“Who’s No. 4!?” For UNT masters degree trombonist Jeremy Wilson, these simple words have changed his life forever. On April 29, 2007, Jeremy finished a One O’Clock Lab Band tour to Washington, DC, only to rush back to Denton long enough to repack his bags, mow the lawn then rush back to the airport for a trip to Vienna, Austria for the adventure of his life. A few short days later, Jeremy would find himself standing in front of an audition committee comprised of members of the Vienna Philharmonic, being told that he had just won a trombone position with arguably the finest orchestra in the world, the Vienna State Opera/Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. But there’s much more to this incredible success story.
Jeremy Wilson arrived at UNT from the University of Tennessee in August, 2006 to pursue a masters degree in trombone performance. At his initial goals session, he described his desire to become a university professor, acknowledging that sometime during the course of his study he should probably study some orchestral excerpts and possibly take an audition or two in order to better understand the process. A few months later, he submitted his CD to the annual International Trombone Association Solo Competitions, just like many other university-level trombonists from around the world, and patiently waited for the results. However, when the results came back from one judge, namely Ian Bousfield, principal trombonist of the Vienna Philharmonic, it was followed with, “Who’s No. 4?” Bousfield was so impressed with Jeremy’s solo CD that he wanted to invite “No. 4” to the upcoming Vienna Philharmonic audition. Once the invitation was official, Bousfield said, “Please come to Vienna a week early so I can work with you.” Obviously this was another golden opportunity for Jeremy.
This was all exciting news in itself, because it is nearly impossible for an inexperienced player to get invited to a major orchestra audition, not to mention one in Europe. Through the team-teaching efforts of trombone professors,Vern Kagarice, Tony Baker and Jan Kagarice, Jeremy frantically prepared for what would be his first orchestral audition ever, and an opportunity of a lifetime.
Exhausted from the months of preparation, a jazz band tour and the usual jetlag, Jeremy and his wife Kristy arrived in Vienna on April 30, 2007. By mid-week, Jeremy was ready for his first “live” encounter with Bousfield, an extremely important one because to this point the decision to extend an audition invitation was based totally on a CD. Bousfield quickly discovered that Jeremy was “for real” and invited his VPO bass trombone colleague Hans Stroecker to hear him the next day. Stroecker’s concerns were also quickly put to rest, commenting, “I was floored with how quickly Jeremy could adjust to my requests.”
The first preliminary audition round was designated for all players except the select few who already have established orchestral careers and reputations. After Jeremy’s strong showing for Bousfield and Stroecker, some quick, last-minute negotiations were made, culminating in the decision that Jeremy would be excused from the preliminary round and moved on to the next round. Bousfield, explained, “We didn’t want to risk the possibility of losing him in the ‘cattle call’ preliminary.”
On Monday, May 7, while Jeremy’s wife Kristy spent several hours “pacing” through the sights of Vienna, her 24-year old husband would be playing his heart out in the Mahlersaal of the Vienna State Opera Theatre. In the first round behind a screen, 17 candidates played the David Concerto, followed by orchestral excerpts from Ravel’s Bolero and Mozart’s Requiem. Following an extended tabulation process, the proctor announced that only candidates 2 and 5 had been advanced to the next round. Jeremy was No. 5!
Still behind the screen Nos. 2 and 5 played another series of orchestral passages that included excerpts from Mahler’s Symphony No. 3. According to Bousfield, it was Jeremy’s rendition of Mahler that won him the job, describing his playing as “absolutely breathtaking.”
Not yet finalized, the audition screen was removed for what would be the next and final round. It was at this point that Jeremy’s lack of experience caught up with him. The first sight of the 26-member audition panel that included all the VPO principal players, along with music director, Maestro Seiji Ozawa, literally took his breath away. Returning to the warmup room, he suddenly found it difficult to even play. Remembering the comments from his teachers that your breathing is the first thing to go when you get nervous, Jeremy somehow regrouped and returned for a successful final round.
Both candidates were eventually escorted back into the Mahlersaal for a final time, where they were greeted with enthusiastic applause and cheers by the audition committee, followed by the announcement that No. 5 had been selected to join the world-renowned Vienna State Opera/Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Bousfield described the entire audition field as “outstanding,” making it one of the highest level auditions he had ever witnessed, applauding Jeremy’s playing as “brilliant.”
A few minutes later, Jeremy was able to find an international cell phone so that he could call his teachers and parents. With his typical modesty, his 7:30 a.m. phone call to Vern Kagarice began with, “I have some bad news and some good news. The bad news is, I won’t be able to continue my TF next year, and the good news is, THEY PICKED ME!” Meanwhile, poor Kristy Wilson, without an operational cell phone was still wandering aimlessly through Vienna, contemplating the possible ordeal of selling nearly everything to move to one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Obviously, the trombone faculty, as well as the rest of the College of Music faculty and students, is thrilled with this “Cinderella” success story, but it is Jeremy who stood in the fire and did what he had to do, so all the credit really goes to him.
This article would be cut short without acknowledging the outstanding teaching of Jeremy’s undergraduate trombone teacher, Don Hough at the University of Tennessee. Jeremy’s work at UNT was primarily fine-tuning, compared to the fabulous preparation he received from Professor Hough.
If Jeremy ever decides to play the lottery, guess what numbers he’ll choose?