Eight Questions with Rick Berry

Rick Berry's a lot of things. Some of these things include jazz trumpeter (currently in the Hollywood Canteen Swing Band), political candidate (he ran for Long Beach city council) and gardener (he's got a killer backyard garden). But to the rest of the world, he's got a new title that is pretty darn spiffy–marketing manager for the Long Beach Symphony Orchestra.

If you're like me, you're wondering why a jazzman is getting in bed with classical music. I just had to ask.

1. Tell the people a little bit about yourself.

I was born in Washington, DC, but my family moved to Long Beach in 1962 when I was just a baby. I've been in Long Beach my whole life, living in Alamitos Heights, the Peninsula, Belmont Shore and now downtown. I have an Electrical Engineering degree from CSULB, an MBA from Pepperdine, and a certificate in Nonprofit Arts Management from CSULB. Most of my career has been marketing electronic components for local manufacturers.

2. How did a jazzman hook up with the LBSO?

A sax player I have known for years, Bob Jones, is the interim Executive Director. He's run some pretty big orchestras, including the National Symphony in Washington, DC. I started talking to him about volunteering and it turned into a full time position. I grew up on classical music, so the position fits like a glove.

3. Anything you can tell me about this week's performance?

Wow! Beethoven's Ninth Symphony under the direction of Maestro Enrique Arturo Diemecke with a combined choir from the Southern California Master Chorale and the Bob Cole Conservatory Choir from CSULB! I get goose bumps every time I think about it. It's truly one of the most awe-inspiring pieces in the classical literature. Plus, we've got the legendary opera star (and Long Beach Poly graduate) Marilyn Horne to narrate Aaron Copland's “Lincoln Portrait,” which features excerpts from Abraham Lincoln's speeches. Awesome! Since it's our seventy-fifth anniversary season, we're celebrating opening night October 17 with complimentary champagne and cake in the lobby after the concert.

4. Any upcoming events you want to promote?

We're also introducing our new principal POPS! conductor, Steven Reineke, on November 7, when he'll be presenting Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, plus his own arrangements, as well as pieces by John Williams and Leonard Bernstein. Additionally, our classics series will include all nine of Beethoven's symphonies during the season. We're calling it “Beethoven comes to the Beach.” There's a lecture series called “Discovering Beethoven” as well.

5. Does your experience as president of the Long Beach Community Band help with your new position?

For sure. Of course, this is much bigger, but I actually used the LBSO as an organizational model when I was in charge of the Community Band. In fact, Bob Jones mentored me a bit back in those days, too.

6. You ran for city council. Tell me about that experience. Is it something you would consider in the future?

I learned so much running for City Council! Not only did I greatly expand my social network, but I also learned about the inner workings (or dysfunctions) of our local government. Both should help me do a good job for the LBSO. I will run again someday, but not for a while.

7. Miles Davis and Lee Morgan are sitting at opposite ends of a bar. There's an empty seat next to each of them. Which seat do you take and why? What do you say (assuming you say anything) to the person you sat next to?

Well, they are both heroes of mine, for sure. I'd sit next to Lee, because Miles probably wouldn't have talked to me anyway! Miles was in a class by himself. Mad respect to him and all, but I've always felt Lee Morgan and Freddie Hubbard were the main cats who mastered their jazz chops, then greased it up and funked it up the way I like it. Lee made jazz accessible for the new rock generation. I have more of Lee Morgan's albums than anyone else's. If I had a chance to talk with him, I would just tell him how much I love his sound and see where it goes from there.

8. You perform in the Hollywood Canteen Swing Band. Tell me about playing with so many musicians on stage. Is it harder or easier to be part of a large group than a tiny ensemble?

Well, you can come see for yourself on October 24 at diPiazza's in Long Beach. A larger ensemble has to rehearse more because there is more ensemble work than improvisation. I'm usually pretty exhausted after a swing band gig because I play lead trumpet. That means I gotta hit all the high notes and lead the ensemble with my sound. It's a lot of pressure to nail everything. A smaller ensemble is more forgiving because you can improvise your way out of almost any situation! In either case, I give mad props to the leader of any ensemble who can keep it together for a length of time. Marcia Ford has been keeping the Hollywood Canteen Swing Band going for over four years now. Outstanding. My last small group I co-led was the Jazz Prescription, which only lasted a year. But it was a very good year!

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