I thought I’d share a great article from the New Yorker on the retirement of Phil Smith from the NY Philharmonic.
“The advantage that I had was coming from a church background, a hymnody background,” Smith said. “The way I was taught was ‘Always sing, always play the lyrics.’ ”
Two of the NY Philharmonic’s principal players are retiring this year- concertmaster Glenn Dicterow and trumpeter Philip Smith.
I don’t know Glenn, but I have known Phil Smith since I was a young kid. We both studied cornet with Phil’s dad, Derek Smith. Phil and I grew up in Salvation Army circles and our dads played together in the New York Staff Band of the SA.
Phil has had an amazing career in New York. I own several of his recordings and listen to them often. My favorite recordings of his are his orchestra excerpts CD and the Mahler 3rd Symphony with Bernstein conducting. Phil plays the offstage posthorn solo, beautifully as usual.
Derek taught us to play cornet and somehow imparted to his students that warm, sweet tone with just the right amount of subtle vibrato. When I hear Phil play, I hear Derek’s tone and I think, some of my own as well.
Even though there is plenty to admire musically about Phil Smith’s playing, it’s his integrity and principles (no pun intended) that come to mind when you think of him. Phil’s Christian spirit and unwavering commitment to Godly truth are what make him what he is, in my opinion. How many other principal players of top orchestras would go back to the smaller organizations and play “simpler” music and donate their time to Christian service. It’s wonderful to know that someone like him could make such an impact, and also be well respected in the secular community. He will be greatly missed in New York. Wherever the next chapter in his life leads him, though, he will surely give it his best, for his Master.