Bryon Peebles, the longtime co-principal trombonist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, passed away Monday a few days shy of his 86th birthday.
Byron was a wonderful trombonist, teacher and human being. He had a great career. After studying with Robert Marsteller at USC, he joined the Indianapolis Symphony, and then the Chicago Symphony under Fritz Reiner. (While in Chicago, he performed on several recordings with the group, including, if memory serves, Reiner’s Also Sprach Zarathustra and the classic account of Franck’s D-minor Symphony led by Pierre Monteux.) He joined the LA Phil in 1963, working for music directors Zubin Mehta, Carlo Maria Giulini, Andre Previn and Esa-Pekka Salonen.
I had the good fortune to study privately with Byron in the mid-1980s. By then, I had graduated from USC and was commenced on a career as a professional trombonist. But at the time I went to study with Byron, on the recommendation of my teacher at USC, I was having some serious issues with my embouchure, and was having trouble playing at all.
And so I would drive to his house in Glendale and we’d go upstairs to his study, where with unswerving patience and scientific expertise he tried to help fix me up. I remember he was always encouraging, even when things weren’t going so well. I remember, too, that he eventually took me through a complete embouchure change, remaking my chops from scratch, a delicate and scary thing. I will forever be grateful to him.
After he retired from the Phil, Byron and his wife Louise could still be seen attending concerts. I last saw Byron at a Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra concert a few years ago and he was exactly the same — gentlemanly and warm and genuinely glad to see me.
Byron played in what I still consider to be the greatest LA Phil trombone section, comprised of Ralph Sauer, Herbert Ausman (still in the orchestra), Jeffrey Reynolds and himself. They can all be heard in the video above, taken from an album they made in the 1970s.