Mid-Week Musician in the Spotlight: Michael Underwood

By: Rebecca Kirkpatrick

Each week we will highlight a musician with a few fun facts our patrons may not have otherwise known. This week our Musician in the Spotlight is Michael Underwood. Dr. Underwood holds the William "Bill" Vickery, Jr. Memorial Chair as the ASO's Principal Trombonist. Here are a few fun facts about Dr. Underwood:

What is your birthday?
First day of summer. (*That's June 21 to those of you not in the know)

What is your home state?

What instrument(s) can you play?
Trombone and Euphonium

Who is your favorite composer and why?
Gustav Mahler. His passion and total dedication to the art of music. I wrote my Master's Thesis on the first movement of his Third Symphony.

What sparked your initial interest in music?
Our high school jazz ensemble went to the Elmhurst Jazz Festival in 1985. What I remember most was not our performance, but the master classes afterwards. We heard drummer Bunky Green, trumpeter Warren Kime, composer Frank Mantooth, and drummer Louis Bellson. They were the happiest people I had ever seen because they were musicians; I thought, "I want to do that! I want to be that happy in my life."

What are three things still left on your bucket list?
My bucket list includes a lot of pieces that I have yet to perform. There are more than three. I want to perform Mahler's Symphony Nos. 9 and 10, Das Lied von der Eerde, Stravinsky's Petrouchka, Nielsen's Symphonies Nos. 1, 2, and 3, Berg's Three Pieces for Orchestra and Lulu Suite, Schumann's Symphony No. 3, and Mozart's Mass in C minor.

What is the last book you read?
Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell

Who inspires you?
Joe Alessi, Principal Trombonist NYPO; Christian Lindberg, International Trombone Soloist, Composer, and Conductor; Giannis Antetokuonmpo, Forward, Milwaukee Bucks; Aaron Rodgers, Quarterback, Greenbay Packers; Bill Maher, Comedian; Bernie Sanders, Senator from Vermont; basically anybody who has dedicated their lives to being the best people they can be, no matter what they do.

This weekend, the orchestra will perform the third concert in the Masterworks series, "Romeo and Juliet," which includes compositions by Rachmaninoff, Kabelevsky, and Prokofiev. What excites you most about this concert?
I am very excited to play the Rachmaninoff Symphonic Dances this weekend, as I will be able to cross that off my "bucket list." I love the colors that he brings out of the orchestra, especially in the strings and winds. There are great harmonies with muted brass in the second movement, and exciting parts at the end of the first and last movements for all the brass.

I have played the band transcription of Kabelevsky's Colas Breugnon only, so this should be fun to play the full orchestra version.

Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet has a number of tacet movements, but of course the first movement has strong writing for the bass trombone and tuba. There's a version of an orchestra rehearsing the first movement, and when the trombones come in with the melody, they play the Darth vader theme instead, which completely cracks up the orchestra. So, maybe we'll do that... maybe not!

Mid-Week Musician in the Spotlight: Michael Underwood