Tage LarsenPhoto from Evanston Symphony Orchestra

Tage Larsen will appear as soloist with the Evanston Symphony Orchestra on March 17 performing the Haydn Trumpet Concerto.

Mr. Larsen, an Evanston resident (whose first name is pronounced ta-ga), is fourth chair trumpet player for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He has the distinction of being the first and only African American regular in the CSO.

 He is the oldest of 10 children, six of whom were adopted. His adoptive parents live in
Cambridge, Mass., and encouraged his early love of music. He started playing
trumpet in fourth grade. “I liked the discipline of having it and practicing it,” he said. “I wanted to get better at it. I loved being part of a band and orchestra.”

 Drawn to both jazz and classical music, he played regularly in Cambridge jam sessions, performed in a reggae band and was selected for both all-state band and
orchestra. After earning performance degrees at Michigan State and Eastman School of Music, he joined the Dallas Brass Quintet. “We traveled and played all over,” he recalled. “I was 25 years old, making good money and seeing the country. It was great!”

 He joined the U.S. Marine Band in 1995 and played frequently at the White House. Despite his success, however, he had one unfulfilled ambition: to be an orchestra trumpet player. “I had given myself until the age of 30 to find an orchestra job.” So at 29 he auditioned for the St. Louis Symphony and won a seat. Two years later he tried out for the Chicago Symphony. That was in 2002, and has been there ever since.

 He first connected with the Evanston Symphony two years ago when Music Director Lawrence Eckerling asked him to substitute on first trumpet in a dress rehearsal of Mahler’s giant Second Symphony. “He played the part like an angel,” Mr. Eckerling said.

Of the Haydn, Mr. Larsen said, “It’s a great piece, one of the first that young trumpet players who are becoming serious on their instrument play. It has just a couple of technically challenging passages that are hard, but very rewarding once they are accomplished. Everyone remembers the first time they could play the high E flat! The second movement’s beautiful melody sits perfectly in the mid-range of the instrument and the playful third movement tests our technique again, but is so wonderfully Haydn you forget how hard it is and have fun tackling its various pyrotechnics.”

 The concert is scheduled for 2:30 March 17 at Pick-Staiger Hall on the Northwestern campus. Works by Verdi, Grieg, Respighi and 20th century English composer Gordon Jacob round out the program.

 There will be a discussion of the concert with musical excerpts by Mr. Eckerling at 1:30 p.m. March 15 at The Merion, 1611 Chicago Ave. This event is free and open to the public.

Les is a longtime Evanstonian and RoundTable writer and editor. He won a Chicago Newspaper Guild best feature story award in 1975 for a story on elderly suicide and most recently four consecutive Northern...