Posted August 7, 2009
Sixteen years ago Idaho State University Professor and Director of Bands Patrick Brooks was asked to play in the Sun Valley Summer Symphony as a last-minute fill-in for a trombonist who was ill. He’s been playing with the symphony every summer since.
“I was just lucky,” said Brooks, only one of two Idahoans still playing for the symphony, which attracts members from throughout North America and internationally. “It’s fun, and I love it, but it’s also some of the hardest work I do all year.”
The Sun Valley Summer Symphony is the largest privately funded free admission symphony in America, and is celebrating its 25th season. It will perform more than a dozen free concerts in the first half of August at the Sun Valley Pavilion, which seats 1,471 people, with additional seating on the side terraces and on the lawn. Under the leadership of Maestro Alasdair Neale, the orchestra has grown to more than 100 players.
One reason it’s demanding for Brooks is because virtually all of the symphony’s members are “full-time players” who earn their livings performing in symphony orchestras. Although Brooks loves to play and performs locally in Pocatello with the Idaho Civic Symphony and the ISU faculty quintet the Portneuf Brass, he has to fit his playing in between teaching classes, his responsibilities as ISU director of bands and other academic and directing duties.
“When I play for the Sun Valley Symphony I sit between one trombonist who is a principal trombonist in the Toronto Symphony and on the other side is a trombonist who is a member of the New York Philharmonic Symphony,” Brooks said.
“It would almost be like you showing up to a play a noon basketball pickup game,” continued Brooks, “and finding yourself playing with Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippin. It’s an incredible challenge, but I work hard and do my homework.”
The pace of the symphony’s practice and performance schedule is rigorous. During a 15-day stay in Sun Valley Brooks will play in a dozen concerts.
“One thing I like about the group is that you rehearse the music once in the afternoon and then you perform that music in concert that night,” Brooks said. "It is generally just a two-shot deal and it is your responsibility to have your act together and learn the music.”
The alpine setting for the concerts in tremendous, according to Brooks, who recommends those interested in attending to arrive early to find a good place to sit. Many patrons bring their own picnic and beverages. The concerts are held at 6:30 p.m. and last about an hour.
The ISU professor also said he likes the natural setting of Sun Valley and his time spent staying in Sun Valley has been memorable.
“For the most part, people host you in their houses during your stay, which can be interesting,” Brooks said. “I’ve stayed in some incredible places. A number of years I stayed in a 12,000 square feet house and had my own wing.”
As many as 5,000 people attend the concerts. The symphony and its associated activities including workshops and educational opportunities attract participants from around the globe.
More information on the symphony and a concert schedule is available online at www.svsummersymphony.org or by calling (208) 622-5607.