In southern Illinois, dairy farmer Gene Wharton was adamant that each of his children should receive a musical education, believing it would build in them a well-rounded character. By the time his grandson, James Smock, reached the age of ten, Gene’s philosophy had long been passed down to the next generation, and it was simply a given that James, too, would play. Though he initially gravitated toward the French horn, James’ mother suggested the trumpet, pointing out that the trumpet gets to play more of the melodies.
So eager was James to begin his musical studies that his early memories trigger a visceral response. The musty, oily smell of the case of his first very own trumpet; the fondness he took in cleaning it; an incident in which he disassembled and reassembled its valves, only to render his prized possession unplayable. Undaunted, James kept at it, and the more he played, the more his affection for the trumpet – and the music – grew.
To this day, James seems to prize natural beauty above all else. Adjusting to life as a homeowner, he and his wife take particular joy in observing the many birds that stop by their country yard. The visiting chickadees, goldfinches, juncos, and hummingbirds make for a sharp contrast to the eight years they spent living aboard their 33-foot sailboat, Pohadka. Though they’ve now settled into their earth-bound home, James still considers being on the water among his favorite pastimes, making time to sail or paddle whenever he can.
When asked about his favorite repertoire to play, James cites Respighi, Strauss, and Shostakovich, and calls out Mahler for his ability to use the trumpet as both a melodic instrument and a textural element. When it comes to listening, he tends to go for the Baroque and Classical era composers: Bach, Haydn, and Mozart. Though those earlier works aren’t performed by orchestras as often as the Romantic repertoire, James will get to bring Vivaldi to the PCSO stage in March, performing alongside principal trumpet of the Dallas Symphony (and former member of the revered Canadian Brass) Ryan Anthony.
Currently in his second season as PCSO’s principal trumpet, James has also performed with the Eugene, Walla Walla, Oregon East, and Vancouver (WA) symphonies, Portland Chamber Orchestra, and Boise Philharmonic, as well as the Siletz Bay Music Festival and the McCall (ID) Summerfest. For 11 years he’s also played with the Happy Canyon Band at the Pendleton Round-Up. Listen for James up close in Vivaldi’s Concerto for Two Trumpets, March 13-15.