Spartan Jazz Trombone Awards

Studio captures top honors and the eye of a legendary musician.

National awards, a custom composition, and an invitation to perform at an international event are among the elements shining the spotlight on the Jazz Trombone Studio at Michigan State University.

Under the direction of Michael Dease, jazz trombone students have garnered top recognitions through the International Trombone Association, as well as the opportunity to play at the association’s festival this June in Rochester, New York. Click here to visit his studio website.

“What this says to me is that with commitment and discipline, our students can meet any challenge,” says Dease, assistant professor of jazz trombone in the MSU College of Music. “Most of our musicians are first-year students, but they rehearsed three or four times a week and made lots of sacrifices to get their performances up to the highest level.”

The ITA, Dease explains, is the largest association of trombonists in the world with 4,000 members from 69 countries. Students, amateurs and professionals from around the globe enter the association’s annual competition that consists of 10 different rounds and styles.

MSU’s Jazz Trombone Studio submitted recordings for several ITA competitions and reaped impressive results. The Spartan Jazz Trombones won the Kai Winding International Jazz Trombone competition, while several individual players took honors in other rounds.

“We competed against some of the top trombone studios in the world,” says Dease. “It was very exciting to be counted among them, considering our jazz trombone studio program is just in its second year.”

News of the studio’s success traveled far, Dease says, and captured the attention of legendary trombonist Tom “Bones” Malone. On Dease’s request, Malone wrote an original composition for the Spartan Jazz Trombones to play at the upcoming ITA conference.

“Bones was very excited about the group winning,” says Dease. “He stayed up all night to write the commission, then presented it to us gratis. This is going to be fantastic for morale and for the future of the group and the studio. We are very thankful for his support.”

That support was evidenced again when Malone initiated an impromptu lunch with the entire trombone studio. Malone, Dease says, was in Ann Arbor for an early April concert and was seeking camaraderie and conversation with fellow trombonists. Dease says Malone was also eager to propose a future recording venture with MSU this summer as well as a fall visit in support of the Jazz Studies program. Read more about the lunch with Bones Malone.

"It was unreal that an artist of his stature would be that down-to-earth," says Dease. "There was an incredible connection with the students, too."

Members of the award-winning Spartan Jazz Trombones include Jamie Burchett, Josh Dargavell, Adam Graham, Jerrick Matthews, June Choi, Endea Owens, Adam Olszewski, Sam Copperman, Nick Bracewell and Mark Hunsberger. Individual students receiving tops ITA honors include Josh Dargavell, 1st alternate in the JJ Johnson International Jazz Trombone Competition, and William Wang, 2nd alternate in the Carl Fontana International Jazz Trombone Competition.

Dease himself was recently recognized by the ITA through an appointment to a four-year term on the board of directors. “Up until recently, jazz has had a relatively minor role in the ITA,” says Dease. “I’ll be looking at ways to connect the two worlds of classical and jazz more.”

The Spartan Jazz Trombones and studio members recently took high honors through the International Trombone Association, and will perform at the ITA conference in June. Other recent awards and achievements include a second place finish by member Josh Dargavell in the Texas State University National Jazz Trombone competition and an invitation to perform at Texas State Trombone Symposium in 2015.

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