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The artist, Paul Trethewey

The Union photoPaul Trethewey
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What is your career and your current job title? I am a senior electrical engineer at 2Wire Inc. in Grass Valley. In our modern society, most artists and musicians have a day job, and I am fortunate enough to have a career in a field I enjoy.

Describe in a sentence or two your music. “My music:” That term seems odd. I consider myself an ensemble player and an ensemble music arranger, so most of what comes out as a product is a team effort. When I arrange a tune or when I play a solo, I add something of myself, but what really pleases me is the total result, the ensemble.

Many local musicians know me as a horn section arranger for rhythm ‘n’ blues horn bands. I have done nearly all the arrangements for the Real George band’s horn section, and last January I did the horn charts for Saul Rayo’s tribute to Paul Simon. Currently, I am working on the Steely Dan retrospective for the Objects in the Mirror band (which is at the Center for the Arts in Grass Valley Saturday night).

How long have you been working in this discipline? I started playing sax in 1958. I wrote my first arrangement for full concert band in 1963. That piece was only eight measures long – a short statement, not fully developed, but still musically complete. I arranged tunes for my high school’s pep band; majored in music for two years in college. When in an Air Force field band during the Vietnam era, I dabbled in vocal jazz ensemble arranging. Returned to college on the GI Bill, shifted my educational goals to electronics, determined to become a recording engineer, the next Phil Ramone or Rudy Van Gelder. Engineering took me in other directions, but throughout my career I have had an abiding interest in music.

Why do you do it? Music and the other arts are reasons to live! Besides, it’s fun, really fun.

Do you create your music with an exact message you want the listener to receive? What a heavy question. No, when I arrange or play, I don’t try to convey an exact message. A message is probably more of a visual arts thing. Instrumental music is subtler, and I try to convey a mood. The mood is the message.

Where do you want to be with your art, in terms of part time versus full-time status, music positions and where your works are heard? When I retire from engineering, I expect to devote more time to music, but for now I’m satisfied with my musical workload. The Real George band is working on expanding their listening audience in Sacramento, and it will be grand to have my arrangements heard by more people down that way – or Reno, or Chico, or…

What’s your favorite part of your endeavors? I love hearing my ensemble arrangements played by real musicians for the first time. Arrangements played on the keyboard sound different from those played by wind instruments, and so there is often an element of surprise. It is like a ceramist who opens his kiln and discovers to his delight how beautiful the glazes turned out – or not!

What’s your least favorite part of your endeavors? The rather tedious job of writing out individual sheet music parts. I realize I could improve matters by “jumping into the 1990s” and buying a computer-aided music notation program.

How many hours a day, or more appropriate, a week, do you spend on your work? For the Steely Dan retrospective, I was putting in about eight hours per week. This was a stretch, actually, considering my full time engineering job and participation in two other musical groups. In Real George, we are changing our repertoire, so there is plenty to keep me busy there.

Any other comments you’d like to include? One of the groups I performed in locally was the “Blatweasels” saxophone quartet. I arranged a special tune from the 1920s for that group at the request of the late Harry Stowe, who was active in the Nevada County Grower’s Market, where the Blatweasels sometimes performed. The arrangement was a cute little novelty number, silly fun stuff. It eventually found its way into the hands of the world class Italian Saxophone Quartet, who have promised to perform it at their concerts. The name of the tune: “Yes, We Have No Bananas.”


To recommend a creative talent for this weekly feature, contact Carol Feineman at carolf@theunion.com or 477-4232.


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