Author: Snedeker, Jeffrey
Date published: May 1, 2010
Carved in Stone: The Life and Musical Legacy of Vincent DeRosa by Todd Miller. Published by the author, Music Department, California State University-Fullerton, 800 North State College Blvd., Fullerton CA 92831; vincentderosabook.com. ISBN: 978-0-615-30095-5. 2009, $19.95 (paperback).
A legend in the horn world and the music industry, Vincent DeRosa has had a profound influence on horn playing. Through his countless movie and television scores, commercial recordings and jingles, and numerous other performance credits, he is certainly the hornist who has been heard by the most people in history. Todd Miller, one of his former students, has finally given us what many have been wondering about for so long - some idea of who the person is behind the sound, who Vincent DeRosa is and what made him the horn player of choice to so many. "Carved in Stone" happens to be an anagram of "Vincent DeRosa," and seemed to be a fitting title for the book, a tribute to a person with the highest musical standards and who was an outstanding role model in professional demeanor and preparation over a performing and teaching career that lasted over 70 years.
Miller has compiled biographical information on DeRosa's family life and upbringing, as well as a synopsis of his career and how it paralleled the growth of the recording industry. Also included is what many will be curious about, a summary of his playing and teaching techniques. The primary sources of information include numerous interviews and other correspondence with DeRosa, former students, and others in the recording industry. He learned to make a living with music at a young age, trying to help support his family, especially after his father died, and by the mid-1930s was working regularly. His career in radio gave him extensive experience with live performance, which translated well into the recording studios where beautiful, consistent tone and accuracy are valued in financial terms. He played for all the greats from the 1940s to the 2000s, and eventually was so sought after that film composers, recording artists, and others would fit their recording schedules around his availability - unheard of nowadays. His career also paralleled the film industry, and he recorded literally thousands of movie scores, from Spartacus to Star Wars, Dr. Zhivago to Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Movie musicals, television movies and programs, both live and recorded, and advertising jingles were part of the daily fare for DeRosa. He also played an important role in standing up for players' rights, which eventually led to the formation of the Recording Musicians Association.
As a teacher, DeRosa exemplified the work ethic of the great artist and instilled it in his students, many of whom have followed in his footsteps into the recording industry or as performers in other musical fields. Miller presents several aspects of DeRosa's teaching approach, including embouchure, air, breath support, articulation and slurring, concept of sound, concentration/focus, musicianship, and practice/training. A series of appendices present a collection of axioms (DeRosa's favorite or memorable sayings), recommended etudes, warmup exercises, some photographs, and other miscellaneous information. A lot of the axioms and exercises resemble those of others, but when a legend promotes them, there is a heightened sense of legitimacy because of the end-result presented by that legend. Rather than recount or summarize everything, which would take more space than allowed here, I would prefer to say simply that a lot of important perspectives are here, and I am impressed at the depth and breadth of information, thought, and experience they represent. Again, when the results are so clearly fantastic, it is hard to argue.
I think it is pretty safe to say that most horn players want to be like Vincent DeRosa, just like most basketball players want to be like Michael Jordan. This book gives us valuable insight into the man and the musician, a fitting tribute to a legend. Bravo! JS