MEET THE STAFF: Steve Lamb, RI Philharmonic Orchestra Musician

Where did you grow up? I grew up in Texas. I was born in Waco, grew up in Plano, and first cut my teeth as a professional musician in Houston.

Favorite Meal or Restaurant? I’m a huge fan of a couple places in Mystic, Connecticut (where we currently live). Sift Bake Shop has incredible pastries . . . the owner won the Food Network’s Best Baker in America in 2018. Grass and Bone is my favorite restaurant for Lunch and Dinner . . I haven’t had anything there that wasn’t fantastic.

Coffee or Tea? Coffee. Black. (Like Katheryn Janeway from Star Trek Voyager)

What instrument do you play in the RI Philharmonic? I’m paid to play the Tuba. In my opinion, it’s the coolest job description ever.

What inspired you to take up that instrument and how old were you when you started? In fifth grade, we had a band instrument trial one evening after school. My dad took me to it as my mom was out of town with work (this becomes important in a moment). I went around the band room . . . tried drums, bassoon, saxophone, eventually making my way over to the brass instruments. I tried the trumpet . . . couldn’t get a sound. French Horn? . . . even worse. Trombone? . . . a tad better. The tuba, though, was where I sounded the best, whatever that meant for an eleven year old with zero musical training. As the band was in need of tuba players, the director gave me a hard sell, and I signed up for it. When we got home, my dad called my mom, and she exclaimed, “You let him pick WHAT??!!” Thirty-some odd years later, that same instrument puts food on the table for her grand kids.

What is your favorite composition for that instrument? If I’m choosing solo works, my personal favorite is Paul Hindemith’s Sonata for Tuba and Piano. From a technical standpoint, it’s not overly difficult, however, there’s a musical depth to the composition that is challenging to present and fun to perform. If I’m choosing orchestral works, I love the way Sergei Prokofiev writes for the tuba and feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to perform a couple of his works in my short tenure with the orchestra.

How long have you been playing in the RI Philharmonic? Not too long. I’ve been a member of the orchestra since January, 2017.

What is the best performance you’ve ever heard? In my opinion, this is the hardest question to answer. From a live performance, I distinctly remember witnessing an incredible performance at Carnegie Hall of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony with Pierre Boulez conducting the London Symphony Orchestra. A legendary orchestra with a legendary conductor performing a monumental work. From a recording standpoint, I don’t know if I can answer it. On almost a weekly basis, I’m inspired and astounded by recordings that I’m introduced to. A couple of my current guilty pleasures are Berlin Philharmonic’s Digital Concert Hall and the recordings from the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. I love the way those groups sound.

What do you want people to know about the RI Philharmonic Orchestra? My first season with the RI Philharmonic happened to coincide with the final season of Larry Rachleff as our Music Director. He made a comment that the RI Philharmonic, while part time, performs at the same quality as many full time orchestras. Larry’s comment about the quality is spot on. This orchestra consistently performs at a high level, and I feel extremely fortunate and humbled to have the opportunity to share the stage with the fantastic musicians in this orchestra.

How are you keeping yourself occupied while being at home all day? My wife and I have four kids, with the youngest just born in early April. Our two oldest are school-aged, so we are busy administrating and encouraging them to do their schooling-from-home work, while feeding and keeping the other two alive during the baby and toddler stages.

I’m still working my full-time job with the U.S. Coast Guard Band. We’ve moved to an 100% digital format and are posting pre-recorded performances, coordinating “at-home” style videos, and presenting masterclasses through social media and streaming services.

As I’m one who likes to stay busy, I’ve also been coordinating and performing in a recording initiative called the “Tuba Duet Project.” In the early days of social distancing, I was discussing with some friends, a couple of fantastic tuba players, my concerns about students not having ensemble experience during this time. Out of that conversation was born the idea to record single lines of duets and post them on Facebook and YouTube for tuba players to play the other line of the duet with us, all with the idea this would be a free service. To make it more accessible, we are publishing our own arrangements with the videos, so anyone with access to the internet can play along.

And if that’s not enough, I enjoy working on projects around the house. I’m currently updating our attic insulation, clearing some overgrown brush on our property, and have plans to paint and update our kids’ rooms this summer. (Yes, I have a problem with having too much free time.)

You’re stuck on a desert island . . . what book, music/album/artist and movie? I’m a sucker for epics, so my book choices (I get two, right?) are J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Lord of the Rings and C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia.

If I had only one album, it would probably be the Emerson String Quartet’s recording of J.S. Bach’s The Art of Fugue. It’s about as perfect of an album as I can fathom.

Movie? My family has been working our way through the Toy Story movies since everything shut down in March, and since I have love affair with epics and can’t imagine being on a desert island without my family, I’d choose all four Toy Story movies.

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