I Toured Europe with a Band
In 1972, I had the most incredible good fortune to be part of a band that was invited to play at an international music festival in Vienna, Austria. It was the Stadium High School Concert Band, a 70 piece brass band that had won many contests and awards and had an incredible director, Jack Lloyd.
As if that was not enough, the band extended an invitation to Rafael Mendez, arguably, the world’s greatest trumpet player at the time, to travel and play with us. He was known for playing “Flight of the Bumble Bee” and “Carnival of Venice” with one finger. He accepted our invitation!
The contest was in Vienna and we played venues in Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Netherlands. It was the very end of the Vietnam Conflict and Americans were not that popular in Europe but our experience was wonderful.
I specifically remember a venue in the mountains of Italy where we were quite late because our bus drivers got lost. The Mayor of the town came out to find us in his limousine, a Ford Falcon! Upon arrival in the town square, the villagers decided that we needed to be fed first and so each family took two, three or four of us into their homes and fed us. I believe I had spaghetti but I remember it was about the best food I had ever eaten.
Later that evening we all gathered again in the town square and gave a twilight concert to the whole town, probably less than 100 people. With the reception we received you would think Elvis was performing or the Rolling Stones. We ended with the Star Spangled Banner and you would have thought it was their college fight song! I have never been able to tell this story without choking up and my eyes are running like faucets right now – forty three years later.
On the same trip we spent a night in Montreux, Switzerland. It was a grand, OLD hotel. There was not much to do that evening and so many of us gathered in the only space open in the hotel, the bar (that was not frowned on in Europe).
The bar band was terrible. They played like they were playing a wake. They had four pieces, a pianist, sax, drummer and trumpet player. After some time, Mr. Mendez came in and asked the trumpet player if he could use his trumpet. He told the pianist what he wanted him to play by singing it to him, the same with the drummer and he let the sax figure it out.
The place exploded with life! People that appeared dead jumped up and started dancing, people were laughing and smiling and the band started having fun. It was as if someone turned on the party lights.
By coincidence, that trumpet was manufactured by F.E. Olds and they branded their line of trumpets under license from Rafael Mendez. I believe to this day that trumpet player has no idea that the world’s greatest trumpet player borrowed and played his trumpet or that the brand name stamped on the trumpet, “Mendez”, was his name.
2015 - Everett Ives and Associates