New York Philharmonic Trumpeter Philip Smith to Retire

Tuesday, November 05, 2013 - 04:00 PM

Philip Smith, who has led the New York Philharmonic's trumpet section for 35 years, announced on Tuesday that he will retire in June 2014 to become a professor at the University of Georgia's School of Music.

Smith, 61, was named co-principal trumpet of the Philharmonic in 1978 and became its principal trumpet in 1988. His bright, assertive yet lyrical tone has been heard in everything from Mahler and Shostakovich symphonies to pieces like Gershwin's An American in Paris. The Philharmonic reports that he has appeared as a soloist in 37 works and in 219 concerts, premiering concertos by Joseph Turrin (1989), Jacques Hetu (US premiere, 1992) and Lowell Liebermann (2000), among others, and playing standard works like the Haydn Trumpet Concerto (see below).

The son of Derek Smith, a cornet soloist, Smith was born in England and moved to Long Island at age seven. While a student at Juilliard in 1975 he joined the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, then a famed brass powerhouse under conductor Georg Solti. But after three years, Philharmonic music director Zubin Mehta hired him away. He has remained in New York since, serving on the faculties at Juilliard and the Manhattan School of Music. He has also appeared with various brass groups including Salvation Army Bands.

Known for his sometimes outspoken religious beliefs, Smith cited his faith in a statement on Tuesday. "My simple goal over these many years has been to give my best, using the gifts given to me by God, for the beauty of the universal language of music," he said. "I am excited by this opportunity to be involved in the lives of young musicians, sharing all that I have experienced."

Smith's retirement comes just as Glenn Dicterow is to step down in June from the concertmaster position of the Philharmonic.

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Comments [10]

Marshal Root from Westport, CT

Ok, I am the last person in greater NYC to hear this news. Philip, I have been sitting in the second tier watching you more than any other player for over 25 years. When you played the offstage trumpet for Mahler's third at my door tears were in my eyes. Thank you so much. NY Phil -- Nothing? No note in the program? I guess the timing made it hard and it sounds like Philip is a quiet man. I get it. I am just really sad I never got to say good-bye and thank you. So, thank you. You have meant a lot to me. I will miss you.

Jul. 24 2014 07:52 PM
Mark Wagner from Santa Fe, NM

BRAVO to Phil Smith for so many years of staggeringly fantastic trumpet playing!! What an inspiration to countless trumpet players around the globe who had the chance to hear a true master play!!!!!!

My favorite recording of his is still the old CD of the New York Phil playing Mahler's 5th Symphony with Maestro Inbal and the larger than life opening solo of the 5th!!!!

Best wishes for a fantastic future and, Soli Deo Gloria!!!

May. 05 2014 08:15 PM
George Coble from Liverpool, NY

It was a privilege to be a member of his trumpet section, hearing him perform daily and experiencing his consummate musical gifts, his indomitable spirit, and his artistic integrity. May Phil Smith and his family enjoy and revel in the new challenges found in this, his “second career”.

George Coble

Nov. 18 2013 02:05 PM
George Coble from Liverpool, NY

It was a privilege to be a member of his trumpet section, hearing him perform daily and experiencing his consummate musical gifts, his indomitable spirit, and his artistic integrity. May Phil Smith and his family enjoy and revel in the new challenges found in this, his “second career”.

George Coble

Nov. 18 2013 02:05 PM
Steve Hendrickson

One of the greatest trumpeters of all time! He was also humble
gentleman. His playing and personality will be missed in the NY Phil!

Nov. 07 2013 01:05 PM
Avrum Golub from Asharoken, NY

Hi Peter,
I, too, played with Mr. Vacchiano (and you, under Jerome "Gino" Sala) at Lehman College.

Indeed, Mr. Vacchiano remembered me from my Julliard audition (1964). Also, he autographed a copy of his exercise book; I treasure it.
Horn Player

Nov. 06 2013 01:49 PM
Peter J Blume from Westchester, NY

Being a trumpeter from the NY area, I grew up always hearing about the legend of William (Bill) Vacchiano--as the long-time tenure player with the NY Philharmonic; 38 years! I was fortunate to meet, briefly get to know, & even play along side him in his very senior years--in a community concert-band setting, down at Lehman College in the Bronx; what a great gentleman & teacher he was.

I think we often take for granted the great people that come after legends like that. For me, Phil Smith is one of those people. I definitely went to hear him perform a few times & I fortunately attended a master class that he once gave at the Westchester Conservatory of Music--he always sounded amazing & definitely was also a great teacher, gentleman...& Christian. But to my own detriment, I guess I assumed that he'd always be there. 35 years?--really, has it been that long already? But he even still LOOKS so young! 'Life' is just flying bye...& yet HIS time at the NY Phil, like Vacchiano's, has also been amazing.

I think my all-time favorite recording of Phil Smith is his reading of Copland's 'Quiet City' with Leonard Bernstein. Not flashy, just a beautiful subtle tone & phrasing; & I have never heard that piece performed better ANYWHERE--before or since.

I really like the picture at the top of this blog--Phil with Joseph Alessi (trb)--another staple of the NY Phil Brass Section. There is also another great candid photo floating around from 2002--of Phil Smith & Bill Vacchiano at the ITG; student with teacher, successor with legend.

Phil Smith has created a legacy in NY--in his own right. For that we thank him & wish him all the best as he begins a new chapter in Georgia.

Nov. 06 2013 11:43 AM
Manny Laureano from Plymouth, MN

Phil has been one of those players that has set a standard for the rest of us. I knew him at school and he was such even then. What a glorious career and proud protege of the players he succeeded in the Philharmonic's historical trumpet section. As a fellow trumpeter, I could not be prouder of him and his accomplishments. As a man, well, he's one of the best I know. Exemplary husband and great father. God bless him in his new job in Georgia.

Nov. 06 2013 09:28 AM
Fernando Dissenha from São Paulo - Brazil

A fantastic artist, a role model, a hero to all of us trumpet players!

Nov. 05 2013 08:04 PM
Andrew Balio from Baltimore

New York music fans ought to be pretty upset by this as he is known among we trumpet players as pretty much one of the best players who ever lived. Supernatural abilities is not an overstatement.

Nov. 05 2013 06:06 PM

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