Thomas Rolfs is principal trumpet of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, occupying the Roger Louis Voisin Chair; he is also principal trumpet of the Boston Pops Orchestra, occupying the Roberta and Stephen R. Weiner Chair. Rolfs began his career with the BSO in 1991, serving first as fourth trumpet and later as associate principal trumpet. Initially hired by Seiji Ozawa, he was promoted to associate principal trumpet by Ozawa and to principal trumpet by James Levine. Rolfs’ primary teachers were David Baldwin, Vincent Cichowicz, Arnold Jacobs, Manny Laureano, and Charles Schlueter. As a student, he was a Tanglewood Music Center Fellow in 1978, earned his Bachelor of Music from University of Minnesota and his Master of Music from Northwestern University. He then returned to Minnesota for a five-year tenure with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.
As a soloist, Rolfs has performed with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Boston Pops, and Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. At the request of John Williams, he was a featured soloist on the Grammy-nominated soundtrack of the Academy Award-winning film “Saving Private Ryan.” He was also soloist in Williams’ “Summon the Heroes” for the nationally televised Boston Pops concert on the Esplanade on July 4, 2001, under Keith Lockhart’s direction. At the invitation of conductor Jaap van Zweden, he was posthorn soloist in performances of Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 with the Hong Kong Philharmonic and Dallas Symphony Orchestra, ultimately also recording the piece with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.
Rolfs’ varied performance background also includes appearances with the National Brass Ensemble, Minnesota Orchestra, Vienna Philharmonic, Empire Brass, Saint Petersburg Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and American Ballet Orchestra. Rolfs is a founding member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra Brass Quintet.
As an educator, he has presented master classes throughout the world, including North America, South America, Asia, and Europe. A Yamaha Performing Artist, he collaborated on the development of the second and third generations of Yamaha’s New York C trumpet. A Tanglewood Music Center faculty member since 1998, he also teaches at the New England Conservatory of Music and Northwestern University.
Rolfs has been soloist with the BSO in Frank Martin’s Concerto for Seven Winds, Timpani, Percussion, and String Orchestra, Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2, Jolivet’s Concertino for Trumpet, Strings, and Piano, and Copland’s Quiet City. In July 2019, with Andris Nelsons conducting the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra, he gave the world premiere of Detlev Glanert’s BSO-commissioned Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra. In July 2017, with Andris Nelsons, the TMCO, and Håkan Hardenberger, he performed Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Dispelling the Fears for two trumpets and orchestra.