Monday, January 22nd, 2018

Roland Stebbins


When did you begin playing your instrument?
I began playing the euphonium in 7th grade. I didn’t practice much on the euphonium, and there were some trombone players in school who played better than I did. I blamed my poor playing on the horn. The summer before 10th grade, my dad came home with a trombone and he said, “OK, you don’t want to play the baritone anymore. Here’s a trombone.”

How long have you been in the New Horizons band?
More than ten years, I think. Yes, it was 2001.

How did you hear about this band?
Tom Jones (trombone) – I sit right next to him – was the one who told me about the band.

Do you belong to any other musical ensembles?
Within the last year I joined East Cobb New Horizons Band and also the Sandy Springs New Horizons Band. I’m also in another group, the Cobb Wind Symphony. I play euphonium there. When I started in this band (RNHB), I played euphonium, only euphonium. Bob Martin started the swing band and I wanted to be in it, so I got out my bass trombone and started playing it for a while. There’s an offshoot of this band, a brass quintet. I play euphonium in that.

Do you take lessons?
That’s a little bit of a story. When I was in high school, I had maybe six months of lessons from the same person who taught my brother to play (cornet.) But I don’t think he taught me much more than my dad, who played euphonium and really taught me to play. My dad decided, somehow or other, we would have a family band. We had my older brother on cornet, my dad was on baritone, and my sister and I played trombone.

What about your mother?
She didn’t play. She only sang. She was musical too. She had us all take piano lessons.

Tell us a little about yourself.
I went to a local college (Union) for two years in Schenectady (New York.) But I didn’t stay there. My dad had a great idea – he always wanted to go to West Point, but he couldn’t get in because he was color blind. He wanted his boys to go to a military academy. The year after my brother got in, I also went to the Naval Academy, for four years. I chose to go into the Air Force after graduation. I was in the Air Force for 21 years and went to flight training. I flew AC-130 gunships over Laos and the Ho Chi Minh trail. I also did GCI (ground-controlled intercept) for a while. After the Air Force, I worked for three years for a military contractor. Then I worked ten years for Georgia Tech research, writing computer programs. I retired at 60.

Do you have family?
I have the greatest wife in the world. Sally is “personality plus.” Anyone who knows her loves her. We’ve been married for 51 years. I have two sons. One of my sons has physical problems. He’s a little person – a dwarf. I have another son who is 6 foot 1.

Please share a memorable experience.
I got into the Tucson Symphony Orchestra playing trombone. I tried out and got the part. When I was there, they took amateurs and pros. They asked me to play bass trombone and I didn’t know anything about it, but I was excited to play. I met Sally there. I happened to see her at my first concert. She played cello. She just blew me away. The funny part is that she was a music major and she’s given up playing cello. I wasn’t a music major, but I can’t give it up. I don’t want to give it up. It’s too good.

You’re feeling healthy now. What’s ahead for you?
Just keep getting better at playing my music. I have weak spots – a lot of them.

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