August 2008 Convention
Kansas City, MO

A Tribute to Jack Wellbaum

Walfrid Kujala and Jack Wellbaum

A very special concert was given at this year’s convention in honor of Jack Wellbaum, long-time piccoloist of the Cincinnati Symphony and teacher at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. Former students and friends of Wellbaum performed and shared anecdotes and memories. Wellbaum, his wife, Linda, and daughter, Lisa (recently retired harpist of the Cleveland Orchestra), attended.

Regina Helcher Yost (Charleston Symphony) performed “Paying the Piper,”by Stanley Friedman, which was commissioned for Wellbaum’s 80th birthday. The piece evokes the image of a music school hallway in which two opposing styles of music may be heard. Regina played with technical brilliance and flair. I performed a short piece by Ken Benshoof that takes its motives from the song “Embraceable You.” “Timeless” is a short, multi-section work that captured some of the emotions this concert evoked. Nina Perlove (Real Flute Project) told perhaps the most endearing story of the program. While a student at CCM, she performed a solo piccolo piece entitled “Danza Florida,: by Juan Trigos. The demanding work calls for yelling and stomping—while wearing bells on your legs! She was reluctant to perform the piece again despite Wellbaum’s repeated requests. She asked him to come to the stage and help her hold out the music. After saying that her two young daughters often stretch their arms wide and tell her, “Mommy, we love you thiiiis much,” she pointed to all 10 pages and said, “Mr. Wellbaum, I love you thiiiiiiiiiis much!”

Heather Verbeck (University of Cincinnati) performed the first movement of John La Montaine’s Sonata for Piccolo and Piano. Her playing was sweet and lyrical—perfect for this staple of piccolo repertoire. Heather gave a tearful thank you to Wellbaum for his support over the years. Many in attendance were drying their eyes and, unfortunately, tissues were in short supply. Wendy Cohen (South Carolina Philharmonic) was next, performing one of the “golden age” classics, “The Mocking Bird,” by Frank Brockett. The piece is light and virtuosic, and Wendy flew through each phrase with ease. Hillary Feibel (Fort Wayne Philharmonic) played two movements from Vivaldi’s Concerto in A Minor. Hillary studied with Wellbaum while in high school, and brandished a photo of Wellbaum and her in a Cincinnati Symphony/ youth symphony performance.

Jack Wellbaum (center)

A group of piccoloists joined forces for Boismortier’s Concerto No. 3 in E Minor. Jennifer Parker-Harley (University of South Carolina), Alison Brown Sincoff (Ohio University), Beth Chandler (James Madison University), Kara Kirkendoll Welch (Dallas Symphony), and Alicia McQuerry (St. Paul Chamber Orchestra) blended with precision—a testament to Wellbaum’s tutelage. To close the show, all performers and audience members were invited to play the two excerpts from The Damnation of Faust, found in Wellbaum’s book Orchestral Excerpts for Piccolo. A rousing applause for all performers and accompanist Barbara Lee was given upon its conclusion.

Jack Wellbaum has touched countless lives, and served as a source of information and inspiration to his students for over forty years. Many have gone on to fill positions in orchestras and universities across the country. The concert was filled with love, gratitude, and admiration for one of our community’s most valuable gems.

—Erinn Frechette