Meet TSO’s Newest Brass Players JoAnn Lamolino, Trumpet and Mike Mesner, Horn

by Tucson Symphony
Meet TSO’s Newest Brass Players JoAnn Lamolino, Trumpet and Mike Mesner, Horn

At what age did you start playing music and what was your first instrument?

JoAnn: I started playing the trumpet when I was 9 in my 4th grade band in Paramus, New Jersey.

Mike: I started playing music when I was about 6 or 7. My dad taught me a few songs to play with him on the piano. I did the typical school recorder classes in 4th grade, and then chose trumpet when starting band in 5th grade. The person who came to do instrument demos at the end of 4th grade played the Star Wars theme on the trumpet mouthpiece, and I just had to pick that one! In my freshman year of high school, I switched to Horn because I wanted to join the mellophone section in my school’s marching band.

What/who inspired you to pursue music professionally?

JoAnn: I was inspired to pursue a career in music when I went to Carnegie Hall to see my friend play in the New York Youth Symphony. I remember thinking, “these kids are my age, and they get to play here. I want to play here too.”  Six months later I auditioned and got in. Then I started going to NY Philharmonic concerts with my friends. That was the end, I was hooked!

Mike: My original plan was to become a band teacher. Though I absolutely love teaching music, when I got to the end of my undergraduate degree in Music Education, I decided that I wanted to see just how far I could push my technical and musical skills on the instrument. Things then snowballed from there, and here I am!

What’s the best piece of musical advice you’ve ever received?

JoAnn: Work hard, be humble and enjoy the process.

Mike: Horn players are like the tightrope walkers of the orchestra. We play a famously finicky instrument that makes playing with accuracy and consistency pretty tricky. As a young horn player trying to grapple with clean note entrances, a teacher of mine once told me that if I went into a note thinking that I might chip it, then I would chip it more often. So, I had to learn to approach each entrance with as much confidence as I could, even if I was feeling the exact opposite. Lo and behold, it worked! My accuracy shot way up, leading to actual confidence. Who would have thought that “fake it till you make it” could actually work!?

What do you love about the trumpet/horn in general and your instrument in particular?

JoAnn: I love how the trumpet colors can be used in many different musical contexts from fanfares to sensitive lyrical playing, to jazz and even as an extension of the percussion section in earlier Classical symphonies.

Mike: I love the Horn’s flexibility within classical music. We can blend well with every major section of the orchestra and serve as the glue that can bind two sections with vastly different tone qualities. This is also reflected in the many different forms of chamber music that Horn can participate in. From brass and wind quintets, lovely pieces for horn and strings like the Mozart quintet and Brahms trio, all the way to large horn choirs, it’s all very rewarding to be able to play.

I also enjoy the many roles that the Horn can play within a composition. With its large range, the Horn section can lay down a baseline, fill out complex harmonies, and play vast soaring melodies, all without having to switch to a secondary instrument. When composers are looking to make a powerful and emotional melodic impact, they often turn to the Horn – think of any John Williams score and you’ll know what I mean!

Which concert have you enjoyed the most this season? Which upcoming concert are you most looking forward to?

JoAnn: I really enjoyed the Respighi Fountains and Pines of Rome concerts. I’m really looking forward to The Planets in April.

Mike: My favorite concert so far this year has been Classic 2. I absolutely love the lush chromaticism and clear imagery of Respighi. I also completely underestimated the Dutilleux – the more we played it the more I found to love about it. I would play it again in a heartbeat.

As for which concert, I’m most looking forward to – it’s a toss-up between Classic 7 and Classic 8. Both feature fantastic large works for orchestra that I haven’t had an opportunity to play yet!

The Verdi Requiem (Classic 7) will be a great opportunity to work with our fantastic TSO Chorus and is a work that is large in scope texturally, thematically, and emotionally. Holst’s The Planets (Classic 8) is one of the mainstays of the orchestral canon and for good reason! It has many memorable moments and should be a fun piece for both the orchestra and the audience.

What is your favorite thing about Tucson?

JoAnn: So far, I really love all the hiking trails and photographing the sunset. It’s so beautiful here!

Mike: I love the Tucson community. It’s a big city with a small city feeling. Everyone just seems to know everyone else. For nearly all of my needs, I have found a great locally owned business. From grabbing a drink at Raging Sage, to picking up my next book from Mostly Books or Antigone, I love being able to do my part to keep things local!