Interview With Bennett Friedman
- Tim Castro
- Bennett Friedman, Cal Band music arranger
- Date of Interview:
- February 11, 1991
Castro: Interview with Bennett Friedman, Monday, February 11, 1991.
Castro: Ok, did you hear that?
Castro: Ok, you’ll basically hear that every 15 seconds. I hope it won’t be too annoying. Anyway, we’re taping right now. I have a short list of questions that I wrote out last night. I was thinking for tonight’s interview that we could talk about the overall arranging process, first on a broad general level, and then probably get more specific and talk about arranging specifically for the Cal Band. So I just thought some general interest questions about arranging in general, cause probably, I was thinking, a lot of our audience... ah, they know that arrangers exist but they might not know too much about what they do. So I just thought I would get some of your opinions and some of your thoughts on that. But before we do that, I thought it would be nice to start with just a broad general overview of your musical background, and some of the things you might want to talk about are like: how you got started in music, were you in any marching bands, where did you study music, or just anything that you think might be pertinent or interesting.
Friedman: Ok. Let me see if I can reduce it into not too many words.
Castro: Ha ha. Well that’ll be fine.
Friedman: I come from a musical family so we were... I was a musician almost from day one. The deal with my parents, and my mother, was I had to start piano - or... I wanted to play an instrument but I had to start on piano at age six. Then I could choose after two years. So I started piano at six, I chose clarinet at eight, and added saxophone at ten and just sort of went on from there and was very interested in arranging and writing, almost from the beginning. Went through the Berkeley schools, and Berkeley High School, played in that marching band, being very aware of Cal Band of course -- they were sort of our model at Berkeley High School.
Friedman: Most of my college was at San Francisco State, before it was San Francisco State University. By the time I got my masters there it was University before San Francisco State College. That was all more symphonic oriented performance. I got both my masters and bachelors in clarinet performance. I did take a year out to study at Berkeley College of Music in Boston, the Jazz school, and studied a lot about arranging there -- that was jazz arranging. At the time I went there in ’62 it was called the Berkeley School of Music and now it’s Berkeley College of Music. I did study arranging with Roger Nixon at San Francisco State. He was really the link to the Cal Band. He had, I guess, been in the band or been an arranger for the band. Somehow he was very tied in with the band. I think it was Bob Briggs called Nixon... this was just about the time... I guess I was getting my masters and had done some sort of advanced band arranging courses with him. And so Nixon recommended me to Bob and I think Bob gave me a test piece to arrange.
Castro: Ha ha ha.
Friedman: Very... I can’t remember... it was sorta’ show music but I just remember it being very involved and a lot to do... and that was at a time in my life... in 70... well very early 70’s. I don’t remember exactly what year. It might have been 72 or 73. It was before I was teaching full time. I was a part time college teacher at about four or five colleges at the time so I was... and playing professionally.. so I pieced together lots of things and so arranging fit in really well. So, in the beginning I did more arranging than I do now for the band because I had lots of time then.
Castro: I see.
Friedman: So the more I think about it I think Roger Nixon... I don’t know if he directed the band years ago, student director... but I know he arranged for it.
Castro: Really. That’s a name, actually, that we haven’t come across.
Castro: Yeah. I will look into it.
Friedman: Have you heard of him in any way before?
Castro: No. Actually I haven’t heard of him or saw his name on any scores or anything.
Friedman: He’s still a professor at San Francisco State. He may have just retired but he’s in the field of contemporary music, particularly wind music, band music. He’s one of the biggest names around.
Friedman: And... he probably studied with some of the big names that were at Cal. I just don’t know his history well enough. But I always admired his band band-istration, orchestrating for band. That’s why I took extra graduate work with him.
Castro: I see.
(some dialog back and forth about call-waiting)
Friedman: I just thought of some more of my experiences that affected my marching strengths. In between all my college stuff, during Viet Nam, I was in the United States Army Band in Washington, D.C. where we did a lot of ceremonial as well as concert work, so I .... that’s probably my main marching experience... was there. So when I’m doing things for marching band I probably... well, between Berkeley High and the Army as I relate to marching and playing.
Castro: I see.
Friedman: Something we always called an unnatural act.
Castro: Uh huh. I see. So a little bit of your Berkeley High School experience and your Army band experience has stayed back there along with your teachings and studies with Roger Nixon.
Friedman: Right. And those are all a little bit on the side from my main endeavors in music have... well I like all kinds of music, but most of my composition and arranging has been in the jazz field. So these were things that were outside of the jazz field.
Castro: Great. Great. That’s interesting. I didn’t know you went to Berkeley High because I was an assistant drum major for a year and since... well we study a lot of the films, old Cal Band films, and we happened to see an old Cal Band film where Berkeley High School was a guest at one of the football games. They, back then, marched very similarly to the Cal Band with high step and a little wedge and it...
Friedman: I may have been in that band.
Castro: Do you remember the dates you were in high school?
Friedman: Well yeah, 58, 59, 60.
Castro: Ok. Right in there. Well.
Friedman: So, I mean I remember we were and I don’t know if that’s the particular film you saw but I do remember being at their... other than, well I know they have a high school band day or something, where every high school band within a thousand miles, probably...
Castro: Yeah. Well, that’s great. There’s a lot of good stuff there. I guess move on to the next one. Still on the topic just overall arranging, in your opinion, what exactly are the responsibilities of an arranger? Do you think there’s any right or wrong way to do an arrangement, or is there many different ways to do one, or what do you think?
Friedman: Well, you know it’s translating music from some other source to whatever you’re arranging for. If it’s an orchestral piece, you know, you’re bringing it into band, or as I often do for you guys now, a rock tune... translating it into what’s gonna... so you... I think the main responsibility is to know what works well for wind instruments, in this case... know how to make those instruments sound as good as they can sound.
Castro: Uh huh.
Friedman: I guess, especially with Cal Band stuff, I’ve come to the conclusion over the years I’ve been doing it, that to find... usually to find... the simplest way to do it is usually the best, and I guess the problem in the beginning when I wasn’t quite as simple about it was... when you’re not sure yourself what’s most effective, in terms of voicings, in terms of range of instruments... you tend to try and ... you know, say you have to arrange a chord, split it up between different instruments, well, if you’re not exactly sure how the balances are going to work out on the field and everything, you tend to want to split things up within sections more so you know that all the notes are going to be heard on the field. That is, I’ve found, not the most effective way to arrange. For instance, if you can... if some kind of a woodwind section, or a brass section, for that matter, and like trumpets, and split them up four ways so that you’re sure that you get all four notes of the chord, is not a particularly good way to do it. If you can get all the notes heard but keep as many instruments as possible in unison, or maybe just split into two, I think it works better. For me, as I gain confidence, hearing some things that work and so forth, I think it allowed me to write in a more straightforward way and a simpler way. I think it tended in earlier arrangements to split sections up more and I think that makes... I mean, there are already big intonation problems on the field... I think that adds to it.
Castro: Ok. Yeah. So just as a general principal you try to stick to... try to keep it simple, try not to split up a section too much.
Friedman: Yeah. And I guess at the bottom of all of this is really knowing what instruments can do. In other words, not only their ranges but the absolute best range of each instrument to get... Bob Briggs was helpful a lot in some of these things. I remember particularly, surprisingly enough the saxophone which is my instrument, that he kept either reminding me or making clear how you get the most power out of saxophones when they’re low. That was something that I ... it didn’t occur to me that much in the beginning. Being a saxophone player I just tended to think in another way. But, of course, he was right and somethings I just sorta’ discovered for myself. It is absolutely essential, I think, whether you’re writing for senior high school kids or professional players, you get the best out of them if you aim for their best range.
Castro: Uh huh. I see. It’s going back to the point that you made about picking up some information from Bob Briggs: it seems to me that a lot of arranging is picking up bits here and there and keeping them in the back of your mind, in the back burner, and then using them when the time comes up. Do you think that’s a true statement?
Friedman: Yeah. A lot of what I did with Nixon in that band course was... and again, he’s a master arranger... is we’d just pour over scores. It was a small class. It was small enough that we could all just sorta’ crowd around and just look at Persecetti or whoever and look at scores and he would just point things out and... rather than.... yeah that was the main thing we did. As well as work on projects. It was remembering those things and noticing what instruments were coupled together and... there are certain basic things, like that was after taking a basic orchestration course. You do learn about things like the tone weight and how to balance and so forth, but... it’s really just like what you just said. You know, you pick up a thing here and there and you may try something, hear it and see if it works, and either it does or it doesn’t.
Castro: Uh huh. Well. Yeah, you’re answering a lot of the questions I have further on down the line. One which is kinda’ similar, a question I thought of, is just describe your own personal goals when you are arranging. What are you trying to do and how do you know if you are successful?
Friedman: Well, that’s a good question and I don’t have a... I think I mentioned to you in a earlier conversation... unfortunately, I rarely get to hear my arrangements for Cal Band. I guess I made more of a point in the beginning but as time goes on I just... I wish I had tapes of everything, because I could probably do a better job.
Castro: Ha ha ha.
Friedman: But, the fact is that I’ve arranged not only for Cal Band but I’ve arranged for lots of groups, usually for jazz bands, but still, you’re dealing with wind instruments, and ah.... ask that question again. Maybe I’m getting....
Castro: I guess to bring it to a nutshell, how do you know if your arrangement is successful? How do you know if it’s what you intended it to be?
Friedman: Yeah... you know, it’s just in hearing it and... I think, the more you do it, the more predictable your techniques come. You come to a certain situation and you say “yeah, I know what to do with that.” So you’re not surprised about what the outcome is. But in the beginning, you know, going on intuition and just figuring... trying to figure everything out you can... that’s when it’s really important to hear back what you’ve written... and I remember, sometimes you are surprised.
Castro: Uh huh. Ha ha ha.
Friedman: It’s either good or bad.
Friedman: You’ve experienced that.
Castro: Yes. Definitely.
Friedman: That happens more in the beginning and then you learn certain sorta’ stock ways and ways you can trust to deal with the situation and there are fewer surprises. I guess there’s a place for more creative arranging where.... well, particularly, if you were a count composer writing for symphonic orchestra or symphonic band, where you might wanna do more experimental things and try different textures and so forth, but that hasn’t been much in my mind in writing for... certainly not in marching band and not even in writing for when I was doing a lot of jazz band writing. It was more to get the compositional aspects over and make the instruments sound good rather than to try for a real new way to do things.
Castro: I see. Interesting. Alright, I think we can move from more general topics to more Cal Band related topics. Something we’ve discussed, or you’ve discussed before, your first contact with the Cal Band: I’m interested if you can remember any specific dates, the year when somebody first contacted you or then year when somebody first got in touch with you and said “there’s somebody interested in your arranging for the Cal Band.”
Friedman: Well ok, that was Roger Nixon. It was... I mean Bob Briggs contacted Roger Nixon who at that time was a professor at San Francisco State, and I had just... I was either just getting my masters in ’71, or maybe I had just gotten it, maybe it was ’72. It was right in there. And asked me if I was interested in writing. So that was... I’d put it between... the earliest it could have been, I guess, would have been maybe ’70, and the latest would have been ’73. It’s gotta be somewhere in those years.
Castro: Yeah. I see. Ah... Ah... Let’s see, I’m trying to think... something good. So ah, was there anything unique about that offer? Were you surprised?
Friedman: No. I’ll tell you I... here’s something... the biggest impression I got about Cal Band was when I was in high school and it might have been on that time when the Berkeley High School band was Cal’s guest, or it might have been on a Band Day. Most likely it might have been... do you remember... you saw this video tape right? Or something with the Berkeley High band there? Do you remember what the Cal Band played?
Castro: Boy. No, I don’t.
Friedman: Ok, well, what I remember, and I remember being there, so it almost had to be one of those days because I didn’t go to football games otherwise, was American in Paris. What occurred to me was that I was totally floored by the idea that Cal Band had a special arrangement of something. That they would have gone to the trouble of... To me it was really inconceivable that that would be. So I didn’t think about it all that much after that but I was really very impressed with that and so when I got the offer from... through Roger Nixon and then talked about Briggs and did these things with that in the back of my mind I wasn’t all that surprised, but I must say that there were plenty of times over the years, more so in the beginning, where I was surprised that the band wanted to go to the trouble and the expense of getting a special arrangement for something that could be purchased. True, it wouldn’t be quite as good and you’d have to doctor it up to buy a published version, but knowing the history and knowing that... you know, again my first contact with that American in Paris, that that’s what the band wanted -- something exactly for them. Of course, any time you have a custom arrangement, that’s always going to be preferable. So I was more than happy to fit into that. I liked arranging, the big interest, and I needed the work, so that I fit in real well. But still, over the years there would be times when I would talk to whoever I was talking to, the drum major, or whoever and say “Don’t you want to just go buy this at Byron Hoyt and change a few things?” And “No, that’s the way we do it.” That’s pretty much it.
Castro: Yeah. It... Bandsmen have pretty much come to expect personalized custom arrangements by our own arrangers and any time you try and put a stock piece in front of them you’ll get jeers and you’ll get boos and they won’t want to play it as well as they would something specially arranged by you or arranged by Dale McGowan.
Friedman: Is that right?
Castro: It’s funny... it’s a whole psychological thing now. They want their own “Cal Band arrangements” from their own Cal Band arrangers. So. Yeah. Ah. That’s interesting. Ok. Ahh. Well, talking about arranging for the Cal Band, I was wondering if you have any special considerations that you take into account when you do arrange for the Cal Band... for example, I’m interested in what is unique about the Cal Band instrumentation? Like if you compared it, say, to a jazz band, or if you compared it, say, to a drum corps band. What things do you take into account?
Friedman: Well, there’s the uniqueness of course of melaphoniums, and, I always like French horns. Even when I had my own big band we had a pretty going on working every week big jazz band in San Francisco and ah.... sorta’ in the middle of the 70’s, I liked to use French horns and when I led the band at State I liked French horns so being able to use melaphoniums is a neat thing. So that’s unique, and learning what they do well and trying to use them to their best advantage. The percussion instruments changed over the course. What do you call them now, quad drums?
Castro: Yeah. Quads.
Friedman: That is relatively recent. At least it seems that way. Who knows, maybe it’s been ten years but I don’t think it’s been ten years, has it?
Castro: Ah.. since I was in high school. That is about eight years.
Friedman: So, I had never written for that before. To tell you the truth, I don’t know how literally they even take my percussion stuff. I never have known that. No matter what they do, I have a lot of fun with it, particularly on rock kinds of things ’cause I like to think rhythmicly and I like to think, well, I’ve got these four tones to work with and what would best work. So that it’s only with Cal Band that I deal with that and with melophoniums. The other instruments are pretty... are things that I... are really components pretty much of the kind of bands and the kinds of arranging that I’ve done for a long time. Then it gets back to the other stuff that I was saying: always keep in mind use instruments to their best advantage, the best part of their range, and ... I guess the difference between how I use them in the jazz band setting and with Cal Band is to remember that they are outside on the field and so you always have to be conscious of maximizing the power, which is not true of other kinds of things.
Castro: Uh huh. It’s very interesting you put that little “maximizing the power” because I don’t know if you were aware of this but a lot of the bandsmen, present and past, usually think of Bennett Friedman as their power arranger, and someone you turn to when you want the power chart that’s going to just blow through the roof.
Friedman: Oh really?
Friedman: Well, I... Uh.... That was.... Well, see in the early days I had much more contact with Bob about these things. It was... I guess after awhile we just didn’t need to, I guess. He maximized that idea. He emphasized you know.... we need that and so I kept that in mind and ... I’m glad to hear that, you know, because I’ve tried to do that and I thought that... It seems what a marching band needs out there. It’s nice to hear.
Castro: Yeah. I’m interested... Do you find that any of the things you learn by arranging, say for the Cal Band, or any other outside marching band, do they tend to trickle over into any of your other arranging, say like for jazz or anything else you do?
Friedman: I think all kinds of things trickle in. See I do .... I really don’t do any .... hardly do any arranging now, I mean, since I started teaching full time in ’77. I almost keep doing Cal arranging because it’s... just to keep my hand in doing any kind of arranging. It keeps me up on just general arranging stuff. I like having to learn the new material. I’ve learned all kinds of music that I wouldn’t have gotten that closely involved in like say, the show Chorus Line, lots of rock tunes... It’s just forced me to get back to the basics of music, you know, take something apart, analyze it, and uh, harmonically, and all this stuff. So every time I do a project, unless it’s arranging stuff for you that’s a rehash of old stuff, like now and then you’ll... I say you, I mean the band... wants some old swing charts or something like that, I mean I have done a lot of that so that’s not usually a very educational experience. But... Which is fine, but, most of the time, the stunt committee or whoever I’m talking to, the drum major, is giving me some music that I’m not that familiar with and so just having to deal with it from the ground up is a great experience.
Castro: Uh huh. You find it a challenge then to ...
Friedman: It’s challenging. Some more than others. But I do it partially for that reason. I have a real busy life and, if I weren’t getting paid to do it I wouldn’t do it. This keeps me, you know, just doing a little bit, which is... that’s about all I can afford to do.
Castro: Uh huh. Yeah. They do take a lot of time. They take a lot of thought. I know you talked a little bit about this before, but I was wondering... if you don’t want to answer this question that’s fine, but if you can be totally honest with yourself and... I was wondering, what do you think of the Cal Band arrangements that you’ve done. What do you think of them? Do you like them? Do you not like them?
Friedman: You know, I wish I could answer you well on that but I don’t... I haven’t really heard very much of them. It’s that simple. There’s... I don’t know... As time goes on I have.... I think I get more confident in being pretty sure that there aren’t surprises in it, and that... I’m pretty sure that I’ve done the job that was asked for. I doubt that I could name a quarter of the things that I’ve arranged.
Castro: Uh huh.
Friedman: And again, not being... Not hearing them... I could ... You know, if we sat down and you played a bunch of stuff for me, I’d be more than happy to.... Uh, you know, this didn’t work out quite as I thought it would, or, this is great, or whatever... I just.... I can’t answer that because I haven’t heard enough of them, really, but I’m pretty sure, especially as time goes on... I mean I remember some projects back in the early days that I would have doubts that they worked very well. I remember doing something... I think something on the Pines of Rome, or something, and I would have doubts... it’s very sophisticated orchestral textures in there and... I never did hear it. So, I couldn’t say with confidence that that worked as well as... you know, some other things I may have done. So without, you know, a body of recorded music that I can listen to, it’s just hard to really....
Castro: Yeah. It’s just hard to know. Especially when you’ve done so many through the years.
Castro: Your last answer kinda’ leads in to the next question, a very similar question. I was wondering, has anything that you’ve arranged for the Cal Band stood out for any extraordinary reason, like, was anything very difficult or did you arrange something which you thought never should have been arranged?
Friedman: Well, Pines of Rome does stand out in my memory as... ah.... I just didn’t know how effective that was going to be. And I...
Castro: If I can interrupt. That was something for outside for the marching band. Is that correct?
Friedman: I believe so. Yeah. And ah... There was a sword fight scene in something somewhere...
Castro: Ha ha.
Friedman: Are you laughing because you remember that?
Castro: No. It’s just... I can kinda’ picture that.
Friedman: You know how arbitrary... you know what sword fight music is usually like?
Castro: Uh huh.
Friedman: I mean, it’s very unpredictable... you know, like a sword fight. Boy, that took me a lot of time to figure that out... you know, because they had found a sword fight in some movie or something. But those do stand out as among the most difficult and... and again, I just don’t know about their effectiveness.
Castro: I see. Was there ever anything you just really hated, that was a real drudgery to arrange, and you just couldn’t wait to get it over with?
Friedman: Well again, the sword fight scene. That gives you...
Castro: I’m going to have to pull this out.
Friedman: I don’t know where it is or when but it was... it just was... it was just not interesting to me and that.... I think, maybe the test piece that Bob had me do, might have been a George M. Cohan medley that went on forever, and it was just not so difficult because of the kinds of tunes - “Grand Old Flag” and that kind of stuff - just sort of on the boring side, just going on and on and on from tune to tune... but not that difficult. I’m probably forgetting some things... there has been so much music.
Friedman: Actually, the majority of the experiences have been positive I must say.
Castro: Uh huh. Anything which really stands out on the positive side that you can remember?
Friedman: I ended up loving the musical Chorus Line.
Friedman: And I... that was a fairly long medley I think I did of the music from that and so I really... it was really... I really enjoyed getting... you know, finding some music that has stayed with me until today that I still like to listen to and uh.... I remember a sort of rock something called “Conquistador” that was fun to do and I sorta liked what I did with it. I can’t remember it too well but I remember Bob saying that it worked out good. That’s about all that sticks out though.
Castro: I see. I see. I’m going to get really specific here. Something that has really stuck out, at least for bandsmen, and I don’t know if you are aware of this, but do you remember a song you arranged back around 1981 called “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”?
Friedman: No. I remember the title.
Castro: You remember the title?
Friedman: Ha ha.
Friedman: Was that Simon and Garfunkel?
Castro: No, it was originally, I think, an Animal song which had been redone by a group called Santa Esmeralda, a very heavy Latin rock type of song. It was this driving rock piece, all the way from start to finish. If I remember correctly, and I should remember this because I was... I studied a lot of videotapes, it was the 1981 season and the Cal Band had played it twice in two field shows. And then I think they also went to New York for the Garden State Bowl and used it as a finale, or at least in their halftime show there. Anyway... it’s not ringing any bells? or is anything coming back?...
Friedman: I think.... I remember most about arranging it just from maybe hearing the original record where it was a sort of a stop time and the singer says “oh lord don’t let me be misunderstood” or something like that.
Castro: Uh huh. That’s the song. That’s the song.
Friedman: But I really.... and I... I know you’re right cause I know I did it. I remember the title but I don’t remember the music.
Castro: You don’t remember the music.
Friedman: No, I really don’t.
Castro: Well, anyway, as it turns out, I... I’m starting to talk a little bit more here but I think you might find this very interesting... That song has been played consistently every year since 1981.
Castro: In fact, it has probably much... pretty much become THE Cal Band song and every... you can almost count on it... every basketball game, every football game, you know at least a couple times a season, in the stands, in Harmon, the band will play “Misunderstood”. In fact, it’s gotten to be almost a bit of a joke, because all of the alumni who are, you know, alumni now but in the band in the early 80’s, they still have the song memorized. I mean they played it so many times.
Friedman: Ha ha. You know... I mean... You know... It feels great to hear that but we should give credit where credit is due -- a lot of what an arranger does, in this situation, is really done by either stunt committee or drum major, whoever thinks up the idea.
Castro: Uh huh.
Friedman: Because I never think up... You know, a lot of it is hearing... I’m sure you can appreciate this... Getting an idea for an arrangement and thinking “Oh yeah, this would sound good for the marching band”. So, the concept comes from... not from me. And so, if it was a successful concept, a good idea in the beginning, and then, as long as I don’t mess it up... You know, the end result should be... I mean, I think that’s important because sometimes... now I don’t know how these have... how the other arrangements have weathered in time, but some kind of Simon and Garfunkel thing I’m thinking of... I can’t think what it is but.... some things have really seemed to me “This is not the best idea to do for a marching band” and I don’t know where they’ve gone but, again... I think... You know I’ll always try to do the best I can do but I can’t help but think that “well whoever on the committee” or “whoever”, didn’t have the best idea about this and... then again, I can be wrong but from the sound of it I bet somebody spotted this tune that would really work for marching band and hopefully I didn’t screw it up. So... You see what I’m saying?
Castro: Uh huh. Oh definitely.
Friedman: A lot of it has to do with the initial conception, I think.
Castro: Oh yeah. Did you ever wish that you might have more influence over what gets chosen, perhaps you had an idea in the back of your head that might be a good song and you’d like to present it...
Friedman: Yeah, fleetingly, I thought of things but for whatever reason, I wasn’t asked or... I don’t know, it always seemed like whoever I was dealing with, the committee or whatever, they always had very specific ideas and over the years I just got used to just going with that. And ah... it did occur to me sometimes.
Castro: Uh huh. Yeah. Well. Who knows? Perhaps they might listen.
Friedman: Well, the other thing too is I have... maybe less now, but over the years I have had a lot of creative outlets for myself, writing for my own groups. And I wasn’t really doing the Cal Band thing as a creative outlet... I mean that kind of creativity. It was ah... more... it’s an art but it’s sort of a... I don’t know quite how to say it... a more functional kind of art or something. You know, using skills that I had to bring their ideas to life... you know... except for the few times when I thought “why don’t ”... maybe I should suggest something. I don’t remember if I ever even said anything about it. I just don’t remember. I really got used to the idea of them, or you guys, bringing me ideas and me working with it. I really like doing things like that, whether it’s some of the professional performing that I do... I’m very comfortable for somebody else to set the boundaries. And, as long as I understand what they are and how to do a good job, and then do my best within those boundaries. Sometimes I think being ah... not having boundaries, not having those limitations, is sort of a dangerous thing sometimes. You could just go anywhere and probably would have made a lot of mistakes had that happened.
Castro: Yeah. Also, just... marching band tends to be very structured anyway and you need as much structure as you have, as you can get from the very beginning, otherwise, as you mentioned, there’s going to be problems later on.
Castro: Down the road. Well, I was... somewhere in the back of my mind I was wondering if you ever realized what a sensation this song has become. Ha ha.
Friedman: No. And, of course I love hearing about it, but I still think chances are .... I mean, wouldn’t you agree with me that probably somebody had a real good idea that it was a good marching band tune?
Castro: Definitely. It’s funny, though, because my year that I was on the drum major’s committee, we wanted to do it again and put it a show, and we wanted to go back to the original cut tape that was made... which you made the arrangement from... and it was very hard to find this thing. In fact we couldn’t find it as used record stores and new record stores and we had to go back to the original stunt committee which found the song and asked them for a copy of their tape. Because, basically the song doesn’t exist any more. So, we’re thinking, there’s probably only about 4 or 5 copies on the face of the earth of the original song. But you’re right, it’s... it was a great choice and somebody had a great idea and they brought it to the right person.
Friedman: Uh huh.
Castro: Anyway, yeah. Ah... Anyway, I thought I might wrap it up. Did you have anything else you might like to add or any other thoughts you might have come across or...
Friedman: Umm. Ah... No, ah.... Just on a positive note, it’s been a... coming from Berkeley, you know, as a kid, it’s just always felt real satisfying to ah... even though I don’t get to hear my stuff, and I’d like to hear it, ah... just to be associated with Cal, you know, when you grow.... well maybe you didn’t have this in your own experience, but when you grow up from age 0 to high school in Berkeley, Cal has a special meaning even though I never attended it and ah... so to be associated with the band it was ah... at first sort of a thrill and now maybe thrill isn’t the right word but it just feels really good to be a part of what you folks are doing. That’s very satisfying.
Castro: So, it sounds like you’re looking forward to arranging in the years to come.
Friedman: Oh I hope so. I mean I’m doing it on such a limited basis now that I imagine I could.... as long as the wanted, you know, a little bit, I could always find time to do a little bit. Yeah. It’s something I’d like to keep up.
Castro: Yeah. I. That’s one thing that’s always kinda’ interesting to me about the Cal band, at least in recent years, where we have used a lot of arrangers and each arranger... well, this is how I think... each arranger hears the band a certain way and each arranger has their own style and that comes across. You know, you hear a lot of styles coming from the Cal band and you contrast that with, say, like the USC marching band which has one full time arranger which does all their music that is played on the field. And basically, you hear the band the same way, the same sound everytime, and it gets a little tedious. And their band’s a little tedious to begin with. Ha.
Friedman: Well, I would see your point. Variety is real important and I think that’s a great way to do it.
Castro: Yeah. Yeah. Oh, something I wrote down here I’d like to pass on to you: you might not know about this but were you aware that the Cal band is putting a CD out this year, or this coming year?
Castro: Anyway, the emphasis on this one... well, at least they’re trying to... is bringing a lot more of the rock tunes from the last seasons more so than the Cal songs. There will be Cal songs on the CD. The final selection hasn’t been made yet but the recording has already all been done and there are a lot of your songs on there.
Friedman: Oh boy.
Castro: So, who knows, you might be... well you will definitely have a few, at least a few if not more than a few of your songs will be digitized on a CD.
Friedman: Well good. I’d sure like to get a copy.
Castro: Yeah. You can finally hear some of your stuff for the first time and you can hear “Misunderstood” again... that will almost definitely be on it.
Friedman: Uh... not to ask for the moon but if I could even just get copies of the stuff that’s not going to be on the CD that are recordings of mine... but however it works out... the more I can hear the more I’ll learn.
Castro: Yeah. Unfortunately I already asked the student director about that and he was kinda’ wary of that. He was worried about copies getting out that weren’t ... oh, I forget how he put it... but you should call him because coming from you it might have a lot more sway than...
Friedman: Who is the person?
Castro: Ah... Steve Sinclair is the outgoing student director. You might have dealt with him a bit. Or you can talk to the outgoing drum major too because he’s involved with the project.
Friedman: Somebody there just contacted me about doing something for the Spring Show...
Castro: Oh, Glen... Glen Desandre.
Castro: He’s the incoming. Yeah. Well, that was all I had. I hope I didn’t take up too much of your time.
Friedman: It was a pleasure to talk to you.
Castro: Yeah. It was ah.... got a lot of interesting things out ah.... I’m glad you could take the time to do it and I’m glad you could... you’re close enough where a phone call would be sufficient.
Friedman: Are you writing stuff for the band yourself?
Castro: Yeah. As of.... I started kinda’ doing stuff in high school, then my first couple years in Cal band I was just playing. Junior year I came up with a tune... actually it started... this is kinda’ funny... it started more like little small basketball intros and I also did some piccolo cadences. You might know that the Cal band piccolo section plays little rinky dink cadences on the way back down from the stadium to the band room.
Friedman: No, I didn’t know that. Are you a piccolo player?
Castro: No, I play trumpet, actually. So I eventually wanted to move on to bigger things like rock songs and things like that. So I did a few of those. I was asked to be a stand-in really quickly when Dale McGowan couldn’t arrange something for the last Spring Show and so I kinda’ like basically like locked myself in my room and didn’t pass my classes and stuff. Ha ha ha. And this last season they asked me to do a song and they’ll probably ask me.... they’ve asked me again to do some stuff so... Yeah, I’ve... it’s something I enjoy... it’s something where I know I definitely am just learning and every experience...
Friedman: Are you a music major?
Castro: I started out as a music major my freshman year and it just went right over my head. But I kept it in the background. I went on to become a psychology major and now I’m interested in the field of music therapy which is kinda’ like a wedding of psychology and music.
Friedman: Right. Yeah.
Castro: So that’s what I’m interested in as far as graduate school and I haven’t thought too much about going to graduate school yet but that’s what my plans are in the somewhat near future.
Friedman: Uh huh.
Castro: In the meantime I’m here in Berkeley and whenever I get a chance to arrange I give it a shot or keep listening for things to do. Just hand out with the band still. I have a lot of friends still in the band so.... And I’m also involved with this project too. And yeah... I just thought it would be nice to get the arranger’s viewpoint because I saw a lot of that was missing... or just investigate this whole thing about being an arranger in the Cal Band.
Friedman: So you are out of the band now?
Castro: Yeah, I am.
Castro: Yeah, I’ve graduated. So... Yeah, I should have given you a little bit about myself.
Friedman: Well, it was interesting talking to you. Maybe I’ll get to hear something of yours. Either way, if we’re ever in the same area I hope you just walk... if you know it’s me, walk up and introduce yourself.
Castro: Oh yeah. I definitely... Yeah, I will. Yeah, I hope some time we can. Who knows, maybe something amazing will happen and they get all these people together and...
Friedman: Well sometimes I do things at Cal like the Jazz Festival, stuff like that.
Castro: Oh, I see. Well alright, I’ll keep my eyes and ears open. Alright, great. Well thanks a lot for your time again.
Friedman: My pleasure.
Castro: OK. Bye Bye.