Getting to Know...Phil Engel!

We only have a handful of days left in 2017, and what a year it's been! Grand Street Community Band and Brooklyn Wind Symphony finished out the season with a successful performance of Warhorses this past Saturday, and we're all looking ahead to a fresh start in 2018! 

But before we sign off for the holidays, let's head back to the Grand Street Community Band trombone section and check in with Phil Engel! Phil has been an enthusiastic member of GSCB since 2011. He looked back on his favorite memories and musical moments for our MMC questionnaire this week! He also recommended a bar called "Burp Castle" you know this is going to be a good read! 


Name: Phil Engel

Occupation: Sales at Interior Design Magazine

Instrument: Trombone

What’s your favorite thing about your day job? Through Sales and Retail, I've been forced to break through my introversion and interact with others more than I probably would have ever preferred. As a consequence, through all of these countless introductions, I've been exposed to all sorts of memorable experiences that make life interesting, meaningful, and fulfilling.

Which ensemble(s) are you in and for how long? I've happily been a member of the Grand Street Community Band since January 2011.

How did you get started with the MMC? Craigslist! The music community on there is far less seedy than the other channels.

What is your favorite MMC memory? After 7 years, you expect me to pick just one, right? Okay, I'll narrow it down to two.

The first is the Lincoln Center performance from 2011. Call it luck, chance, fate... I had no idea that after joining the group in January that we would get invited to play at a world class venue just months later. Playing Johan de Meij's complete Lord of The Rings suite in Alice Tully Hall was euphoric in the most unique way. Making this music with a new group of people that I knew would end up becoming my dearest friends for years to come was icing on the cake. I've learned so much from my fellow musicians as they've challenged me to be a better trombonist, and person.

My second favorite experience was our very first Summer Camp at French Woods Festival in upstate New York. What an amazing bonding experience for all of us! And I was grateful for the chance to try and help make new members feel as welcome as I did all those years ago. How courageous of them to make their first day of MMC-life at a band camp so far away from home. We rehearsed, swam in a lake, went bowling, hiking, partying, and rehearsed some more. If I remember correctly, none of us wanted to return home that Labor Day weekend. 

What’s your favorite piece of music you’ve ever played? That's a tough one. You'd think it would be one of the many excellent program choices our Creative Directors have made over the years, but it's actually the solo piece I forced myself to learn during the second year of auditions: The Rimsky-Korsakov Trombone Concerto. For the first time in my life, I got to experience first hand what a tremendous solo instrument the trombone can be. Sure, I've played jazz and pop music in bands in the past, but through this piece I came to understand the depth and versatility possible with the trombone. Though I never played it as well as I wish I had, I always got excited in a very special way whenever the chance arose to practice it. 

What was the last concert/ musical/ cultural performance you saw? I'll mention the last two: The 15 Year Anniversary performance of Interpol's Turn on The Bright Lights, and the return of LCD Soundsystem. It was a good year for concerts.

What's your favorite holiday tradition? Somehow finding a way to play some holiday tunes with friends for any occasion.

What’s your typical Sunday routine? Ideally, wake up as late as possible, enjoy breakfast without looking at the clock or phone, then proceed to rehearsal with the L Train Brass Band, come home, do laundry, cook dinner and watch a movie. All in all, a pretty nice little Sunday. And that's if only life lets it happen that way. Being an adult is difficult most days!

Give us a New York recommendation: This is my go-to source for all of my NYC foodie adventures. Whether it's about finding a nice place for a special occasion, or discovering the latest food festival, or just checking out the latest and greatest cheap eats, this website is a must for any New Yorker. 

Second recommendation: Burp Castle. I guarantee you, this is the quietest bar in the city. They will shush you if you're too loud, and kick you out if you refuse to comply. Makes for a reasonably comfortable environment where you can enjoy a tasty beer and thoughtful conversion.

Finish this sentence: "I knew I was a musician when..."... at the age of 7, I asked my mother if I could learn to play the drums. Needless to say, I was as furious as a 7-year-old can get when I found a Casio keyboard under the Christmas tree. I know how this sounds, but seriously... I played the piano for ten years and I was horrible at it every step of the way. Life got better when I finally got to play some percussion in grades 4 - 8. When I was randomly assigned trombone at the start of high school, I felt like Luke Skywalker picking up a lightsaber for the first time. But that's another story altogether...

Posted on December 20, 2017 .