Houston is a large city with a diverse population and range of musical offerings, but it seems that everything musical in the city can be tied together with a simple three-word phrase. "Call Richard Brown" opens doors for musicians in the realms of both classical and jazz music.
Brown, of Local 65-699 (Houston, TX), started his career in Houston in 1980 as a percussionist with the Houston Symphony. He's since expanded his professional activities, to include working as drummer and bandleader for the Richard Brown Orchestra and setting up contracts for classical musicians in Houston-area churches and for other performing arts organizations. As Brown puts it, he's found a home "on both sides of the music fence."
As a student at Temple University in Philadelphia, Brown first joined the AFM in order to play concerts with the Philadelphia Lyric Opera and the Chamber Symphony of Philadelphia. He then spent three years in the US Army Band before winning the percussion audition with the Houston Symphony.
He took a detour from his career in Houston to spend several years in New York City playing on Broadway as a per-service musician, including performances in a revival of West Side Story. Brown later returned to Houston to head the percussion department at the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University. "I went from the security of the symphony to the freelance world," Brown says. "After five or six years, security was back on the boards again, so I went for security." He's been at Shepherd since 1985, helping to build the school into one of the top programs in the US, and he attributes the program's success to finding the right mix of students.
"In addition to talent, I'm looking for the right personality," Brown says. "I want students who will be supportive of one another so that everyone gets along."
Brown is now principal percussionist for the Houston Grand Opera Orchestra, as well its personnel manager. His rapport with Houston-area musicians led him to work in contracting for churches and other classical music organizations. It was an unexpected turn for him, but his energy and organizational skills have made it into a solid side career. …