and perhaps trivial correction is that Mr. Bain acquired the Horn in 2008.

    With Kind Regards, Mark Atkinson – Owner of Atkinson Horns, Burbank, Ca.

    • Thanks, Mr. Atkinson. It’s been a pleasure hearing Mr. Bain play your instrument. Sorry I missed him do the 2nd movement solo in Tchaikovsky 5, but looking forward to the Handel this weekend.

      Thanks for the correction on the instrument acquisition. I’ll adjust it accordingly.

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