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Doc Severinsen and top ensembles present “A Salute to Rafael Mendez”

January 04, 2002

WHAT: Doc Severinsen with the Herberger College School of Music in Concert
WHEN: 7:30 p.m., Monday, Jan. 28, 2002
WHERE: Gammage Auditorium, 1200 South Forest Avenue, Tempe
TICKETS: $16.50; call Gammage Box Office, 480-965-3434
Jan. 28 Event

Doc Severinsen and top ensembles present “A Salute to Rafael Mendez”

Tempe, AZ – The incomparable Doc Severinsen, along with a contingent of Arizona State University’s most talented student musicians, presents “A Salute to Rafael Mendez” on (Monday) Jan. 28 at 7:30 p.m. in Gammage Auditorium. Tickets, which are $16.50 per person, are available from the Gammage Box Office, 480-965-3434.

The evening showcases the talents of trumpeter and conductor Severinsen, and three of the top ensembles from the School of Music in the Herberger College of Fine Arts. The program features the musical heritage of trumpeter and composer Rafael Mendez, whose library is housed in the School of Music. A number of Mendez’s works will be performed, including those he wrote and others that he arranged for trumpet solos or trios.

Wind Symphony begins with three selections: Gary W. Hill, director of bands, conducts “Juarez” (Danzon) by Mendez. Next, Severinsen takes the baton for Shostakovich’s “A Festive Overture.” Wind Symphony ends with another Mendez arrangement, “La Virgen de Macarena,” featuring Severinsen on trumpet.

Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Timothy Russell, director of orchestras, begins with music from John Williams’ "Superman" soundtrack. Two works by Puccini follow, “Recondita Armonia” and Nessun Dorma,” both featuring Severinsen on trumpet solo. The orchestra ends with three School of Music trumpeters, Kristen, Sarah and Mary Stoneback, performing two works arranged by Mendez: “Por La Espana Cani” and “El Gato Montes.” The Stoneback triplets are in their sophomore year at ASU and study with Arizona Regents’ professor of trumpet David Hickman.

Concert Jazz Ensemble, under the direction of J. Samuel Pilafian, professor of tuba/euphonium, begins it segment with “In a Mellow Tone” by Duke Ellington. Doc joins the group on “Body and Soul.”

Interludes break up the three major portions of the program. The first features the school’s Concert Choir, under the direction of Karen Parthun, faculty associate in choral music. The group performs “Alleluia” by Randall Thompson, “I’m Gonna Sing” arranged by Moses Hogan, “I Love All Beauteous Things” by Christine Temple-Evans and “Sacramento Sis Joe” by Jackson Berkey. The second interlude showcases students John Marchiando on trumpet and Chuck Hulihan on guitar, performing “Romanza” by Mendez. They are followed by the Marimba Ensemble’s rendition of “Czardas” by Monti, with arrangement by Mendez and Thomas Murphey. J.B. Smith, associate professor of percussion studies, directs the ensemble, with student Amanda Pepping as the featured trumpet soloist.

The finale selection features Severinsen, along with all the evening’s participants, in a performance of “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” This version was arranged by Mike Crotty, faculty associate in jazz studies, and Peter J. Wilhousky.

The School of Music designated Severinsen as Distinguished Visiting Professor of Music for the 2001-2002 academic year, and the Herberger College named him as the first holder of the Katherine K. Herberger Heritage Chair for Visiting Artists. 

Rafael Mendez Library at ASU honors famed trumpeter and composer

The Herberger College of Fine Arts School of Music at ASU is home to the Rafael Mendez Library, which was established in 1993 to honor the memory of the famed Hollywood trumpet/composer and to inspire and educate aspiring musicians and interested arts advocates. The library is under the directorship of Arizona Regents’ Professor of Trumpet David Hickman and is operated by the Summit Brass.

The Rafael Mendez Library was founded through the generous support of the sons of Mr. Mendez, Dr. Rafael G. Mendez, Jr., and Dr. Robert Mendez, II, and the Mendez family.

A large number of items are on display in the library, which houses numerous musical instruments, as well as hundreds of photographs, articles and recordings. There are more than 300 original manuscripts and approximately 700 sets of parts of Mendez compositions and arrangements.

A spacious conference area is available for classes to study and discuss Mendez work. An audio-visual system enables groups to view videotapes of Mendez performances and clinics, or to listen to his many recordings. A room adjacent to the library, houses all music holdings, which are available for rental to bands and orchestras. The entire holdings of the library have been catalogued by computer and are available for use by researchers.

Rafael Mendez was born on March 26, 1906, in Jiquilpan, Michoacan, Mexico. One of 15 children, Mendez began playing the cornet as a youngster in order to perform with the family orchestra led by his father, Maximino.

When Rafael was 10 years old, the Mendez Orchestra played for the Mexican revolutionist, General Pancho Villa, who “invited” the group to travel with him. After a few months, all the members of the orchestra were sent home, except for Rafael who had become Villa’s favorite musician. He stayed on for another six months before being sent home.

At the age of 20, Mendez moved to the U.S., settling in Detroit, Michigan where he worked in an automobile factory and also played trumpet professionally with bands and orchestras area. During that time, he met and married Amor Rodriguez Fernandez.

In 1932 while playing at the Fox Theatre, he was accidentally hit in the mouth by a swinging door. Unable to play the trumpet, Mendez returned to Mexico for advice and instruction from his father. Following months of rehabilitation, Mendez returned to Detroit where he caught the attention of well-known bandleader Rudy Valle.

Mendez moved to New York City in 1934 to join the Rudy Valle Orchestra. There he met a number of prominent bandleaders and entertainers, including David Rose, Xavier Cugat, and Carlos Molino. In 1937, Mendez and Rose were offered jobs in Los Angels for KHL Radio. That same year, Rafael and Amor had twin sons, Robert and Rafael, Jr. During this time, Mendez was often featured as soloist on radio programs, and he began composing and arranging trumpet solos.

In 1941, Mendez became first trumpet in the MGM studio orchestra, a position that he held for eight years. While with MGM, he developed his solo repertoire and was a guest performer on dozens of television shows. He was also featured at the Hollywood Bowl and on soundtracks for major motion pictures. During this time, Mendez also began recording 78-rpm records for small labels, such as Coast, Azteca and Eleayz.

Mendez was signed by Decca Records in 1945, and over the next 20 years, he recorded 12 LP records (which were re-mastered for a commemorative set). He also began publishing many of his solos through Koff Music Company and Carol Fischer, Inc. In 1949, Mendez left MGM to devote much of his time to touring and performing with thousands of high school and college bands and orchestras, and professional ensembles. His summers were spent as music director for Roy Rogers, Red Skelton and other celebrities.

Enjoying a reputation unequaled in the classical trumpet world and hailed as the “Heifetz of the Trumpet,” Mendez retired from the concert stage in 1975. He died in 1981. During his lifetime, he composed or arranged more than 300 trumpet solos or trios. Posthumously, in 1983, Mendez received a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. 

Media Contact:
Mary Brennan