As a guitarist, I’m probably most proud of my long-running work with the Los Angeles Philharmonic because it’s a world that most guitar players don’t ever get a chance to see. One of my strengths is the ability to sightread music and to make it sound like I’ve had weeks to prepare, no matter what instrument the piece calls for. Sometimes it’s a brand new piece being premiered for the first time, other times it’s something that’s a part of the orchestra’s traditional repertoire. Being able to fit in with the ensemble and understand exactly what my role is within it is very important. Following a conductor is very different from listening and following along to a click track and takes a special awareness that is uncommon to most guitarists, but it’s a skill that most session players need every day.
Working with the orchestra also requires a sensitivity and a familiarity with the protocol of that particular situation. It’s not like hanging out with the rhythm section on a studio date, joking around, being loose, etc. But it’s also not the stuffy atmosphere you might imagine. In fact, at a recent rehearsal for Mahler’s Eighth Symphony, conductor Gustavo Dudamel asked me to turn the mandolin up to 11…and put some distortion on it! Of course, I was playing acoustically as this over-100 year old piece calls for, but his humor helped lighten a long day of rehearsals for everyone.
I work as a freelance musician in all of these situations. I’m not a “staff musician” or have a contract that obligates me to play every service the orchestras perform. After all, not every concert includes music that needs my instruments. Here’s a list of the principal positions I’ve held for a long time…
1984 - present Principal guitar/mandolin LA Philharmonic Orchestra
1990 - present Principal guitar/mandolin LA Philharmonic New Music Group
1990 - present Principal guitar Hollywood Bowl Orchestra
1990 - present Principal guitar/mandolin Los Angeles Opera
1998 - 2018 Principal guitar Pantages Theatre
1998 - present Principal guitar Ahmanson Theatre
During my years at the Los Angeles Philharmonic, I’ve worked with former music director Esa-Pekka Salonen during his entire tenure as well as the current director, Gustavo Dudamel. I’ve premiered many new pieces with the orchestra including John Adams’ Naive and Sentimental Music & El Nino, while collaborating with the composer on these guitar-centric pieces. Guest conductors have included Sir Simon Rattle (Mahler 7, Wozzeck), Pierre Boulez (Eclat, Le Marteau sans Maitre) , Zubin Mehta (Kurt Weill’s 7 Deadly Sins), Kurt Sanderling (Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde) and many others. My experience with the orchestra has included two tours, both domestic and international.
I perform several times a year with the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group for their Green Umbrella series at Walt Disney Concert Hall. The Green Umbrella series is a curated set of concerts dedicated to performing new works. It is one of the most challenging endeavors and often allows the performers to interact with composers to bring a new piece to life in the concert hall. Highlights have been working with John Adams on Frank Zappa’s Yellow Shark (originally written for the Ensemble Moderne in Paris), working with Pierre Boulez, as well as Esa-Pekka Salonen (Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels), Tan Dun and Dutch minimalist Louis Andriessen.
My tenure with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra has encompassed both the directorships of original music director John Mauceri (now Conductor Emeritus) and current director Thomas Wilkins. Under Mauceri’s leadership, the orchestra recorded many CDs for Phillips Records, which included many first- time recordings of both new and newly discovered works. I participated in a New Year’s tour of Japan with the orchestra in the 1990s in which we performed a special program of music scores of well-known Hollywood movies. The Hollywood Bowl Orchestra continues to offer stimulating programs many weeks each summer in it’s home at the Hollywood Bowl.
As principal guitarist for LA’s two most prominent theatres, I’ve played every major musical that has visited Los Angeles in the last 19 years, including the 2 1/2 year run of The Lion King, the 2 year run of Wicked, and lengthy runs of The Book of Mormon, Beautiful: The Music of Carole King, Motown, If/ Then, Amelie, The Scottsboro Boys, Fosse, Chicago, Mamma Mia, Newsies, Kinky Boots and Hamilton.
Frank Sinatra (w/Barbra Streisand) Duets Phil Ramone, producer
BB King & Dianne Schuur Heart To Heart Phil Ramone, producer
Barry Manilow Manilow Sings Sinatra Phil Ramone, producer
James Taylor Everybody Wants To Cha Cha Cha (single)
Judy Collins Fires Of Eden
Chuck Mangione Tarantella
LA Philharmonic w/ Esa-Pekka Salonen 200 Motels / Frank Zappa 2017 Grammy nomination
LA Philharmonic w/ Esa-Pekka Salonen The Film Scores of Bernard Herrmann
,LA Philharmonic w/ Esa-Pekka Salonen Placido Domingo - tenor Mahler - Das Lied von der Erde
Bob Curnow Big Band The Music of Pat Metheny & Lyle Mays
Selected Television Shows
Northern Exposure David Schwartz, composer
JAG Steve Bramson, composer
The Simpsons Alf Clausen, composer
Cat Dog Denis Hannigan, composer
Recess Denis Hannigan, composer
Suddenly Susan Ed Alton, composer
The Single Guy Ed Alton, composer
National Geographic | The Vatican Mark Adler, composer
PBS/WGBH Documentaries Mark Adler, composer
Love & War Jonathan Tunick, composer
Food, Inc. Mark Adler, composer
Rushmore Mark Mothersbaugh, composer
There’s Something About Mary
Mr Saturday Night Marc Shaiman, composer
Disney’s Newsies Alan Menken, composer | Jack Feldman, lyrics
Disney’s Pocahontas Alan Menken, composer | Stephen Schwartz, lyrics
Selected Live Performances