Professor Emeritus, former Chair of the Keyboard Department and Music Director of the Opera Program at the University of Colorado Boulder, Robert Spillman studied at the Eastman School of Music, receiving a Bachelor of Music degree, a Performance Certificate in piano, and a Master of Arts degree in music theory. Spillman studied composition with Louis Mennini while at the same time he was serving as the pianist for the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. Professor Spillman spent numerous summers at the Chautauqua Institution as a student, accompanist and coach and was Co-Director of the Opera Center at the Aspen Music Festival for many years. Activities at the Aspen Festival included teaching piano, opera, and languages, performing frequently on chamber concerts, and conducting opera presentations.
Robert Spillman is an iconic composer among low brass players due to his works dedicated to the instruments. My first experience with Spillman’s music was when I heard a performance of his Concerto for Bass Trombone and Orchestra (1962). That was my first experience listening to the bass trombone as a solo instrument and encouraged me to pursue a career primarily on this instrument ever since. It was in February 2014, when I visited the College of Music at CU Boulder to audition for the DMA program in trombone that I had the tremendous opportunity to meet Robert Spillman in person; a dream come true.
Four Inventions for Three Trombones presented a great opportunity for me to combineboth my tenor and bass trombone abilities. The Inventions include Song, written in traditional ABA form, a transcription of an earlier voice and piano piece. This Song is dedicated to and inspired by long-time Eastman School of Music trombone professor Emory Remington’s vocal approach to performance and pedagogy. It functions as a vocal solo with the other two trombones as the instrumental accompaniment. Round Dance, dedicated to CU Boulder trombone professor William Stanley, is an experiment of rhythmical lines of 5/8 in sets of 3+2 and 2+3, and 7/8 in sets of 3+2+2 and 2+2+3, interchanging them with unusual placement of articulations that constantly shift between strong and weak beats. The texture is predominately in an imitative style in which all three trombone parts play equal importance in creating forward motion throughout the piece. It does not employ traditional major/minor tonalities, but rather uses modal expressions centered around C with various modal shifts. Hymn,dedicated to Brandon Bird, former trombone student at CU, uses the trombone’s traditional vocal qualities to portray a church choir’s magnificent sound, expressing human feelings through music. In Spillman’s words: “The choir singing the main part as a crying-out to God, and keeps getting interrupted by thoughts of individualism, leading to the last section expressing resignation.” It centers around D, with sections in which the use of Bb gives the idea of d minor and F# of D major. Games,dedicated to John Neurohr, also former student at CU and current professor of trombone at Central Washington University, is the most wide-ranging piece of all the inventions. It combines fanfare-style introduction, two very rhythmic sections embracing a choral middle section in which the trombones 1 and 2 move in tonally, while the bass trombone part recreates a cantus firmus of stacked 4thsand 5ths established by individual voices at the beginning of the piece. A concluding C major tonality is truly established during the last four measures of the piece.
Originally from Oklahoma, Thomas Sleeper is a conductor and composer whose works include operas, thirteen concerti, three symphonies, four orchestral song cycles, works for chorus with orchestra, three string quartets, numerous other vocal and instrumental chamber works and music for film. As a conductor, his career includes positions at the Dallas Civic Symphony as Associate Conductor, guest conductor of the Central Philharmonic of China, San Juan (Argentina) Symphony Orchestra, Ruse State Philharmonic, the China-Wuhan Symphony, and most recently has retired as the Director of Orchestral Activities and Conductor of the Frost Symphony Orchestra and Opera Theater at the University of Miami.
I specifically remember the first time I rehearsed with the University of Miami Frost Symphony Orchestra conducted by Thomas Sleeper during my studies for my master’s degree. I was particularly impacted by Sleeper’s conducting style, his effective communication through gestures, but above all, his knowledge about trombone and bass trombone techniques. Through our first conversation, I discovered that Sleeper was a bass trombonist himself, hence all the great advice he always had for me and the trombone section. This empathy inspired me to follow Sleeper’s work more closely. I enrolled into his conducting seminar class through which I learned inspirational tasks that helped me not only to understand the means of the performer, but the impact it made on my perspective towards contemporary music. This is how, upon graduation, my professional relationship and friendship with Thomas Sleeper was established. I will always treasure that opportunity in which, as a UM Alumnus, Sleeper invited me to premier re:Joyce for bass trombone and electronics at one of his faculty recitals in March 2013.
The Concerto for Bass Trombone and Piano was first performed in its solo and orchestra version by bass trombonist David Brubeck and the Florida Atlantic University Symphony Orchestra in December of 2017. Upon learning of this recording project, Sleeper wrote the piano reduction version to be included in the CD and also to be performed as part of my last DMA recital at CU Boulder in March 2018. The piece portrays a battle between the emotions of anger and peace, as a tribute to human kind overcoming adversity. This swing of feelings is described by points of imitation between the trombone and the piano throughout the entire work. Written in three, fast-slow-fast movements, the main theme is formed by angular melodies moving between the piano and the bass trombone, and motivic ideas divided in intervals creating sets of octachords, followed by sets of pentachords. Although a clear tonal center is not well established throughout the piece, the last chords of movements 1 and 3 clearly resolve to G minor and the second movement to A minor. The first movement is a representation of unleashed anger combined with hints of a mind seeking peacefulness. The second movement establishes an atmosphere of peace and serenity dominating the scene; however, the main motivic line from the first movement, written at a slower tempo, indicates that rage is about to be untamed. Despite having a section in which the main theme of the second movement is written at a faster tempo, in representation of the serenity scene trying to come back, the third movement represents the unfortunate triumph of anger over peace.
From Miami, Florida, Alejandro Guardia is emerging as one of the prominent musicians of his generation as composer, low brass player and music educator in the south Florida area. Currently, in addition to holding positions as the director of bands for the Bradenton County Public Schools in Florida, conductor of the Florida International University Indoor bands, and principal euphonium with the Miami Wind Symphony, Mr. Guardia embarks on a variety of projects that include composing for low brass and for wind bands. Alejandro Guardia is a graduate of the University of South Florida and is a member of the American Society of Composers, Arrangers, and Publishers, and the Florida Bandmasters Association.
My relationship with Alejandro started during my days as director of bands for the Miami-Dade County Public Schools in Florida. I first heard two of his compositions for low brass instruments performed by the Florida International University low brass ensembles and Guardia’s style captured my attention immediately, due to his use of coloratura, timbre, and his ability to express stories without words.
Monolith, Rhapsody for Bass Trombone and Trombone Quintet was commissioned to be premiered by me with the Xalapa Symphony Orchestra’s trombone section at the 3rd International Trombone Week at the Autonomous University of Aguascalientes School of Music, Aguascalientes-Mexico in April 2013. Written in one continuous movement with five sections connected by soloist’s cadenzas, the shrewd orchestration delineates the sections by use of different textures, voicings, contrapuntal writing, mutes, panning sound effects, extendedtechniques and staging ensemble positions, to symbolize a fantasy story. A magic rock known as the monolith, represented by the solo bass trombone, emerges from a hazy forest to encounter a civilization composed by different tribes represented by the trombone ensemble, causing chaos among them due to their ambition and desires to control the mighty rock in search for ultimate power. For the recording, I approached each of the 4 tenors and bass’s parts of the ensemble with an individual, yet collective perspective, allowing myself to create an ensemble sound to support the solo part effectively. Monolith is available at Potenza Music Publishing.
From Caracas, Venezuela, Andres Rodriguez obtained his Bachelor of Music in Flute Performance from the University Institute of Musical Studies of (IUDEM) in Caracas, and a Master of Music in composition from the Simón Bolívar University of Venezuela. Educated within the El SistemaYouth Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, Rodriguez toured many countries from South and North America, Europe, and Asia with that group. As a composer, Andres has been awarded with the City of Caracas Music Awards 2010 and 2014 and the Venezuelan National Music Composition Award for Wind Symphony 2015. Currently, Rodriguez is the Assistant Principal Flute with the Venezuela Symphony Orchestra, and Flute and Composition Professor at both the Simon Bolivar University and the National University of the Arts of Venezuela.
Andres and I first met and built our friendship within El Sistemawhen we both were members of the Youth Symphony in Caracas, Venezuela, allowing us to study, perform and tour, within an embracing, rigorous environment. Learning about Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Mozart, Dvorak, or Mahler, was not enough for Andres, or me, or many of our orchestra mates. It was very common to wait for those informal midnight jamming sessions in which Venezuelan folk, Latin, pop, and jazz music came out of the shadows, driving us all into a whole different world of music. These sessions turned out to become the unofficial commercial-music learning experiences that were never offered to us in the formal classroom.
A Short Account of a Long Journey (Breve Recuento de Un Largo Viaje), Fantasy for Bass Trombone and Chamber Quintet is a tribute to all foreign musicians that have left their homelands, families, and friends in pursuit of a music life. Andres Rodriguez’s unique orchestration: Flute/piccolo, clarinet/bass clarintet, piano, bass, and drums, creates the characteristic Venezuelan chamber music sound, replacing the usual leading voice sounds of the woodwinds or string instruments, by the unusual sound of the bass trombone as the main melodic source. The combined sound of these instruments, provide a distinctive soundtrack that supports the narrative idea behind the bass trombone part. The piece is divided in three movements, predominantly moving around the keys of D maj, E min, and C maj with some transitional atonal areas that descriptively reflectsmy musical transit from Venezuela to the US. Starting from my native town, Guatire; Genesis, Roots and Traditionis perhaps the most difficult movement of the entire work, displaying sounds influenced and derived from traditional music from that region. The second movement passes through the capital city of Caracas: The City of the "Red News”,with Venezuelan folk music influence along with a New York City-Latino flavor from the 80’s and 90’s that combines different styles of Salsa (Cuban-root Son, tumbao, andLatin jazz) to describe the characteristic sounds of the streets of Caracas. Towards New Horizonsis a musical description of an individual’s dreams to pursue artistic and human growth in the United States. Influenced by the music of Bernstein, JJ Johnson, and Charlie Parker, it starts with the unmistakable sound of the swing Hi-Hat, followed by contrasting trombone lines and the rest of the ensemble playing melodic blocks in voicing with very marked syncopated rhythms reinforced by the drums. The solo trombone part in this section, as well as the second movement, explores the high register of the bass trombone, playing most of the main melodies at the tenor trombone range, in combination with some bass trombone big band-setting section lines. Despite being a written solo, the melody leaves room for the trombonist to be creative in regards of articulations, style, and ornamental effects that will add an improvisational feeling to the movement.
A creative young composer, trombonist, and musician entrepreneur in his native Montevideo, Uruguay. He is currently the bass trombonist of the Uruguay National Band, and a masters student in orchestral conducting at the National University of Uruguay School of the Arts. Arbiza is a founding member and coordinator of the URUBRASS summit, an international brass festival that has been held yearly every summer since 2013. It has been during this festival’s different seasons that Ricardo has had the opportunity to compose a variety of commissions for participating guest artists and ensembles.
Ricardo and I met in Miami, Florida in 2014. At that time, I discovered Ricardo’s talent as a composer, and had the privilege to read and listen to two of his pieces. One was Malevo, for brass ensemble, and the other one was The Final Battlefor Tuba and Piano. Due to their dynamic rhythms, tonal harmony, romantic style, and traditional South American folk influence, I asked Ricardo for permission to play his tuba piece on bass trombone. He had a better idea instead and Aires Rioplatenseswas born.
Aires Rioplatenses, Concertino for Bass Trombone and Bandoneon was written and commissioned by me for two simultaneous events. Cecilia Lo-chien Kao and I premiered the bass trombone and piano version in April 2016 as part of my second doctoral recital at the University of Colorado Boulder. In July of the same year, Sergio Astengo and I performed the bandoneon version for the first time as part of the of the URUBRASS Summit in Montevideo, Uruguay. The term “Rioplatense” describes the geographic separation made by the Rio de la Plata (River of Silver) of the capital cities of Montevideo (Uruguay) and Buenos Aires (Argentina). The piece is based on rhythms and harmonies derived from both countries’ traditional Tango. Written in E minor, the three fast-slow-fast movements recreate the countries’ cultural expressions by combining the characteristic rhythmical accompanying function of the bandoneon (or sometimes guitar or piano), with an unconventional vocal sound of the bass trombone, imitating the characteristics of the voice, violin, or any woodwind melodic instrument traditionally used to perform the tango.