Mr. Gilbert Johnson

Discussion in 'Wise Talk!' started by bftrumpet, Aug 27, 2005.

  1. bftrumpet

    bftrumpet New Friend

    Sep 30, 2004
    Miami, Florida
    Would you share some of your stories/experiences with Mr. Gilbert Johnson? I was his teaching assistant at the University of Miami shortly before he passed away and have the utmost respect for him as a teacher and a performer.

    Ben Fairfield
  2. wiseone2

    wiseone2 Artitst in Residence Staff Member

    Nov 19, 2003
    I had the pleasure of playing a few free-lance gigs in Philly with Gil. Gil had the best posture of any player I sat next to. I have tried to emulate his bell above the stand approach.
    Control, scary control was his strong suit. We spent tons of time on initial attacks. The Rene Laurent "Études Pratiques" was a book we worked from. Gil was always early at my lesson, so lots of times I sat outside the studio listening to him play. The long-belled Bach piccolo trumpet was just about the only high trumpet around at the time, other than the Selmer picc. He worked on that first etude on all the horns he had on hand.
    Gil played this much maligned horn with a glorious rich sound. I heard him play a remarkable Brandenburg with the Philadelphia.
    He was a master of conductor baiting. I was an extra with the orchestra when they performed and recorded the Berlioz Requiem. Ormandy was having big time trouble keeping the brasses toghether. We were scattered all over the Academy of Music. The first performance was a disaster. Ormandy called the whole brass section in for a pep talk."Men, I beat like a metronome, why can't you follow me?" Johnson and Krauss were choking back laughter :roll: Ormandy was conducting in his usual spastic way. Gil suggested that Ormandy turn round and look in the direction of the musicians who were off stage, actually in the boxes next to the stage. Ormandy thought for a second and then he agreed. When we left the conductors room, an explosion of laughter rocked the brass section :lol:
    Gil was a great guy.
  3. wiseone2

    wiseone2 Artitst in Residence Staff Member

    Nov 19, 2003
    This bears repeating:-)
  4. brian moon

    brian moon Forte User

    Gil told me this story. He went to a trumpet factory (I think it was Bach) and tried some D trumpets. He told them which one that he thought was the best. He was asked, " Should we call this one the Johnson model?" He replied, " No, call this one good and that one bad."

  5. jerec576

    jerec576 Pianissimo User

    Feb 12, 2009
    Miami, Fl
    How many trumpet players at UM were on beta blockers to help deal with the anxiety they got dealing with him and around him? Least thats what I've heard from one of his students. Very serious, very strong, and none of the trumpet players would dare disrespect him by making mistakes while they were his students, a requirement of his was to have a C trumpet. Supposedly he was also known as an alcoholic and sometimes but rarely didnt show up to lessons. He was famous for the Pines of Rome solo he recorded right? Least thats what I have heard.
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2010
  6. brian moon

    brian moon Forte User

    Hmmm, he did not pull any punches for sure.

    I was in the room after my lesson once and someone else made the mistake of coming to his lesson with stiff chops and not warmed up.

    GJ: what does that sound like to you?"

    I was thinking, O man what am I going to say?

    ME: "He doesn't sound very good.

    GJ: "Well I think that he sounds like he has a hot poker stuck up his ass."

    You know what? He was right!

    My friend, who was the object of Gil's wrath that day, and I still howl uncontrollably when we remember that one.

    I love to hear in my head the free, no pressure on his upper lip, sound that he played with when he would demonstrate something.
    Last edited: Nov 21, 2010
  7. Sol

    Sol Pianissimo User

    Jan 25, 2004
    I heard Gil play his last concert with the Philly orchestra in Saratoga NY in 1975. At the time I was playing in a youth orchestra there, and Gil came in and coached the trumpet section one day. Naively, I asked him why he was leaving the orchestra, as I couldn't imagine (at the time) why anybody would ever want to leave a first trumpet position in a major orchestra. That question really ticked him off. He told me that he was tired of doing it, and that he wanted to be down in Florida fishing. I wasn't prepared for the angry sort of reaction, but I didn't realized what sort of question I was asking, either.

    Gil also played a brass quintet concert with Seymour Rosenfeld, Mason Jones, Glenn Dodson, and Abe Torchinsky. They really sounded fantastic, and I remember a huge crown listening to them.
  8. trumPF

    trumPF New Friend

    Aug 14, 2007
    Miami, FL
    I studied with Mr. Johnson at U of M in the 90's and early 2000's before he passed away. He was awesome. If a student was serious and respectful he was the best teacher you could imagine. No patience for silliness or games though. I couldn't even imagine showing up to one of his lessons unprepared, a great motivator!

    He was fiercely loyal to his serious students, while being very frank with them. He simply had a realistic first-hand knowledge of what was required and didn't coddle anybody. If you received a compliment from him it meant a lot.

    Incredibly funny guy also. Had the fastest one-liners and snappy comebacks I've ever heard, usually aimed at the administration (I guess he drew upon his expertise at conductor baiting).

    Very grateful I had the opportunity to study with Mr. Johnson, definitely miss him.
  9. Bill Dishman

    Bill Dishman Piano User

    Nov 22, 2003
    Gainesville, Florida
    I have always loved the Mahler #1 with the "Blumine" movement with Gil Johnson playing.
    This was my favorite on an old cassette version back in high school. Found the LP version and eventually the CD version. Many other players have recorded this over the years but Mr. Johnson's is still my absolute favorite. Shine, shimmer, phrasing, delicacy, lyricism.

    Regarding his teaching....

    Back in the middle 70's a trumpet from my univerisity graduated and went to Miami to study with Gil Johnson. She was an excellent overall player for the entire time she was an undergrad and had all the "tools" to be a really fine player. She came back to visity in the spring and I spent some time with her doing duets etc. What a "huge" improvement!!!
    She went up the ladder exponetially. I have never seen that degree of improvement in such a short time. She gave Mr. Johnson all the credit.

    Bill Dishman
    Gainesville, Florida

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