AYPO engages highly talented artistic staff with incredibly interesting backgrounds. Learn more about our staff, starting with AYP's brass coach, Stephen Dunkel.
1. What is your primary instrument and when did you start playing?
My primary instrument is the bass trombone, which I started playing at age 16. I played cornet, flute, percussion, piano and organ, tuba, and euphonium previously.
2. What is your favorite piece of music to play/conduct?
Wagner "Der Ring des Nibelungen."
3. What drew you to AYPO?
The opportunity to develop, encourage, and assist young musicians.
4. What professional jobs do you have outside of AYPO?
Bass trombonist, Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra
5. Did you play in a youth orchestra when you were young and if so, can you please share a bit about that experience?
I was a member of the Youth Orchestra of Greater Fort Worth during my senior year of high school. It was my first experience playing in a full orchestra and I fell in love with it. Every chair in the brass section was extremely competitive because of the strong band programs in North Texas. In an unusual move, the orchestra accepted two bass trombones that year due to the quality of our auditions. Of course, I never considered dropping out of my high school band program – I enjoyed it immensely, and took great pride in representing my school in competition.
6. Who are your musical mentors?
My first orchestral teacher, Dennis Bubert (bass trombone, Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra); undergrad teacher Frank Crisafulli (second trombone, Chicago Symphony Orchestra); grad teacher Per Brevig (principal trombone, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra); and David Finlayson (second trombone, New York Philharmonic)
7. What is some of the best advice you have received in your career?
Record all your practice and listen to it. Your brain cannot simultaneously create and evaluate.
8. What are some of your hobbies/activities outside of music?
I like to stay physically fit. I have been doing CrossFit 4-5 days per week for 3½ years. I have also done a few triathlons, including two Olympic-distance. Recently, I have added occasional yoga, Muay Thai and Krav Maga classes into the rotation. Regular exercise and exertion help me feel in control of my life, which balances the top-down inflexibility of a professional orchestra schedule.
I enjoy spending time with my loving partner, Heather Patrick, a health behavior scientist, who designs wellness plans for corporate clients. I also relish being a father of two children, Nolan, 10, and Violet, 6. Our favorite activity to do together is preparing new recipes and learning about food. For the grown-ups, wine is usually involved.