Doc Severinsen’s motto: be happy

By Martha Marteney - Staff Writer
Manchester - posted Fri., Jan. 28, 2011
Ranging in styles from gypsy to Latin, Gil Gutierrez plays his guitar during one of the pieces he wrote. Photos by Martha Marteney.
Ranging in styles from gypsy to Latin, Gil Gutierrez plays his guitar during one of the pieces he wrote. Photos by Martha Marteney.

MANCHESTER - Trumpeter Doc Severinsen gave his only New England performance of his tour on Jan. 24 at the Manchester High School auditorium. Best known as the band leader for “The Tonight Show,” Severinsen started playing the trumpet at age 7, and continues touring at 83 years old.
Keith Berry, K-12 music coordinator, was responsible for making the connection with Severinsen. “I wrote an e-mail that was really sincere,” said Barry, in which he spoke about his respect for Severinsen, the strong MHS music program and the other artists who have performed at MHS.
After opening numbers by the MHS Jazz Ensemble, Severinsen said, “I want to thank the young people from MHS for coming here and playing so well.” While Doc Severinsen and the San Miguel Five’s music definitely had a Latin rhythm, there was also a feel of gypsy music, swing and big band. The music was well-received, and the band’s CDs sold out during intermission.
Before the concert, Severinsen talked with students from MHS and East Haven High School. Severinsen answered questions about his career and playing music, and offered his thoughts on life in general. “Think seriously about what you are doing, what you want to do, and start doing it,” said the man better known for wise cracks than wisdom.
Asked about his favorite ballad, the trumpeter quipped, “Whatever piece I’m playing at the moment is my favorite.” However, other answers were much deeper. “I don’t think you need to be happy to play the trumpet, but you do need to be happy when you get up in the morning,” he said.
Korey Charles, a 2008 MHS graduate, said he got a lot out of hearing about Severinsen’s passion. “Especially when he talked about waking up in the morning and being happy,” noted Charles. “It’s all about the attitude.”
“When you feel good about yourself, you can accomplish anything,” commented Severinsen. “You’ve got to find a way to be happy in life.”
Practicing and knowing the music is important, explained Severinsen. “When you start playing better, it’s an experience you’ll never forget for the rest of your life,” he said.
Severinsen still thinks about what he could possibly do to be better. “When you make a mistake on the trumpet, everyone hears it,” he added.
“It was cool to see everything they did, the set-up and all,” said MHS junior Dan O’Connell, about staying during the sound check. Sophomore Alan Pearl said he appreciated learning what motivates the famous trumpet player and what affects his playing.
The annual MHS JazzFest will be held on Feb. 16. This all-day event is free and open to the public. On March 22, the U.S. Navy Band’s Sea Chanters Chorus will perform, and on April 1, Barrage will bring their fiddle-fest to the stage. For the complete calendar or to purchase tickets, visit the website at
The Manchester Band Parents’ Association members volunteered the night of the concert. “We help support the band and percussion programs at MHS,” explained President Robert Dusza. “This is our biggest concert yet.”

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