Michael Phillips (1970) Trombone
Autobiographical Sketch

Ed. Note: Michael was a member of the 1969 and 1970 Jazz Ensemble’s. He toured with the jazz ensemble, throughout Mexico, in 1970.

‘A few memories’

It was the fall of 1968 and my first thought as I arrived at New Trier’s newly constructed college like campus, was what an absolute work of art it was. It must have seemed like this to anyone who came to New Trier West, as I did, after attending a small suburban middle school. I was eager to play my new trombone and joined the band immediately. A few weeks in, I was offered the opportunity to play in the New Trier Jazz Ensemble. I gathered that there was a shortage of upper-class trombone players. That first jazz rehearsal blew me away… boy did I feel outclassed, not just in skills, but in talent. It was a very talented group. I remember working very hard and that Mr. Mills, one day, looked at me and said that I had become an important asset to the group. Wow, I made it! Years later I realize that being in the jazz program gave me the confidence to accept, and mostly succeed at, engineering and management opportunities that were, at least it seemed, beyond my then current level of experience.

In 1970 I was indeed fortunate to participate in the Jazz Ensemble’s tour of Mexico. It was a bit scary performing in front of some 15,000 people at Mexico’s famous Alameda Park. At the end of our performance the entire audience was chanting ‘Vive la New Trier.’ We also performed on a live TV show, which was the Mexican equivalent of the Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. I also remember the sold-out evening performance at Acapulco’s El Presidente Hotel Ballroom. The next day the band traveled to see the famous cliff divers, which proved very exciting.

There was also a bit of teenager mischief that included some of us jumping off the hotel courtyard’s second story balcony into the pool. One of our chaperones quickly put an end to that.

It was also exciting to have performed with trombone great, Phil Wilson, a guest performer at New Trier. Mr. Mills put together a group of twenty, or so, trombone players for that performance. Mr. Passoja (Ernie Passoja), my trombone teacher helped prepare that group. Among other remembrances are the Jazz Ensemble playing at Illinois State University, with Clark Terry, performing 40’s swing tunes to raise money for our Mexico trip, and sorting ballots for Downbeat Magazine’s yearly Jazz Poll.

This was a wonderful and important part of my life.