Doc Severinsen has been on Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra's programs since 1981. "Doc has been one of the leading artists responsible for transforming symphonic pops in this country through his leadership of so many orchestras," said Jack Everly, ISO's principal Pops conductor. By age 7, Severinsen was playing trumpet in the high school band. While still in high school he toured with the then-famous Ted Fio Orchestra. Following WWII service, he toured with Tommy Dorsey, then Benny Goodman, followed by 30 years with The Tonight Show. When Johnny Carson retired in 1992, Severinsen and his big band took to the road. Severinsen has made 30-plus albums. His newest CD from Amherst, The Very Best of Doc Severinsen, reprises 15 of his signature pieces.
Severinsen spoke to NUVO by telephone from California.
NUVO: Share your views about your dedication to continuously broaden your repertoire.
Severinsen: It's partly for the artist's benefit to stimulate your growth. You never know when you'll find something you hadn't thought to try. The human condition is to fight change. But you need to, to grow. In that vein it's self-serving. While I'm making changes, the audience may not want to change, so you have to weigh that against what the artist may want to play. You have to be thinking about how the audience can be brought along.
NUVO: What is the balance between conducting and being the featured soloist?
Severinsen: They're not really separate. You're making music in either case. I enjoy both, but when you come down to it, I'm a horn blower. That comes first. When conducting, you have to remember how it feels to play in the orchestra. They'll play great if you let 'em. Don't get in their way.
NUVO: What do you want to leave with an orchestra and a community as a result of being a guest conductor?
Severinsen: One thing I try to do is to have such an enthusiasm and energy about what I'm doing - I'm not just showing up - that in turn gets to the players and the audience.
NUVO: One of your longtime fans commended you on your signature quality as a player - beautiful tone and your way of hitting and sustaining notes. Another commented on your work ethic, practicing three to four hours daily. Why, and what, do you practice?
Severinsen: Why is because you have to. It goes with the territory to maintain your playing. You make a mistake on a trumpet and everyone hears it. I practice the fundamentals. I know the tunes. When I go to the gym, I exercise the fundamentals. If you practice and exercise every day you maintain. If you lay off, you notice the changes. You practice to maintain.
Doc Severinsen performs with the ISO Friday, Nov. 19 at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.; Saturday at 8 p.m.; and Sunday at 7 p.m. at Hilbert Circle Theatre. Tickets: $28-$65. Call 639-4300; www.IndianapolisSymphony.org