About the Director, Sandy LaClair

About the Director, Sandy LaClair

Professional Musician - Trumpet Specialist

Sandy La Clair has been the Director of The Madison Brass quintet, The Impact of Brass (The Madison Brass with full percussion) and A Touch of Brass Jazz Combo. . He is a past President of the Madison Area Musician's Association Local 166, a member of the Madison Convention and Visitor's Bureau and the International Fairs and Festivals Association and a member of SPRA (Suburban Parks and Recreation Assn. of Chicago)


                                                    In his own words...

I grew up in South Florida and got my first break when I was selected to play with the famous Palm Beach High School Band as a 7th grader. Two years later we moved up the coast to Ft. Pierce where I continued in band. I was selected solo trumpet in the Florida All-State Band my junior year and was awarded scholarships to Northwestern and the University of Michigan as well as the University Of Miami. I had been taking the bus to Miami several times a month for trumpet lessons my senior year and when they offered my a Henry Fillmore scholarship which covers everything - I accepted.

I was very busy at the University. I was required to perform all band functions for my scholarship and take all the required courses for a BM in music education. As time went on I played first trumpet in the orchestra and brass ensemble as well. I studied with the likes of Clifton Williams, Alfred Reid and Fred Fennell and some jazz with Jerry Coker. My senior year I also performed with the faculty brass quintet which was very active.

Upon graduation I taught instrumental music in the Miami public school system and began my career as a professional musician by playing principal trumpet with the Ft. Lauderdale Symphony, the Miami Opera and the Miami Beach Symphony. I also started getting calls to play some of the big shows on Miami Beach staring Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Jackie Gleason etc.

In the summer, I played in the orchestra at the Coconut Grove Theater which produced six Broadway Shows each season as well as the Summer Pops Orchestra which performed on a large barge out in the bay with the audience sitting in the amphitheater or from their Yacht.

After three years of teaching in Miami I decided to get a Masters Degree in Trumpet Performance and accepted the graduate assistant position in trumpet at Florida State. I finished the program in a year and a half. I performed in all the University's major productions as well as the university orchestra and faculty brass quintet.

Tallahassee was a great experience and it taught me that what I really wanted to do was to play. I started the orchestra audition process. One of the positions I applied for was for principal trumpet in the Jerusalem Symphony with the noted American conductor and composer, Lukas Foss. This was the State Orchestra Of Israel and a good position. I flew to New York for the audition. Upon returning home I was offered the job and had a week to think about it. The information I found in the library about Israel was fascinating and knowing the orchestra performed two different concerts each week was what I was looking for. I took the job.

Upon joining the orchestra in Jerusalem I played fifty six straight weeks and then had six weeks off. I spent that time in London visiting friends in the brass section of the All-Europe Youth Orchestra which spent a month in Jerusalem. The highlight of that trip was being asked to play an extra trumpet part in the Mahler 2nd Symphony which was performed and recorded in Albert Hall by the London Symphony and conducted by Leonard Bernstein. I then traveled on the Orchestra train to Edinburgh Scotland for two more performances in the Edinburgh Music Festival.

I returned to Israel for my second season with the orchestra. I was very aware of the many problems in that part of the world and what was causing them. However the demands of my job kept me focused on my music. I, like everyone else was not prepared for the war with Syria and Egypt in 1973. It was one of the worst times to be in that country. Everything changed over night. It was a terrible loss to everyone. So many people died on both sides. There were a number of people that I never saw again. They were killed or injured or remained in the army.  As the only Christian in the orchestra and an American I knew that I no longer belonged there.  I departed some six weeks later but not before I visited as many locations as I could that were mentioned in the Bible. I then traveled in Europe for seven weeks before coming back to Florida.

Upon returning to the US I had been accepted as a special student by Vincent Chickowitz who was a great teacher and played in the Chicago Symphony and was on the faculty of Northwestern University. I had always wanted to study and work in Chicago and this time there was nothing to stop me. During the five years I spent there I also studied with Will Scarlet and Arnold Jacobs both from the Chicago symphony. During my stay in Chicago I performed with the Chicago Civic Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony, the Joffrey ballet and the North Shore Concert Band as well as free lance work with the Ringling Brothers Circus and the Chicago Bears Band and private teaching. I was selected to be the featured soloist with the New York Chamber Orchestra's three week tour of Southern Spain in 1978.

In 1979 I accepted a faculty position at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va. where I directed the faculty brass quintet and worked with brass students. During my second year I auditioned for the principal trumpet opening in the Winston-Salem Symphony in North Carolina and added it to my schedule.

After two years I decided to move back to the Midwest in 1981 and researched a number of areas near Chicago. I had been on tour with the with the pop singer Tom Jones several times when I lived in Chicago and always enjoyed the stops in Madison. Because of the large wedding market and proximity to Chicago I moved to Madison to start my music business in 1981.

I immediately started putting together The Madison Brass quintet and building a trumpet studio plus looking for free lance work. My first musical job here was a season with the American Palyers Theatre. Since moving to Madison I have performed with the Milwaukee, Rockford and Beloit-Janesville Symphonies as well the Florentine Opera in Milwaukee plus being a soloist with many schools and churches.

I have also worked and recorded with the 1st Brigade Band (music of the Civil War) and the Madison Municipal Band. In the last ten years I have developed my 5-piece jazz combo, A Touch of Brass, to provide a wide range of elegant dance and easy listening music for select social and corporate events as well as developing many varied programs for The Madison Brass and my newest group, The Impact of Brass which adds the impact of percussion for larger venues and dance music.