My Musical Life
As a lifelong musician, I’m always eager to find new opportunities to play. In my extensive career I’ve performed in an amazing variety of genres. Beginning with early piano studies, I soon turned to band, naturally, since my Dad was a band director and band was available in school. I played low brass instruments, trombone and baritone (euphonium) through high school, continued studying the euphonium into college, gave it up when the string bass became my first instrument, but returned to low brass later in Florida when I joined Jacksonville’s outstanding 27-piece professional brass ensemble, the St. John’s River City Band as a tubist and bassist. The band created wonderful opportunites: we played everything from orchestral transcriptions of the classics to roaring big-band jazz. We presented concerts in the park, toured the state, even performed in Carnegie Hall in 1987. Our guest artists included Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton, Della Reese, Tony Tenille, Chet Atkins, Doc Severenson and dozens more.
I began learning the bass after high school, playing the folk and pop styles popular in the ’60′s, and began serious study of the instrument at FSU in 1969, where I played in the symphony orchestra, the opera orchestra, the faculty chamber orchestra, and many small ensembles. My classical playing was largely put aside when I moved to Jacksonville and became intensely involved in the jazz scene, but in recent years I have had remarkable chances to re-enter the “legit” side of music, as the jazzers say, as a regular member of the the Chamber Music Series at Jacksonville’s Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd. The “Trout” Quintet of Schubert, Stravinsky’s “The Soldier’s Tale”, the Dvorak d minor Wind Serenade, and many works from the Baroque repertoire, including several Brandenburg Concerti of Bach were part of my fare. I’ve also recently performed Purcell’s opera Dido and Aeneas and the monumental Monteverdi Solemn Vespers of 1610 with the newly formed University of North Florida Choral Program under the scintillating Dr. Cara Tasher. And a career highlight was playing the Mozart Requiem with the Savannah Philharmonic Choral Society with Peter Shannon in November.
My extensive jazz experiences include leading my own group, the Landon Walker Ensemble for many years in Jacksonville, and playing in jazz groups too numerous to mention, including several performances at the yearly Jacksonville Jazz Festival. For several years I was the “house bassist” at the Festival, accompanying the finalists in the national Piano Jazz Competition. As first-call bassist in town, I performed in a trio with jazz/blues pianist Mose Allison and a duo recital with the legendary Marian McPartland.
I’ve played many Broadway shows, a touring musical revue with Hal Linden, Gilbert and Sullivan and light opera, tuba in Dixieland bands and, for fifteen years, in a German Polka band. In the middle eighties I played in a remarkable “Gypsy Jazz” quartet, The Men With the Jive, and more recently in another gypsy style band, Swing 456. Until I left Jacksonville was a member of a fine tango ensemble, The Palm Court Society Orchestra, which was privileged to perform for the King of Spain in St Augustine in 2005.
I’ve also become a flute player and maker, using native bamboo to create meditation flutes which I play in my yoga classes, and transverse (horizontal) flutes which play folk styles, like Irish tunes. My first Irish instrument was the pennywhistle, but I mostly play my own bamboo flutes now. I also take my flutes to hospitals, retirement and nursing homes to play for the inmates, a profoundly rewarding endeavour; I’ve been working with a group in Jacksonville, Body and Soul, created by the remarkable Jacksonville Symphony tubist James Jenkins, who is also co-director of the Eastern Music Festival here in Greensboro.
And now, of course, I’m beginning a new musical chapter, playing in the Walker Family Band with my brother and his daughter and our musical friends. My new instrument of choice is the accordion, perfect for traditional Irish music, and versatile enough to reach into many other musical styles – always a plus for me.
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Books & CD’s
- Walker Street Fiddlers: Ireland Tour 2007From: $15.00
- Travelin’From: $14.95
- Irish Tunes for the Young at Heart (Book II)From: $15.00
- Irish Tunes for the Young at Heart (Book I)From: $15.00