February 6, 2014
Eugene (Gene) Watts grew up playing jazz trombone in Sedalia, Missouri, and earned his Bachelor of Music degree in trombone performance from Mizzou in 1959 (financing his education by founding and performing with the Missouri Mudcats Dixieland band). Graduate studies at the New England Conservatory and summers at the Tanglewood Music Center eventually led Gene to several prominent orchestral appointments with orchestras in North Carolina, San Antonio, and Milwaukee. He came to Toronto when he was handpicked by Seiji Ozawa to be principal trombonist for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Soon he met Chuck Daellenbach (tuba) and the two set out to create a new model for brass quintets—forming the Canadian Brass—which has been widely emulated but not yet matched.
The Watts philosophy of music guided the Canadian Brass for 40 years (until Gene’s retirement in 2010). His intuition often shaped the group’s repertoire, and on stage his quick wit played off Chuck’s as they worked the microphones to the delight of audiences. Gene shared his lifelong interest in meditation with the group, keeping down stress levels through months of touring. He lives in Toronto with his wife, filmmaker Barbara Sweete. He received honorary doctorates from Mizzou and the New England Conservatory.