I’m Not Ready To Retire Just Yet.. – Tom Rolfs | Ep. 55




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This week on the podcast, we have a great conversation to share with Tom Rolfs, principal trumpet of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. I’ve known Tom since 2010, when I was fortunate enough to be selected as a fellow for the Tanglewood Music Festival. Tom and I have maintained a great relationship over the years, and I think it really shows during this interview.

I mention it in the episode, but this is actually the second interview I did with Tom. He liked our first interview, but wanted to redo some of the content. He offered to fly down to Birmingham with his wife, Ann, so we could do a second interview (he says he came just for the BBQ). Tom is quite vulnerable during a lot of this interview, and there is so much to take away from this talk. Here are a few of my favorite parts:

If You’re Not Improving, You’re Getting Worse

Tom talked about how he’s been able to play some very difficult solos with the orchestra over the past few years. His attitude towards learning challenging repertoire as his opportunity to stretch his wings and continue pushing his limits. He is a believer that if you’re not improving, you’re getting worse. I would add that improvement doesn’t necessarily have to be massive. Addressing your weaknesses and making small improvements consistently over time can make a big difference in the long run.

Keep It Simple

Tom describes his own musical decision making process as “intuitive” and “simple”. He has a clear picture in his head of what he’s trying to portray, and does his best to make it happen. He shares stories of conversations he’s had with Andris Nelsons that are incredible to hear. The collaborative aspect they seem to have in their relationship allows them to find a solution that is simple, yet effective. Instead of complicating things with a lot of technical jargon, they aim to simplify.

Music Is His Safe Space

For those that don’t know, Tom lost his son Ben in a tragic accident. That loss changed him forever, and has helped him realize how important music is to him. He calls it his safe space, and it’s how he heals. In the episode, he told a very powerful story about how a particular performance of Mahler 6 helped him process his grief, and that “Mahler was his therapist”. Music can be incredibly powerful and moving. I’m so thankful Tom opened up.

I hope you enjoyed the episode. Consider leaving a rating and a review on iTunes, and sharing on social media so others can find the podcast too!

Until next time,


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