ASU music student performs theme song for 'CBS Mornings'

Samuel Oatts, a doctoral student in trumpet performance, is having a busy spring semester at Arizona State University. It’s been filled by performances with the Phoenix Symphony, the New Mexico Philharmonic, the Phoenix Theatre Company and Arizona Opera. But, Oatts said his most exciting event was meeting and playing for CBS News anchor Gayle King as she received the 39th annual Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism at ASU.

Oatts performed the “CBS Mornings” theme song, the “Abblasen” fanfare, live at the ceremony. He was accompanied by a brass trio featuring School of Music, Dance and Theatre graduate students Alex Austin (horn), Brandon Dicks (trumpet) and Sean Holly (trombone).

In addition to performing at the awards ceremony, Oatts also performs the “CBS Mornings” theme song that airs Monday through Saturday mornings. Oatts said when the Cronkite School event coordinators learned he played the show’s theme, they contacted him to perform at the ceremony.

“They thought it would be a special touch to surprise Gayle with the theme song performance, because she didn't know that the person who played it was from ASU,” Oatts said.

Oatts was selected to perform the show’s theme song in fall 2021 when “CBS Mornings” rebranded. Through a series of friends and connections, Oatts was referred to Ant Food, a sonic branding company that was bidding on the contract. Ant Food was looking for a baroque trumpet player to play the “Abblasen” fanfare, the original theme for "Sunday Mornings" since the 1970s. Ant Food had Oatts record various arrangements of the piece at Clarke Rigsby’s Tempest Studio in Tempe. When the company was awarded the bid, Oatts was selected to record the theme.

Oatts, a Conn-Selmer/Bach performing artist, studies with Josef Burgstaller, professor in the School of Music, Dance and Theatre.

“Sam and I met around 2002 when I was teaching summers at the Music Academy of the West,” Burgstaller said. “From his playing alone, we all knew that Sam was a star in the making. But what really set Sam apart was his tremendous work ethic, the breadth and quality of his musical ambition, his soulful interpretations and his wonderful spirit. It was such a privilege to work with him recently as part of our School of Music, Dance and Theatre teaching staff, as he had a tremendously positive impact on our classical and jazz departments. We all continue to be so proud of Sam, his accomplishments and especially who he is as a person.”

Oatts is one of the most sought-after trumpet players in the United States with extensive international credits across more than 35 countries and 49 U.S. states in classical, commercial, lead, jazz, chamber, rock, pop and world music. He is also a songwriter, arranger, producer and musical services coordinator. 

Originally from New York City, Oatts studied classical trumpet with members of the Metropolitan Opera and at night would play bass for punk rock bands in circuit clubs. Prior to coming to ASU, he had been a Broadway show musician in New York and on the road. He also freelanced for many years and made numerous connections through his contract recording work for classical music, television and rock bands.

“When you commit to being a musician or artist, everybody you meet along the way is important,” Oatts said. “Every relationship that you forge could come back, and you need to be ready when you get these opportunities.”

Oatts said his advice to students is to practice great self-care and preparation, to focus on the enjoyment of the process and to forgive yourself when it doesn't go well. He added that the energy you put into loving what you do will allow you to be able, ready and excited to act on an opportunity when it arises.

Lynne MacDonald