George Stimpson (french horn) was born in Mobile, Alabama October 4, 1948; I grew up in rural Alabama developing a feel for nature. Having 2 sisters and a brother close in age, we could always play ball or build a fort in the woods by the house. We swam in Mobile Bay and the Gulf of Mexico to escape the oppressive Southern heat.
“Even after hearing my sister play piano for a year, my mother had to drag me off for lessons at age 9. After playing for a couple of months I got hooked. At 11, I started playing my mother’s trumpet, left over from her high school days. At 12, I switched to French Horn which suited me better. I didn’t have “fingers” for the piano, or “lips” for the high range of the trumpet, but I was lucky to have natural chops for the French Horn. When I was 14, I heard the touring Detroit Symphony Orchestra in Mobile and had a “eureka” moment: I had to play in a symphony orchestra for a living. I took private lessons with Lovelace Gordon in Mobile and Joe White at Florida State University; they helped me slip into The Curtis Institute of Music in Philedelphia after high school. Studying with Mason Jones turbo-charged me. My musical experience zoomed from Mardi Gras marching bands to the great orchestral repertoire, chamber music, and opera. While at Curtis I played with several opera companies, community orchestras, and as an extra with the Philadelphia Orchestra. In my 4th year, because of a sudden vacancy, I was invited to play the complete season with the Philadelphia Orchestra. The highlight of my entire career was the 1970, 4 week tour of Europe with the Philadelphia Orchestra; we played to sold-out houses everywhere and at the mecca of European Orchestral Music — the Vienna Musickvereinsaal.
“In 1971, aged 22, I joined the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. I enjoyed the 1971 – 72 season with the TSO but left to “find myself.” I ended up staying in Toronto and subsequently worked with the National Ballet, the Canadian Opera Company, and CBC orchestras, as well in the recording studios. A musical hightlight was playing for 12 years with Rob McConnell and the Boss Brass: an excellent compser/arranger and a fine collection of players performing great music.
“My free-lance career lasted from 1972 until 1986. In 1974, Toronto Symphony Contrabassonist Wayland Mosher called me to suggest trying piano tuning, he gave me two lessons, and I started tuning my own as well as some friends’ pianos. Lucky that, because in the early 1980’s, I tore my upper lip from too much playing and was forced to retire in 1986. My orchestral playing started with Beethoven’s 9th Symphony in Mobile in 1965 and ended at the Royal Alexandra Theatre with Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Mikado in 1986. In between there was Berg’s Wozzeck, Wagner’s Meistersinger, a Richard Strauss Horn Concerto, Mahler’s 5th Symphony, Bach’s first Brandenburg Concerto, and “Runaway Hormones” by Rob McConnell. It was a short career, a lot of fun, occasionally hard work.
“At age 38, the 2-year piano tech course at George Brown College in Toronto laid the groundwork for my second career. Tuning, repairing, and rebuilding pianos subsequently took over my life. I’m lucky to make a living being self-employed: no boss, no employees, no pension, no problem.
“I’ve been married to the Toronto Artist, Julie McCarroll for 34 years. Got lucky, stayed that way.