Billy Ray Hunter Jr: A Great Musician — And Good Guy

Catch one of the world’s most talented, pathbreaking — and, in The Alcalde’s experience, humble and down-to-earth — classical musicians tonight in a special performance at the Bates Recital Hall.

UT’s own Billy Ray Hunter Jr., BM ’97, is back on campus and in residence at the Butler School of Music. Tonight, he’ll perform Johann Hummel’s “Trumpet Concerto” with the UT Wind Ensemble. Tomorrow, he’ll play with the group again in San Antonio.

Hunter came from humble beginnings on Austin’s East Side, and while still in his 20s, became one of the top trumpeters playing anywhere. As principal trumpet of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in New York, he holds one of the highest orchestral positions on the globe at just 35.

Significantly, Hunter remains one of only three African Americans in the 95-member Met orchestra.

His race “is a relatively minor observation given his enormous musical accomplishment,” College of Fine Arts Dean Doug Dempster says, “except for the fact that the world of classical orchestras has been very, very slow to diversify, making Hunter something of a pathbreaker even in this late day of race relations.”

And Hunter’s star is still rising. Last year, the Texas Exes named him an Outstanding Young Texas Ex. Tonight he’ll be presented with the annual Sarah and Ernest Butler School of Music Distinguished Alumnus Award.

When The Alcalde ran a short profile of Hunter in our Nov/Dec 2009 issue, this editor learned firsthand why Hunter is one of the nicest guys in the classical world. He met me for a coffee at the Radisson, ambling in with no publicist and sitting down completely candid and relaxed. He handled all the photos and interview logistics himself.

And months later, when I wanted to see him perform as part of his summer gig with the Grant Park Symphony, he was so happy to see a Texan come, he coordinated with me by cell phone to meet up afterward. Thrilled my mom, dad, and younger brother by standing around to chat with them too. And even invited us out for beers with his fellow musician buddies.

Good to see a great musician and all-around good guy back in town.


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