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Wayne Bergeron Interview – Part 5

Wayne Bergeron, LA studio trumpet virtuoso, discusses the trumpet and how to have success in both music and life, with Dan Gosling, The ChopSaver Guy.

In Part 5, Wayne explains the importance of versatility, his very first movie recording session, his most cherished career moments, and what he wants to do in the future.

Wayne Bergeron:         Most of the players that I work with in LA, there’s a good comradery. And no matter who’s playing first trumpet; it may be somebody, somebody else feels like they should be playing first, or I feel like I should be playing first. You can’t think like that, when you have to go in and go, “We’re a team. We’re going to get this done.” And maybe they cast us incorrectly. And it happens. I’ve been cast on first trumpet chair where I’m surrounded by way better players at this kind of music than me, but I got to bang it out.

Dan Gosling:                 Right.

Wayne Bergeron:         And if there’s some little specialty thing, and I think the person … If Jon Lewis is sitting next to me, I’m going to say, “Man, why don’t you play that?”

Dan Gosling:                 Yeah.

Wayne Bergeron:         “You play that.” If it’s a high A, he’s going to go, “Why don’t you play that?” Or, “Let’s get the job done.”

Dan Gosling:                 Right.

Wayne Bergeron:         You know, we joked one time because Jon and I were both on sessions across town, and he was on a session where he said he was having to play a bunch of high Gs, and I’m here playing these butt naked classical solos, and I’m like, “You know, we should’ve been … ” They should’ve just chloroformed us both, and then we wake up in the right house. You know? But he went over there, and I’m sure he did a fine job. And I got through it, respectable enough. Is it as good as it could’ve been? Probably not, but it was good enough.

Dan Gosling:                 That’s being a pro.

Wayne Bergeron:         You know?

Dan Gosling:                 That’s definitely being a pro.

Wayne Bergeron:         And in my business, we have to be able to do all these things to a certain level, because … It’s like you were talking about, kid that wants to play a double high C. Well, the gigs that you get from just playing a double high C will get you enough money … you’ll be at the mission in line, getting a bowl of soup. You know? There’s not a lot of gigs out there where you just get to play a double high C.

Dan Gosling:                 Right.

Wayne Bergeron:         You have to play musically, and you have to play well, and you have to play in tune, you have to cover a lot of styles, you have to be a great second trumpet player and a great third trumpet player. And the players that do that stuff … We were talking about, “How do I get discovered,” or whatever; that’s how you get discovered.

Dan Gosling:                 Right.

Wayne Bergeron:         There’s a trumpet player we talked about, Larry Hall. I worked in the theater with him for 20 years. He was my second trumpet player. I like playing with him. We play together really well, and so do many of my other colleagues. You know, Rob Schaer and Dan Fornero, and many, many other names I could give you that I work with. And we know how to play under each other as well as over the top. And so that’s a luxury, and many … It’s amazing how many trumpet players don’t get that. Orchestral, as well.

Dan Gosling:                 Right.

Wayne Bergeron:         That doesn’t just go under the lead trumpet world. That orchestral trumpet players that I hear third trumpet players, the guy’s that blast. And I equate them to bass trombonists, because bass trombonists, because they’ve never played lead, they tend to overblow. They look at their instrument like it’s a solo instrument or something. And not all of them, of course. Like Bill Reichenbach, he’s one I work with. They play so musically, but Bill Reichenbach plays tenor trombone. He knows what it feels like to play lead, so he knows what it should feel like to play fourth trombone.

Dan Gosling:                 Underneath, right.

Wayne Bergeron:         It’s not a specialty thing. It’s just fourth trombone.

Dan Gosling:                 Right.

Wayne Bergeron:         Now, you got a trigger, so you can play the lower notes. It would be the equivalent of fourth trumpet player playing twice as loud as the section. And it’s … Anyway, I think that’s a good analogy.

Dan Gosling:                 Yeah, yeah.

Wayne Bergeron:         But I don’t like that, as a first trumpet player. I like the section blending and sounding nice, and be able to sit on top of it without working too hard.

Dan Gosling:                 Wayne, this is just … I’m going to go back and watch this over and over myself, I encourage anyone who has watched this to do the same, because there’s so much wisdom and knowledge and-

Wayne Bergeron:         Oh, man. That’s very sweet of you…

Dan Gosling:                 And everything that Wayne is saying about trumpet playing, about life, about how to be a good musician, how to be a good colleague … Curious, of all … I mean, you’ve done some amazing, amazing things; the Oscars, the movie dates you’ve done. Gigs that you kind of just sit back and go, “Wow. Where am I? This is so cool,” how-

Wayne Bergeron:         Well, there’s been a few of those. The first recording session I ever did, I had that feeling, because I was playing with Malcolm McNab and Warren Luening, and George Graham.

Dan Gosling:                 And what was the movie?

Wayne Bergeron:         And the movie was called Another Stakeout, Emilio Estevez movie. And I was playing fourth trumpet, and I’ve been never more terrified to play fourth trumpet in my life.

Dan Gosling:                 So this was 1980 …

Wayne Bergeron:         Oh, this is 30 something years ago, yeah.

Dan Gosling:                 Yeah, yeah.

Wayne Bergeron:         And I’ll be very quick, I have to tell you a quick story. The contractor, at the end of the session, said, “Oh, the players said you did a good job.” I said, “Oh, well thank you for the opportunity,” and I turned in my paperwork to get paid. You know? And he goes, “Yeah, I’m going to put you on my list.” And I’m like, “Okay, yeah.” He goes, “I’m going to put you on the bottom of my list.” And he saw my face, and I go like … And I laugh. You know? And he goes, “You want to know why I’m going to put you at the bottom of my list?” And I go, “Oh, yeah, I guess I’d like to know that.” And I didn’t put it together, and he goes, “So if I got my list of players, here, which one of my players that I’ve been hiring for years and years, tried and true, that have proven themselves, should I fire so I can start hiring you?” And I go … I laughed. I go, “Well, that makes perfect sense.” You know? Of course, put me on the bottom. “I’m glad to be on your list,” I said.

And he goes, “Trust me. As they die, or piss me off, or retire, you’ll move up.” I know play first trumpet for this contractor. That all happened. Every one of those things happened, and so now I’m his first trumpet player, and he’s 93 years old now, and he still plays tennis every week. He’s in great shape, and he still contracts a bit, and he’s a great guy. He contracted the Carol Burnett Showwhen it came from New York to LA.

Dan Gosling:                 Oh, man, wow.

Wayne Bergeron:         So he’s been around for a long, long time. And he got me on many, many great gigs, and I got to meet some great people like Peter Matz, who wrote the Carol Burnett theme. And so I got to work with him. Yeah. Matter of fact, I got to do … You know, we were talking about things that are a feather in my cap, or whatever. Most recently, we did a Carol Burnett 50th anniversary special, so I got to play lead trumpet on that. So I got to play … Bill Conti conducted it. I got to play … That sound that I’ve been hearing, which is Warren Luening, that big sound. You know, it was several people that did it, but the one that ran for years and years is Warren Luening, and that’s the sound to have, in my opinion.

So I got to play that, and it’s giving me chills talking about it right now.

Dan Gosling:                 Me, too.

Wayne Bergeron:         Because when I was playing it, I was going, “Wow.” He was this iconic thing. You know? It’d be like playing the Jackie Gleason theme, you know that?

Dan Gosling:                 Right, right.

Wayne Bergeron:         Big sound, Johnny Bello. You know?

Dan Gosling:                 Or, the Tonight Show.

Wayne Bergeron:         Yeah, Tonight Show. But getting to play it, so that was really cool. A couple of other things: Getting to meet Sammy Nestico, and do a record for him for the first time, after knowing that the very first big band chart I ever played had his name on it.

Dan Gosling:                 Right.

Wayne Bergeron:         I was in 7th grade, I played The Queen Bee. First big band chart I’ve ever played was a Sammy Nestico chart, and now I’m his friend, and he’s been very kind to me, and I’ve done three different recordings; two with him, and one with Quincy Jones where we did all the charts. So those are things, to me … getting to do a … I had the opportunity to play West Side Storyto picture, with the LA Philharmonic several years ago, and through a recommendation from one of the other players in the LA Philharmonic, they were going to New York, and … Jim Wilt is his name, in the LA Philharmonic. And he used to play in New York, so the manger asked, “Hey, what kind of player do we need to get to do this in New York?” And he goes, “Well, this guy, Wayne Bergeron just did it here.”

So on his recommendation, I got called to go to New York, and they’ve paid me a pretty good sum of money, and put my wife and I up in this really beautiful hotel on Columbus Circle with a view, and we’re around all these great restaurants, and we got to spend a week in New York, and did a couple days of rehearsal and three nights of the show. And I got to sit between Joe Alessi and Phil Smith. Undoubtedly, two of the greatest brass players of our time.

Dan Gosling:                 Right, right, yep.

Wayne Bergeron:         And so for me … And going into somebody else’s orchestra is always uncomfortable, especially as a commercial … You know? And I’m getting to meet Phil Smith.

Dan Gosling:                 Right, yeah.

Wayne Bergeron:         You know? And so I meet him before the gig, and we’re going to talk over how we should play the book. And he couldn’t have been nicer. He goes … and I was so nervous. He goes, “You can just play all of it.” And I go, “No, I’m not going to play … You got to be kidding me.”

Dan Gosling:                 That’s why you’re here, right?

Wayne Bergeron:         I go, “I’ll play the mambo, and I’ll play … I’ll play these things, and when somebody gets tired, somebody else take over,” and so we split it up, and he played what he should play, and I kind of played what I should play. And I played a couple of the little classical things, then I made him play … it’s a little cup muted solo. And in the movie, that goes a real long time. So we switched back and forth on it. So I let him play some of the jazzy stuff, and he sounded great.

But anyway, man. Just getting to sit next to him and hear that sound, that old school first trumpet sound. He played something in that show that’s … this little line, that just goes up to as high as he goes … I don’t have perfect pitch, so … (sings) And it goes to a high C. And the sound that he made on that high C, it was the best description of … It was like he just threw frosting over the orchestra, and then blended it all over the string section, and then this perfect cake was made. That’s the best … It was the most musical thing. And I told him, I go, “You cannot teach that. What you just did, I have no idea how to explain,” except use an analogy like I just did.

Dan Gosling:                 Right, right, yeah.

Wayne Bergeron:         And it was the most glorious… and that’s giving me chills. It was the most glorious thing I’ve ever heard. And I was playing that in my hotel room going, “What was that?” But it has to do with playing against other players and how he took his sound, and he just put it into the string section. That’s some stuff you can’t teach.

Dan Gosling:                 Right.

Wayne Bergeron:         That’s internal great musicality. So that’s … for me, in my career, I’ve gotten to do some really cool stuff. I’ve played with Quincy Jones, and done stuff for Jerry Hey, who’s my hero. And getting to play for him is … It’s always just amazing. So those are the things that stand out, to me. I got to play with Cleveland Orchestra. You know? What jazzer guy gets to say, “When am I going to get to do that?” I played this Pixar show. So it’s kind of quasi-legit, too. It’s film music.

Dan Gosling:                 Right, yeah, yeah.

Wayne Bergeron:         It was hard, and so I had an assistant. Unfortunately, Michael Sachs couldn’t play the concert, because he had a wedding. But while I was there, he took that lesson, and it was really cool. So those things are … they’re just kind of standouts to me, because they were special.

And then, of course, getting to do … working in Gordon Goodwin’s band; those are all things that’re important, because I feel those are going to be, those things will be my legacy when I leave; those recordings will be … and playing with Tom Kubis’ band, and Bob Florence’s band, and my big band legacy will be what I leave behind.

Dan Gosling:                 Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Wayne Bergeron:         And so that stuff’s very important to me, as well. Those other things were kind of for my ego. You know?

Dan Gosling:                 Right.

Wayne Bergeron:         They’re fun for me to play, and I’m like, “Oh, look at this. My mother would be so proud.” I mean, look, I’m playing with the New York Philharmonic. It’s really … I don’t take for granted that I got that opportunity to do that.

Dan Gosling:                 Right, yeah.

Wayne Bergeron:         And a lot of players could’ve played that show, and played it very well. But because of that, the conductor, David Newman …

Dan Gosling:                 Connections, relationships.

Wayne Bergeron:         He’s calling me now. I do a movie. I’ve played first trumpet on his last couple of movies.

Dan Gosling:                 It never stops.

Wayne Bergeron:         And I’m playing this Green Eggs and HamNetflix thing that’s coming out, this children’s thing. And so I’m playing first … It all evolves into other work and making new relationships and having people that like your playing and like you as a person, so your career evolves, man, and you get other opportunities. So it’s been really cool, man. And I look at what I do for a living, man, and I never take it for granted for a second, but I-

Dan Gosling:                 But you’ve had it taken away.

Wayne Bergeron:         Yeah, that I don’t deserve this. I’ve worked hard for it, but I feel fortunate that preparedness met opportunity. And fortunately, I was prepared enough, but I had a lot to learn. I knew from that first recording session, even though I got through it okay, I know what my inadequacies are. I still know. I know what I can do and what I can’t do well, and I can shuck and jive my way through … I’m a pretty good salesman, too, so I can sell you that this is okay, but I know that there’s somebody who can do it better. You know? Whatever that is. You know?

Dan Gosling:                 Right.

Wayne Bergeron:         And is it good enough? Yeah, I guess it’s good enough, but … So anyway, that’s how my thought process works. So I’m still going at the trumpet. I’m going to be going at it … I’m going to be 61. My plan is to go to 70, hopefully, and then get out.

Dan Gosling:                 Really, you-

Wayne Bergeron:         Even if there’s more work happening in LA, I’m hoping to have myself set up by 70. And then let somebody else do this, what I’m doing. There’s already younger players moving into the studios that are good players. Rob Schaer, I mentioned. He’s a fantastic player. He’s my daughter’s age. He’s 38 years old, or 39 years old. And we’ve become good friends, and I’ve known him since he was in college, and he’s … he’ll be one of those guys that takes care of the old guy. He’ll take care of me, because I’ve been nice to him. So I always tell him, “Just put me on fourth trumpet, I’ll stay out of the way. Keep me relevant in the music business,” but I would like to stop at some point. And not stop playing, but stop doing that, and stop competing in that work.

Dan Gosling:                 Arena.

Wayne Bergeron:         Because it’s not … It’s music by the pound; that’s my day job. I get much more enjoyment out of being a guest artists and going in and doing a masterclass and talking to people, and being a little bit entertaining and making people laugh. That warms my heart. When I say something and people laugh, I’m like, “Well, I’ve got a connection, here.”

Dan Gosling:                 Yeah.

Wayne Bergeron:         You know? And so I present my masterclasses in a funny way because of that. I try to incorporate some comedy into it, because it makes it interesting, and it makes it fun for me, too. And it takes … If I see people laugh, I get less nervous.

Dan Gosling:                 Yeah, right.

Wayne Bergeron:         And so all of those things are what I want to be remembered for. But then, maybe I get a teaching gig. Maybe I move to a smaller town. I don’t have to live in LA. I’ve been there my whole life. I’d love to stay there, but I’d like to be able to live … I don’t have to live real large, but LA is really, really expensive. And when I start thinking about taking my pension and things like that … And I have a very good pension, but the pension’s in trouble, and if that tanks, I’m in trouble. You’re going to see me at the mission playing my horn on the street to make ends meet, and I don’t want to be struggling. I want to retire, and maybe get an adjunct teaching job. I don’t have a degree, so I can’t be a real professor anywhere, but I could get an adjunct teaching job at some little college on a nice town where I could live really comfortably on my pension and Social Security.

Dan Gosling:                 And they would be damn lucky if that would happen.

Wayne Bergeron:         And get that, and then I can teach, and I can keep doing it; paying it forward. And I’d be relevant that way. You know? And maybe I still do some recording. Maybe there’s composers still working that I work for you. And I’ll fly in and do a little bit of that work, but I don’t want to have to … there’s a couple of people I know, older musicians, that were doing theOscars. They kind of retired from the business, but kept doing the Oscars because Bill Conti was still conducting it. And there’s a flute player that, Louise DiTullio, who is one of the finest flute players LA has ever seen, and played on thousands of movies for John Williams. And she … they retired; her and her husband, Burnette Dillon, who is a great, great trumpet player, as well; somebody I took some lessons with, as well. And they retired, and they moved to Oregon. They built a house up there, and they retired. But she would still come into town for the Oscars, and she practiced. I mean, they still practice every day, I think.

And I think that, “Okay. Maybe I could do something like that.” You know? And still be relevant. And then eventually, I just wean myself, The trumpet has an interesting way of letting you know when it’s time to retire.

Dan Gosling:                 Right.

Wayne Bergeron:         But as long as I continue to play smart, maybe I’ll still like Bobby Shew, maybe I’ll still be able to bang these notes out when I’m 70. I’m going, “Well, I didn’t want to stop. My wife wants me to stop.”

Dan Gosling:                 Yeah, yeah. Other reasons.

Wayne Bergeron:         And so that’s my plan. I want to stop and enjoy life a little bit.

Dan Gosling:                 Well, we hope it doesn’t come too soon. This has been-

Wayne Bergeron:         Yeah. It can’t come too soon right now. I still have a lot of things to pay for. There’s a lot of high As left in my career that I have to play.

Dan Gosling:                 Well, this has been unbelievable, inspiring, and just a lot of fun, to just hear you tell stories, tell your, the career. A little bit of advice, hopefully, how to build a career, what to do, what not to do. And I hope you’ve enjoyed this as much as we have here at ChopSaver, bringing this to you. And I just want to thank you so much.

Wayne Bergeron:         Yeah, man. It’s been really, really fun, man.

Dan Gosling:                 Really.

Wayne Bergeron:         And thanks for such a great product, man.

Dan Gosling:                 Thank you.

Wayne Bergeron:         I love using this stuff. I use it daily.