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Joseph Alessi

Principal Trombone

The Gurnee F. and Marjorie L. Hart Chair


Joseph Alessi was appointed Principal Trombone of the New York Philharmonic, The Gurnee F. and Marjorie L. Hart Chair, in the spring of 1985. He began musical studies in his native California with his father, Joseph Alessi, Sr., as a high school student in San Rafael, California, and was a soloist with the San Francisco Symphony before continuing his musical training at the Curtis Institute of Music. Before joining the Philharmonic, Alessi was second trombone of The Philadelphia Orchestra for four seasons, and principal trombone of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra for one season. He has performed as guest principal trombonist with the London Symphony Orchestra in Carnegie Hall, led by Pierre Boulez.

Alessi is an active soloist, recitalist, and chamber musician. In April 1990 he made his solo debut with the New York Philharmonic, performing Creston’s Fantasy for Trombone, and in 1992 premiered Christopher Rouse’s Pulitzer Prize–winning Trombone Concerto with the Philharmonic, which commissioned the work for its 150th anniversary celebration. His most recent appearance with the Philharmonic as soloist was in the World Premiere of William Bolcom’s Trombone Concerto in the winter of 2017. Alessi has also appeared as soloist with the Philharmonic in performances of concerti by Kazimierz Serocki, Bramwell Tovey, and William Grant Still. Alessi performed the World Premiere of Chick Corea’s Trombone Concerto, composed especially for him, with the Säo Paulo Symphony Orchestra in August 2021, and in May 2023 he performs its US Premiere with the New York Philharmonic.

Joseph Alessi has recorded and performed extensively with five prominent trombone quartets: The New York Trombone Quartet, resulting in the only recording of Bartók’s Fourth String Quartet; Aries Trombone Quartet; Four of a Kind Trombone Quartet; the World Trombone Quartet; and Slide Monsters Trombone Quartet.

Other solo engagements have included the New Japan Philharmonic, Nagoya Philharmonic, Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony, Orchestra of Teatro Bellini, Mannheim National Theater Orchestra, Hauge Philharmonic, Helsinki Philharmonic, and the Colorado, Alabama, Santa Barbara, Syracuse, and Puerto Rico symphony orchestras. Alessi has also participated in numerous festivals, including the Festivale Musica di Camera in Portogruaro, Italy; Cabrillo Music Festival; Swiss Brass Week; and Lieksa Brass Week, in Finland. He was featured in the 1997 International Trombone Festival in Feldkirch, Austria, and the International Meeting of Brass Instruments in Lille, France. In 2002 Alessi was awarded an International Trombone Association Award for his contributions to the world of trombone music and trombone playing, and in 2014 he was elected president of that association.

Alessi is currently on the faculty of The Juilliard School; his students now occupy posts with many major symphony orchestras in the US and abroad. As a clinician for the Eastman-Shires Instrument Co., he has also given master classes throughout the world and has toured Europe extensively as a master teacher and recitalist. He has performed as soloist with several leading concert bands, including the US Military Academy Band at West Point, US Army Band (Pershing's Own), and the US Marine Band (President's Own). He has also performed with the Maria Schneider Orchestra, the Village Vanguard Orchestra, and has recorded with jazz greats J.J. Johnson and Steve Turre.

Alessi’s discography includes many releases on the Summit record label, including Trombonastics and Fandango, with retired Philharmonic Principal Trumpet Philip Smith. He also recorded New York Legends on the Cala label. His live recording of Christopher Rouse’s Trombone Concerto with the New York Philharmonic can be heard on Volume II of An American Celebration, on New York Philharmonic Special Editions, the Orchestra’s own recording label.

Alessi was invited by the International Trombone Association to record a solo disc of newly composed works, which was distributed to the association’s membership of 5,000 trombonists in early 1999 and is now available as Beyond the End of the Century through Summit Records. His recording of George Crumb’s Starchild on the Bridge record label, featuring Alessi as soloist, won a Grammy Award for 1999–2000. Other recordings featuring Alessi are with the Canadian Brass (Sony Classical and Philips Records). Further information about Alessi can be found on his website, www.slidearea.com. Alessi plays exclusively on a Shires-Alessi model trombone.

"My earliest musical memory is my mother singing to me when I was about three — she was a soprano at The Met. My father played trumpet at The Met, as did my grandfather, who came to the U.S. from Sicily and became the cornet soloist at the Rialto Theater."

Interview with Joseph Alessi

THE FACTS: Born in Detroit, Michigan. Attended the Curtis Institute of Music. Prior to the Philharmonic: second trombone, The Philadelphia Orchestra; principal trombone, Montreal Symphony Orchestra. At the Philharmonic: Joined in 1985. Solo debut with the Orchestra: Creston’s Fantasy for Trombone in 1990; most recently, the World Premiere–Philharmonic Commission and reprise of William Bolcom’s Trombone Concerto in 2016.Most recent recording: 2015 reissue of Slide Area (CD Baby label). Teaches at The Juilliard School.

EARLIEST MUSICAL MEMORY: My mother singing to me when I was about three — she was a soprano at The Met. My father played trumpet at The Met, as did my grandfather, who came to the U.S. from Sicily and became the cornet soloist at the Rialto Theater. I started on the cornet at five. When I was eight my father brought home a trombone — he thought it fit my “chops” better. I didn’t like it right away. It wasn’t until I heard professional recordings, like the great jazz trombonist J.J. Johnson, that I began to love it. Years later, I recorded with J.J. Johnson on his last CD.

WHAT DID YOUR PARENTS PASS ON TO YOU MUSICALLY? I learned from both of them how to be a brass player. My mother put such feeling into the music, and I got that from her. My father taught me the basics.

MOST MEMORABLE MOMENTS WITH THE ORCHESTRA: Playing Mahler’s Second, Third, and Seventh Symphonies with Leonard Bernstein. He gave it his all every time, and his passion and energy rubbed off on all of us. It was almost a religious experience.

WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO THIS SEASON? Wagner’s Die Walküre Act I in concert with Music Director Designate Jaap van Zweden. I will be playing the bass trumpet in these concerts. Really looking forward to working with our next maestro! 

THIS SUMMER WILL MARK THE 20TH ALESSI SEMINAR, THE AWARD-WINNING TROMBONE WEEK YOU FOUNDED: I’m most proud of the people who have attended, both students and established professionals. A lot have gone on to big positions, both in orchestras around the world and at universities. This used to be one of the only trombone events in the summer; now there are a lot, many of them run by my former students.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO OUTSIDE OF WORK? I teach at Juilliard and have some of the best students in the world. I am an avid, mediocre golfer but I love the game, and I enjoy water- and downhill skiing.

As of September 2017

Upcoming 2023-2024 Performances

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