The University of Alabama at Birmingham Chamber Trio consists of Dr. Denise Gainey on clarinet, Dr. James Zingara on trumpet, and Dr. Christopher Steele on piano. The group was established in 2012 and has performed throughout Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia, including appearances at the Alabama Music Educators Conference, the College Music Society Southern Region Conference, the Birmingham Arts Music Alliance, and the National Association of Composers USA Conference. The UAB Chamber Trio has generated many new pieces for this genre including works by William Price, Jeffrey Boehm, Juan Maria Solare, and Virginia Samuel.

Today, the Trio members are our featured artists in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our artists. Read on to discover the question Jim asked himself that led to his successful music career, what job Denise would love to have outside of music, and why Chris would choose to be an expert violinist out of all instruments…

Who was your first favorite artist(s) growing up?

Jim: I think when I was very young, I would wear out my sister’s high school band records…I always liked the trumpets because they always seemed to have the melody! After that, I think Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass caught my ear. Later on, I was a huge fan of Maurice Andre and Bud Herseth.
Denise: When I was very young, Julie Andrews was the artist who inspired me and got me interested in music. Then I fell in love with clarinet and band and listened to Robert Marcellus (former principal clarinetist of the Cleveland Orchestra) and the Eastman Wind Ensemble.
Chris: Chopin was my favorite composer for a long time, and Garrick Ohlsson’s Chopin recordings were among my favorite.

When did you realize that you wanted to be an artist?

Jim: I remember being in a practice room in my first year in college and asked myself: if I gave maximum effort, how far could I go?
Denise: I knew from the time I was in high school that I wanted to pursue performance. I was fortunate to be in one of the top high schools in the country with a very strong band and orchestra program that gave me many wonderful opportunities.

What was your most unusual performance, or the most embarrassing thing that happened to you during a performance?

Jim: I think the most unusual performance was playing a recital at the Sichuan Conservatory in Chengdu China that was broadcast throughout the province. I also remember a concert when I was in the Air Force on the flight deck of the USS Lincoln that was broadcast on NBC’s Today Show.
Denise: The most embarrassing thing that happened to me was a horrible bout of food poisoning on a packed stage of an orchestra concert…no way to escape. I played most of my solos and then just gave up and was repeatedly ill in front of 1500 people. A concert I will never forget!

What is your guilty pleasure?

Jim: There’s a hamburger restaurant in the Midwest called Culver’s Butter Burgers…
Denise: Watching HGTV.
Chris: Trader Joe’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups.

If you could make a living at any job in the world, what would that job be?

Jim: I think I would like to be a pilot; the sky is a wonderful place.
Denise: I would be a veterinarian—I have always loved animals.
Chris: I would be an ATP World Tour tennis player.

If you could spend creative time anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

Jim: I would like to study natural and Baroque trumpet in Germany and England.
Denise: I would like to spend time in Italy to study with Italian virtuoso Corrado Giuffredi.

If you could instantly have expertise performing one instrument, what instrument would that be?

Jim: I always had great respect for the expressive quality of the oboe, and the bravado of the horn.
Denise: I would choose the cello—my favorite string instrument.
Chris: I would play the violin, as many of my favorite pieces are in the violin repertoire.

What does this album mean to you personally?

Jim: I think that it is a testament to the power of collaboration; how the process of finding like-minded performers and composers can bring together something new and innovative that is larger than the sum of the parts.
Denise: I very much agree with Jim’s statement on this; the synergy that takes place from passionate performers and composers who pool their ideas, talents, and enthusiasm collaborating to bring new music into the world is an amazing thing to experience.


MANY NEW TRAILS TO BLAZE is now available through Ravello Records for streaming or purchase. Click here to explore this new album.


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