In Music

Brothers who rarely play together are rarely photographed together. Above: Frank Almond of the MSO. Below: His brother, Cliff Almond, a famous drummer. (PHOTO: Jennifer Brindley)

Almond brothers perform together in MSO's "West Side Story"

This weekend, when Frank and Cliff Almond perform a live concert with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra (MSO) during the film "West Side Story," it will be the first time in many years – maybe even decades – since the brothers shared a stage.

Both brothers have achieved international fame through their music. Most Milwaukeeans are familiar that Frank, master violinist who holds the concertmaster chair at the MSO, and Cliff is an award-winning drummer who has performed and recorded with Latin Jazz composer Michel Camilo as well as the Wayne Krantz Group and many others.

Cliff flew to Milwaukee for a few days to conduct a workshop at the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra as well as to play drums with the orchestra during a screening of "West Side Story."

The concerts takes place Saturday, June 9 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, June 10 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are still available.

The Almond brothers – not to be confused with the southern rockers the Allman Brothers – grew up in a musical household. Their father holds a doctorate in music and their mother teaches piano at home to this day.

"Kids would come over and my mom would teach them piano in the middle of our house, while we practiced our instruments in different parts of the house," says Frank.

Both Frank and Cliff started playing violin when they very very young, about 5 years old, and for Frank is was a fit. "It took me nine months to learn 'Twinkle twinkle little star,' but luckily it got better for me from there," he says.

Cliff, however, wanted to play the drums – especially after becoming familiar with The Beatles and Ringo Starr's drumming.

"When my parents found out that I wanted to try drumming, they rented a drum set for a while to see how serious I was about it. They set it up in the garage for me, but then Frank got a band and started playing (drums) and we'd fight over the set," says Cliff.

Needless to say, Frank – who questions the reality of Cliff's garage drums memory – became extremely committed to violin. He went on to study at The Juilliard School in Manhattan. Meanwhile, on the other side of the country, Cliff attended The Musicians Institute in Los Angeles.

Today, Cliff lives in New York where he is in the house band for the Broadway version of "Book of Mormon." He also travels the world as a freelance musician and spends a lot of time working in Japan where jazz drumming is extremely popular.

Frank started with the MSO in 1995, took a break from 2001 to '03, and has been with the orchestra ever since.

The "West Side Story" score was relatively new for both of the brothers and they have appreciated the chance to learn Leonard Bernstein's score in it's entirety – as well as the chance to work together.

"We play instruments that are not often paired together, so it's a rare opportunity for us," says Cliff.

But Frank, in classic "little brother" fashion, quips, "He's obviously never heard of Arcade Fire."


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