Mark Swinging for the Fences

SFS Superstar, Mark Inouye, Plays for Keeps

San Francisco Symphony’s principal trumpet player, Mark Inouye, is not a regular rider of our Bay Area ferries, although he has been invited to play with international cruise orchestras aboard their sumptuous vessels. He also has a special relationship with the sea, running on our beaches and surfing at classic breaks along our coastline. A marvelous video produced by SFS tells more of that story.

Meanwhile, Mark as graciously agreed to participate in this exclusive Cultural Currents interview.

Cultural Currents: While you have always been a remarkable musician, we understand that you also aspired to become an engineer. What forces drove you down this career path?

Mark Inouye Growing up in Davis I was equally enthusiastic about three things – school, athletics and music. When it came to school, I was interested in sciences such as mathematics and physics. I was curious how things worked (and didn’t work). This love and curiosity led me to begin a civil engineering degree at UC Davis. However, after halfway thru my undergraduate studies, I auditioned for the Juilliard School of Music in New York City. I was accepted and transferred there the following year.

CC: Like many of our readers, you are a devoted Giants fan. How did your interest in baseball shape your personality and what values does it bring to your work ethic?

Inouye: As I mentioned before, sports were a big part of my life. As a kid I attended a ton of UC Davis athletics – basketball, football, and baseball games plus track & field events. I played many sports as well, and learning how to function as part of a team was really an important skill set to learn. Baseball was a big part of my life and it helped me to embrace meritocracy. Improving and learning to improve, so I could start on the team, has stuck with me ever since. During all those years playing ball, I embraced the invaluable lesson of hard work and hustle and how it can pay off. I have been a San Francisco Giants fan all my life so winning a job with the San Francisco Symphony was a dream come true. My favorite baseball player embodied this philosophy of hard work and hustle – that was Will the Thrill, Will Clark. I love that guy. I want to bring that sort of energy, laser-beam focus and love of the game to Davies Hall every time I perform with the symphony.

CC: Finally, please describe how a “team effort” at SFS is created and sustained by your colleagues and conductors. It must be an intoxicating experience.

Inouye: I often compare being a professional musician in an orchestra to being a professional athlete in a team sport. There are so many components that one must improve as an individual player. This takes a lot of time, discipline and humility. After all, if we truly want to hone our craft, we must be willing to put in the time to work on the fundamentals that are our weaknesses. Nobody wants to sound sad, but one must be humble enough to address it, alone in a practice room, so when it’s game time, you are ready to put yourself in a position to succeed. As an individual in the full symphony orchestra, we must know our musical roles. 99% of the time we are playing with other musicians, so a team mentality must rule in order to be successful. Am I melody or harmony or even just a simple rhythmic accompaniment? Am I playing any of these scenarios with other musicians? The answer is almost always yes and you’ve got to know how you fit into the musical fabric of any piece we are performing at any given time. When you come to symphony concerts, you are hearing a supreme level of a team effort from the musicians. These concerts are some of the most exhilarating experiences of my life and I hope just a sliver of that translates to the audience that comes to hear us.