Trombonist  Charles  Vernon

A Conversation with Bruce Duffie


Charles Vernon began his orchestral career as bass trombonist with the Baltimore Symphony, starting in September 1971. In 1980 he went to the San Francisco Symphony for one season. He was then chosen by Riccardo Muti to play bass trombone with the Philadelphia Orchestra, where he played for five years until coming to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1986.

A native of Asheville, North Carolina, Vernon attended Brevard College and Georgia State University, where he studied with Bill Hill as well as Gail Wilson, professor of trombone at Arizona State University. His mentor/teachers were Arnold Jacobs and Edward Kleinhammer, both former tuba and bass trombone of the Chicago Symphony.

Vernon has been on the faculties of Catholic University, Brevard Music Center, Philadelphia College of Performing Arts, Roosevelt University, and the Curtis Institute and Northwestern University. Currently he is professor of trombone at DePaul University. Vernon has many solo and teaching appearances throughout the world.

In April 1991, with the CSO under Daniel Barenboim, he gave the world premiere of Ellen Taaffe Zwilich’s Concerto for Bass Trombone, which was commissioned by the Orchestra for its centennial. In September 2006, he and the CSO premiered Chick’a’Bone Checkout, a new concerto for the alto, tenor and bass trombones and orchestra, written by trombonist and composer Christian Lindberg. Most recently, Chapters, an Incredible Bass Trombone Concerto by Jim Stephenson was played with Riccardo Muti and the CSO in June 2019.


Vernon and his wife, Alison, have several commissioned song cycles for soprano, trombone and piano written by the American composer Eric Ewazen and performed for many European and U.S. audiences.

He has two sons—Mark and Gary. Mark is a video game designer with Ubisoft games developer in San Francisco, and Gary is a third Dan in Tae Kwon Do and a second Dan Black Belt in Hapkido, and is also an instructor at Connellys Academy for Martial Arts.

As a part-time athlete, Vernon is an avid swimmer and a member of the Evanston Masters Swim Team. He is also a first Dan Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do and he comments, “As time passes, I realize that I must keep doing it, so that I can KEEP doing it!”

==  Text of the biography is from the CSO website.  Photo is from another source.  
==  Names which are links on this webpage refer to my interviews elsewhere on my website.  BD  

Known to the public and friends as Charlie, my guest has been with the Chicago Symphony since 1986, as well as Baltimore, San Francisco, and Philadelphia before that.  (Sounds like a baseball player who was traded a few times before settling into a permanent gig, which, because of his athleticism, is not a bad analogy!)

He and I had known each other for several years, and we met for this interview in May of 2005 in a rehearsal room backstage at Orchestra Hall.  As we were setting up to record our chat, he was mentioning various orchestra pieces
some of which rated positive comments, and others which caused some consternation . . . . .

Bruce Duffie:   Is there anything special that you can or should do to get
up for a concert when the music is not so intriguing for the bass trombone?

Charles Vernon:   I was just trying to live in the history, because the past three weeks we’ve had some great music and great programs, and all of a sudden we were playing stuff that is either way over my head, or just not good.  The difference is when you have an audience after Petrushka or a Mahler symphony stand up screaming, and another night you have polite applause.  I just don’t get it.  As far as playing, when I have the trombone in my hand and we’re performing, I always try to make it sound as good as I can.  I play the best I possibly can every time, no matter whether I’m hungry, or full of grease.  I’m trying to always make it sound good, even if it’s a piece of music that doesn’t deserve to be played.  [Both laugh]  When I was in the Philadelphia Orchestra with Muti, I don’t ever remember playing music that made you walk out thinking it was a drag to listen to, much less to play.  It was always great music, always something that was interesting.  He would pull up interesting stuff.  [Remember, this conversation was held at the end of the Barenboim era.  Then, after four years with Bernard Haitink at the helm, Riccardo Muti would become Music Director in 2010.]

BD:   So, your advice to composers to write interesting music?

Vernon:   To write interesting music; music that has songs in it; music that has tunes in it; music that has some emotions in it, not something that simply looks good on a piece of paper.  Pierre Boulez is one of the nicest men on the planet, but I hate his music.  [Both laugh]  I just don’t get it.  Elliott Carter I don’t get.  His stuff looks good on paper, and intellectual-music types are just trying to figure it all out, but it just doesn’t do a thing for me.  I
ve played it all.

BD:   Does it surprise you that some people really like it?

Vernon:   Yes, it surprises me, but then there’s another part of me that thinks they either see something, or hear something that I don’t, or it’s just... I don’t know.  I remember when we were playing Moses und Aron, and right after that we played some Elliott Carter stuff on a layover concert.  I could not wait to play Moses und Aron again.  It was a different kind of contemporary music.  It was a treat to play.  The Berg Violin Concerto is fantastic, as well as his Three Pieces for Orchestra.  It
s fantastic music.  So, there is great stuff out there from the 20th century.

BD:   It’s not just new music, it’s good or bad new music?

Vernon:   Yes.

BD:   Is there good and bad old music?

Vernon:   I think so.  I would rather play any old music that’s bad, than mediocre new music.  There’s probably a reason why Rachmaninoff
s First Symphony is not played that much now, but works like that still have tunes, and they still have beautiful sounds and harmonies that every human being can relate to.  They still touch you in a way, even though they may not be the greatest.  The Furtwängler Symphony #2 that we did awhile back had everything in it, and people were complaining that it’s never played.  I thought it was great because it had a lot of musical atmosphere and emotion in it.  That’s why it sold out.

BD:   [Gently protesting]  Is it not one of the reasons for the orchestra to play everything and let it sort itself out, and not just play the great stuff, but also play the other things too?

Vernon:   Oh yes, I agree.  The most contemporary things that I ever played in San Francisco were John Adams or Del Tredici, pieces that were not really that contemporary, and not really that far out.  I
ve been here in Chicago for 18 years, and often it’s pieces by Ralph Shapey and Carter.  I have a lot of friends in the church, and people that I know on the North Shore from swimming, and they go to concerts and they’re shaking their head because they just don’t understand these works.  They know that the orchestra is trying to educate them about new music, and sometimes they appreciate it and sometimes it’s okay.  It’s really exciting when there’ve been some really great things.  Augusta Read Thomas wrote something a long time ago, and we played it again just recently and I liked it a lot.  So, my ears have been trained a little bit to that kind of sound.

BD:   You’re in the trombone section, so you don’t get to play the Mozart or Haydn symphonies.  Do you miss that repertoire?
Vernon:   Oh, yes.  When we played this humongous Boulez thing, with chorus and orchestra, I was thinking to myself, “We could be playing the Schubert Mass in E Flat right now.  You look out in the audience, and there’s always empty seats out there, but if there was a Schubert Mass or something like that, people will just fill the place up.  

*     *     *     *     *

BD:   Let me ask about your instrument.  Are you a trombone player, or a bass trombone player?

Vernon:   I play any trombone that’s got a slide to it, except the soprano trombone.  I play alto trombone, tenor trombone, bass trombone, even contrabass trombone in F, which I’m playing tonight just to actually play it a little bit.  [The program had three of the Handel Coronation Anthems, and A Child of Our Time by Sir Michael Tippett, conducted by Sir Andrew Davis.]  It’s not a hard part that we’re playing.  Nothing we have in there is difficult.  We just have to sit there and listen a lot, but it is a challenge for me to play on different instruments.  This one is huge, and the mouthpiece is huge.

BD:   Are the positions on the slide farther apart?

Vernon:   Completely.  There are only five positions you can reach without an extension, and it’s very difficult to play.  When we do the Bartók Concerto for Orchestra, which is written for the F trombone, I put a little extension on there to play the glissando.  But the bass trombone is what I play most, about 90% of the time.

BD:   Do you like playing the bass trombone, or would you rather be Principal Trombone playing the tenor instrument?

Vernon:   I’ve tried being Principal, and I’ve played it several times here.  I’ve played Bolero on tour, and I have played Principal on a bunch of things in the summertime when Jay [Friedman, the regular Principal] wasn’t around.  And I’ve played many, many, many recitals and auditions and everything on the tenor trombone and the alto trombone.  I just love to play music.

BD:   If you
ve played everything that’s written for it, do you want more things written for any trombone?

Vernon:   Yes!  
Norman Bolter, who plays second trombone in the Boston Symphony, wrote me a piece called Of Mountains Lakes and Trees.  The mountains section used the bass trombone, the lakes used the tenor trombone, the trees were played on the alto trombone.  It also had an epilogue at the end.  I played it once at the Bard Music Center, and then with a community orchestra in Northbrook.  It never was a great piece, but it was really a neat experience, and it gave me an opportunity to play all three instruments in the same piece.  Now, as a matter of fact, Christian Lindberg is writing a piece to be called Chick’a’bone.  It’s about Chicago.  This guy is amazing.  He’s the only trombone soloist in all the world that goes around and plays solos like a touring violinist.  He’s also become a good conductor, and he’s a composer.  I’ve heard some of his music, and while this is new music, it has tunes in it, and is atmospheric with really beautiful sounds.  It is beautiful, and is exciting to listen to.  When he was here doing the Berio SOLO for Trombone and Orchestra [conducted by David Robertson], I asked him if he would think of writing something for me.  We talked about it more and more, and he sends me little things on the computer and says to check them out.  This was incredible.  This guy is amazing, because there’s not any composer for any instrumentalist that I’ve ever heard about that would actually sit down and spend all his time with the person and say, “What’s your favorite note to play?  What’s your favorite loud note to play?  What’s your favorite low note?  What’s your favorite note to play when you’re playing soft and smooth and slurred?  What’s your favorite high note to play?  What do you like and not like to play?  What things do you like?  Do you have a shift in the middle of your embouchure where things aren’t as good?  What’s your favorite note in the alto trombone?  He was sitting with a computer, and I’d play some notes for him.  I showed him that if you play really, really loud a low pedal F or E or E flat or D, I can only hold one beat [demonstrates by inhaling and exhaling], and I’m out of air.  I asked him about that, and he loved the sound.  He was typing furiously about all the stuff, and I showed him some things that are difficult for me.

BD:   He, of course, would understand all that!

Vernon:   Oh, he does.  That’s the great thing about it.  For the one that Ellen Zwilich wrote for me, we sat at Carnegie Hall once on stage for about an hour, and I just warmed up for her and played some tunes.  I had this routine book that I compiled over the years from lessons with Jake [Arnold Jacobs] and [Edward] Kleinhammer, and I just played everything out of the book.  There’s a lot of flexibility things that go up and down.  She wrote some great things, and some really wonderful low sustained melodic things, but she wrote a whole lot of up and down.  It was a little bit more of an exercise than I wanted.  [Both laugh]  When I was talking with Christian, I said, “If you write something that goes [voices an instrumental sound with quick register changes], it will be the hardest for me because I have an embouchure change, and it’s going to take me six months to work that slowly to get it right.  Whereas if you were to [voices a different instrumental sound], I’m fine.

BD:   This avoids the trouble spots?

Vernon:   It
avoids the trouble spots.  He was writing like crazy, and I said I wanted some beautiful ballad-playing in there as well as some crazy stuff.

BD:   It sounds like he was writing-to-order for you!

Vernon:   It’s for me.  What other composer will actually take the time and write a huge event piece for the Chicago Symphony and a member of the orchestra?  I could be the only who can play it this way.  There’ll be people who can play the bits, and there’ll probably be somebody that could play the whole thing, but it’s what I want.  I said, “What I want is something that I can sit down and practice for about a week and play.  I don’t want to spend six months on it.  I want to be just in good shape, and work on a couple of things, and be able to just calmly go out and play it, and use the things that are easy for me to do and to play.”  So, that’s how that turned out.

BD:   [With a gentle nudge]  You don’t want to be thought of as a lazy performer?

Vernon:   [Laughs]  No, no, no, but, I’ve looked at some of the things in there that are kind of easy for me to play, which are very difficult for a lot of people to play.  It’s going to be a real musical challenge, and it’s going to be fun.  [With a wink]  I will have to practice it for more than a week, you know...

BD:   Will it please you ten or twelve years from now when other people are able to play it?

Vernon:   Yes, sure.

BD:   You don’t want to just keep it all to yourself?
Vernon:   Oh, no, no.  Actually, he wants to take it around, with him as conductor and me as soloist, and record it.  It’s really exciting because I’m the only one that’s ever played it.  Nobody has ever even thought about this.  It’s great because it brings in different colors of the instruments.  All of the sudden, you are screaming beautiful high notes that you couldn’t get if you’re just playing the bass trombone, or you couldn’t get the low fluid sound if you were just playing a tenor trombone.  It’s especially written for me and I’m really excited about it.  He’s delirious about it.  Even though this new concerto is not going to be totally for the bass trombone, the bass trombone is going to be the main voice of it.  But I’m just hoping that someday there will be something written especially for the bass trombone that would just be incredibly great.
BD:   Are there enough trombone concertos already written, or do we still need a lot more?

Vernon:   Just speaking of the bass trombone, there’s a composer who’s really good friend of mine named Eric Ewazen.  He teaches theory at Juilliard, and he’s a fantastic pianist.  We made a CD that’s all American music for bass trombone and piano.  We played Ewazen
s Concerto for Bass Trombone, John Williams Tuba Concerto, the Halsey Stevens Sonatina, Robert Spillman’s Two Songs, and the Alec Wilder Sonata.

BD:   Did the concertos work well with the piano reduction?

Vernon:   Yes.

BD:   I would think a sonata, having been written for trombone and piano, would have a better balance.

Vernon:   Well, it does.  Unfortunately, we don’t get the opportunity to play with orchestras very much.  I’ve recorded and played with bands a lot, but to play with bands or orchestras is much more difficult than just a piano.  Only Christian Lindberg gets called, and has a schedule of playing a hundred times in the next few years.  Eric has written about eight or ten pieces, and every one of them is beautiful to listen to.  They’re fun to play, they’re good for your playing, and they’re happy and nostalgic kind of music.  There’s not a discordant sound in his work.  Ellen Zwilich wrote that big concerto for me, and there are some other ones.  Daniel Schnyder wrote a concerto called subZERO, and it’s pretty good.  There’s a handful of decent bass trombone concertos, but there’s nothing that’s great.  There’s nothing out there that could match Elgar, Dvořák, or Tchaikovsky, except maybe this thing that Lindberg’s writing for me.  On tenor trombone, there are some really, really great pieces, and some better pieces, but still it’s the same thing.  Rimsky-Korsakov wrote one that’s kind of corny, Leopold Mozart, Mozart’s dad, wrote a beautiful alto trombone concerto, and there is one for alto trombone by Albrechtsberger.  So, there are some really wonderful pieces.  Ferdinand David was a concertmaster of the Gewandhaus orchestra back when Mendelssohn was the conductor.  Mendelssohn was supposed to write a trombone concerto, and he handed it off to David, which was okay because he was a trombonist too!  Can you imagine that he played violin and trombone?  It’s a real standard piece, and there’s about a dozen or more of those romantic 19th century German things.

BD:   If you could write your own ticket, would you want to be traveling with solos like Lindberg, and play these dozen concertos all over the world all the time?

Vernon:   Yes.  He plays the Rouse concerto, and it’s great.  [Completed in 1991, the work is dedicated to Leonard Bernstein, and won the 1993 Pulitzer Prize for Music.]  I would like to do that, but I’d also like to do what he’s doing, which is experimenting and having people writing pieces for him.  There is a Derek Bourgeois concerto, and it is really good.  Some of these good pieces are hard, but
I don’t want to play anything like Schnittke or Carter, or some of the other music which has been written lately.

BD:   Considering all of this, from your point of view, what’s the purpose of music?

Vernon:   The purpose of music is to be able to use sounds to touch the soul of somebody who’s listening to you.  You just feel this wonderful feeling of sound.  It’s such a simple thing to tell a story with the music, and if the listener is not touched in some way, it’s kind of useless.  That’s why live music is so important, as opposed to CDs and stuff like that.  You can hear the music, but it
s so much better to actually see the people playing, and just get this atmosphere coming at you.  It’s really hard to beat great music.  I’m hoping that people will realize that there is something about the music which was written in 1700s, 1800s, and 1900s.  It may be in a museum, but there’s a reason for it.

BD:   We seem to be coming back to it.

Vernon:   I hope so, but music is a way for performers to let their feelings and emotions out.  When you’re upset or sad, you can play a sad beautiful melody and let some of these feelings out.  Especially if you’re angry, if you play an instrument like mine you have all the capability of letting everything out.

BD:   [Laughs]  With the slide you can do bodily injury!

Vernon:   [With a hearty laugh]  That’s right, and don’t think we haven’t thought about it!

BD:   [Musing quietly]  The trombone as a lethal weapon...

Vernon:   [More laughter]  That’s right.  The violas would think that...

BD:   I'm glad you guys basically get along!

Vernon:   Oh, we do.  It gets pretty bad, though, when you see earplugs in their ears when we’re playing a Mozart Overture.

BD:   I thought they were just for Bruckner and Mahler.

Vernon:   No, it happens a lot.  Anything with brass gets the earplugs.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:   You do quite a bit of teaching.  Are you pleased with the sounds you hear coming out of your students’ horns?

Vernon:   Maybe one out of ten or fifteen are of a high musical level, and they get a really fine sound.

BD:   Are you trying to teach them to be new members of the Chicago Symphony, or just to have fun playing the trombone maybe in a community band?

Vernon:   That’s exactly rightI’m trying to get them to have fun with playing.  I’m trying to get them to learn how to play correctly.  My main thing is to get them to get a great sound on one note, and then go to another note cleanly and beautifully.  That is what I do all the time, and that’s about as far as it gets.  We make a paraphrase, and you work on a little bit at a time.  Jake had it down.  He’s head and shoulders above all of us.  As far as teaching ability, if you put a hundred of us together, we can never come close to that guy.  He had so many insights about this.  He told me his whole idea in my first lesson with him.  He asked, “What would the greatest sound on the trombone sound like?”  This was after I had played some phrase and kind of sucked on it.  I didn’t play it very well, and I thought, “God, I want to learn how to play the trombone.  This is weird.”  Corny is the word that came to my mind.  I thought it was a corny thing for him to say, but then he said, “Think about all the great people that you admire, all the great trombonists, all the great musicians, all the great sounds that you like, and just imagine what the best one would be like.”  So, I closed my eyes and there was this little Bordoni vocalise, and first note was a C.  It was like I was a different player.  By the time I got to the second note, I was back to where I had been, but he slapped me on the leg and said, “There you go, one note.  Now, you need to get two.”  [Both laugh]  I knew at that moment that I would spend the rest of my life trying to get one after another.
BD:   Do you usually succeed?

Vernon:   I do now.  But, at that point in time it took 90% or 95% of the time.  I couldn’t do it in the beginning as a player.  As a musician, you have an instrument in your hand, and you’re blowing and you’re breathing and you’re doing all these things physically with your brain and your mouth and your tissues.  We are creatures of habit, and if you play a certain way wrong for years and years and years, that’s your habit.  You can’t just say, “Go away habit!”  You have to replace it every day with the same thing over and over.  That’s what we’re doing with the students.  Every day I’d give them the same stuff.  For some people it takes longer, and some people get it quicker.  For me, it took a few years, but instead of 95% not being able to do it, now I can do it 95% of the time.  It is rare that I don’t do it, and when I don’t do it, it’s because I’m just thinking about something else.  It’s all about concentration on what you’re doing.  It’s just a split second when we’re doing it, but that’s the whole thing about playing.  We can sit there and rehearse and be half asleep, and you hear something and we wake up.  Then you put every bit of your energy into concentrating.  That’s the difference between a real professional, and just a student who hasn’t trained himself to do that, and doesn’t have these habits instilled.  It’s all about habits of playing correctly, and that’s all I ever get to with my students.  Very rarely, maybe one in fifteen, can I actually listen to.  They can play the trombone, or they can get a really fine sound, and then we talk about music.

BD:   Once you get the technique, then you can put in the music?

Vernon:   Yes, but it’s so rare.  I sit there and I play one note in their face, and they’re supposed to listen to it and try to imitate it and play it back.  Then, I’ll play two notes in a row, and then back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.  We spend 20 or 30 minutes doing it, and they finally get.  It finally gets in, but then the next time I see them a week or two later, it
s the same stuff all over again.

BD:   They don’t retain it???

Vernon:   No.  They don’t work at it 30 minutes a day, every day, consistently every day.  If they did, I’d be able to hear the difference.

BD:   In the end, is it all worth it?

Vernon:   Yes, it’s worth it because of those one or two that are really great.  I teach at DePaul and Northwestern, and I have some private students here and there.  But it’s so simple!  Jake would always say that playing is such a simple thing.  You just take a big breath, think about what you want to sound like, and sing through the piece of brass in your hand.

BD:   It’s simple for someone who can do it, but not so simple for someone who can’t.

Vernon:   That’s true, but it’s the simplest concept if people can think about just that basic concept, and let the computer in their mind handle all the things it has to do.  To get a great sound is one thing, but getting from one note to another note with a trombone slide is difficult.  In every country I go to I do clinics, and it’s so rare to find somebody that has good slide technique just moving from note to note.  It’s all about rhythm, the way that the time and the rhythm is, and your slide just goes with the time.  It didn’t go ahead of it.  It goes right to the note.  You go boom, and it goes right through it.  Everybody’s trying to do all these things and are not coordinated, and it just drives me nuts.  That’s why I spend all my time teaching the students.

BD:   Would you rather the trombone had valves instead of slides?

Vernon:   [Emphatically]  No, no!  The trombone is the best instrument in the world because it has the slide.  It has the capability of playing smoother than any other instrument.  It has this capability of doing the vibrato in many different ways, and it’s got a dynamic range that’s unmatched.

BD:   [Not completely facetiously]  So, why don’t you nudge the guys on your right to play slide trumpets?

Vernon:   [laughs]  John Hagstrom and I did a demonstration at the DePaul with a slide trumpet, alto trombone, tenor and bass trombone.  [Hagstrom is the Second Trumpet in the Chicago Symphony.]  He has this little slide trumpet, and it was fantastic.  He has really worked hard, and he has better slide technique than many of my students who’ve been playing for years, because he understands that you just go from there to there.

BD:   But he has all the other musical things intact...

Vernon:   Well, of course.

BD:   When you have to think about the thousands of things, you can get confused until they become second-nature for you.

Vernon:   Yes...  Did you ever play an instrument?

BD:   I
m an old bassoon player.  [I studied in High School (Evanston) and Graduate School (Northwestern) with Wilbur Simpson, Second Bassoon with the Chicago Symphony 1946-1991].

Vernon:   [Nodding, knowingly]  Ah, bass clef and tenor clef.

BD:   Then, for my Music Education degree, I had to play all the instruments, so I can get around on them a bit.  I saw a slide trumpet, and even scratched away a little bit on the string instruments... I was just terrible, though!  [Both laugh]

Vernon:   Oh, my goodness.  Why would anybody pick one of those string instruments to play???  It’s funny...  When my kids were growing up, I sat them down and said, “Look, you’re not ever playing a string instrument.  There’s two reasons why.  One is that they’re way too expensive, and the other is that 99% of all the string players I know hate music.  So forget it.  And you can forget about woodwinds because they’re way too expensive, and again, most of the people that I know, with rare exceptions, complain.  Sax, maybe, but let’s just stick to the brass, or, if you want to play some percussion, that’s okay.
 So, my son picked the trumpet, and my other son picked the trombone.  For a whole year he went to band, but he just would not learn the positions.  I tried and I tried and I tried to teach him, but the band director eventually called me and said, “I don’t know what we’re going to do about your son, but he’s just not learning the positions.  He got a C in band.”  [Both have a huge laugh]  Come on, a Chicago Symphony trombone player’s son gets a C in trombone!

BD:   Like the old saw about the shoemaker
s kid going barefoot!

Vernon:   Yes.  He draws all the time, so I told him, “You love this, so it’s okay if you want to do this.  It’s not going to bother Dad at all.”

BD:   Did it bother your parents when you went into trombone?

Vernon:   [Laughs]  It bothered them when I walked home with a snare drum and start beating it in the house.  My dad said, “Go take that back and get something else.”  I came back the next day with a trombone, and that didn’t bother them.


Also, see my interview with Gene Pokorny

BD:   Are you optimistic about the whole future of music?

Vernon:   Sometimes.  It’s hard, because I look out there and I see there’s not a lot people.  Most people have been going to the orchestras for years and years.  When we’re in Europe, there’s much more of a prevailing interest-filled attitude about the arts.  It’s a little sad, and a little scary.  You know that there are so many people who don’t even know what a symphony orchestra is.  When you ride in the car, the guy next to you has got the windows down, and all you hear is this rap stuff.  We’re in bad shape as far as that goes, but I don’t know what to say.  I’m just hoping and praying that there will be enough young people who are turned on about music.  We should do more kiddy concerts and more school concerts.  We, the big orchestras should do more outreach.  We do some of it, but we don’t do enough of it.  Tickets should be cheaper.  I don
t know how theyd do it, but there should be some free concerts, maybe a concert a week, that would be just for a certain crowd of people.

BD:   In the
30s they had ‘Workers Nights, with free tickets for all the workers.

Vernon:   Right.  We need something like that because it’s so very important.

BD:   Are you pleased with the recordings you’ve made?

Vernon:   Everywhere I go, there’ll be some trombone player who will come with the Shostakovich Symphony #7
for me to sign, and that is exciting. That was with Bernstein and is on DG.  [I then asked about his various solo recordings, all of which are seen on this webpage, and thanked him for the conversation.]


© 2005 Bruce Duffie

This conversation was recorded in Chicago on May 5, 2005.  Portions were broadcast on WNUR the following month, and again in 2016; and on Contemporary Classical Internet radio in 2006, and 2008.  This transcription was made in 2021, and posted on this website at that time.

To see a full list (with links) of interviews which have been transcribed and posted on this website, click here.  To read my thoughts on editing these interviews for print, as well as a few other interesting observations, click here.

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Award - winning broadcaster Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago from 1975 until its final moment as a classical station in February of 2001.  His interviews have also appeared in various magazines and journals since 1980, and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM, as well as on Contemporary Classical Internet Radio.

You are invited to visit his website for more information about his work, including selected transcripts of other interviews, plus a full list of his guests.  He would also like to call your attention to the photos and information about his grandfather, who was a pioneer in the automotive field more than a century ago.  You may also send him E-Mail with comments, questions and suggestions.