I can think of two reactions people probably have when they see “Eugene Rousseau” and “The Musical Offering” in the same sentence. If you don’t know who he is, you might wonder why a saxophonist is being featured on the program — after all, he is playing the saxophone, that loud and reedy jazz instrument. In the other case, you do know the name Eugene Rousseau, and you’re probably wondering how in the world TMO got an international star of his quality to join them on a concert!
It is an unusual occurrence, and I bet only those deeply invested in the Twin Cities chamber scene could begin to figure it out on their own.
Just in case you aren’t familiar with Eugene Rousseau, I’ll start with a little background. For a man born in Illinois, his life and work has led him across the globe! He studied at the Paris Conservatory under a Fulbright grant, and received his doctorate at the University of Iowa. He’s performed solos across the globe with ensembles like the BBC Orchestra of London, Bavarian Radio Orchestra, Prague Symphony, the Kansai Philharmonic of Osaka, and the Austrian Radio Orchestra.
What I think is most remarkable about his career is the mark he makes on education and his influence in establishing the saxophone as an instrument to be taken seriously. The only list longer than his honorary professorships is the amount of work written for him! Not only is he a key founder of the World Saxophone Congress, but he was for over twenty years chief consultant for saxophone R&D at Yamaha, which I think demonstrates his leadership in the field. Also of incredible significance is his tenure at the School of Music at Indiana University, where he taught for 36 years and departed as Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Music, a high honor from the Jacobs School.
We are so lucky to feature him on our program! Between my one time meeting him briefly this last fall and what the musicians who work with him at the U-MN’s School of Music, I can say that he is very approachable and kind, a fun guy to be around, and a man who has not let his accomplishments go to his head! I remember seeing posters of him in band rooms back when I was in grade school. Eugene Rousseau is a ‘household name’ so to speak among saxophonists.
So why is Eugene Rousseau playing with TMO on April 1st? I asked Caroline Lemen, our horn player, this very question. Caroline also is on the faculty at the U-MN’s School of Music, and as fate would have it, works next door to him. She said that for years they’ve wanted to make something work, and this year it happened to fit both sets of schedules. She also remarked that throughout this year she’s been hearing him practice a very fast piece… and after TMO’s first rehearsal realized he’d been practicing Milhaud’s Scaramouche this whole time!
No doubt this April Fools’ Day is going to be a memorable one. Eugene Rousseau‘s legendary playing will add vibrancy to the already impressive diversity of instrumentation that The Musical Offering is known for. What a treat! See you there!