admin On dicembre - 8 - 2014


by Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi

Artist, composer, radio host, writer, the multi-hyphenate Preston Trombly embraces all the arts with wit, humour and reverie.

Preston received his visual arts education at New York’s Art Students League, he has a Bachelor of Music degree with Honours from the University of Connecticut and a Master of Musical Arts degree from Yale University’s School of Music. He is a Fellow in Composition and Conducting at the Tanglewood-Berkshire Music Center, and a Guggenheim Fellow.

Trombly’s original music has been played all over the United States and classical music devotees will recognise Preston as the host of Sirius/XM Satellite Radio’s nationally broadcast Symphony Hall channel, where he will warm up your work day with the gems and giants of classical music – from Bach, Brahms and Mozart to Aaron Copland, John Adams and Jennifer Higdon. He was previously on the air in New York over classical music stations WQXR FM and the former WNCN. His listeners still recall his exceptional “jibber jabber” – as he would define it – on the radio show Jabberwocky, where a minute detail in people’s ordinary lives would be dissected with profound philosophy and satire.

As an artist, Preston Trombly has been working in the visual arts for a long time using mixed media, such as found objects, pieces of metal, wood, fabric, and artist’s pigments.  His artwork has been exhibited in museums and galleries throughout the greater New York Metropolitan and Tri-State areas. Whereas his recent talks and lectures include those at The National Arts Club, NYC;  Penn State  University; Southern Utah University; Westfield (Mass.) State University; The Jasper Rand Art Museum and the New York Public Library.

Here is the Exclusive Interview with the multitalented Preston Trombly:


What is the first field you explored?

Music. I started playing clarinet when I was a little kid in fourth grade and played in school jazz bands. Then in high school the father of one of my friends owned a local radio station, so I asked him a job. He hired me to pick the classic music that would air, such as the Boston Pops, Strauss, Leroy Anderson. So I would program the music after school and it became a part-time job; eventually I asked to work on the air and I had a little Saturday program that I did. Then in the course of the years it became a full-time job and then I went to graduate school to study music.

Considering your experience in radio, becoming a public speaker at Toastmasters must have been easy?

Toastmasters is a worldwide organisation that helps people to learn how to speak in front of an audience. But it’s very different from speaking on a radio, where you are safe in a small room just with your microphone, an engineer across the glass and a red light. You don’t see the listeners’ reactions. It’s interesting to see how people are more afraid of speaking in public than of spiders or snakes. The system to speak in public used by Toastmasters is very effective, my very first time I was very anxious, but I got the hang of it in time and eventually became Vice President, this year my wife Margaret is VP.


You are also a writer, your The Gladimere Stories, had a Mark Twain allure, how much is fiction and how much is autobiographic?

These are little stories about growing up in a family cottage in Connecticut, some part is fiction some is autobiographic, I won’t say which is which though. [Laughs] But I can say that my grandmother came up with the wordplay Glad-I-m-here, I found out later in time about it. I grew up thinking it was a masonic name, whereas other people thought it was our surname because of the sign outside the house. The cottage is still there, and the stories came from events that transpired: when you start writing, sometimes details come out that become allegorical.

As a visual artist how does painting relate to you other creative endeavours?

The similarities between painting and music are striking. In music you are working with sounds that happen over time, notes, rhythm; whereas in painting you are working with colour and shapes. But it’s the same process of work with the materials. It’s just that the materials are different. The canvas or the paper is just a way of recording what’s happening at them moment.

So what are the elements that transform the moment in creative output?

I feel there are three elements. First of all there is feeling. Emotion has to be accepted, not labelled. Other people will label it. We are speaking about a preverbal experience: painting and writing music are a primitive experience in a way. As a maker of this creative expression you have to embrace the feeling. The second element is to express the emotion and most importantly the third element is to give shape to the expression of emotion, either with a brush stroke or a musical phrase. There’s a terrific essay by Tolstoy called ‘What Is Art?’ and when the question comes on what great art is, the answer he delivers is that the greatness of a work of art can be determined by how many people overtime have a strong positive reaction to it.


What musicians have inspired you as a composer?

Beethoven and Mozart of course, but also very much the later works by Stravinsky, Luigi Nono, Bruno Maderna, Mario Davidovsky’s electronic music and my graduate school teacher at Yale Bülent Arel, who was Turkish and had studied with Paul Hindemith.

What do you listen to today?

I love listening to jazz, when I played baritone saxophone I used to work with Charles Mingus’ pianist. I have a feeling feel that the new jazz wave is background music, what I call “elevator jazz.” It doesn’t swing, I like something that has some drive, like violinist Billy Bang or multi-instrumentalist Marty Ehrlich.
I used to play with the great jazz pianist Jaki Byard in his big band.

What is your opinion of the perception of the various artistic disciplines today?

I think unfortunately that contemporary art in the mind of some is somehow a commodity, because people sometimes buy paintings not because they like them but as an investment. And I think that’s a big mistake. It hurts everybody, including the investor, because he would be better off investing in something that has some intrinsic value, rather than some perceived value. The entire process trivialises the artwork and the parties involved in trading it. That is what I feel about the art market, although if there were people who thought that buying my paintings would make a good investment I would sell them. [Laughs]. They would be better off investing in art they truly love.
But artists aren’t the best at promoting their work. Also, I’m always taken by the fact that there seems to be an audience for new visual art, whereas this does not occur in modern concert music. It’s fascinating to me, I don’t have the answer to why audiences don’t want music to sound new, but would rather stick to music that would sound familiar, as opposed to the visual arts, where there is always clamour for the newest and the latest. Maybe people’s ears are more sensitive than their eyes.

What are your upcoming creative projects?

My painting ‘Imaginary Landscape: Yellow and Blue’ is part of the 10th annual ‘Small Works Show’ at 440 Gallery, 440 6th Ave., Brooklyn, NY. The exhibit opens on Thursday 11th December at 6pm and will run for a month.

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