By George V. Nostrand
If you’ve been around the music scene in Vermont for any amount of time, you’ve probably crossed paths with multi-instrumentalist Glendon Ingalls. That said, you may or may not have realized it.
He may have taught your daughter bass. Or maybe he taught your uncle sousaphone. Maybe both.
You may have seen him on stage, out front in the spotlight blowing on the trumpet. Or you might have caught a glance of him hanging back in the shadows, thumping on the upright bass. He might have been sitting in with a philharmonic orchestra at a college, or rocking out with Joey Leonne’s Chop Shop up in Killington.
“I’m kind of chameleon-like,” said Ingalls, sitting at Speakeasy coffee shop. “You have to be as versatile as possible. As a musician, you should have plenty of tools in your toolbox.”
Proficient on both bass and trumpet, a woman once asked him if he had a twin brother.
“She said, ‘I saw someone who looked just like you last week, but he was playing a different instrument,’” laughs Ingalls. “I said, ‘those were both me.’”
“I also bumped into a woman recently who said, ‘you were my music teacher.’ I turned, looked at the guy next to her, and I said, ‘I taught your husband too.’”
In addition to being a multi-instrumentalist, Ingalls has also played many roles within the profession. A bandleader as well as a sideman, he taught hundreds of musicians, and has been involved in summer camps, festivals, and just about anything and everything music.
Of late, Ingalls and his jazz trio have had a successful local run, playing every Thursday night at the Red Clover Inn & Restaurant in Mendon from 6 – 9 p.m.
Ingalls worked for 39 years teaching in public schools, most recently Rutland Town. At various times, he has instructed at Johnson, Castleton, College of St. Joseph and Middlebury. He’s taught students from eight years old to eighty.
“People often say to me, ‘it must be frustrating for you as a professional to have to listen to all those students.’ But no one tries to make mistakes. They are doing the best they can.”
Ingalls believes in not only meeting students where they are at, but also finding out where they want to go.
“Seeing incremental improvement is the reward.”
Another role he has played in different places and scenarios over the years is that of a band leader.
“I didn’t design to be a leader. More often than not, it was people asking me, rather than me starting my own project,” said Ingalls. “Often times, I started as a side-person and for a variety of reasons I was asked to step up. It’s nice when people recognize those qualities in you.”
The qualities he’s referring to include empathy, patience, and the ability to compromise. Ingalls says there is an important balancing act that band leaders play, that includes meeting the needs of the artists, the audience and the venue.
Lately, the venue he’s been a regular at, and enjoying immensely, has been the Red Clover Inn & Restaurant. Ingalls had been doing regular summer gigs for Ted Tyler, the owner of a resort up in Highgate. When Tyler and his wife bought the Red Clover, Ingalls thought he’d prefer the shorter commute.
“Ted is a huge jazz fan, and they have been having a regular jazz night at their other resort for over twenty years. I told him I’d rather drive five miles than one-hundred and five.”
Ingalls is part of a trio, with Steve MacLauchlan playing saxophone and various woodwinds, and Chuck Miller on keys. Occasionally they’ll have an emerging artist or singer sit in, but it’s fairly tight quarters in the living-room setting at the Red Clover.
“We’ve built up a good following. There’s a group that will come down from Middlebury, and tourists who have come back the next year to see us — we play to the room and the crowd, which means sometimes it’s dinner music, sometimes a concert, and sometimes people dancing.”
Asked what it takes to start and continue a successful series, Ingalls outlined some key points that involve the venue and the musicians.
“The venue has to commit to a period of time to make something like this work. Before we started I talked to Ted, the owner, and said, for it to work you have to have some patience and let it build.”
On the other end, musicians need to be mindful of a number of things.
“The music as a product has to be about the venue, not just the music. It has to work aesthetically speaking. It has to be viable financially for the venue as well. Loyalty in both directions is important.”
Check it out
The Glendon Ingalls Jazz trio plays every Thursday night at the Red Clover Inn & Restaurant in Mendon from 6 – 9 p.m.