Vermont Symphony Orchestra

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Q&A with Chris Brubeck

To say that Chris Brubeck is an accomplished musician is an understatement.  A trombonist, bassist, and pianist, Brubeck balances a busy touring and recording schedule with his work as an educator and Grammy-nominated composer.  And if the Brubeck name rings a bell, that may be because Chris Brubeck comes from one of the music world’s more impressive families (Dave Brubeck, anyone?).

We have the honor of performing a new work entitled Pas de Deux by Chris Brubeck at our September 21 Brubeck for Two concert.  This double concerto was co-commissioned for the husband-wife team of violinist (and VSO Music Director) Jaime Laredo and cellist Sharon Robinson, and our performance will mark its Northeast premiere.  Pas de Deux highlights the two performers’ special partnership, as well as Brubeck’s penchant for combining genres and exploring unconventional time signatures.  Our Marketing Manager, Margot Van Horne, caught up with Brubeck to ask a few questions about his work, including questions submitted by commenters to our Facebook page.

MV: As a multi-instrumentalist, composer, and educator, you seem to have a lot going on in your professional life.  What is a typical day like for you, if there is such a thing?

CB: Right now, I am on deadline to finish a major work for orchestra, chorus, soloists and jazz combo which is due to premiere in Switzerland in February.  I am getting up [at] about 5:30 every morning and working in my studio all day, taking breaks for meals.  Once I finish this, I will jump right into my next commission, which is [a] wind ensemble piece for the New England Conservatory.  I’m very excited about both pieces, but there is a LOT of detailed work.  This is in addition to touring with my two groups and as a soloist as well.

MV: Here’s an audience-submitted question: What is your favorite instrument to play?  Has it always been that instrument, or has it changed over the years?

CB: As much as I love playing trombone and piano, I am particularly fond of playing my 1969 fretless Rickenbacker bass.

MV: When you were writing your Pas de Deux, what elements of Jaime and Sharon’s playing styles or personalities were you keeping in mind?  In other words, how was writing for the two of them different from writing a double concerto for any given violinist and cellist?

CB: Well, I observed very quickly that Jaime has a beautiful light touch and elegant style and oddly enough, it reminded me of my favorite jazz violinist, Stephane Grappelli.  I had the pleasure of sharing the stage with him and my father performing with the London Symphony Orchestra decades ago.  I often compose following my initial intuitions, and I asked Jaime if he’d be up for me taking him into a Grappelli-like direction in the last movement.  He was game and he has fun with it.  Sharon is also a beautiful player and has a very intense and focused sound.  I wanted to make sure that she was featured with the opening musical statement in the first movement.  We worked closely together and she gave me good advice about range considerations and where she could really make her cello sing.  I had great fun working with the two of them and visited them at their Vermont home to listen to them play the piece with a rehearsal pianist.  They took their preparation for Pas de Deux very seriously and I felt honored to be collaborating with them.  One of the things that I will treasure always is how much they both loved the concept of how the third movement begins, which is very ethereal.

MV: Here’s another audience-submitted question: is there an especially great trombone part in your Pas de Deux?

CB: No, but there are beautiful cello and violin parts!  I was very conscious of not covering the string soloists.  As a trombone player myself, I know we can be overpowering!  My orchestration tries to serve the purpose of the music which in this case is to feature these distinguished artists, Jaime Laredo and Sharon Robinson.  Any trombone considerations had to take a back seat.

MV: And now for a general get-to-know-you question, common among Vermonters: what is your favorite Ben & Jerry’s flavor?

CB: I think I’d have to say Phish Food, but I’ve been cutting out carbs so it has been a very long and sad time since I’ve had any ice cream!  I had some ice cream this summer with my grandchildren and it made me very happy!  Sharing ice cream with grandkids is a rich tradition, and what’s more adorable than a 2-year-old with chocolate ice cream all over her face?

Find out more about Chris Brubeck and his work at, and join us at the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts on September 21, 2019 to hear his Pas de Deux at our Brubeck for Two concert.