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From Carmi to Juilliard and back – Native son Endicott to perform at Elks Club Saturday, Feb. 10


Pictured above is Carmi native Rob Endicott, who will be performing (along with four other top jazz musicians from the St. Louis area) at the Carmi Chamber of Commerce’s Winter Gala on Saturday, Feb. 10 at the Elks Lodge.


It’s an autumn Saturday night in Carmi in 1981.

Teen Town is filled with kids dancing to the latest popular music and hanging out with their friends.

Among those in the crowd is high school senior Rob Endicott, who, by all appearances, is just an average kid in Carmi. He cruises Main, listens to rock music, eats at DiMaggio’s, loves Corn Day (of course) and plays trumpet in the high school band.

But he’s definitely anything but average.

“Whenever he played the trumpet, even in high school, it would make the hair stand up on the back of your neck,” said classmate Dave Hall. “You knew he was going to be something special.”

Indeed, Endicott’s musical ability lifted him to heights experienced by very few in the world.

But that is only part of the tale of Carmi’s Renaissance Man.

A few years after graduating from the most prestigious music school in the world, Juilliard, Endicott decided to turn away from music and pursue a law degree at New York University.

“My uncle was a lawyer, my grandfather was a lawyer and a judge, my great-grandfather was a lawyer, and my sister also got her law degree,” said Endicott, who is routinely listed in The Best Lawyers in America, the oldest lawyer-rating publication in the U.S. “It was really sort of in the family, so that was one thing.

“The other thing was I just had an interest in it. And another thing, too, was you could go to law school and count on having a job when you got out, unlike being a musician. It was something that was easier to switch to from a totally unrelated field than others.”

And thus set off the chain of events that eventually led to the perfect union of work and play for the Carmi Class of 1982 valedictorian, who got his law degree and moved from New York to St. Louis in 1995 to work for Bryan Cave LLP. The move not only brought Endicott back to

the Midwest and closer to his family, but it also re-ignited his love for performing.

“When I went to law school, I actually put the horn away,” said Endicott, who was named to St. Louis Magazine’s list of the 100 top St. Louisans shaping the region in 2016. “I thought if I couldn’t play at the highest level, I just wasn’t going to do it. I was a little bit burned out. I still played here and there, but it wasn’t until I moved back to St. Louis when somebody asked me to play in some group or something that I realized that the only person who cared that I wasn’t playing at ‘the highest level’ that I could play at was me. Nobody else really cared about that, and suddenly it became fun again. So I sort of rediscovered that.”

Endicott has been performing in the St. Louis area ever since. Carmians will have a chance to see him (along with four of the top jazz musicians from the St. Louis area) on Saturday, Feb. 10 at the Carmi Elks Lodge (just a block away from his old Teen Town stomping grounds). Endicott will perform along with drummer Montez Coleman, guitarist Eric Slaughter, bass player Bob Deboo and keyboardist Adam Mannis at the Carmi Chamber of Commerce’s Winter Gala. The performance will start at 7 p.m. Tickets are available by contacting the Chamber of Commerce office at 618-382-7606 or by contacting any Chamber of Commerce Board member.

The youngest of three children raised by Martha and Sam Endicott (a World War II veteran who was stationed in the Ardennes Forest prior to the Battle of the Bulge), young Rob started playing the trumpet in elementary school. He threw his mother for a loop, though, when he also asked to take piano lessons.

“My mom had insisted that my brother [Bill] and sister [Barbara] take piano lessons, and they hated them,” said Rob. “So when I came along, she was like, ‘I’m not going to force my kid to take piano lessons; I’m giving up.’ So you can imagine her surprise when I came to her and said, ‘Mom, can I take piano lessons?’”

And Martha, of course, happily obliged.

“When I was growing up, all little girls took piano lessons, so I already knew how to play,” she said. “I was playing one day when Rob was

little – he was already playing the trumpet — and he came and said, ‘Mom, I’d like to learn how to play the piano, too.’

“I already had the books that the other kids had used, so I thought I would start him out and he could practice when he wants to, but if he doesn’t want to, that was fine. It worked out really well. He got very good on it.”

Such was the philosophy of Martha Endicott toward her son even after his musical prowess became apparent. She was determined her son would stay grounded.

“Rob would be practicing on a Saturday morning while other kids were playing outside and Martha would say, ‘Go outside and play with your friends, Rob,’” said Sam. “She was always good about that.”

“You don’t want to put too much on a kid,” said Martha. “If they do well, they do well. We wanted him to grow up to be a well-rounded person. That’s more important than almost anything.”

Scott Wylie was one of those youngsters inviting Rob to play outside.

“We grew up just a block apart in Montgomery Circles and after school each day, I would go through the same ritual,” recalled Wylie, who now resides in Evansville, Ind. and is a very accomplished lawyer himself. “I would knock on the Endicotts’ door and be greeted by his wonderful mother, Martha. I would ask if Rob could come out and play and she would tell me he could as soon as he finished practicing. I would then go and sit outside his window and listen to him and his trumpet. That practice clearly paid off and I have gone all over the country to hear him play. I guess I’m still one of his groupies.

“Rob was always successful at anything he did. If anyone asks me who he is, however, I tell them he’s a great jazz artist and a great friend. Those are the areas in which he excels the most.”

Endicott’s gift for playing the trumpet was first recognized by the late Don Peel, who was his music teacher in elementary and middle school.

“He was the guy who recognized my interest and went to my parents and said, ‘You have to get this guy some private lessons,’” said Endicott. “So I took lessons in Evansville from a friend of Mr. Peel’s.”

Mr. and Mrs. Endicott again happily obliged, even though they initially thought the lessons would only be for a few months.

“When Mr. Peel told us he’d like Rob to go over to Evansville for trumpet lessons that summer, we thought well, that would be fine,” remembered Sam. “Maybe he’ll make some improvement over the summer. It turned out, we went the next nine years, every week.”

Martha recalled another early indicator that her son’s talent for the trumpet was something special.

“Mr. Peel gave Rob a piece of music and told Rob to practice until he could play it 10 times perfectly,” she said. “So Rob did just that; he practiced until he could play it 10 times perfectly. Mr. Peel told us later that he never had another kid do that. So that really impressed Mr. Peel and that’s when he said he thought it would be a good thing if he got lessons.

“Rob always liked a challenge. I remember, he wanted to learn to triple-tongue, so he practiced that until he could, and that’s a really hard thing to do. He also learned circular breathing. Those were things you don’t have to do in regular band, but knowing that it could be done was a challenge to Rob.”

But even as Endicott’s atypical musical ability grew, he continued to live the life of an average kid in Carmi.

His parents made sure of that.

“He was on the All-Star team in Little League and they had a game on the same day that he had a recital with Mr. Northcutt, his trumpet teacher in Evansville,” recalled Martha. “Rob really wanted to play in the All-Star game, so we called Mr. Northcutt up and told him Rob couldn’t play in the recital because he wanted to play in the All-Star game. That burned the teacher up. But he was a little kid and that game was important to him.”

Even as he was learning to play classical and jazz music, Endicott remained a fan of the popular music of the day, so much so that it nearly got him kicked out of a convenience store once in college.

“My high school job was working at the radio station, WROY,” said Endicott. “I was a deejay there, so I was playing all the soft pop hits of the 1980s and I loved that stuff. I was a big Billy Joel fan and I was a big Beatles fan, too.

“As I got into jazz, it was more of what I would say was popularized jazz – like Chuck Mangione, Maynard Ferguson and other artists I would come across through the band program. It wasn’t until I went to college that I discovered this whole other world of jazz.

“When I was in college, I was a big fan and proponent of John Cougar, who’s now John Mellencamp, and I remember being in a 7-Eleven and having an argument with someone about who was a better musician: Count Basie or John Cougar. We were so worked up about it, the guy’s girlfriend came over and told us we better tone it down because they were about to kick us out. I was well known for being interested in all kinds of music.”

Not only that, the young Endicott was also obviously interested in the recording process. At age 10 or 11, he was already making his own multi-track recordings.

“I had a cassette recorder,” said Endicott, “and I borrowed a friend’s cassette recorder, and I took the Beatles’ ‘Yesterday’ and played one part on the trumpet and recorded it. Then I played it back and played along with it on the piano. Then I took that one and recorded a third part on top of it so that I had this recording of me playing.”

When he got to high school, Endicott’s band teacher was a fellow trumpeter, Mike Croghan, who knew very quickly he had a star pupil on his hands.

“I would say by the time he was a sophomore, you could see that he had this super talent,” said Croghan. “I could see that the other trumpet players elevated their play because of him. Because of the way he played and the things he did, other kids wanted to be like him.

“His senior year, he got to where he could play very high parts. He was able to play things that a normal high school student couldn’t. It was more like having a college student. He just had that gift of performance. If he wanted to play rock, he could do it. If he wanted to play classical, he could do it. He could play just about any form you wanted.”

Croghan also fondly recalled a time when his star trumpeter helped him out of a potentially sticky spot.

“We took our jazz band to Mt. Carmel High School once,” said Croghan. “That was when the Rocky theme was popular. The principal

at Mt. Carmel, right before we were set to go on, came up to me and said, ‘Mike, this is not a good crowd. We had a college music group come in and they booed them off the stage. I hope that doesn’t happen to you.’

“So we start off with the theme from Rocky and those kids stood up and applauded. Of course, Rob was the featured player on that. It didn’t matter what we played after that, they loved it. After that concert, the Mt. Carmel kids were wanting to talk to our kids and the principal came up to me and said, ‘Our kids haven’t acted like that in a long time.’”

After graduating from Carmi, Endicott got a music degree from the University of Illinois before embarking on the challenge of a lifetime: Juilliard.

“It was intimidating for one thing,” said Endicott of his experience at the renowned school. “It’s not only in New York City, but it’s also in the middle of The Lincoln Center, which is where the New York Philharmonic plays, where the Metropolitan Opera is, the New York City Ballet… It’s part of this great cultural center. When you think about the people who have gone there before you, it’s pretty amazing.

“The thing about everyone there – whether they were there for acting or dance or whatever – was the incredible focus that they all displayed for their discipline. To be around people who are that serious about their art… You know, they’re not going to be distracted by going to the football game. You’d see violin players who would sit in a practice room for eight hours a day.

“For example, I got really interested in the music of [Igor] Stravinsky at the time, so I took a class on that and the guy who taught it knew Stravinsky. You’d get done with your day’s work, then get a ticket to the Metropolitan Opera and you’d see your teacher playing in the Metropolitan Opera orchestra. You’re in this little oasis and then you walk out and you’re on the streets of Manhattan, so you’re doing all it takes to live in Manhattan, which has its challenges, too. You have to deal with the city life and your school life.

“My trumpet teacher at the University of Illinois was a guy from California who was very laid back and encouraging, which was great for an 18-year-old. Then, when I was 22, my teacher at Juilliard was a hard-

boiled New York native and sort of a polar opposite. He was rough. You’d go in and play great and he’d be like, ‘No, that was terrible.’ But he really deconstructed my technique and built it back up, which at 22 was super challenging.”

Following his graduation from Juilliard, Endicott was a working musician in New York and also played for a while with the Rotterdam Philharmonic before his decision to go to law school.

“People are happier if they do what they want to do, not what someone else wants them to do,” said Martha Endicott. “So when he wanted to study music, that was fine. And when he decided to go to law school, that was fine, too. Actually, the music part has been like the icing on the cake. He can do the things he wants to do now because he has a very good job, but he can play for fun. The music is his joy. The law work provides the challenge and he likes the challenge of it.

“This is the most important thing about Rob: he’s lived in a lot of interesting places and done a lot of interesting things, but he’s still just Rob Endicott from Carmi. That’s who he is.”

Over the past nine years, Endicott has made a handful of performances in his hometown.

“It’s always a big deal for me,” he said of playing in Carmi. “My parents are getting older and it’s harder for them to get to see me. I still play pretty frequently in St. Louis and they love to come over here, but for me to be able to bring that to them… It’s really great.

“The other thing that’s really great about it to me is that I play with some really good musicians over here and it’s fun for me to come and present these other musicians to my hometown folks. These guys are the first call musicians in St. Louis, as far as jazz goes. I tell people, ‘At the Elks Club tonight, you’re hearing something that’s probably better than anything going on in St. Louis because I have the best musicians all over here.’

“It’s also fun that they get such a kick out of playing to such a fun and receptive crowd. It doesn’t matter where you are, when you get to play in front of an appreciative crowd, it’s a lot of fun for you as a musician.”