Carl Hilding "Doc" Severinsen, renowned trumpeter and leader of the NBC Orchestra during the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, returned to Manchester High School on Monday, Sept. 17, to speak to Manchester High students, rehearse with the school's jazz ensemble and performed a special show with his latest band, the San Miguel Five, Monday night in the school's Bailey Auditorium.
Severinsen, 85, spoke to students about his inspirations and what led him to a career in music, took questions, talked about his experiences working with Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show, showed off his custom built gold-plated trumpet, and even shared with them a secret that he actually always wanted to be a jockey.
Severinsen said that, sadly, he was too big to be a jockey, and that he gravitated towards music because his father was a musician and it seemed to come naturally to him.
"I just had the sound in my ear," Severinsen told the students Monday. "I heard music all around me, and I just naturally went to that."
Severinsen last performed at Manchester High in January of 2011, after speaking with students at the school about music and his career for several hours beforehand on that occasion as well.
Severinsen's visits to Manchester High are the work of Band Director Keith Berry, who cites Severinsen as an inspiration to him as a young musician. When Berry invited Severinsen to play last January, the two appear to have struck up a friendship, and Severinsen was eager to return this time around, and said he looks forward to "staying connected" with Manchester High's band students and hearing about their musical careers as they progress.
"I want to come back in a couple of years and know that you've done this, you've done that," Severinsen said. "Write me a letter. Tell me about it."
When asked how he came to be the leader of the NBC Orchestra on the Tonight Show, Severinsen said he got his start before the show achieved its later success by being one of the few musicians who didn't mind working the late nights that taping the show required.
"When they started it out, they didn't think it was so important. We had a little band on there," Severinsen said. "And I got to play in the band because guys who were higher up in the rankings than I was didn't want to work late at night. So, I wound up in that band, and one thing led to another and I wound up as the leader of it."