High school and college students come together at trombone festival

Trombone festival draws in band fans and families

More stories from Brittany Farr


Photo by Sam Farley

Wisconsin and Minnesota schools came to Eau Claire to play in the annual trombone festival.

In a city full of music festivals, Eau Claire offered fans an opportunity to listen to the sound of trombones over the weekend. Dressed in all black, with ties and sharp shoes, musicians had a full day last Saturday.

Each year trombone students from high schools and colleges around the area gather under the Haas Fine Arts Center roof to put on a show together, including a final concert at the end of the night where fans and parents could take a seat and hear live music in Gantner Hall.

There was a mixture of playing and even some humming and singing throughout the day, as the groups were also a part of choir as well.

Performers came from UW-Whitewater, University of Minnesota, high schools, along with faculty and alumni performances throughout the day.

Leo Johnson, a junior trombone player, said the festival not only brings in performers, but a bunch of people who work for Schmidt Music shop come and bring along trombones for people to try, making the day more than just a concert and series of clinics.

Every year the festival invites a special guest, a clinician from outside the university who makes an appearance teaching a master class. They also work with UW-Eau Claire’s studio and performing on stage with the students. This year their special guest was University of North Texas’s Tony Baker.

“(Baker’s) a fantastic classical and jazz artist, he’s also a brilliant teacher — he fit the role in so many different ways,” Phil Ostrander, a UW-Eau Claire professor of trombone, said while introducing Baker to the stage. “If you put something on the music stand in front of him he can play it and it will be fabulous.”

Ostrander organized the event and said Baker is a phenomenal guest artist for the trombone festival.

“We knew after one note he was going to kill it and do exactly what I was hoping would come off the page,” Ostrander said.

The University of North Texas’s website describes Baker as one of the finest trombonists of his generation. He graduated from the University of Minnesota.

Baker has also performed with groups like Woody Herman Band, Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra and many individuals, which gave him a lot of experience in jazz music.

Part of the department’s mission at the university is to celebrate, encourage and promote the works of other represented composers, Ostrander said.

This is still the beginning of the trombone group’s time together this semester. Johnson said all the players form a tight-knit community.

“It’s a great big family over everything,” Johnson said.