jeff tyzik tackles 10 questions

must.  escape.  carnegie.  afterglow.  okay, this classical season the oregon symphony busted out works by 9 living composers.  unbelievably, the classical beaver investigative bureau snagged interviews with 5 of ‘em, which in baseball terms comes out to a very sweet .555 average.  maestro jeff tyzik, whose work will be featured this weekend, has been the pops conductor for three seasons now with the band.  it was high time the beaver got to know him a bit better…

so what exactly does a pops conductor do?

As Principal Pops conductor, I’m responsible for programming the pops season and leading the orchestra in those concerts.  This may involve creating new arrangements of music for specific programs as well as selecting artists who appear on the pops.  I collaborate with [artistic administrator] Charles Calmer, [director of operations] Susan Nielson, and [president] Elaine Calder.  In addition to coming up with ideas, we network with the Oregon Symphony marketing department and “the man on the street” to see what kind of reaction we get to our choices.  I also have the experience of having tried some of these ideas with other orchestras and that gives me confidence in booking successful concerts.

tubist extraordinaire játtik clark will be playing your tango 1932 this weekend – tell me more, tell me more!

JáTtik is a wonderful musician.  He makes that very large instrument sing and he has such a great feel for whatever he plays – I love his sound and facility on the tuba.  Tango 1932 was originally composed for my suite entitled Four Dances for Tuba, written for Jeff Anderson who now plays tuba with the San Francisco Symphony.  I wanted to write a piece in honor of Astor Piazzola and try to catch a glimmer of his style.  1932 refers to the year of Piazzola’s first concert in New York City.

any favorite pops concerts this season with the band?

Not to be flip, but I enjoy every concert I do with the Oregon Symphony or I wouldn’t walk on stage.  They are each a different experience and musical journey for me.  The Cotton Club was amazing and I think everybody felt it.  The Three Broadway Divas are some of the best Broadway voices you will ever hear, and I grew up with and loved the music of the Beatles so I really enjoyed The Magical Mystery Tour.

whoa nellie!  you worked in chuck mangione’s band for over six years – what was that like?

Chuck was a teacher at the Eastman School of Music when I was a student in the early 1970s.  After graduating, I started working with him full time as a record producer, lead trumpet player, production coordinator for live performances and all around “right hand man.”  It was a lot of responsibility for a 24-year-old.  I got a huge education about the music business and the recording industry and that experience shaped my whole career.  I earned a bachelor and masters degree from the Eastman School, but I like to say I earned my doctorate on the road with Chuck Mangione.

nice!  hey, if i could buy you a drink, what would you order?

1. Oregon Pinot Noir.  I just tried one called J Christopher Pinot 2008 and it was fantastic.

2. Vodka Martini – 3 Olives and slightly dirty

3. Pale Ale – very crisp

in addition to being one thirsty guy, you are also the principal pops conductor for the (canookian) vancouver symphony orchestra – any different responsibilities north of the 49th parallel?

It’s very much like what I do here in Oregon in terms of planning the season and executing the concerts.  Vancouver is a great town and I have been going there for about 14 years.

what’s so great about hearing classical music live?

There is an energy and passion you can only feel in a live performance.  You also get to see and feel the connection between the musicians and the rapport between the musicians and the conductor.  There is also a spontaneity that happens in every performance.  Music is ethereal, so when the last note sounds in the hall it’s gone forever, except for what remains in our memory and our soul.

sweet response!  hey, you’ve written that your relationship with doc severinsen is “…well beyond professional and deeper than i can explain.”  could you try for the beaver?

I’ve known and worked with Doc since 1978.  Our relationship quickly developed into a strong and deep friendship.  We did many projects together including five recordings that I produced for him.  The first one we did won a Grammy Award.  I wrote my first pops arrangements for his orchestra appearances.  He is an amazing person.  He held *my daughter Jami when she was six months old and she made her debut singing with him when she was 19, performing as his soloist.  I have had a myriad of personal and professional experiences with Doc and I am a better person because of it.

if you could invite 3 jazz trumpeters out to dinner, who would you choose?

Since I’ve already dined with or met Doc, Chuck, Maynard Ferguson, Dizzy Gillespie, Lew Soloff, Chris Botti, Freddie Hubbard, Arturo Sandoval, Clark Terry, Snooky Young, Pete Candoli, Allen Vizzutti, and Byron Stripling…

1) Miles Davis     2) Wynton Marsalis     3) Lee Morgan

I think I would take them to Andina and I would pick up the check.  Or can you suggest a good Portland food cart?

hmmm… the pod at se 12th & hawthorne is a classic choice, and as a bonus you’ll probably bump into joël belgique eating poutine there.  my off-the-beaten-track-hidden-gem-of-a-cart would have to be *artigiano on se 49th & woodstock in front of the joinery ~ i highly recommend the slow-cooked pork sandwich with caramelized onion and house-made aioli.  get it to go and walk down to woodstock park if it’s nice out… holy shit maestro – you really got me goin’ off track!  ahem, final question for reals now: what do you think sets the oregon symphony apart from other folks?

Each orchestra is unique because of the character, sound, and artistry of each musician and how those elements contribute to the sound of the orchestra as a whole.  Each time a new musician comes into the orchestra or someone departs, there is a slight change in the sound.  Carlos, Gregory, and I also shape the sound of the orchestra each in our own way based in part on what we hear when the musicians play.  I have heard the orchestra become better and better over time and especially the last six years.  It’s an honor and a joy to work with them.

ah yes, i feel the same way about listening to them… an honor and a joy indeed.  thanks so much maestro jeff for the terrific responses ~ props to the pops!


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