The trombonist

Wade Dorsey has been principal trombonist with the OSO for 25 years.

Meet Wade Dorsey. He has been playing with the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra in the principal trombone position for more than 25 years.

When I asked him how he got started on the trombone he told me “like so many brass players I started in my Grade7 band. We got to try different instruments and when I picked up the trombone, I had a clean, clear sound. It came quite naturally to me.”

Musicians, especially beginners, have to have such a clear idea of the sound and tone that they want to make before they learn the technique to realize that sound. Of course it takes the requisite 10,000 hours to really master an instrument, but the result will always be stronger if the student can start with a strong imagination for the sound that they are striving for.

Knowing Wade’s family history, his natural ability and talent doesn’t surprise me in the slightest.You may recognize Wade’s last name which he shares with one of the greatest trombonists of all time, Tommy Dorsey.

The famous Dorsey brothers of the mid 1900s were first cousins to Wade’s grandfather. Tommy Dorsey had developed an exquisite sound on the trombone and was legendary for it.

(Check him out at

As the Dorsey brother’s recordings were played pretty constantly in Wade’s family home the sound possibilities of the trombone were such an integral part of his childhood.

As Wade puts it, “I recognized the sound of a trombone and understood how to replicate it.” I guess you could say, it slides in the family.

As Wade progressed through high school in Edmonton, he got more involved with the instrument playing at countless intensive summer music camps and with the Edmonton Wind Sinfonia where he was particularly encouraged by conductor and instructor, Dennis Prime. Other mentors over the years were Christopher Taylor of the Edmonton Symphony and one of Canada’s greatest musical legends Tommy Banks. In fact, Wade’s musical life became so busy as a performer that after attending the University of Alberta he turned down a scholarship to study at Humber College in Toronto because he was already so busy performing.

After several years of playing music in more than 20 countries, Wade fell into an opportunity that saw him do a complete switch of careers and put music on hold for five years. Wade became a poultry farmer where he annually provided 2.5 million chicks to the industry. He also developed new passions; a love of golf and travelling with his wife Julie and their three kids.

He couldn’t stay away from the trombone for too long, however, and after moving to the Okanagan in 1994 he won the position of principal trombone with the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra.

Later he figured out a way to balance these two seemingly disparate abilities spending time running a poultry farm in Armstrong for 20 years while continuing on with the OSO.

I think you would have to search far and wide to find another poultry farmer who can also dazzle on the trombone.

When asked to describe his role with the orchestra Wade responded, “As the principal trombone player, I need to be well aware of what is required of the entire low brass section to be at the top of our performance. To accomplish this successfully I need to make sure that my individual preparation is at the top of my game.

“ I find it a great blessing to be able to share the stage with such accomplished musicians at the OSO. They are so dedicated to working diligently to be sure we are performing at the highest possible level of musicianship. Along with the music, we really enjoy each other’s company and we all find so much joy in creating music together.”

Next weekend the OSO will let our hair down as we present a special show titled Orchestral Rock Odyssey. It will feature great rock tunes of the 60s, 70s and 80s by The Beatles, Supertramp, The Moody Blues, Queen and other favourites. It is a great way to show off the versatility of the orchestra.

Everyone in the OSO is excited to play these epic songs with our guest artists Gary Cable and the incredible band that he has assembled. We are also excited to present six workshops that people can attend to learn from the band members.

I know that Wade loves playing many different styles of music, so I asked him what he is most looking forward to for these performances.

He replied, “Back in my Edmonton days I got to do a lot of music with Tommy Banks which included playing with legends like Dionne Warwick and Manhattan Transfer. Along the way, I shared the stage many times with the wonderful Gary Cable and with one of the greatest trumpeters I have ever heard, Vince Mai. Vince and I were in high school band together and played together many times in those days. In fact, we were all part of the stage band that won the national title in 1977.

“I was so excited to see that Gary is bringing Vince in to join us as part of the band for this rock show next week. Vince is a spectacular trumpet player and I can’t wait to make music and reminisce with him again after 35 years”.

I’m pretty sure that when Vince sits next to Wade on stage next weekend he will still recognize in Wade’s playing that magical Dorsey trombone sound

Rosemary Thomson is musical director and conductor of the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra. This is a recurring column in The Okanagan Weekend.



What: The Okanagan Symphony Orchestra present Orchestral Rock Odyssey with guest artists The Gary Cable Project

When: Friday, January 17 at 7:30 p.m. at the Kelowna Community Theatre

Saturday, January 18 at 7:30 p.m. at the Cleland Theatre in Penticton

Sunday, January 19 at 7 p.m. at the Vernon Performing Arts Centre

Bonus: On Saturday, 10 a.m.-noon, members of the band (including Vince Mai) will lead six different workshops on playing bass, drums, guitar, keyboards, trumpets and vocals

For more information, tickets to the show or to register for the workshop visit