by Erik Kibelsbeck, M.M. '01
Always a collegial ensemble, the Ithaca College Trombone Troupe (how could one not love being in a group with that name?) became positively tight-knit this past school year in anticipation of our performance on the world stage -- not as guests, but as hosts of the International Trombone Festival. The ITF truly is international -- last year's festival was held in Helsinki. The IC-hosted event this summer, under the leadership of Professor Hal Reynolds, drew some 800 of the world's great trombone players to the James J. Whalen Center for Music.
They included jazz performers Tony Baker, Sam Burtis, Capitol Bones, Wycliffe Gordon, Paul McKee, and U.S. Army Blues. The trombone sections of the Philadelphia Orchestra, the American Classic Quartet, and the U.S. Army Field Band were among the groups representing the classical tradition. Contemporary specialist John Kenny and new talents such as Brandt Attema, Megumi Kanda, Ingo Luis, and Ludwig Nuss performed, as did Macedonian trombonist Kiril Ribarski in his long-awaited debut at an ITF. That's a lot of talent, and it added a little pressure for those of us at IC.
Along with my day job as coordinator of music facilities and publicity for the School of Music, I have been conducting the troupe for the last five semesters. As soon as we learned that Ithaca College had been selected as host and that the troupe would perform the opening concert of the five-day festival, we began to prepare. We had to start early: performing before people who know everything about the trombone is a serious matter! We programmed an outdoor concert entirely of works the troupe has commissioned over the years, ensuring that many of the pieces would be new to the audience. Four out of the five composers would actually be present for the concert.
After a month off, we returned to campus the weekend before the festival for some 10 hours of rehearsal in three days. Rehearsals grew more intense (and sometimes just tense) as the day approached.
It all came off wonderfully in the end -- except for one instance during the last piece, when in excitement I dropped my baton. I was terribly proud of the level of professionalism the ensemble achieved. The troupe's performance set the tone for the entire festival. Besides performing, most of the troupe were staffing the event, acting as stage crew, ushers, and drivers and performing a host of other tasks to keep the festival running smoothly. They received numerous compliments during the week.
Seeing rehearsal rooms turned into exhibit rooms with hundreds of trombones to sample, having some of the biggest names in the trombone world right there beside us, and hearing the best performers in the world play for four days were all amazing experiences for our troupe. Professor Reynolds, as host, was one busy fellow, but genial and smiling the whole time as he saw the months of preparation turn into a successful international workshop. Ithaca College can be proud of its ability to host such an event.
Erik Kibelsbeck is coordinator of facilities and publicity in the School of Music. He is also conductor of the trombone troupe and a Syracuse-based community orchestra, as well as music director-organist at Ithaca's St. Luke Lutheran Church.