This was Doc Severinsen’s performance with the concert band in 1967. He played the first half with the concert band, and the second half with the stage band. We rehearsed all afternoon and only had the one concert that night. It was a lot to ask of high school kids, not to mention what Doc had to do! That’s why the performance has its problem spots, except for Doc. He didn’t miss a note, and even Doc would say he was on that night. He had total control of the trumpet and you can hear how his sound filled the coliseum.
Here’s one thing I need to mention about music education in 1967. There were 3,000 students at Paschal from which to choose for the band, stage band, choir, and orchestra. The competition was extremely high to be one of the best but it was the competition that made you practice. There were no formal private lessons offered at the school like there are today, and there was only one band director. It’s amazing how good the bands actually sounded considering all of that. The kids pretty much took charge and made it happen. Imagine how good it could have been with three directors and a private lesson program!
Doc’s cadenza at the end of the third movement is amazing. No one plays the trumpet that loud with that kind of control, speed, intonation, and accuracy. His high G near the end was perfect, after playing a complete three movement piece. Everything centered in every register, in regard to pitch.
You might think that hearing that performance at 16 would inspire me to be that good someday, but I knew I could never do that. I just knew. I knew enough to know that I had just heard something special. I haven’t heard anyone play like that, with that sound and control in all registers since then, either, except for Doc. That’s why I wanted to preserve this night. It was a great performance by one of the all time greats, and he proved he could do it on one try.
When the concert was over, I felt sorry for Doc because he had to go sleep in a hotel room on the road, and I got to go home to my bed. I realized that our greatest musicians have to sleep in hotel rooms most of their lives in order to be successful. That was not for me and I tried to make my career one where I could come home at night most of the time. Playing the Broadway shows that would come to town allowed me to do that.
As you listen to this, focus on Doc’s sound. No one can get that much sound out of a trumpet and keep it in control. He came up in a time when sound was important because they didn’t have sound men and 20 microphones on a band. It was all about being heard above a big band in a large dance hall with no amplification. That was old school trumpet playing, and that world is gone. I doubt we will ever hear another Doc Severinsen type of trumpet player. The times don’t require it. This recording will probably still sound great in 200 years. Maybe even better!