by Christopher O'Riley, From The Top
I remember having Matthew Muckey on From the Top in San Francisco back in 2002. He played Carnival of Venice, one of the toughest pieces for trumpet. His performance was flashy and amazingly virtuosic for a teenager. A mere four years later, we heard the exciting news that Muckey — at 22 and just about to graduate from Northwestern University — had been hired as the associate principal trumpet of the New York Philharmonic.
Winning a job in a major symphony is no small feat. Muckey's unflappable work ethic and fearlessness in tackling the difficulties of his instrument make him stand out. He practices every day to keep up his chops, and although he travels the world with the orchestra, he says he often sees little besides the practice room, the performance hall and his hotel room when on tour.
We had a lot of fun reconnecting with Muckey in 2008 when we were filming the second season of our television series on PBS. We had a young tuba player on the show whose fantasy was to play in a major symphony. So members of the New York Philharmonic's brass section, including Muckey, surprised him during rehearsal and performed with him on the show. So here we are, making a young man's dreams come true, and he's looking up to Muckey, who was on our show before him and now has this amazing job, sitting in the orchestra next to his idol Phil Smith, the orchestra's principal trumpet. It was a nice full-circle moment.
As part of our anniversary celebration, Muckey came into Boston straight off a two-week European tour with the New York Phil to play for us again. This time, he chose a very different piece from that first Carnival of Venice performance. It was the second movement from Oskar Boehme's Concerto in F minor. It's a beautiful piece filled with poise and serenity. It was interesting to see that side of his style come across, and to hear his mature sound.
As host of From the Top, I get to work with some amazing kids and encourage them along the way. Many of them are now major players in classical music in this country, and Matthew Muckey is a perfect example. I feel privileged to have contributed in some way to their growth as artists, and I look forward to watching Muckey's career continue to sail.