A Stupendous Talent, and a Beautiful Soul


The other day, I was surfing around YouTube listening to music, and something made me think of Adolph “Bud” Herseth, the renowned, long-time principal trumpet player for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.  I did a quick internet search and found that he had died just this April, at the age of 91.  May he rest in peace.

I played the trombone as a youngster, and I took four years of lessons in college with Herseth’s smiling visage gazing benevolently at me.  My trombone teacher had Herseth’s picture (from a magazine cover) taped to his cabinet.  As this vignette suggests, Herseth was a hero to generations of brass players.  And well he might be.  He held Chicago’s principal trumpet chair for 53 years, from the age of 26 to 79!  Amazing.  And not only was he excellent himself, he helped build the culture of excellence that made the CSO’s brass section famous for decades as the best in the world.  (Those who are interested can hear an example of his playing here.)


But why, Catholic Vote readers might ask, bring him up here?  Because, I will answer, in our culture we need to take our examples of human goodness, human excellence, where we can find them.  And I think we find a worthy one in Bud Herseth.  The New York Times obituary on him mentions that, for all of his talent and skill, he was just not that interested in playing solo trumpet, but in playing in the orchestra.  Said Herseth, “That’s the biggest thrill of all, just to be in a band like this, with colleagues like these, and with conductors for whom we can make exciting music.”

Consider the lesson of those remarks and that attitude.  Here we have a man who was among the very best at what he did, and who at the same time was not interested in personal glory.  He just wanted to play in the orchestra, to do his part with others for the good of the team.  This bespeaks an impressive humility, all the more noteworthy in someone of such talents.  And I will add that it is all the more refreshing in a culture in which professional athletes have silly boasts like “Chosen 1” tattooed on themselves.

I am afraid that we won’t see many more men like Herseth, and we should cherish them when we do.

The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of CatholicVote.org


About Author

Carson Holloway is a political scientist and the author of The Way of Life: John Paul II and the Challenge of Liberal Modernity (Baylor University Press), The Right Darwin? Evolution, Religion, and the Future of Democracy (Spence Publishing), and All Shook Up: Music, Passion and Politics (Spence Publishing), and the editor of a collection of essays entitled Magnanimity and Statesmanship (Lexington Books). His articles have appeared in the Review of Politics, Interpretation: A Journal of Political Philosophy, Perspectives on Political Science, and First Things. He is a regular contributor to the online journal The Public Discourse. Holloway was a 2005-06 William E. Simon Visiting Fellow in Religion and Public Life in the James Madison Program at Princeton University. He received his Ph.D. in political science from Northern Illinois University in 1998.

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