Don Waldrop, Director of Jazz Ensembles, is best known for his work as a bass trombonist, tubist and bassist, for over 35 years in the Los Angeles music scene. After growing up in Shelby, North Carolina, he earned his first degree in music from Stetson University, studying with renowned trombonist Donald Yaxley. After college, Don auditioned and was accepted into the United States Navy Band in Washington, D.C., doubling tuba, bass trombone, and double bass. He performed frequently in the White House during the Kennedy-Johnson years, often on bass in a jazz trio with guitarist Billy Fender. He spent four years in Washington, earning a Masters Degree in Music Performance and regularly commuting to New York, to study with renowned tubist Harvey Phillips. Upon leaving the United States Navy Band, Don joined the Metropolitan Opera in New York as a member of the orchestra of its newly formed National Company orchestra, touring the continent for a year. It was during this tour that Don was to decide on Los Angeles for his new home.
In Los Angeles, as he built his career as a performer in the studios, his first work was as a music copyist in the Hollywood music libraries, copying instrumental parts for numerous network television shows, records and film scoring sessions, including scores by Nelson Riddle for Frank Sinatra recordings, The Smothers Brothers Show, the Jerry Lewis Show, Sonny and Cher and many others. This work also put him in touch with such well-known arrangers as Billy Byers, Patrick Williams, Van Alexander, Bill Justice and many others. Early in his Los Angeles career, Don auditioned for the bass trombone chair in the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Placing second to winner Jeff Reynolds, Don became the extra bass trombonist in the L.A. Phil and for over 12 years played numerous concerts and recordings with conductor Zubin Mehta, including the Tchaikovsky Symphonies and Star Wars albums. Other major conductors during this time included Carlo Giulini, Andre Previn, Michael Tilson Thomas and Pierre Boulez. His live performances also included Broadway shows at the Los Angeles Music Center and other venues.
Don's classical work was extensive. He was bass trombonist for 11 years in the Glendale Symphony and played intermittently with the San Francisco Opera, San Francisco Symphony and San Francisco Ballet, both on bass trombone and contrabass trombone. Freelance orchestral work included many performances with American Ballet Theater, Bolshoi Ballet, D'Oyly Carte Opera and Los Angeles Opera, among numerous others. During this period Don was also involved in chamber music and early music groups (at times playing bass sackbut and ultimately recording the Monteverdi 1610 Vespers with the Pacifica Chorale.) He played in various chamber music ensembles and was a regular participant in the contemporary music performances of the renowned Monday Evening Concerts, formed in the 1930's, which premiered works by Igor Stravinsky and many other contemporary composers. There, Don also participated in the first United States performances of noted composer/conductor Pierre Boulez. Don also taught low brass privately as well as adjunct faculty at The Claremont Colleges, California State University - Long Beach and California State - Dominguez Hills.
For fun and terror, he played regularly along with many of his more adventurous trombonist friends at Hoyt's Garage, the legendary-among-trombonists weekly low-brass workout at the home of trombonist Hoyt Bohannon, who arranged and conducted, along with Tommy Pederson, symphonic to jazz pieces played by 7 trombones (and sometimes tuba.) He and colleagues formed the Modern Brass Quintet, which later became Los Angeles Brass, This group toured extensively to critical acclaim, including trips to Alaska, playing the cities, the Aleutian Islands, and many of the out-back Inuit native settlements from Kake all the way North to Point Barrow. One of the tours included a performance at the legendary Elizabeth Hall at Stetson University.
Don was a regular member of arranger Bob Florence's Grammy-winning big band, The Limited Edition, playing bass trombone in concerts, jazz festivals and ultimately recording 11 albums over 25 years. He has also worked with the big bands of Shorty Rogers, Neal Hefti, Stan Kenton, Tommy Dorsey and the Mel Tormé-Marty Paich Dektette. Don produced, arranged, and played on what has become a "cult" recording among trombone lovers, "The Hollywood Trombones - Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" with the full participation of many of his talented L.A. colleagues, for which he is eternally grateful.
In television, Don's first steady weekly show as a trombonist/tubist was "Jimmy Durante Presents the Lennon Sisters" at ABC Television. The next year he went to NBC-TV with "The Flip Wilson Show," the number one comedy television show for four years. Those two shows enabled Don to work steadily for five years with beloved trombonist, Tommy Pederson. Meanwhile, he continued to copy music commercially, moving into more television work, sometimes playing on sessions for which he had copied the music the night before. In those years there were many more live TV music variety shows and Don became very much in demand for his valuable doubling skills, more unusual at that time than they are now. Among the additional live shows that Don worked on were "The Carol Burnett Show," "The Osmonds," "Sonny and Cher" and "Tony Orlando and Dawn." There were also music specials like "Barishnikov on Broadway," "The Music of Richard Rogers" and a classic TV special with Burt Bacharach and Barbra Streisand. Don's employment shifted gradually more into Film Television, such as Movies of the Week, weekly crime and drama shows, and the ever-present animated children's shows, such as those produced at Hanna-Barbera, Warner Bros. and Disney (including The Smurfs, Yogi, Richie Rich, The Flintstones) plus many sessions on the long-lived hit, The Simpsons. He also became busier in feature films, the motion pictures, ultimately listing hundreds of movies, many of the most famous and beloved movies of all time. (A sampling of TV shows and some of the most recognizable of more than 500 movies is listed below.) Don played on many of the television awards shows, including the Grammys, Emmys, Golden Globes, Country Music Awards, and the People's Choice Awards. In addition, there were recording sessions with artists Frank Sinatra (2 albums), Barbra Streisand (Back to Broadway II, others), Neil Diamond, Celine Dion, Herb Alpert, Lee Ann Rimes, Burt Bacharach, Johnny Mathis, Michael Feinstein, David Foster, Quincy Jones, Steve & Eydie, Sammy Nestico, Lionel Ritchie, Sonny Rollins, Linda Ronstadt, Andy Williams, Dr. John, Lee Ann Womack, and others.
In 2002, retiring from the demands and pressures of the music industry, Don chose a new life in Florida, expecting a leisurely existence with his new wife and many cats. That was not to be and, to this day, Don has a busy schedule of live performances, both with his own two jazz groups, the Don Waldrop Trio and Platinum, and backing touring artists and Broadway shows as they regularly tour through Florida. Notably among those has been Chicago, the Broadway show, in which he doubles string bass and tuba, and the Johnny Mathis concert tours, playing bass trombone.
TELEVISION - A sampling of weekly shows:
Live Music/Variety TV
Flip Wilson Show
Andy Williams Show
Carol Burnett Show
Dean Martin Show
Jerry Lewis Show
Lennon Sisters Show
Sonny and Cher Show
Film TV Series
Beauty and the Beast
Bob Newhart Show
Cagney and Lacy
Hart to Hart
Jake and the Fat Man
King of the Hill
Lois and Clark
Man from U.N.C.L.E.
Mary Tyler Moore Show
Murder, She Wrote
Scarecrow and Mrs. King
Six Million Dollar Man
Star Trek - Deep Space Nine
Star Trek - The New Generation
Star Trek - Voyager
Starsky and Hutch
Streets of San Francisco
The Love Boat
"V" - Original Mini-series
MOTION PICTURES over 500 films. Highlights:
The Abyss (Alan Sylvestri)
A Star is Born - (Elmer Bernstein)
Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (Patrick Williams)
Caddyshack 1 & 2 (Johnny Mandel)
Ghost (plus 11 other films with Maurice Jarre)
Godfather 2 & 3 (Carmine Coppola)
Gorillas in the Mist and Out Of Africa - (John Barry)
Grease (Barry Gibb)
Lethal Weapon - (Michael Kamen)
Meet Joe Black (Tom Newman)
Nightmare Before Christmas (Danny Elfman)
Play Misty for Me (Dee Barton)
Poltergeist 1 & 2 and 3
Star Trek movies (Jerry Goldsmith, others)
Rocky (four of the Rocky films with Bill Conti)
The Sting (Tuba) - (Marvin Hamlisch)
True Lies (Brad Fiedel)
Towering Inferno - (John Williams)
The Thornbirds - (Henry Mancini)