Impromptu - May 2009
photo by Kirsten Beckerman
A MUSICIAN NEVER FORGETS HIS FIRST INSTRUMENT. At least, David Fedderly never has.
It was the fall of 1964 at Mary McDonald Elementary School in Silver Bay, Minnesota, and Fedderly told his band teacher
Ron Gray that he wanted to play the drums. "Too many drummers," he was told. So he asked for trumpet. But there were too many
trumpets. "Then it's trombone or nothing," the 10-year-old told his teacher.
Gray sized up the fifth-grader's husky form and replied, "Come back tomorrow and I'll have an instrument for you that
you won't have to rent." Fedderly did as he was told and the next day he entered the band room and found a King Sousaphone
waiting for him. "It was full-size and shiny and it looked brand new," says Fedderly, who has been the BSO's principal tuba
player since 1983. "I even remember the tuba chair. It was green."
Fedderly took his first tuba lesson that day, and despite the fact that it made his lips "feel weird," he decided he liked
the tuba. He's had lots of tubas since then; among the most memorable is the first one he ever bought. "It was a Karl Ziess
master model, it cost $780 and I earned the money by cleaning bear cages one summer in high school," he says. (The unlikely
summer job at Split Rock Trading Post near Lake Superior had him doing carpentry, in addition to cleaning up after the three
Minnesota black bear cubs, which tourists kept fat and happy with popcorn and marshmallows.)
As the owner of Baltimore Brass in Catonsville, Fedderly is there when student musicians get their first instruments and
when pros buy their 50th. He likes bringing people and instruments together. So it only made sense that he would step up and
help when Dan Trahey, one of Fedderly's former students at Peabody Institute, told him that he would need some instruments
for a new BSO initiative called OrchKids (See p. 8 for more). Fedderly ordered 75 violins, trumpets, cellos, flutes, baritones,
a quarter-size string bass, a saxophone, a viola and a tuba for OrchKids.
Fedderly also made sure that when the instruments came in, he was there to help deliver them at Harriet Tubman Elementary
School in West Baltimore. He delighted in seeing the excitement of the first and second graders when their instruments arrived
and enjoyed watching as they tried to guess what was inside each of the black cases. "It's a very special time when you get
your first instrument," he says. "I was glad that I could be there to see their faces." — Maria Blackburn
Read more about David