My First Solo with The U.S. Marine Band
by legendary euphonium soloist, Arthur Lehman U.S. Marine Band,
edited by David Werden
Back to Lehman Articles List...
When I auditioned for the Marine Band in July 1947, it was Major Santelmann, himself, who auditioned me. Had I known that he had played euphonium in the Marine Band for many years, I would no doubt have been even more nervous than I already was. I had met him on tour but his name hadn’t been mentioned. I had attended a Marine Band tour concert at State College, PA. when I was a student at Penn State. It was in the fall to 1938. I had gone up to the euphonium players right after the matinee concert looking for Don Kimball. He had been sent home - I think he had the flu - and Santelmann had been sent out to replace him. Fortunately, I did not remember the face. Or that I had met him. Or that he played euphonium.
At any rate when I auditioned, I had a card in my pocket with five big solos I had prepared and which I could play from memory at the drop of a hat. When the Major asked what solo I had prepared for the audition, I handed him the card. And what solo do you suppose he wanted to hear? “Carnival of Venice” (Clarke), the easiest solo on the list. I was relieved. Some of my other solos were really tough ones. As I recall the list of five were:
“Carnival of Venice” (Clarke)
“The Devil’s Tongue” (Schmidt)
“King Carneval” (Kryl)
“The Volunteer” (Rogers)
another which I can’t remember.
So, the Clarke “Carnival of Venice” really was a lot easier than the rest. I did get through it easily and I always took it at a pretty fast pace. The Major seemed to like it but he complained that my tone was so small. “Do you have a rag in the bell?”, he asked. I said I didn’t think so and I looked to see for sure. No rag. I just didn’t have a big, loud Marine Band tone. That was to come later.
After I was accepted for the Marine Band and I had reported for duty, it was already 4 August and it was too late for me to get on the soloist list for a solo on an outdoor summer concert. I had to wait until the following summer. However, I asked to be put on the soloist list when June neared. They did put me on the list but it was Mr. Weber who had the pleasure (???) of conducting the concert on which I was to perform. A Capitol concert. No one would care too much there if I fell on my face during the solo. The rehearsals went well even though Mr. Weber was pretty nervous about having a green youngster
- untried - on his concert for the first Marine Band solo. However, if Mr. Weber seemed nervous at the rehearsals, you ought to have seen him during the concert. If I had been only half as nervous as he, I couldn’t have blown even one note.
He seemed terrified. Probably he was sure that I would be a colossal flop. I wasn’t. I just played the solo as I’d always done - ripped thru it. My encore actually as more difficult, being so high, than the solo. I used an old song for the encore, “I’ll Take You Home Again, Kathleen”, a favorite of my late father’s. I played it in his honor, although I never mentioned that. After all, my father had got me started on the baritone horn when I was 10 years old, and he had given me great support and encouragement as long as he lived. It was too bad that he didn’t live to see me get into the Marine band and, perhaps, attend a concert with me in the euphonium section. He would have been SO proud and happy for me.
Mr. Weber was that way - nervous - all though his conducting, as I later found out. He was ill suited to be a Marine Band conductor. As sweet a man as he was, he was actually a disaster with the baton. He exuded nervousness, indecision, and fear. I am very happy that I did not catch his malady for my first solo, or for any of the other solos, duets, trios, quartets, etc. in which I played and which Mr. Weber conducted. Perhaps Major Santelmann wanted me to be exposed to all of this bad stuff for my first solo. He would know that if I got thru the solo okay under those conditions I could get thru any solo thereafter without trouble. He was correct on all counts. As far as I know - and I SHOULD know - I never got nervous enough in playing a solo or ensemble with the Marine Band to affect my playing adversely. I do believe that I did get a little nervous but all it did was to get me to play faster than usual. Sometimes I’d virtually leave Major (later Lt.Col.) Santelmann behind, in the dust. This seemed to tickle him. He liked something which went fast. Especially if it were a solo and if the soloist still cut the parts. I did, of course. That’s the only way I could possible play 15 solos in 1954. Most of these were played more than once. “Auld Lang Syne’ was performed 6 times in a week, as I recall. I got so fed up with that solo from that week that I never played it again.
But my first Marine Band solo went just fine, no thanks to poor Mr. Weber. How nervous he was!
Written by Arthur Lehman, October 30, 1995