The New York Philharmonic’s Phil Smith at retirement: an appreciation

Posted on: July 7, 2014

“There are two kinds of celebrities in the classical-music world. There are your Lang Langs and Gustavo Dudamels—fêted regularly,” writes William Robin in Thursday’s (7/3) New Yorker online edition. “Then there are the names that ring out through the halls of conservatories across the country—working musicians who possess superhuman abilities and populate orchestras in cities major and minor. The trumpeter Philip Smith is in that latter category.… For the past thirty-six years, Smith has presided over orchestral trumpet playing, with a resonant, clarion sound and a reputation for never missing a note. When I studied at Northwestern’s Bienen School of Music … trumpeters talked about him in hushed tones.… You couldn’t learn to play like Phil Smith; you simply heard what he did and tried to imitate it as best as possible…. Smith grew up in the Salvation Army church, which has a long tradition of brass-band playing.… ‘The advantage that I had was coming from a church background, a hymnody background,’ Smith said. ‘The way I was taught was “Always sing, always play the lyrics.” ’ That sustained lyricism is the quintessential Smith sound.”

Posted July 7, 2014