Colorado State University’s Trombone Choir performed four world premier pieces at the 2023 International Trombone Festival, including compositions by Chris Evan Hass, Amber Sheeran (B.M. Music Education, CSU '21), James M. David (CSU Professor of Music), and Kevin Poelking (CSU Assistant Professor of Bands). The group was invited to perform based on a submitted recording.
In addition to participating weeklong in classes, trombone choirs, attending concerts, and representing their instrument on behalf of CSU, the Trombone Choir performed for an audience of top trombonists and educators in the field.
CSU graduate student, Joseph Raby, said, "Attending ITF was a testament to how far the studio and I’ve come over the last few years. Most of the choir was in school during the COVID-19 years, and I remember all the Zoom calls and distanced rehearsals and lessons. To bounce back from playing over Zoom calls to performing live on an international stage within two years is truly remarkable!"
The International Trombone Festival which is a “multi-day event featuring all things trombone” took place July 12-15, 2023 at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. The ITF which moves around the world from year to year, is described as a conference where “Artists, teachers, students, professionals, industry leaders, and hobbyists gather to celebrate and explore the many facets and styles of trombone playing, teaching, and craftsmanship.” www.internationaltrombonefestival.com
"The experience for me was absolutely incredible. I tried to go to as much as I could, from the early morning warmup sessions and participant trombone choirs to the recitals in the afternoon and evenings," said Bryce Medlyn, CSU junior in music performance and composition.
Kevin Poelking, who composed the piece Distant Promises for an eight-part trombone choir, said, “I can't say enough great things about the members of the CSU Trombone Studio, who have been amazing all week here at the International Trombone Festival! They worked extremely hard all year to build toward their invited trombone choir performance.”
Dr. Drew Leslie, associate professor of trombone and undergraduate coordinator at CSU’s School of Music, Theatre, and Dance, conducted the choir. “With beautiful colors, this piece represents the drive westward from Denver on I-70, and builds towards one of the coolest moments I have heard in a trombone choir piece!” Leslie said of Distant Promises.
Composer's Notes About Distant Promises
As you travel westward from Denver along Interstate 70, the once far-off mountains begin to close in around you. There are short glimpses of the landscape, but soon you are completely enveloped by the peaks; only able to see a short distance away.
When you enter the Eisenhower Tunnel, (the highest-elevation tunnel in the United States) you are suddenly engulfed by artificial light and concrete. The distant sunlight emanating from the tunnel’s end is a promise of beauty on the other side. Upon exit, your pupils are suddenly flooded and there is an explosion of magnificent scenery as open sky and massive mountains surround you.
Distant Promises intends to reflect this experience in music. While there are brief moments of beauty along the way, the piece seems to promise something more. This is finally fulfilled at the transcendental "Maestoso" in the final minute of the work. See the full score.
“I could not be more proud of this group of students and all that they accomplished and can't wait to see what the future holds for this trombone studio," said Poelking!
The choir was joined by guest soloist Daniel Watt, principal trombonist of the Fort Collins Symphony, on the world premiere of Dr. James M. David’s Cloudlands for solo trombone and trombone choir.
Dr. James M. David is an award-winning, internationally recognized, composer who currently serves as professor of music composition at CSU.
Composer's Notes About Cloudlands
Cloudlands is a short pastoral tone poem for solo trombone and trombone choir inspired by Cloudland Canyon in the extreme northwestern corner of my native state of Georgia. Living up to its name, the canyon is often shrouded in mist and only reveals its dramatic angles and vibrant colors after ascending the surrounding foothills. During heavy rain, several small waterfalls spring to life along the trails and provide a dynamic contrast to the brooding landscape. My composition is a depiction of my fond memories of the canyon when I visited it as a young university student - from the sonorous harmonies of the misty cliffs to the exciting hike past cascading falls and rocky peaks. See the score.
Medlyn's favorite piece on the concert program was Cloudlands because he was able to play with his previous high school trombone teacher, Daniel Watt, who was the soloist on the piece, "It was really cool to be able to perform with him!"
Listen to a recording of Cloudlands with all parts performed by Daniel Watt.
In the Woods Behind Baskerville
The final piece with direct ties to CSU was In the Woods Behind Baskerville by CSU alum, Amber Sheeran.
Composer's Notes About In the Woods Behind Baskerville
Incredible Experience for All
In addition to the incredible performance opportunity, the students gained access to a wider world of trombonists. "I was able to attend recitals by people I otherwise wouldn't have ever seen play, like Joseph Alessi, who is the principal player of the New York Philharmonic, or Eijiro Nakagawa, a trombonist from Japan," said Medlyn.
Raby was particularly impacted by sharing the stage with his friends and fellow colleagues during their performances. "Being part of the organizing process for the trip that allowed the younger members of the group to experience ITF is an experience I'll cherish forever," he said.