New faculty member reveals philharmonic past

Sydney Hopper, Senior Writer

You might see him walking around the track, or up in the bleachers, making sure everything is in order. Come spring, he’ll be up on the baseball and softball fields, lining them with chalk. Or, you could have seen him cleaning the outdoor concession stand, sporting his familiar grey sweatshirt.

His name is Michael Cole, and he is Liberty’s new stadium manager. Why, you may ask, is The Beat doing a story on Cole? Because he is not just a stadium manager—he’s a musician.

Born in Germany, Cole began playing the trombone at age seven. In his youth, Cole took private lessons with a professional musician and played in his high school’s symphony orchestra, in addition to studying conducting. Cole rounded out his musical activities by playing in his home town’s boys marching band, which was more than 150 members strong. The band played at national and international parades and events.

But it would be after high school that Cole got an opportunity to play with the professionals. At the age of 23, Cole stood in for his instructor with the Berlin Philharmonic.

“First it was very intimidating,” Cole said. “I mean, you’re sitting in there with no music degree—I never went to a conservatory. And yet I got to play with one of the most solid symphony orchestras in the world.”

Cole also played with a few other professional symphonies, and participated in several live TV recordings with the Stuttgart Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Leonard Bernstein, who was described by one critic as “one of the most prodigiously talented and successful musicians in American history.” For those Patriots that don’t follow the world of music composers, getting to play under Bernstein is a big deal.
After moving to the United States in 1992, Cole continued to teach private lessons, something he still does today.

Cole, a self-described “stage boy,” learned from his own teachers, who always “drove him to success,” and helped to foster his love of performing.

Cole recalls how his conducting teacher would have him direct public performances in a small theatre in Munich.

“The theatre was always sold out. And you’re standing there in front of this crowd, and they are expecting a first-class performance because they paid first-class ticket prices,” Cole said.”It was a lot of pressure, but it was a lot of fun.”

Besides teaching private lessons, Cole has also participated in various local groups, including Alpenfolk, an authentic alpine folk group that plays in Leavenworth. While Cole usually plays the baritone with them, he sometimes mixes it up a bit with the “alpenhorn,” the alpine horn most people would recognize from Ricola commercials.

With family obligations and work, Cole has not been able to play as frequently as he would like. He hopes to do more performing in the future in addition to helping out in the Liberty music community.
It’s clear that music always has been, and always will be, a large part of Cole’s life.

“I think the most important thing about music is that is gives you such a different view of life as it is,” Cole said. “You are so much more in tune with science. You are so much more in tune with math. You are so much more in tune with history, and culture. All that plays into music. As a musician, my overall life experience has become so much richer.”