Longtime PARMA friend and artist Henry Wolking, a renowned Nevada-based Floridian composer, author, and teacher, is back again with a full-album of jazz works release POWELL CANYONS on Big Round Records. Today, Wolkings is our next featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our artists. Read on to see what Wolking’s guilty pleasure is…
When did you realize you wanted to be an artist/composer/creator?
I was born in Orlando Florida. My father was a radio technician at WDBO; he built a small record player for me and would bring home stacks of pop promo recordings the station would have otherwise tossed. I was only about 4 but can still remember unrecognized hits such as “Hey Bub Get Out Of The Tub”, and “Tickle Like A Pickle”. I took piano lessons for about six months when I was five, but grew bored and my mother allowed me to quit. My mother was an amateur pianist who loved Gershwin, which to me was classical music. She would also play some Bach, which I loved (and still do). We moved to the space coast (Cape Canaveral) area when I was in 3rd grade. I sang for a year in an Episcopalian boys choir when I was in 6th grade, it was a superb experience until my voice changed. The following year I’d pick up the trombone in 7th grade. Music became my passion, and at 15 started playing professionally in a local big band, for which I also did my first arranging (Winchester Cathedral). By high school, I knew I wanted to make music my life, by college it was clear, I wanted to be a professional performer/composer. It worked and now I’m happily retired.
What is your guilty pleasure?
If I feel guilty about a specific pleasure, I probably shouldn’t let the world in on it. I do however have one that I can share, and this is it. I’ve stopped playing, completely this time, the trombone, my primary musical instrument since I was twelve years old. Why you ask would that be a pleasure? The pleasure is akin to stopping any pain you can control, such as banging your head on a wall or walking barefoot over sharp rocks. The daily practice routine of sticking a heavy foreign metal object on my face and buzzing a brass funnel for an hour or more, all the while negotiating right-hand slide positions, may not sound like fun, and in truth, for me, it isn’t anymore. My guilty pleasure is the feeling of relief I have of getting away from that physical chore. I no longer have to beat myself up for not having practiced enough or being adequately prepared for a gig at a local retirement community luncheon.
If you could spend creative time anywhere in the world, where would it be? And why?
I have traveled extensively, and seen so much beauty; I couldn’t possibly isolate any particular place to engage in the creative activity of composing a work. I feel that just about anywhere can be a great place to engage the inner activity of creativity, musical or otherwise. I have been greatly inspired by the natural wonders of the mountains and canyons west of the continental divide. I now live in Boulder City Nevada, only minutes away from the Hoover Dam, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, and many incredible volcanic and red rock canyons feeding the Colorado River. I’m inspired every day by my surroundings, and since I no longer have to worry about the trombone, I have more time to work on a variety of musical projects. Nothing stimulates me more than hiking and enjoying nature’s slicing and dicing of mother earth’s thin but resilient crust.
What was your favorite musical moment on the album?
I really love all the instruments I write for. Part of the joy of composing for large instrumental ensembles is putting myself in the position of performer for each note I put in front of them. This is not to say I’m always successful at writing the perfect 2nd bassoon part, but I’m always challenged to try to do so. Writing concerti poses another dilemma which might be characterized as “showing the love” for the orchestra as well as the soloist(s). For this album, I had to show a lot of love to the two pianists performing my double concerto, “Letting Midnight Out On Bail”. Bonnie and Susan are spectacular classical pianists who requested a work that would pay tribute to the icons of piano jazz. As every note is written and not improvised, my greatest challenge was to stylistically represent each of the jazz pianists noted in the score and to compose melodies and written solos that sound as if they were being improvised. So, for this recording, my favorite musical instrument would be the piano.
What does this album mean to you personally?
Personally, this album allowed me to interact with so many talented and gifted musicians, that the whole massive project, which took over two years to complete, left me with an incredibly positive attitude towards not only the performers, but the conductors, orchestra managers, and the producers. Working with the London Symphony out of Abbey Road Studios, was literally a dream come true. Having “Midnight” premiered in a live concert performance with the Warsaw Philharmonic followed by a two-day recording session, was equally as satisfying. The recording of “Forests” by the Bratislava Radio Orchestra with Robert Black conducting is one of my fondest memories. I hope my sense of joy and optimism is evident in these splendid performances.
Is there a specific feeling you want listeners to tune into when hearing your work?
Yes, a sense of exploration, of starting at one place, ending in another, and finding all sorts of interesting things in between. At the end you don’t wish you’d taken a shortcut on this musical journey, instead, you are anxious to do it again.
By Samantha Granville, Social Media Specialist