Sunday, December 13, 2009

Robert Watt Broke Racial Barriers and Played French Horn in Los Angeles Philharmonic 37 Years

[Robert Watt]

AfriClassical is grateful to John Malveaux for this account of yesterday's interview of French Horn player Robert Watt at the California African American Museum in Los Angeles:

"On Saturday Decemeber 12, 2009 I attended CONVERSATIONS@CAAM. The history council at the California African American Museum present a series of Q&A conversations with distinguished guests who have a compelling story to tell. Beverly Lafontaine, marketing director for the Pasadena Conservatory of Music, interviewed Robert Watt. Breaking racial barriers with his French Horn, Mr. Watt's successful symphonic career is a triumph over the odds. The son of a musician, he was inspired at an early age by the sound of the French Horn in the Overture to Rossini's opera 'William Tell' only to be told that his lips were too big to play that instrument.

"He persisted, winning scholarships and accolades. While at Tanglewood, he won the prized position of Assistant First Horn with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where he remained until 2008. Performing with the orchestra for 37 years, he began as the youngest and only African American member. Fluent in Italian and German, Mr. Watt is a lecturer, a saber fencer, a staff writer for the Brass Bulletin, a pilot, and a teacher and mentor to many young musicians. Mr. Watt read several pages from his finished but unreleased and untitled autobiography. His personal choice for the title is 'Bugle to Symphony' but the publisher so far prefers 'Assistant French Horn.' Mr. Watt was forthright, interesting and articulate.

"During the Q&A, I stated that Mr. Watt's mention of being from New Jersey brings a question to mind. Composer George Walker lives in Montclair, New Jersey. Many years ago, I attended a lecture during the day and the premiere of a George Walker composition that night by the New York Philharmonic at Avery Fisher Hall. My question was 'During your tenure, did the LA Phil premiere the work of an African American composer?' Mr. Watt responded that the LA Phil performed music of William Grant Still during community outreach concerts but did not perform the work of an African American composer at the concert hall. John Malveaux" [George Walker and William Grant Still are profiled at]

1 comment:

Wilmer Wise said...

"Your lips are too large to play the trumpet" was the statement of a Philadelphia high school teacher.
I guess he was right.