Trombone choir wins international competition, seeks funds to perform at festival


Source: Anetta Siemiamowicz

Northwestern University Trombone Choir performs in Galvin Recital Hall in January. The group won the International Trombone Association Emory Remington Competition and will be performing in at a festival in California.

Jennifer Hepp, Reporter

The Northwestern University Trombone Choir won an international competition and will travel to perform in California this June — but without any financial assistance from the University.

The trombone choir won the International Trombone Association’s Emory Remington Trombone Choir Competition, the highest honor a student trombone choir can receive. For the competition, all applicants recorded and submitted the same two pieces of music in October. Northwestern’s choir was notified it won a few months ago.

The choir is directed by Prof. Christopher Davis, who is in his first year as director of the group. Davis said winning the competition was a “dream” and that it was his goal from the start when he took over the choir.

Northwestern’s trombone choir has entered the competition before in the past, but this is the first time it has won, Bienen graduate student and trombonist Ash Carter said.

“You cannot do any better than this,” Carter said. “Our choir has worked really hard since I’ve been here for the last two years, and especially the last eight months, it’s come a long way. It’s hard work paying off, it’s great.”

Northwestern placed first over other prestigious music schools such as the Juilliard School, which has won the competition in the past. The competition was judged by a panel of trombonists from music institutions and orchestras all over the world.

As the winner of the competition, the choir will perform a showcase program at the corresponding festival at the University of Redlands in California this summer. The festival will run from June 28 to July 1.

The University will not pay for the students’ travel costs to California, Davis said. There is money budgeted each year for events such as hosting international competitions and travel to conferences for performances, he said.

The trombone studio at Northwestern has a long lineage of players that do great things after graduation, Davis said.

Carter said once the studio was notified the school would not be supporting the choir’s trip to California, he was “gobsmacked.”

“The school trombone choir literally can’t do any better,” Carter said. “For the school to not even be supporting it is, I think, ludicrous.”

Bienen Dean Toni-Marie Montgomery was not immediately available for comment.

Bienen sophomore and trombonist Sean Holly said the achievement is a tangible representation of what he and his colleagues can accomplish as a studio, as well as of what Northwestern’s music school does.

Because the school is not funding the trip, the ensemble is working to raise money to cover the cost of the trip, which mainly consists of flights to California, Holly said. The choir has started an Indiegogo fundraising page online and has hosted bake sales. It also has a few more plans in the works, he said.

The trombone choir is an example of a chamber ensemble, in which musicians work very closely in a small group. Playing in chamber ensembles is essential to becoming a successful professional musician, Holly said.

Carter said he loves playing in the group because it is fun and challenging, and he learns a lot from both his colleagues and Davis. He said Davis pushes the choir beyond what its members believe their limits are.

“(Davis) just has high standards, which he imposes on all of us and he doesn’t let anyone get away with anything,” Carter said. “To come and direct the ensemble and to win the biggest competition in the world in the first year is the biggest prize I think anyone could give you.”

Davis said the students in the choir work extremely hard. The group has scheduled extra rehearsals to prepare for their upcoming performance.

“(The students) do it for not only me but because they love music and they want to rise to the highest possible level that they can when playing,” Davis said. “The standard is set, and we have this international platform to really show (others) what Northwestern has to offer.”

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