for solo trumpet
Neither of us was Jewish, but I always thought of my colleague and friend Mike Tunnell as a real mensch-no other word seems to do. After meeting one summer while working on stage crew at the National Music Camp at Interlochen, we eventually became colleagues on the faculty at the University of Louisville School of Music, a relationship that lasted almost 21 years. Besides being a great trumpet player, Michael was a superb teacher, a generous and warm human being, a loving husband, father and grandfather, a baseball and history fanatic, and just about the nicest guy on the planet.
He was a true friend to composers, commissioning, performing and recording dozens of new pieces by composers all over the country, but with a special emphasis on composers living in the region around Louisville. He commissioned half a dozen pieces from me for trumpet in various combinations, including three pieces for trumpet (of some sort or other) and piano, which he performed and recorded with his wife, Meme.
Always exploratory and adventurous, later in life he developed a consuming interest in the corno di caccia, commissioning several of what I imagine are the first new pieces for that instrument in well over a century, including the last piece I had the privilege to compose for him. He was able to combine his love for Civil War history with his interest in period instruments by playing in the on-screen band in Stephen Spielberg’s Lincoln.
After fighting cancer for three years, he died in 2014 at the age of 60, taken from his family, friends and the music world much too young. He was truly beloved in the local community, the trumpet profession and the music world at large. Family, friends and colleagues mourn his loss, but we are grateful to have known him and to know that his life, albeit too short, was a rich and varied one, full of people who respected, admired and loved him, and who learned from him. He leaves dozens, maybe hundreds, of students carrying on his legacy, as well as the body of repertory that he commissioned and recorded.
For Michael is a short lament, which can be played on any of several of the instruments in the trumpet family which Mike played so beautifully. It is very “trumpety,” using some of the colors and techniques unique to the trumpet.