CCM faculty member Heather Verbeck commemorates the legacy of her former instructor, late CCM faculty member Jack Wellbaum, in a new work for piccolo and piano composed by internationally acclaimed flutist Timothy Hagen. Verbeck will perform the Cincinnati premier of In a Yellow Wood during her faculty artist recital on Thursday, September 28.
Wellbaum had a legendary Cincinnati presence as a musician, arts administrator and teacher. He graduated from the Cincinnati College of Music in 1948 and began his tenure with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in 1950 as its principal piccolo player — a position he held for 38 years. Wellbaum also worked as the CSO’s personnel manager from 1972-1990.
In 1960, after his alma mater merged with the Conservatory of Music to become the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Wellbaum began teaching flute and piccolo at CCM. He instituted a weekly piccolo class on Monday nights, which continued through his retirement in 2008. Wellbaum passed away in December 2011, at the age of 89.
Now Verbeck, who once sat in Wellbaum’s weekly piccolo class, proudly teaches it.
“Those who knew Jack Wellbaum understood him to be a straightforward man of great character and integrity, someone you could depend on for steadfast friendship and honest but gentle counsel,” Verbeck says.
“He was a treasured mentor and colleague to me and to many others. His piccolo playing, like his teaching style, was a thing of beauty — refined but uncomplicated. The successes of his many past pupils, who were inspired to play better and to work harder in his presence, stand as evidence of his profound influence.”
Wellbaum included his sage and succinct advice as commentary in Orchestral Excerpts for Piccolo, a resource of 36 common orchestral piccolo audition excerpts.
With the permission of Wellbaum’s family, Verbeck organized a consortium of 42 commissioners to raise the funds for In A Yellow Wood, composed by Timothy Hagen. The consortium includes Wellbaum’s former students, colleagues from his time at the CSO, piccolo makers and other professional musicians who recognize the contributions Wellbaum made to the arts world.
“Like many other professional flutists, I have found Jack Wellbaum’s Orchestral Excerpts for Piccolo to be an indispensable resource, full of generous wisdom,” wrote Hagen.
“In writing this piece, I have found myself inspired to be the best composer I could be and, more importantly, the best person I could be….I hope In a Yellow Wood brings joy to all those who play and hear it and keeps alive the legacy of Jack Wellbaum, a truly marvelous human being.”
In a Yellow Wood is a single-movement, 10-minute piece for piccolo and piano. Verbeck performed the piece at the National Flute Association’s Annual Convention in August. She will give the Cincinnati premier of the new work during her faculty artist recital at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 28 in CCM’s Watson Recital Hall.
“This Commissioning Project was inspired by a desire to continue to celebrate the legacy of Jack Wellbaum,” Verbeck says. “Seeing this project come to fruition has been a career highlight for me. It is my hope to introduce future generations of piccolo players to Mr. Wellbaum through this new work.”