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The NY Philharmonic's Tom Stacy

Tom Stacy  

(CNN) -- Tom Stacy is the English horn player for the New York Philharmonic. Stacy has played with orchestras around the world and has been featured on NPR’s "All Things Considered." Stacy teaches English horn and oboe, which he has also mastered, at The Juilliard School and Mannes College of Music. Stacy trained at the Eastman school of music.

CNN Moderator: Good morning, Tom Stacy. Welcome to chat.

Tom Stacy: Thank you and it's fun for me to be here.

CNN Moderator: What is it you love about the English horn and what is most challenging about this instrument?

Tom Stacy: I love the sensuous sound of it, and the most challenging thing is to sound good all of the time or as often as possible.

Question from chat room: What type of oboe and English horn do you play on?

Tom Stacy: I play Laubin instruments. They are made in Peekskill, New York.

Question from chat room: What drew you to double reeded instruments?

Tom Stacy: When I was young, my mother had a record collection, and I heard a famous oboe solom and I was intoxicated by that sound, and I still am.

CNN Moderator: When you began studying music, did you start with the English horn?

Player Profile

Thomas Stacy, English horn

Hometown: Augusta, Arkansas
Age: 62
Age at which he began to play English horn: 16 (first played clarinet and oboe)
Early music education: Public school bands for clarinet; self-taught on oboe, English horn
Formal music training: Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester, Rochester, New York
Professional resumé:
•   1960-'61 -- New Orleans Symphony
•   1961-'62 -- San Antonio Symphony
•   1962-'72 -- Minneapolis Symphony
•   1972 - joined the New York Philharmonic
•   1973 - joined The Juilliard School faculty
•   1998 - joined Mannes College of Music faculty
Number of years with New York Philharmonic: 29
Favorite pieces to play: Music of Dvorak, Shostakovich, Sibelius
•   "Thomas Stacy/Three Concerti"
•   "New York Legends"

Tom Stacy: I started with studying piano with my mother, which may be the reason I play only one piece now. And then I played violin. The first wind instrument was clarinet, and I eventually got the oboe I wanted when I was in Junior High school. I then sold my motorcycle and bought an English horn, and here I am. I made the ultimate sacrifice!

Question from chat room: How different are they from Loree oboes and English horns?

Tom Stacy: I like the sound better, and they are very dependable. And it's also very convenient to go to Peekskill for adjustments and maintenance. It's not as much fun as going to Paris where Lorees are made.

Question from chat room: If you could rate in terms of enjoyment to play, what are your three favorite pieces?

Tom Stacy: If I may broaden it a bit and make it three favorite composers: First would be Mahler. Tchaikowsky would be second. Thirdly, I think either Baroque music or contemporary music.

Question from chat room: How much do you have to practice everyday?

Tom Stacy: With any skill, a certain amount of maintenance practice is required to stay as good as you are presently. That's a sobering thought. For me, practice is very enjoyable and a luxury. I can amuse myself practicing for long periods of time. I try to practice at least an hour a day.

CNN Moderator: Do you teach, and if so, how do you encourage your students to also enjoy practicing?

Instrument Profile

Player's primary English horn

Made by: Laubin, Peekskill, New York
Made of: African grenadilla wood, with silver-plated keys
Purchased: New, in 1996
Cost: About $7,000

Tom Stacy: I do teach at the Juilliard School, and I teach at the Mannes College of Music. I encourage the students to enjoy practice by stressing details and the resultants.

Question from chat room: Do you have one particular piece that simply blows you away every time you hear it?

Tom Stacy: I don't think I have ONE particular piece, but again, the Mahler symphonies return to the repertoire like comfortable shoes. I don't think Mahler would appreciate that analogy, though.

Question from chat room: How do you feel about playing the EH solos in Shostakovich Symphonies 8 and 11?

Tom Stacy: They are terrific because of its expressive nature. And the 11th symphony solo is different but also very poignant. I am a ham. The longer and bigger the solo, the more I like it!

Question from chat room: Are you doing any new recordings for release soon. I enjoy the ones I already have.

Symphonic careers

Tom Stacy: Yes. Soon I am recording a CD with Harpsichordist Kenneth Hamrick, and I think we'll call it "Melody Spells." The repertoire is some beautiful melodies that sound incredibly wonderful for this combination of English horn and harpsichord.

Question from chat room: What do you think of military bands as a career path for a double reed performer?

Tom Stacy: I really don't know much about that.

Question from chat room: What is the program on your new recording with harpsichord

Tom Stacy: There will be quite a few works ranging from some Johan Sebastian Bach to the Cavatina from the Deer Hunter to a theme from Barber's Piano Concerto to the Melody from the Second Movement of the Rodrigo Guitar Concerto. It's a nice mix. You will want to be the first on your block to own twenty of these CDs!

Question from chat room: How does one battle the need for enough practice time with the need to work a day job while trying to establish a performance career?

Tom Stacy: Usually not very well. That is a problem because I have friends doing that now. I think the way to do it is to put the money in the savings account first, if you know what I mean. Practice at a certain time each day, and make the most of the practice time. It's not how long you practice. It's what you practice.

Question from chat room: With so many big talents in one group is there still a good group "harmony"?

Tom Stacy: Yes, basically there is. I think at the Philharmonic there is great pride in wanting everything to be top-drawer. And I find it a friendly group. I get along with 98 percent of the entire Philharmonic family.

Question from chat room: What's the Philharmonic practice schedule?

Tom Stacy: Our winter season, which is the large part of our year, is comprised of eight services, usually, per week. That means four rehearsals for a program that is played four times. We also travel usually internationally and have other events but that's the bulk of the season.

CNN Moderator: If you weren't a musician what would you be doing right now?

Tom Stacy: I would be an interior decorator.

Question from chat room: How much time do you spend making reeds?

Tom Stacy: Double reed players make their own reeds because the reeds are as individualistic as the players themselves. It is a frustrating tenet of the art of playing since every piece of cane is slightly different. I have experimented with different schedules of making reeds. Right now, on Saturday and Sunday I try to come up with four good reeds for the next week. A good reed does not a great artist make.

Question from chat room: I'm listening to the "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" soundtrack now. It made me think of Yo Yo Ma. Have you had a chance to perform with him?

Tom Stacy: Yes, just recently. We did a new work by the Composer Danial Bour. That was a cello concerto for Yo Yo Ma and the Philharmonic.

Question from chat room: Do you get all the pieces at the beginning of the season so you have plenty of time to practice?

Tom Stacy: That's a good question. Yes, we can usually get our parts to the pieces at least one season in advance to do the homework required before rehearsals with the orchestra. I find if I can't play it by the first rehearsal, it's not going to happen by the concert. We rehearse usually the first time on Tuesday morning for a concert that is played on Thursday night.

Question from chat room: What do you look for in a conductor?

Tom Stacy: They love English horn playing!! But more seriously, I think at this level a conductor is more of an inspirer than a pedagogue. The chemistry between the conductor and the orchestra has to be just right, and that is a little hard to define and articulate verbally. But it's always apparent, almost immediately.

CNN Moderator: Do you have any final thoughts to share with us today?

Tom Stacy: I guess that I am one of the lucky ones. I love what I do and feel truly privileged to deal with "beauty-making." And I guess right now I better go practice so I can reach that goal!

CNN Moderator: Thank you for joining us today, Tom Stacy!

Tom Stacy: It was fun for me, and thank you for having me.

Tom Stacy joined the chat room via telephone from Connecticut and provided a typist. The above is an edited transcript of the interview on Friday, March 23, 2001 at 11:30 p.m. EDT.

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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