This past weekend, I attended the NC Trombone Festival for the first time. The festival was held at the UNCG School of Music on Saturday, and hosted trombonist from all over North Carolina as well as neighboring States. Trombonist of all ages and skill levels attended as the festival truly offered something for everyone.
The day started off with faculty introductions. The festival has been held for the past 20 years and credit has to be given to Dr. Randy Kohlenberg for planning and organizing this event over that 20 year span. I think the ability of Dr. Kohlenberg to continue to organize this festival for so many years truly shows his passion and desire to improve trombone playing by bringing trombonist of all skill levels together to share an experience and learn from each other.
Following the faculty introductions, we dispersed into break-out sessions. Several clinics were offered at various times throughout the day, covering all topics from how to practice, improving range, advanced technique, jazz studies, even to proper care, cleaning, and repair of your trombone. The first session I decided to attend was “How do I Practice”, because you can always grow as a musician from improved practice methods.
The How do I Practice clinic was interactive and thought provoking. The first thing the instructor had everyone do is write down their daily schedule. The purpose of this exercise was to determine gaps in which you can fit in more practice time when you might think that you don’t have the time the practice. This has never been an issue for me as I always try to find time to squeeze in practice, even if it’s no more than 30 minutes. However, I have personally heard so many people state that they “just don’t have that much time to practice”, so I definitely see how this exercise can be helpful to the “busy musician”.
The next exercise that the instructor had us do is to write down 10 things that we focus on when we practice. I’m ashamed to say this but, this exercise actually stomped me. After writing about 6 focus areas on the list, I was coming up with nothing. Who knew that it could be so hard to think up 10 things I focus on during practice. When he went around the room and listed the items that everyone had listed, I was kind of disappointed that I didn’t think of some of these things. But the biggest takeaway from the exercise is that there are 5 main pillars that should be focused on when you practice. Those pillars are Tone, Tuning, Tonguing, Timing, and Technique (slide/fingering). While each of these can further be broken down into more focused items, focusing on these 5 pillars when you practice are guaranteed to improve your playing.
The next clinic I attended was a session focused on “Advanced Techniques and Range Development”. It was a good session but I wish there would’ve been a little more time allocated for this session, as some of the topics were rushed through towards the end of the time allotment. The session covered some great techniques to improve your range in both the high and low registers. It focused on proper breathing techniques and correct embouchure for optimal engagement in the high and low registers. This session also covered various multiple tonguing methods and exercises to improve your multiple tonguing, as well as flexibility exercises (lip slurs, lip trills, jaw vibrato). This was by far the most informative session I attended during the day.
After the morning clinics, there was a brief faculty recital. Each faculty member took the stage to perform a solo piece. All of the faculty trombonist gave exceptional performances. Once the faculty recital was over, we had a break for lunch. During lunch, we had the opportunity to go into the lobby and try out some of the demo trombones that were on display by the vendors brought in for the festival. All of the top vendors were there, Bach, King, Conn, S.E. Shires, Eastman by Shires, and Yamaha. I tried out several of the Bach trombones, as well as the Conn models, Eastman, and Shires. While all the models were good instruments, I really gravitated to the Conn 88H tenor trombone with F-attachment. This trombone was phenomenal! The slide was light and fluid in movement, the horn overall was light, and the sound was incredible! I compared it to the Bach 42 model, and Shires models, several times and each time I sided with the Conn 88H. That’s a trombone that I would definitely love to own one day.
After lunch, the afternoon sessions began. One of the sessions featured a performance by the North Carolina Central University Jazz Combo. This was a jazz combo that featured four trombonist, a flutist, a pianist, a bassist, and a drummer. I highly enjoyed the group’s performance and the performers were quite exceptional. It was also great to see young and gifted jazz trombonist doing their thing.
Following the last clinics of the day, it was time for the group performance sessions. There were four groups of trombone choirs, all divided by skill level. There were beginner, intermediate, advanced, and professional choirs. You could decide to play with whichever group you wished so I decided to perform with the professional trombone choir. There was a brief rehearsal session and then it was go time. All the choirs sounded good. The professional choir performed a piece, Two Bagatelles for Four Trombones by Alfred Reed, and another piece that I can’t recall the title of at this time.
Following my performance with the professional choir, it was time for me to perform with the Greensboro Trombone Choir as we were the guest choir performance. We performed three pieces, Intrada for 6 by Melchior Franck, Abenlied by Josef Rheinberger, and Canzon Septimi Toni by Giovanni Gabrieli. The performance went well and was well received.
Following our performance, the UNCG Trombone Choir took the stage. They were a choir of at least 25 trombonist and they sounded very good. They performed 5 extraordinary pieces. Once they were done with their performance, every trombonist at the festival was brought on stage to perform the final piece of the day, Salvation is Created by Pavel Chesnokov. This was really an amazing experience, as I have never performed with so many trombonist at once. There easily was at least 75 trombonist on stage performing this piece, filling the room with incredible sound and fullness.
With the conclusion of the performance, the 20th Annual NC Trombone Festival was over. It was a really great experience and I really enjoyed myself. I saw a quite a few trombonist that I had crossed paths with before and it was really nice to chat with them again. I came away from the festival a bit more knowledgeable that I arrived, and as a better equipped musician. I will definitely attend next year’s festival and, if you are a trombonist is the area, I would highly recommend you make an effort to attend as well.
Until next time,