The Robinson High School Trombone Choir recently received a special invitation to participate in the Eastern Trombone Workshop, which was presented at Fort Myer by The United States Army Band "Pershing's Own".
This annual event began in 1978 and has been under command of The United States Army Band since 1993. During those years, it has become one of the largest trombone workshops in the world.
Directed by Gregory Freeman, the trombone choir is made up of nine young musicians, who live in Fairfax Station, Clifton, Burke and Fairfax. They include Jordan Feltcorn, T.J. Horan, Jun Huh, Allison Hunter, Natasha Penfield, Josh Schwark, Nate Smith, Nick Warmuth and Zane Xu.
The Robinson Trombone Choir was one of only two high school groups in the nation asked to join the Eastern Trombone Workshop on March 24.
Freeman was pleased with his students and their invitation. Before the big day, he wrote to them, “I'm really excited about tomorrow, and I think you all are going to do a great job! I hope you are excited, too; you should be proud of all the hard work you've put into this performance.”
After arriving at Fort Myer, the Robinson students attended a master class by Vienna Philharmonic member Ian Bousfield, acclaimed as one of Europe’s greatest trombone players. His approach to teaching made his expectations clear even to non-musicians.
To Bousfield, “the trombone is the voice of God,” or as Johannes Brahms noted, “the dark, beating wings” in the orchestra.
He reminded the spectators in the packed hall that when interpreting a piece of music, “You can’t do it physically; you have to do it emotionally. You have to unleash the genius within you.”
Bousfield concluded with the inspiring pronouncement, “I hereby authorize you to play with musicality.”
After the master class, the Robinson Trombone Choir performed challenging pieces by Giovanni Gabrieli, considered the “father of brass,” Engelbert Humperdinck and Benedetto Marcello.
In a day filled with new experiences, the choir accompanied their director over to some exhibits, where, Freeman explained, “you can try out other trombones, and look at music, recordings, mutes, accessories, and everything else you could think of that pertains to trombones.”
“The exhibits were the best part,” musician T.J. Horan said.
“It was all fun,” Nick Warmuth, another musician, added.
Freeman has directed the Robinson Trombone Choir since 2004. He received his Bachelor of Music Education from nearby George Mason University and a Master of Music in Performance from Northwestern University. Under his guidance, the students earn superior ratings at Virginia‘s District XI Solo and Ensemble Festival each year.
Freeman is the kind of music teacher you hope every student has the opportunity to work with. He enjoys teaching his students, and they respect him. Every precise gesture conveys a message; he demonstrates eloquently with his own trombone, and his words encourage and enlighten.
His evaluation of the Eastern Trombone Workshop was as positive as his students’ comments.
“This was a great opportunity for these students not only to attend, but to participate in a very important international event for trombonists,” Freeman said. “I think the students really enjoyed attending a master class, exploring the exhibits and hearing other groups perform.”