In Experiential Learning, Trombone Choir

A group of students attended SliderAsia Music Festival in Hong Kong to expand and enhance their musicianship.

Six students representing the BYU Trombone Choir traveled to Hong Kong to take part in SliderAsia Music Festival. The weeklong event is sponsored annually by the Hong Kong Trombone Association specifically for trombone and other brass musicians.

Will Kimball, professor of brass performance, spearheaded the trip with funds from an Experiential Learning grant for the students who accompanied him. The group practiced four to five hours a week during the months leading up to the festival to prepare for a featured recital that took place during the event.

Along with conducting the BYU Trombone Choir in their recital, Kimball directed three masterclasses and four small group rehearsals during the week. His students joined participants from around the world in daily group warm-ups, masterclasses small group performances and recitals. The experience culminated with a mass brass choir performance at the end of the festival.

Will Kimball conducting students from the BYU Trombone Choir in Hong Kong. Photo by SliderAsia Music Festival

“The performance with the whole group was a big highlight for me,” Kimball said. Other highlights for the students included hearing ensembles from across the globe, including a performance that used electronic manipulation and looping.

Sadie Smith, a bass trombonist who studies trombone performance at BYU, shared what made the international festival so worthwhile. “This experience opened my ears to the rich musical styles and traditions of trombone playing in other countries. My favorite part of the week was hearing the 25 recitals and concerts presented by the incredible faculty and guest artists. The amount of  inspiring, passionate and deeply thoughtful music was mind-blowing.”

Kimball explained why traveling to Hong Kong benefitted the students. “I think they learned a lot from hearing world class players. If they’re not quite sure what good sounds like when in the practice room, it is pretty hard to make improvements and they are not exactly sure where they want to go. Hearing world-class performers, helps them get a better idea of where they want to go and what to shoot for.”

The students also improved their own musicianship was through masterclasses, small group workshops taught by visiting faculty. Kimball illustrated the importance of students playing for other teachers.

Will Kimball teaches a masterclass at SliderAsia Music Festival. Photo by SliderAsia Music Festival

“One of the great things about playing for masterclasses is that you are getting another set of ears. A teacher might say something I’ve been telling my students for months but in a slightly different way and finally, the student gets it. Other times it might completely contradict what I am saying which I think is also healthy.”

Smith confirmed how hearing from other instructors improved her skills. “Masterclasses allowed us to see how and why the faculty were able to create music the way they can and the technical procedures that go into that. I came away with a lot to work on and, thankfully, a lot of tools on how to approach the areas that I would like to improve.”

Thanks to support from Experiential Learning funding, the trombone students were able to form connections with each other as well as with musicians from around the world.

“The students had some nice avenues open and met a lot of new people,” Kimball said. “A big part of these festivals is networking, which will hopefully lead to chamber music opportunities down the road. All sorts of connections were made.”

Smith summed up her experience performing in Hong Kong. “It was great to have the opportunity to perform as a BYU Trombone Choir,” Smith said. “I feel it brought us closer and gave us a unique opportunity to represent BYU and American trombone music. We also got to hear student ensembles from around the world and create friendships. I’m grateful for President Worthen’s emphasis on experiential learning and for the generous donors whose funds allowed us to have this opportunity.”


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