Gabriel Langfur, Bass Trombone
Where did you grow up? Lawrence, NY, although I was born in Berkeley, CA
Where do you live now? Jamaica Plain, MA
Educational Background: BA English, BMus Trombone Performance, Oberlin College and Conservatory; MMus, New England Conservatory
Personal info (family, kids, pets, etc.) My wife Deborah Boldin is a flutist and the Artistic Director of the Chameleon Arts Ensemble of Boston. We have no children; instead we have a non-profit organization.
How did you get started in music? I started when I was about 6 years old with piano lessons at the Stecher & Horowitz School of the Arts in Cedarhurst, NY. Later on, I also took guitar and trombone lessons there and played in a youth orchestra they sponsored. Melvin Stecher and Norman Horowitz are marvelous duo pianists who founded this great community music school, and are now founders and directors of both The New York International Piano Competition and The Stecher and Horowitz Foundation. It was a wonderful, supportive environment, and the group theory classes that were required from the beginning gave me tremendous tools in sight-singing and melodic and rhythmic dictation that made it possible for me to pass out of required ear training at both the college and graduate school levels.
When did you join the Rhode Island Philharmonic? 1995, the same year Larry Rachleff was hired.
What are your non-RIPO musical activities? I am also a member of the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, and I freelance in Boston and throughout New England. I've been fortunate to be on the sub list for the Boston Symphony and Pops for many years, as well as the Boston Ballet Orchestra, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Opera Boston, the Albany, Hartford and Portland Symphonies, and many other fine ensembles. The teaching positions I've assumed in the last few years have made it possible for me to play more chamber music and solo recitals as well, which I particularly enjoy.
What is your favorite RIPO memory to date? I will never forget the post concert Q &A with Larry Rachleff in I think 1997, the last time we played the Shostakovich 11th Symphony. A little old lady stood up and said, in as loud a voice as she could muster: "I've been coming to the Philharmonic for 40 years and I've never heard a piece of music like that." I think I've known Larry longer than any other member of the Philharmonic - he conducted me in an all-county band when I was in high school - and I'm pretty sure I could read his mind as he was preparing to defend his programming choice. She went on: "And I'd like to know why there isn't a piece like that on EVERY concert!" That was the only time I've ever seen him speechless.
Do you teach? If so, where? I teach all trombones at the University of Rhode Island, and bass trombone students at Boston University's College of Fine Arts. I also teach for the Vermont Youth Orchestra Associaton's Reveille Festival in the summer.
If you couldn’t be a musician, what would be your dream job? This is my dream job. Even though the life of a freelance musician involves a lot of driving and a fair amount of uncertainty, I consider myself incredibly lucky to be able to make a life playing music. I have a degree in English Literature as well, and I could imagine a job that involves writing and/or editing - which I do a fair amount of anyway - but really, this is what I want to be doing.
What are your non-musical hobbies? Music is pretty all-encompassing, and I think it's fair to say that practicing is my hobby as well as part of my job. I like to read, although I don't do it as much as I used to. I like to cook and have been doing more and more of it recently. I proudly consider myself a beer snob. I've finally found an exercise that I enjoy, which is kettlebell training at a martial arts studio near where I live in Jamaica Plain. It's social, which I like; it's in the form of classes that meet at set times, which I need or else I simply don't do it; and it combines strength training, mobility and flexibility, and cardio training.
Who or what has been your greatest influence, musical or otherwise? I have been lucky to have great trombone teachers, starting with Karl McDannell, my first private teacher and later my high school band director, Bob Higgins, an older student at Oberlin that took me under his wing, and Per Brevig, the former principal trombonist of the Metropolitan Opera who was demanding in in all the right old-school ways, insisting on great style, energy, and perfect rhythm and pitch 100% the time.
I was extremely close with Ray Premru, my teacher for most of my time at Oberlin. He was American, but his 30-year playing career was spent in London with the Philharmonia Orchestra, the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble, and anybody else who could get him. He played on many film soundtracks - including all of the James Bond films until 1988 - and albums by diverse artists, including The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Ray was also a world-class composer, and I had the privilege in March 2010 to re-premiere his Music for Three Trombones, Tuba and Orchestra with the US Army Orchestra. It had not been played since the Philadelphia Orchestra commissioned and premiered it in 1985. Ray was a true gentleman in every way, with genuine compassion and good will towards everybody he worked with, but also an iron will and determination. I learned a lot about music from him, but more importantly he convinced me every week that he believed I could do anything. He passed away much too young in 1998, and I miss him every day.
I also studied with Norman Bolter, now retired from the Boston Symphony, who is one of the most imaginative and unique musicians I have ever had the privilege to know, as well as Matthew Guilford of the National Symphony and Charlie Vernon of the Chicago Symphony.
Finally, I would have to list Larry Rachleff as an important influence on me and the way I approach performing. As I mentioned above, he conducted me once when I was in high school, and he was teaching at Oberlin for the first two years I was there. I can remember being in the audience at a specific concert he conducted during the fall of my freshman year, completely transported by a program of contemporary music, my decision to take music as far as I could cemented. Larry opened my mind and ears to the magical possibilities that could be opened up by playing music in a disciplined and committed manner, creating large-scale effect and narrative by painstaking care of details.
What is your favorite music? What are you currently listening to? My tastes vary widely, and there's no way I can pick any favorites.
What/where do you like to eat in the Providence area? Honestly, I don't often have time to explore all the great food in Providence, but you will usually find 4 or 5 of us from the brass section between rehearsals and concerts at Little Chopsticks on Smith Street.
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