Rolf Smedvig

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Rolf Thorstein Smedvig (September 23, 1952 – April 27, 2015) was an American classical trumpeter. He was the founder of the Empire Brass Quintet.[1] [2] He is renowned for his exemplary tone and accurate intonation.


Rolf Smedvig was born in Seattle, Washington. His father Egil Steinar Smedvig (1922-2012) was a composer and music teacher who had immigrated from Stavanger, Norway. His mother Kristin (Jonsson) Smedvig (1921-2004) was member of the Seattle Symphony's violin section who had immigrated from Iceland. [3]

In 1965, at age 13, Smedvig joined the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestras as their principal trumpet. In 1971, he participated in the summer music program at Tanglewood Music Center. Leonard Bernstein chose him to be the trumpet soloist for the 1971 world premiere of his composition Mass which was composed for the opening of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. [4]

Smedvig studied music under the tutelage of Maurice André at Boston University, where Smedvig later served as an instructor.[5] In 1971, aged 19, Smedvig joined the Boston Symphony as assistant principal trumpet. At the time, Smedvig was the youngest member of the orchestra. He was promoted to principal trumpet in 1979, and left in 1981 to focus on a solo career, conducting, and chamber music.[1][5]

Smedvig co-founded the Empire Brass brass quintet in 1972. The Empire Brass served as Faculty Quintet-in-Residence at Boston University for a number of years. The group was the first brass quintet to win a Walter W. Naumburg Foundation award. The group has released twenty-some albums. [6] [7]

Personal life[edit]

His first marriage to Caroline Elisabeth Hessberg, the daughter of New York lawyer Al Hessberg,[8] ended in divorce. She is now married to the singer-songwriter James Taylor. Smedvig later married Kelly Holub in 1992, with whom he had four children.[1][9]

Smedvig died of a heart attack at his home in West Stockbridge, Massachusetts on April 27, 2015, at the age of 62.[10] His manager Mark Z. Alpert announced that the Empire Brass would continue; Derek Lockhart replaced Smedvig as first trumpeter and Eric Berlin joined as its second trumpeter.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d Fox, Margalit (May 1, 2015). "Rolf Smedvig, Trumpeter in the Empire Brass, Dies at 62". New York Times. Retrieved May 2, 2015.
  2. ^ Woodstra, Chris; Brennan, Gerald; Allen, Schrott (2005). All Music Guide to Classical Music. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 417. ISBN 9780879308650.
  3. ^ Melinda Bargreen (November 9, 2004). "Music enveloped life of violinist Kristin Smedvig". The Seattle Times. Retrieved January 10, 2016.
  4. ^ "Rolf Smedvig, virtuoso trumpeter who cofounded renowned brass quintet". Boston Globe Media Partners, LLC. Retrieved January 10, 2016.
  5. ^ a b Huizenga, Tom (April 28, 2015). "Dazzling Trumpeter Rolf Smedvig Dies Suddenly". NPR. Retrieved May 2, 2015.
  6. ^ "About Empire Brass". Empire Brass. Retrieved January 10, 2016.
  7. ^ "Previous Winners". Walter W. Naumburg Foundation. Retrieved January 10, 2016.
  8. ^ "Albert Hessberg 2d, Albany Lawyer, 78". New York Times. January 26, 1995. Retrieved May 2, 2015.
  9. ^ "In memoriam: Rolf Smedvig (1952-2015)". ITG Network. Retrieved January 10, 2016.
  10. ^ "Trumpeter Rolf Smedvig, known for 'beautiful sound,' dies at home". Berkshire Eagle. April 29, 2015. Retrieved May 2, 2015.

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