Thursday, November 13, 2014

Marcus Eley: Musician and Author Robert Lee Watt Discusses Music and Life Experiences on National Public Radio

The Black Horn: The Story of Classical French Hornist Robert Lee Watt
Robert Lee Watt
Rowman & Littlefield

Marcus Eley writes:

November 11, 2014 --- Los Angeles, CA

Musician and author, Robert Lee Watt, was a featured speaker on NPR’s All Things Considered.  He recalled his life and musical experiences with NPR correspondent, Karen Grigsby Bates.

WATT:  We grew up kind in a giant cold-water flat of a house.  But we didn’t think about – we made fun kid stuff of it – snowball fights inside the house because there were cracks in the windows, and snow would drift in.”

GRIGSBY BATES:  Were your parents musical?

WATT: Yes.  My mother played piano by ear. My father played trumpet.

The discussion also covered his post high studies . . .

GRIGSBY BATES: And from high school, you did something that surprised a lot of people.  You went on to the very elite New England Conservatory of Music.

WATT:  I was lucky.  He was very paternal for me.

... which led eventually to his on-stage audition and employment with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

WATT: When I auditioned, there was no screen.

GRIGSBY BATES:  So they knew when you walked out on the stage that you are going to be a different kind of French horn player.  Did people [the LA Phil] welcome you?  Were they warm?

WATT: Most people were fine.  They were what James Baldwin would call, ignorant and innocent at the same time. Racially awkward.  But they were trying to be nice.

A link to the complete interview is available here:

The Black Horn is the title of a new book by French Hornist, Robert Lee Watt, published by Rowman & Littlefield (ISBN: 978-1-4422-3938-8) which chronicles his upbringing as a young boy fascinated by the sound of the French horn, his poor yet musical home, conservatory studies, and eventual experiences in a major American symphony orchestra.  Watt walks readers through the many obstacles of the racial climate in the U.S. of the 70s, both on and off stage, and his efforts to learn and eventually master an instrument little considered in the African American community.

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