Iowa State University

Inside Iowa State
Dec. 20, 1996

Horn of plenty (gigs, that is)

By Steve Jones
Jim Bovinette has played the trumpet for the stars.

The assistant professor of music has tooted his horn for an eclectic selection of ensembles and performers, ranging from Manhattan Transfer to Jim Nabors. Add the St. Louis Symphony, the Temptations, the Mandrell Sisters, several orchestras and quintets, Sammy Davis Jr. and, once when a rhinoceros got loose, a Ringling Bros. circus band.

A lot of his time now is spent teaching trumpet and brass techniques and directing the ISU jazz ensemble. However, the personable Illinois native still performs, from rock to the classics. Last summer he played in an orchestra accompanying the Moody Blues, the veteran English rock band. Then it was off to Vienna as a member of the Classical Music Festival Orchestra.

Bovinette said working with outstanding musicians in the St. Louis Symphony and renowned performers, like trumpet greats Wynton Marsalis and Bobby Shew, improved his craft.

"I've been very, very fortunate to have been around these types of players my whole life," Bovinette said.

Bovinette started playing trumpet at age 8, about three years earlier than most youngsters. "It gave me a major head start," he said. As a college freshman, he played at the level of upperclassmen in the university's major ensembles.

His college days almost were filled with football rather than music. A standout high school linebacker and long snapper on the Illinois side of St. Louis, Bovinette signed a letter-of- intent to play at perennial national power Ohio State. If he performed well, he could earn a scholarship.

The Buckeyes' coach was legendary Woody Hayes, an icon for smash-mouth, three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust football. In the days before cost containment, coaches often would sign scores of players and keep the best. When Bovinette reported to Columbus in the summer of 1977, "it looked like there were 200 linebackers on the team."

To the screams and salty language of Hayes, he practiced with the Buckeyes for about 10 days.

"I just got killed out there. I had the desire, but I just didn't have the body," said Bovinette, who weighed more than 200 pounds. He left Ohio State and enrolled at Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, a St. Louis-area university without football.

The move allowed his music career to flourish. He studied with good teachers and the best players, and became the lead trumpet in the St. Louis Youth Symphony, for performers under the age 20. This led to a long stint with the St. Louis Philharmonic and opportunities with the prestigious St. Louis Symphony.

Bovinette held the lead chair for the St. Louis Philharmonic, from 1978 until coming to Ames in 1995. "That was a major league. That was a good job," he said.

It's not unusual for college music faculty to play for outstanding ensembles and well-known entertainers, Bovinette said.

Kirk Smith, acting chair of the music department, said many of ISU's music faculty are fine performers who have played with top orchestras and stars.

Although Bovinette says football was just something he did as a kid, he sees parallels between music and sports. One is creativity.

"Athletes and coaches, like good musicians, are creative people. I'm sure nine times out of 10, Troy Davis is not running through the hole called for in the play," Bovinette said of the Cyclones' star running back. "Call it instinct or whatever, he's really creative."

Perseverance also is important for both musicians and athletes, who make their living by their ability and reputation.

"In music, you're only as good as your last performance," Bovinette said. "It's just like pro sports. Drop a touchdown pass in the Super Bowl, and they won't care how many records you've broken. Your career might be over. You must perform at a certain level and keep improving."

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