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Furloughed Philharmonic musician finds new purpose by composing country-folk album

Posted at 3:31 PM, Dec 02, 2020

Chance Trottman-Huiet is the principal tuba of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic.

"And I'm a current kind of freelancer – that’s a weird thing to say, but I guess that’s where I am right now,” Trottman-Huiet said.

One of Trottman-Huiet’s favorite quotes by Jean-Michel Basquiat explains why he’s so in-tune with music: “Art is how we decorate space and music is how we decorate time.”

“For me it’s just incredibly fulfilling knowing that what you are doing is touching somebody in a way that you can’t explain, and you don’t know, but you know it’s happening.”

Just like everything else, the live music world took a hard pause at the start of the pandemic.

Marc Scorca is the CEO of Opera America – an organization dedicated to strengthening the creation, production and enjoyment of opera in the U.S.

“When there are no performances, there is then no work and no pay," Scorca said. "So the impact of COVID on these artists, whether they’re onstage or in the pit or backstage, it’s been profound and a real struggle for most of them.”

Trottman-Huiet says the Fort Wayne Philharmonic paid him and the rest of the musicians through the end of the spring season, but with no improvement in COVID cases, he later found out he was furloughed for this fall season and spring season of next year.

“The thing that you’d been pursuing for a third of your life all of the sudden is not able to happen,” Trottman-Huiet said.

His identity as an orchestral tuba player was shattered.

“The people who are musicians and performing artists generally, they’re in this work because of a deep need to create, to perform, to work in front of an audience," Scorca said. "In order to illuminate the human connection and inspire people and give them that emotional connection to themselves and the people around them.”

Trottman-Huiet clearly has that drive. So instead of dwelling on the pain of his passion being taken away, he decided to go a different route and chase a longtime dream of composing his own music.

“I’ve been exploring learning how to play guitar and writing songs which I haven’t done in a really long time and that’s been a joy,” Trottman-Huiet said.

Inspired by musical artists like John Prine, Trottman-Huiet has dedicated hours upon hours to learning new instruments like the acoustic guitar, steel lap guitar and dobro.

His hard work and musical talent have helped him produce nine country-folk songs for an album scheduled to be released January 8.

“It’ll be called ‘For the Birds’ because I really like birds. They’re songs about journeys and a little bit of struggle and just kind of things that we all have been dealing with.”

Trottman-Huiet is one of many musicians who have been furloughed. He applauds orchestras that have found innovative ways to keep the notes floating off the page from streamed performances and outdoor recitals to film projects.

"They’ve moved the artists into film studios using very safe protocols and distancing," Scorca said. "But rather than doing a streamed live performance which would necessarily have a lot of the artists congregate in person with one another, they brought them to a film studio so that people could be recorded separately and distanced and then drawn together into a film iteration.”

For now, Trottman-Huiet says he’ll continue writing songs and plans to eventually be back onstage with his beloved tuba.

“I mean there’s certain things that happen onstage with a large group of people that’s just magic," Trottman-Huiet said. "And I’m sure I can get some feelings playing guitar and singing my own songs, but I don’t know I would be fulfilled doing one or the other. Either way I definitely want to have both in my life.”

Whether it’s through tuba or folk songs, Trottman-Huiet plans to continue decorating time with music.

“I thought for sure my first album would be on the tuba, and not a whole bunch of country folkish songs I’ve written over the last few months, but it’s been very enjoyable.”