Per Brevig - Musical Career
Per Brevig teaching a master class at The Juilliard School, 2010

Musical Career

Born in Norway, Per Brevig began playing trombone professionally at age 16, and at 17 he was engaged as the euphonium soloist in a national military band. At that time, 1953, he was made a sergeant, which created some havoc, since generally in the military one has to go through basic training before advancing to that rank.

After three years in the military band, during which time he was frequently a soloist in concerts and radio broadcasts, Brevig was engaged by the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra. After two years, he made his debut as a soloist in Ferdinand David's Concertino for Trombone and also received a scholarship to study in Denmark with the renowned Palmer Traulsen, the principal trombonist of the Royal Danish Opera Orchestra.

Per Brevig receiving the Henry B. Cabot Award
from Boston Symphony Orchestra, Tanglewood,
summer of 1966 and being congratulated by
music director Erik Leinsdorf.
Per Brevig and Palmer Traulsen in
his garden in Copenhagen

Brevig's stay in Copenhagen whetted his appetite for studying, and in 1959, he obtained a one-year leave of absence from the Bergen Philharmonic to study at Juilliard on a full scholarship, which he followed with a summer at the Tanglewood Music Festival, where he was awarded the Koussevitzky Fellowship and the Henry B. Cabot Award for best instrumentalist. He also attended Tanglewood in the summer of 1965.

A Jazz Career Begins
One of Brevig's fellow Juilliard students was Jonathan Tunick, who would become a top Broadway composer and arranger, and who formed a student jazz band in which Brevig played. When Brevig returned to Norway after that first year at Juilliard, he formed Per Brevig's Big Band and Per Brevig's Dixieland Band, and Tunick's great compositions and arrangements were the core repertoire.

While the artistry of jazz was not well recognized in Norway in the early 1960s, both bands' concerts and broadcasts received outstanding reviews- except, perhaps, from the director of the Bergen Philharmonic, who told Brevig he was lowering "the standard and reputation of our esteemed orchestra by playing this kind of music." But Brevig kept playing jazz- and also performing with the Bergen Philharmonic, where he would remain for five more years.

Back to New York for Further Studies
In 1965, Brevig decided to embark on a career as a freelance musician and resume his education at Juilliard, where he was one of the first students to be admitted into the newly created doctoral program; he is still the only trombonist to have received a DMA from Juilliard.

While at Juilliard, Brevig was also actively doing freelance symphonic, Broadway, and avant-garde music performance work. When he auditioned for Leopold Stokowski, the conductor immediately engaged him as principal trombonist with the American Symphony Orchestra (1966-70), with which he performed the Ferdinand David and Lars-Erik Larsson concertos with Stokowski conducting. Two years later, Brevig joined the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, where he would remain for 26 years, serving as co-principal trombonist with Roger Smith, his professor at Juilliard.

In 1971, Per Brevig received his DMA; his thesis was called "Avant-Garde Techniques in Solo Trombone Music: Problems of Notation and Execution." Many teachers and composers have referred to his chapter on standardizing avant-garde notation. He had joined the Juilliard faculty in 1968.

Brevig conducting Per Brevig's Big Band.
Bergen, 1965

Leopold Stokowski and Brevig. New York, 1972

Metropolitan Opera trombonists (l-r):
Robert Gillespie, Donald Harwood and Brevig.
New York, June, 1970.

In the 1980's Per Brevig formed the Juilliard Brass Ensemble, an ensemble that performed not only at Juilliard but also outside the school, such as concerts at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City and on a tour to Europe.

"...The Juilliard Brass Ensemble is a superior ensemble with an exceptional conductor who treated us to an advanced program."
     — Dagen, May 29, 1989

"YOUNG FESTIVAL PERFORMERS GOING FORTH... The Juilliard Brass Ensemble came with Per Brevig, professor at the prestigious school from New York City - and the ensemble played with all possible brilliance."
     — Aftenposten, May 29th 1989

Per Brevig with the Juilliard Brass Ensemble
at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City

"...This student ensemble, from one of the world's greatest institutions of music, has acquired an extremely high professional standard. It is nearly incomprehensible that one can present such ensemble-playing considering the yearly change in personnel. The Norwegian-American conductor Per Brevig, who formerly played in the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra for several years, must be an outstanding instructor and conductor to build such a repertoire and perform it in such an unsurpassed way. These results are not possible without hard work and effort. The concert Saturday showed incredibly intimate and flawless ensemble-playing. Most impressive was the timber, tone quality and substance of interpretation inherent in the music. Never exaggerated; all the time disciplined; one instrument never projecting at the expense of the ensemble playing... Thank you for an exquisite concert..."
     — Bergens Tidende, May 29th, 1989

More Solo Performances
At Juilliard, Brevig performed numerous recitals including two of his three DMA solo recitals at Carnegie Recital Hall. He was one of the first trombonists to play full-length recitals in New York.

Click here for New York Times Reviews October 6th and October 20th 1969 >>>

Obverse and reverse of the program for the first major recital series given by Brevig in New York.

Brevig was also an active soloist with many national and international orchestras and was credited with numerous commissions, including the Egil Hovland Concerto, premiered with the Bergen Philharmonic, and the Carlos Chavez Concerto, premiered at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC, with Maestro Chavez conducting. The latter became historic as it was the last composition Chavez wrote and the last concert he conducted before he passed away, in 1978.

Concurrent with his solo career, Brevig gave numerous master classes in the US, Japan, Europe, Korea, and Brazil. Over the years, his students have had positions in many orchestras in the US as well as abroad.

Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
When Brevig started at the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, in 1968 (Karl Boehm and Herbert von Karajan were the principal conductors), he had a one-year contract, but he was given full tenure after three months.

Although Brevig left the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in 1994 to embark on a conducting career, he kept his teaching positions at Juilliard, Manhattan School of Music, Mannes College the New School for Music, New York University, and the Aspen Music Festival and School. (He had also been on the trombone faculty at Oberlin College Conservatory of Music for four years).

Brevig has been active in the International Trombone Association from its inception, in 1972, and has served on its board of directors and is a lifetime member. He has received the ITA's Neill Humfeld Award for Teaching Excellence in 1995 as well as the association's highest honor, the ITA 2012 Award, "In recognition of his distinguished career and in acknowledgement of his impact on the world of trombone performance".

Brevig has studied medical problems faced by musicians and serves on the advisory boards of the journals Medical Problems of Performing Artists and Musikphysiologie und Musik Medizin. He has written for both publications and also given lectures under their auspices.

Per Brevig performing Carlos Chavez'
Trombone Concerto with Maestro Chavez Conducting.
Kennedy Center, Washington DC, May 1978.
The concerto was composed for Per Brevig.

Per Brevig at the Metropolitan Opera,
three minutes before curtain

Per Brevig conducting the Oberlin Orchestra

Per Brevig with faculty at the International
Trombone Association's yearly festival in
Nashville, Tennessee in the early 1970's

Conducting Career
At the age of 20, Brevig attended a conducting seminar in Sweden with the eminent Swedish conductor Herbert Blomstedt. About a decade later, he was invited to participate in the legendary Symposiums for Young Conductors with Leopold Stokowski and also conducted the American Symphony Orchestra in rehearsals at Carnegie Hall. At Juilliard, he conducted many Wednesdays at One concerts in Alice Tully Hall, and, in 1988, led the Juilliard Brass Ensemble on its critically acclaimed tour in Norway. At Aspen Music Festival, he has often conducted chamber music concerts.

After leaving the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Brevig found that his conducting career expanded quickly, and in the ensuing five years, he conducted more than 20 operas. In 1993, he toured Brazil as a guest artist with the Brazilian Brass Quintet, and in the ensuing years, he was frequently a guest conductor of eight Brazilian orchestras and was instrumental in forming the Brazilian Trombone Association. He also conducted several concerts with the Costa Rica Symphony Orchestra during this period.

"The spectacular performance of the symphonic poem "Pines of Rome" received loud acclaim from the audience... with "The Pines" Per Brevig and the National Symphony Orchestra of Costa Rica made an overwhelming performance which raised delirium within the audience.

Per Brevig and the National Symphony Orchestra of Costa Rica conveyed an overwhelming reading of Mahler's Sixth Symphony... Velvet sound on the strings, smoothness in the wind section, and balance between sections, characterized the performance by Per Brevig and the orchestra who received an ovation by the audience at the end of the concert."

     — La Nacion, Costa Rica

In 1991, Per Brevig founded the Edvard Grieg Society, Inc., New York to celebrate the composer's sesquicentennial, which took place in 1993. The society has, under his leadership, produced more than 80 events including recitals, chamber music performances, radio broadcasts, symposia at Columbia University, and symphony orchestra concerts, all to critical acclaim. An Edvard Grieg Society season often ends with a performance at Lincoln Center with Brevig conducting music by Grieg and his contemporaries as well as contemporary Norwegian music.

Brevig has also lectured and written articles about Grieg and contemporary Norwegian composer Arne Nordheim. In 1991, the Grieg Society was instrumental in bringing Nordheim to the Aspen Music Festival as composer in residence. During the nine-week festival, Nordheim and Brevig collaborated on "The Return of the Snark," the sequel to "The Hunting of the Snark," which Brevig had edited and prepared for publication the previous year. Both pieces are for unaccompanied trombone, and Brevig gave the premiere performance of "The Return of the Snark" at the Aspen Music Festival at the end of the 1991 season. "The Hunting of the Snark" was played at the opening ceremony of the Olympic games in Lillehammer, Norway, in 1994.

In 1991, King Olav V of Norway presented Per Brevig with the royal medal of St. Olav in recognition of his efforts on behalf of Norwegian music and culture in the US. Berit Brevig, Per's wife, has been the executive director of the Edvard Grieg Society since the couple founded it, in 1991. In 2008 King Harald V of Norway presented her with the Royal Medal of St. Olav.

Per Brevig conducting the Grieg Festival
Orchestra with piano soloist Anne-Marie
McDermott performing Grieg's Piano Concerto
in A minor at Alice Tully Hall

Per Brevig and Arne Nordheim rehearsing for
the premiere of "The Return of
the Snark" at the Aspen Music Festival.

Per Brevig performing at the Aspen Music
Festival with Mary Norris at the Piano.
Painted by artist Lucia Tallarico
Per Brevig performing Hovland Trombone Concerto with John Nelson conducting the Aspen Chamber Orchestra. Drawing by Lucia Tallarico

In 2011 Per Brevig finished his nine-year tenure as music director and conductor of East Texas Symphony Orchestra, conducting more than 200 standard and contemporary compositions including many commissions. Among the soloists he engaged were Itzhak Perlman, Lang Lang, Lynn Harrell, Hilary Hahn, Christine Brewer, Cho-Liang Lin, Pepe Romero, Ralph Kirshbaum, Mark O'Connor, the Eroica Trio, and Randy Owen, the lead singer of the country and western band Alabama.

Click here to visit the Photo Gallery >>>

At Brevig's last concert with East Texas Symphony Orchestra, Governor Rick Perry, declared him an honorary citizen of Texas and Tyler mayor Barbara Bass proclaimed April 11, 2011 Per Brevig Day.


Brevig continues as the music director and conductor of the Grieg Festival Orchestra and the Strathmere Festival Orchestra, both of which include some of the finest freelance musicians in New York City, among them some of Brevig's former colleagues from the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.

Per and Berit Brevig have four children: James, a heart surgeon; Elizabeth, a psychologist; Ingrid, a social worker; and Chris, a managing director of a New York-based private investment bank—all of them talented musicians.

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