Winning the HGO/HB audition-Kemah Jazz


I’ve been playing with the Houston Grand Opera for a couple of years as a sub on Principal trombone, something I’ve really enjoyed. It’s very thrilling being in the middle of a big opera production.  My good friend John McCroskey, formerly with the Houston Symphony, has been playing with the Houston Ballet. John is a fantastic player, and a wonderful person in every way.

Both orchestras play in the same house, the Wortham Center, and most of the players are the same, but since there are two different organizations, on paper they’re separate.

Last fall it became clear there would be an opening for the position of Principal trombone in both the opera and the ballet orchestra. Needless to say I’ve been looking forward to the audition with a combination of fear and anticipation. I’ve been practicing like a maniac, playing for pretty much everybody I could think of, taking lessons, taping myself, doing mock auditions and doing whatever I could to prepare myself.

I’m happy to say this time it paid off! Monday, September 21, I managed to win the job. There were two of us in the finals, and up until to the end I was sure they would pick the other player, a guy I really respect and admire. Even the finals were behind the screen, and I guess I must have done something right, because they ended up picking me. I can’t really describe the feeling, just a huge relief after all the work I’ve put into it, and finally landing a job after having free-lanced since 1997. Last time I won a job was in 1990, so it’s been a while!

I’ve learned a lot about myself and how to audition during this process, and as soon as I’ve collected my thoughts I’ll try to write something and put it on the web-site.

Well, the Kemah Jazz Festival is coming up this weekend, hopefully without rain and hurricanes this year. Tomorrow Friday September 25 I’ll be performing with the Musician’s Union Big Band, and Sunday the 27th with Thomas Helton and Tribute, the original charts from “Birth of the Cool”. That’ll be a treat, so come check it out if you can!


Kemah Jazzfestival

Bob Henschen Playing

The Kemah Jazz Festival is coming up September 25-27, right by the waters of Galveston Bay. It was canceled last year due to Hurricane Ike, but we’re back this year. I will be performing Friday night with the Houston Professional Musician’s Association Big Band, featuring Lynn Seaton on bass, and Sunday afternoon with my buddy Thomas Helton’s (no relation!) group Tribute. Thomas has collected all the original charts from Miles Davis’s legendary “Birth of the Cool”-album from 1948, and we’ll perfom them all, complete with French horn and tuba in the group. It’s a gas getting to play them, and hopefully we’ll get some more opportunities in the future with this group.
More Hurricane Ike-related news: I’ve been playing at Houston’s Second Baptist Church (56 000 members in all campuses) for several years. The worship center at their main campus was heavily damaged last year in the hurricane, and after an extensive renovation they had the opening weekend last weekend. They’ve upgraded all the audio and video systems, in addition to pretty much redoing the whole interior, and looks and sounds amazing. The moved the horn section behind the drums and percussion, and we can’t help but feel like they think we’re not as good-looking as the drummers!



Summer’s over (but the Houston heat is not!), the kids are back in school, time to get into some regular routines. I have started teaching trombone at University of Houston this fall, something I’ve really been looking forward too. I’m sharing this position with Brad White and Brian Kauk, and there are a lot of students, almost thirty in the trombone choir!
When I moved to Houston I started getting mysterious calls for bass gigs. Ok, I know how to get around on an electric bass, but this was different, until I realized people were trying to get Thomas Helton, the bass player! To complicate things further, he’s also a decent trombone player, and is listed right above me in the Musician’s Union book! The first gig we played together, I was playing tuba, and he was playing trombone, and yes, we do look like brothers!
We’ve been playing a lot together over the years, and if you wanna check it out, come to Houston’s premier jazz venue Cezanne on Septmber the 5th and listen to us pay tribute to the famous Gerry Mulligan Quartet.
We will also perform Thomas’s transcriptions from Miles Davis’s “Birth of the Cool” on September 27 at the Kemah Jazz Festival.
Thomas is a great musician, always checking out new things, and yes, he has been to Sweden and played with Tim Hagans and the Norrbotten Big Band. Check out his web-site Just make sure to spell the last name right, or you risking getting to a certain tromboneplayer’s web-site!