Posted at 2:04 PM on July 30, 2005
by Lauren Rico
A couple of interviews, a couple of master classes, a couple of concerts. That was the plan for my third day anyway. But you know what they say about the best-laid plans!
I had the chance to interview Bill VerMeulen in the late morning. When he's not playing principal horn with the Houston Symphony, he's teaching at Rice—a fact he's particularly proud of.
"I have a success rate of 92%," he said. We hear all the time about how there are too many musicians coming out of the schools and not enough jobs for them. Apparently that's not so much of an issue for the students of Bill VerMeulen. His protégés land some of the best gigs in the country. Makes me wonder if my career would be different if I'd studied with him as a young horn player! During the summer Bill travels almost non-stop to festivals around the country. He says it's very uncommon for him to come across more than one or two musicians that he HASN'T played with before!
After Bill came Geraldine Walther, the violist who's leaving her 30-year post with the San Francisco Symphony to play with the Tackás Quartet. What an extraordinary woman—she NEVER stops smiling! She's absolutely ebullient. You can just throw out that stereotype of jaded professional musicians. Here's a woman who loves making music—and helping others to do the same.
I'd planned on attending a "Café Conversation" after interviewing Geraldine, but as I was leaving, I found Bill VerMeulen wandering about the halls. Nothing like one horn player to de-rail another!
"Had lunch?" he asked. I hadn't. "I have a nose for fabulous restaurants. How do you feel about okay with Singaporean cuisine?" How could I miss an opportunity to spend time with one of the top horn players in the country?! My afternoon turned into quite a different Café Conversation! I only wish I'd had tape rolling during that lunch… Here's a guy who loves teaching, is obsessed with gadgets and can sniff out great cuisine in any city. He's also got quite the wicked sense of humor!
Having seen that side of Bill in the afternoon really changed my listening experience when I heard him play that evening. It was the same program as the night before, only performed at St. Mark's Episcopal Church. His impish qualities came through the Mozart Quintet and Beethoven Septet loud and clear!
At a party afterwards, I overheard him speaking with a young pianist—encouraging him to enjoy performing.