Interview with Byron Stripling, When the Saints Go Marching In

We sat down recently with conductor, trumpet player and vocalist extraordinare, Byron Stripling, to discuss his upcoming collaboration with the San Diego Symphony in When the Saints Go Marching In With Byron Stripling on August 20th at The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park. Born in Atlanta, Georgia, Byron earned his stripes as lead trumpet player and soloist with the Count Basie Orchestra and today serves as Artistic Director of the Columbus Jazz Orchestra and Principal Pops Conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

1. You’re returning to conduct and play with the San Diego Symphony for the second time. What did you enjoy about your experience the first time?

The musicians! The San Diego Symphony Orchestra is packed full of world class virtuosos with the ability to perform any genre at the highest level. Case and point is the Jelly Roll Morton tune, “Black Bottom Stomp.” We will showcase Principal Clarinet Sheryl Renk and Principal Trombone Kyle Covington on that tune and their solos will set your soul on fire!

2. What can you tell us about the music of this new program, When the Saints go Marching In with Byron Stripling? Why did you name it so?

The old timers from New Orleans had no prejudice against any type of music. Classical, Folk Songs, Ragtime, Spirituals, and Gospel were all in their repertoire. Such is the case with this show and the title song, “When The Saints Go Marching In” – which is bubbling with the passion and joy imbued within the music of New Orleans.

3. Tell us about how you came to play the Trumpet as your instrument. What other instruments do you play?

When I was a kid they used to say, “The trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised.” That was all I needed to hear to ignite my love of the trumpet. Combine the sound of my father’s Louis Armstrong records echoing through the house 24/7, and I had no choice but to sign up for a lifetime love affair with the trumpet.

4. What is one of your most memorable musical memories, either as a conductor, musician, observer or all three?

Certainly playing monthly concerts in Carnegie Hall in the '90s, conducting Rhapsody In Blue in Philadelphia’s Verizon Hall, as well as tours throughout Asia, Europe and South America are highlights. However it’s the audience and the people you stand with on the stage that make the music special. From Sinatra, Tony Bennett, and Ella Fitzgerald to Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston and George Michael…these are the magical performance moments that remain indelibly etched in my body, mind and spirit.

5. If you could listen to or play only one piece for the rest of your life, what would it be and why?

Louis Armstrong’s version of, “I Gotta Right To Sing The Blues.” If that doesn’t make you feel good then you don’t like fried chicken!

6. What would be your dream music collaboration?

Performing is my life, and as soon as I finish my gig tonight, I’ll be totally consumed with the glorious music that will happen on August 20th at The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park, which is also my birthday… I will celebrate on that day, on stage with the San Diego Symphony. For me, it makes no sense to focus on anything but the present moment, when I’ll be able to share my love of New Orleans Jazz with the good people of San Diego.


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