Wally Stormont is a Californian tuba player and a musician who came to our country 34 years ago after a curious history of a job offer. Finally he came to Spain to fulfill his dream: Work playing music. This offer came from the “Orquesta Filarmónica de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria” (Philharmonic Orchestra of Las Palmas de G.C) after this, he moved to Madrid where he is nowadays living.
He has an interesting trajectory since he started to study music when he was 10 years old in California until he decided to cross the ocean to come to Spain and work as a musician facing an unknown language and a different culture.
Here it is the interview I did to Wally Stormont where we can find out all the questions we did to ourselves reading just the first lines of this introduction.
Diana Cerviño: First of all, thank you Wally for taking your time answering this interview for me.
Wally Stormont: You’re welcome Diana. It is a pleasure.
Diana Cerviño: We are going to begin with some simple questions to know something about you. Where are you from exactly in California?
Wally Stormont: I’m from Bakersfield, is more or less between Fresno and Los Angeles to the north and south respectively.
Diana Cerviño: What did you study?
Wally Stormont: I began studying the baritone horn (a small tuba) when I was 10 years old in the public elementary school. On graduating from high school I decided to study music seriously at Cal State Northridge University which had a good music program. My goal was to play in a classical symphony orchestra but since the goal was a very difficult one, I also completed the music education degree to possibly teach in the public school system
Diana Cerviño: When you exactly started to be entirely interested in the music world and when all started? Tell us a little bit about your interests
Wally Stormont: I always wanted to play in a band, orchestra, or any other group. In the public school system at ten you could start playing in the school band if you like it and if you are interested on this, so when I was a child of that age I knew that I wanted to try , The music caught my attention. That’s how it began.
Diana Cerviño: ¿Do you play more instruments or just the tuba? ¿Why did you decided to play the tuba?
Wally Stormont: At ten the biggest instrument draws a kid’s attention, so I chose the tuba but years later I also studied trombone.
Diana Cerviño: What kind of music do you play?
Wally Stormont: I love music so I play mostly all kinds, but more frequently classical music.
Diana Cerviño: Did you leave everything in California (friends, family…) because of the music or you came to Spain with someone?
Wally Stormont: I knew that I was going to find many difficulties, first of all as I said before the language…at that time I could say no word in Spanish, but as my desire of working in what I love was much bigger than the difficulties I took my decision and I arrived to Spain alone except for the tuba and a very full suitcase.
Diana Cerviño: What were the main reasons for coming to Spain? Why you were interested in our country?
Wally Stormont: As I tell you before I have been all my life since I was a child interested in the music so… I will try to summarize my history in a few sentences to answer your questions:
In 1978 I was finishing my music studies at California State University, Northridge, when I received a phone call from a friend offering me the tuba position in “la Orquesta Filarmonica de Las Palmas de G.C” (Philharmonic Orchestra of Las Palmas de G.C) I still had a couple weeks left to complete the semester so I answered “no”. As soon as I hung up the phone I felt that I’d made a mistake not accepting since the oldest tuba player in all the American orchestras was only 45. Surprisingly and fortunately my friend called me again a month later informing me that the position was still available, but I had to make an immediate decision… I answered “yes” and I was informed that I would have to be in Las Palmas in only 3 days. I didn’t even know where the Canary Islands were. In many ways I was not well prepared to live abroad, but I loved making music and I knew that my desire to work playing would push me through the difficulties.
Diana Cerviño: Did you study languages in EEUU or did you learn Spanish when you arrived to the country?
Wally Stormont: Like many ignorant americans I thought I’d never need to speak another language, but life has many surprises, so answering to your question, no, I didn’t know any other language than English before coming to Spain.
Therefore, after arriving in Las Palmas came the first serious problem…learning Spanish, so after buying a few books on conjugating verbs I was in a situation of learning on the job, but since classical music often uses Italian musical terms the first thing was learning numbers to know where the directors where rehearsing. After the first three months, things became a little easier and the language problem improved when I met the girl who would become my wife a year later.
Diana Cerviño: What do you do exactly in Spain? Tell us a little bit about your band.
Wally Stormont: Now I play in the “Orquesta Sinfonica de Madrid” (Symphony Orchestra of Madrid) , I’m a titular musician in the Royal Theatre in Madrid and we play all they ask of us, opera, ballet and symphonic music.
Diana Cerviño: Why did you move from Las Palmas to Madrid?
Wally Stormont: In 1986 I heard that there was a open position in Madrid, in the Symphony Orchestra of Madrid playing tuba and Cimbasso, (an instrument used in opera much like a trombone). I always preferred the capital, in my own opinion an island becomes a bit small after a few years, so I sent an application and I won the position over 18 other applicants.
Diana Cerviño: Do you travel to countries in your proffesion as a musician?
Wally Stormont: Yes, We have a tour of 15 days in Holand, Belguim, and Germany in June.
Diana Cerviño: please, tell us something about your concerts ( some anecdote, the one more exciting or special…)
Wally Stormont: As in all Jobs, sometimes there is routine and boredom, but also memorable moments. Some are a performance of Parsifal directed by a dying conducter (Garcia Navarro), or a very special concert by the three tenors.
Diana Cerviño: Now, Confess us how was the phase of adaptation to an unknown place.
Wally Stormont: The first few months are the most difficult with a new culture and language. At the beginning the homesickness was sometimes severe, but I was sure I was where I was meant to be. Actually these months pass very quickly.
Diana Cerviño: Do you see a very different way of life outside of USA?
Wally Stormont: Yes, There are always both positive and negative aspects of each country and culture.
Diana Cerviño: Is the current Spanish economic situation a problem in your professional life?
Wally Stormont: So far we have no problems, people still come to our concerts, we didn’t see a big difference and we are still with a job…. Thank God.
Diana Cerviño: How you see your life if you had never accepted that job offers to come to Spain:
Wally Stormont: That’s a very difficult question….I am sorry but I can’t even imagine how could be my life.
Diana Cerviño: To end, Do you mind to summarize a business day of your everyday life in Spain?
Wally Stormont: Of course, first of all I get up at 7 am, after I feed my dog, eat breakfast and I take the train at 8. Then, I arrive at 9 am at the theater and I practice until the rehearsal at 11 am – 2 pm; later I eat my lunch and I take a quick nap, then, I start the rehearsal from 5 pm to 8 pm or the opera from 8 pm to 11:30 pm. Finally, I arrive at home at 12:00 pm or 1:00 am and the next day get up and do it again.
As you can see, I dedicate a lot of time to my job, so I should love it, maybe you can understand why I crossed such a large distance “just for the music”.
Diana Cerviño: Yes, I do.
So, the interview came to its end, thank you very much Wally for such a good and interesting interview, I hope you will continue building such a pleasing and attractive trajectory in your life doing what you like because a lot of people cannot enjoy their jobs as you do.
Wally Stormont: Your welcome Diana.
For further information about Wally Stormont here it is a musicians page where you can find his profile:
P.S: at the picture, Wally Stormont is the first from the right with a tuba.