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Alumni Story: A Conversation with Ronald Kidd, Anthony Plog, and Jock Ellis

Written by: Mandy Matthews Brockhaus, Manager of Community Engagement

In October 2021, I had the pleasure and wonderful opportunity of interviewing three highly successful AYS alumni and brass players with current AYS Trombonist, Cole Davis. I could not help but smile throughout our hour-long conversation together as novelist Ronald Kidd, composer Anthony Plog, and trombonist Jock Ellis shared laughs and memories of their time playing together in AYS with maestro Mehli Mehta, during the 1960’s. Their infectious energy and lifetime of friendship could be felt beyond the computer screen. They spoke about their genuine love for music, how AYS influenced who they are today and how, even though their paths went in different directions and careers, they lead a career full of passion.  

 

Hearing their stories helped me to better understand the lifelong impact that AYS has on young musicians and the impact of having Maestro Mehli Mehta as their leader. Ron Kidd said that “whenever you were around Mehli Mehta it was exciting, and only in retrospect did I look back and realize how much I loved him… He was kind of like a musical father.” The trio also spoke about how much Mr. Mehta loved the brass section and how he often said, “when brass instruments are played it needs to sound like they are coming from the heavens.”  

 

After leaving AYS and going into a successful career as a trumpet player, Anthony Plog turned to composing and offering new literature for brass ensembles. When reflecting on the impact of AYS on his career, Tony said, “[AYS] completely changed my way of thinking about classical music and, even early on, [I had] a real passion.” 

 

For trombonist Jock Ellis, playing in AYS was something he dreamed of as a young boy collecting classical music records and listening to them with his father. ”When I started playing, and when you’re in the middle of the brass section and you get to bring down the heavens, more than one time,” said Jock, “I would have goosebumps down my arms and tears running down my eyes just from the simple things, like playing the A at the end of the Brahms second.”  

 

If I were to summarize the interview, conversation, and what I learned the most, it would be similar to something Ron said: “I think personally [AYS] taught me that I needed to do something that I loved with my life. Whatever it was, I needed to love it with all my heart.” 

 

If you want to get inspired to discover new interests or revisit old passions, hear about AYS’ early days or receive advice from professional musicians, watch and listen to the whole interview with Ronald Kidd, Anthony Plog, and Jock Ellis on our YouTube Channel.

Jock Ellis (left) and Ron Kidd (right) chatting before an AYS rehearsal in 1964.

Jock Ellis (back, trombone), Anthony Plog (right, trumpet), and Mike Carl (foreground, trumpet) at an AYS rehearsal in 1965.

More about Ronald Kidd, Novelist

Ronald Kidd is a novelist, playwright, and librettist. His fourteen novels of adventure, comedy, mystery, and American history have received the Children’s Choice Award, an Edgar Award nomination, and honors from the American Library Association, the International Reading Association, the Library of Congress, and the New York Public Library. He is a two-time O’Neill playwright who lives in Nashville, Tennessee. Learn more at www.ronaldkidd.com

More about Anthony Plog, Composer

Anthony Plog has had a rich and varied international career in music—as a composer of operas, symphonic music, and chamber works; as an orchestral musician, soloist, and recording artist; and as a brass teacher and coach at some of the great music conservatories internationally and now online to students around the world.

 

Composer

The music of Anthony Plog has been performed in over 30 countries, and he has been the recipient of numerous grants and commissions. After beginning his career writing extensively for brass, he now works in many different musical forms. He has composed three children’s operas, the first of which (How the Trumpet Got Its Toot) was premiered by the Utah Opera and Symphony. He completed a major tragic opera (Spirits) based on a Holocaust theme and recently finished a new opera about a drone operator suffering a nervous breakdown (The Sacrifice). Other new works include an oratorio about the first major environmental battle in the United States (God’s First Temples), in versions for orchestra, symphonic band, and soprano song cycle, as well as a cantata using the stories of women who have recovered from sex trafficking, prostitution, and drug abuse (Magdalene).

Musician

Anthony Plog began studying music at the age of 10, and by 19 he was playing extra trumpet with the Los Angeles Philharmonic under conductors such as Zubin Mehta, James Levine, Michael Tilson Thomas, and Claudio Abbado. He has held positions with orchestras around the world, including the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, the Malmo Symphony, and the Basel Symphony, and has performed on tour with the Stockholm Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Buenos Aires Symphony. As a soloist he has toured throughout the United States, Europe, Australia, and Japan, and has numerous solo recordings to his credit.

 

Brass Teacher and Coach

Anthony Plog has taught at some of the greatest music institutions around the world, including the University of Southern California, the Music Academy of the West, and Indiana University (U.S.), as well as the Schola Cantorum (Basel, Switzerland), the Malmo Music Academy (Sweden), the Academia di Santa Cecilia (Rome, Italy), the Norwegian Music Academy, and the Freiburg Musik Hochschule (Germany). His experience teaching in a wide variety of musical cultures, in addition to his work as a composer and former player, allows him to approach teaching and coaching with a unique and fresh perspective. His Plog Program, published by Balquhidder Music, is a seven-volume method book that has been a valuable addition to trumpet methodology.

 

His new online teaching and coaching program is creating a new paradigm for international teaching. The program allows students worldwide to study with Anthony Plog and is available to players at all levels. Besides working individually with students on every brass instrument, he coaches chamber music groups, larger brass sections and ensembles, and wind ensembles, and he guides composers in writing for brass instruments.

 

Anthony Plog lives and works in Freiburg, Germany.

More about Jock Ellis, Trombonist

Jock Ellis first studied trombone with Artie Foster and Byron Peebles. Jock played in a variety of orchestras including AYS, Debut Orchestra, UCLA Symphony, Robert Hall Chorale, Burbank Symphony, Westside Symphony, Valley Symphony, Santa Barbara Symphony, COTA Orchestra, Tony Plog’s Brass Quintet, Richard Rindes Sackbut quartet and other local symphonies and groups. He played under Mehli Mehta, Zubin Mehta, Michael Tilson Thomas, Paul Polivnick, Ingolf Dahl, Robert Henderson, Elmer Bernstein, Leo Arnaud, and many others.

 

Jock performed and recorded with many film and TV scores and on camera live including the Andy Williams Show, Midnight Special, Old Grey Whistle Test, Top of the Pops, The Osmonds, The Soupy Sales Show, and many more. He also performed and recorded with rock bands including The Pipe, Kosmik Blues Band, Howard Wales, Mike Finnigan Band, California Earthquake, Steve March, Dave Mason, Reverend Boogie, The space Band, Canned Heat, Alan Parker, Frank Zappa, China Club All Stars, Big Beat Sundaes, Robbie Krieger, Jessie Ed Davis, Pegi Young and the survivors, Mark Almond, Phil Jones, and Funzone.

He’s also played with many jazz groups including  Frank Sinatra, Manhattan Transfer, Lou Rawls, Steve Huffsteter,  Steve Allen, Billy Mitchell, Mose Allison, Gabor Szabo, Big Joe Turner, Don Ellis Band, recorded and performed with Don Ellis on Ed Sullivan Show and album “Underground,” and many jazz festivals, concerts, and clubs with various artists. His playing experience also expands beyond to salsa where he’s played with Mazacote, Freddie Crespo, HMA Salsa Jazz Orchestra, La Compania, Poncho Sanchez, and others.

 

Jock is currently working and recording with Billy Mitchell and the Circle of Friends, Robbie Krieger release of last year “The Ritual Begins at Sundown,” and live performances. He also still happily plays in a brass quintet every Tuesday.

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