Timothy Higgins: I am Matteo

Timothy Higgins joined the San Francisco Symphony as Principal Trombone in 2008, having previously served as acting second trombone with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington DC. A graduate of Northwestern University, he has also performed with many other orchestras, including the Chicago Symphony, New York Philharmonic, Milwaukee Symphony, Virginia Symphony, Civic Orchestra of Chicago, Music of the Baroque, Aspen Music Festival, Grand Teton Music Festival, Sun Valley Summer Symphony, Washington National Opera, and the Baltimore Symphony. He has participated in the festival activities of the Roundtop Music Festival, National Repertory Orchestra, and Tanglewood Music Center.

He also is active as an arranger of music. He was the sole arranger of the recording Gabrieli by the National Brass Ensemble, an assemblage of leading brass players from the Boston Symphony, Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Detroit Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, San Francisco Opera Orchestra, and San Francisco Symphony. He has also arranged music for CT3 Trombone Quartet, National Brass Quintet, Bay Brass, and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music Brass Ensemble. He began arranging while a student at Northwestern University. “As students,” he said, “we were exposed to the vast chamber music repertory, though brass players have a rather small collection of pieces we repeatedly perform. I have always admired the string-quartet writing of great composers and would often try to play cello and violin parts on my instrument. The arrangements grew from there as I wanted to explore this music with my other brass colleagues. When some of my teachers discovered this, they were very supportive of my development as an arranger and programmed my arrangements on concerts.”

His arrangements and original compositions for brass instruments (in solo and chamber settings) have been performed by the Washington Symphonic Brass; the Bay Brass; the brass sections of the San Francisco Symphony, Chicago Symphony, and Los Angeles Philharmonic; and numerous university brass ensembles. He has taught at the Pokorny Low Brass Seminar since 2012, and is currently on faculty at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and Northwestern University. He has also led masterclasses at such leading establishments as the Royal Conservatory in Toronto, the New World Symphony, Vanderbilt University, the Manhattan School of Music, and the Juilliard School of Music. In 2013, he released his solo CD Stage Left.

He has provided this comment about I am Matteo:

I am Matteo is a musical setting of a letter that Matteo Musso, then thirteen years old, sent to the San Francisco Symphony after attending a San Francisco Symphony Family Concert conducted by Christian Reif. The work begins with a cadenza by the soprano soloist that introduces the audience to Matteo’s world. The tonality of the introduction is unsettled and indecisive. The cadenza leads straight into the second movement of the work which begins with a brief “orchestra tuning.” After the tuning, a short concert unfolds and the soprano, using Matteo’s words, reacts to the sounds of the orchestra. After the concert relaxes, the music continues directly into the third movement. In this final movement, Matteo’s definition of music is set to a simple flowing melody. The music has found its tonal center and no longer needs to wander.

—James M. Keller

James M. Keller is the longtime Program Annotator of the San Francisco Symphony and the New York Philharmonic. His book Chamber Music: A Listener’s Guide (Oxford University Press) is available in hardcover, paperback, and e-book formats.

 

TEXT 

Dear Mr. Reif

1/25/17

Dear Mr. Reif,

I am Matteo Musso, a 13-year-old guy with autism. I attended the Concerts for Kids today with my mom, my friend Nickolay, and his mom. Until about 12 years ago I was silent, but I can now express myself spelling one letter at a time on a simple alphabet stencil. Mom takes dictation and has learned this amazing approach to communicate with me. I have so much locked up inside and it likes to ooze out best through poetry. I thought I’d write a poem to you and the musicians about my experience today at the concert.

Soul Bathing

Thankful notes released from the pages of music, found each other and collaborated in my ears. The sounds that were created kissed my soul. Remember the first breath of spring as the flowers opened up their faces and smiled at the sun? Or a walk in the redwoods after a spring time rain when the air is crisp and the oxygen so pure? Your music today accosted my senses and radiated joy throughout my being. Gone are the days of my oversensitive sensory system and my soul rejoices. Notes are allowed to enter me and fill my spirit once again. Happiness, joy, thrill, dance, smile, relax, absorb and nourish. . . these are words of the music you gave to me today. Thank you for speech that transcends human barriers and penetrates the life of this kid. Your talents shared today was a peaceful bath for my soul.

Matteo’s definition of music:

Music is nourishment for our souls with different vibrational speeds and frequencies intersecting to affect us emotionally. Different ones and combinations affect us differently and depends on our own simple caring each day. It also depends on our openness to let it affect us.