UT Trombone Choir to work with alumni, gain invaluable career experience through Zurich residency

Kiernan McCormick, Life and Arts Reporter

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the April 1, 2022 flipbook.

When Nathaniel Brickens, a trombone professor in the Butler School of Music, received an email from Texas Global offering him the opportunity to take his trombone choir abroad to a location of his choosing for a six-week internship, one place immediately came to mind: Zurich, Switzerland. 

The UT Trombone Choir, an ensemble open to all UT trombonists, competes and performs internationally. Brickens said Texas Global selected 10 students for the residency based on application submissions. During the program, the trombone choir will work with trombonists David Garcia and Bill Thomas, attend the Zurich Opera and Tonhalle Orchestra performances, and hold their own concert. The six-week residency will start in May.

Brickens said Zurich felt like the perfect location because of the University’s ties to Garcia and Thomas, UT alumni who perform as a part of Zurich’s most recognized orchestras. Garcia, a solo trombonist, plays in the Philharmonia Zürich, while Thomas, a bass trombonist, plays in the Tonhalle Orchestra.

I took a group of 24 students to Zurich back in 2012 and (it was) an amazing collaboration,” Brickens said. “We had a chance to perform both with David and Bill by ourselves and have the students participate in a series of master classes.”

Jared Dickerson, one of the trombonists chosen for the residency, said he looks forward to experiencing Zurich for the first time and is most excited to reap the rewards of his and the  choir’s hard work.

“Maybe sometimes money is tight and auditions get me down, but I’m able to share this (opportunity) in another country and across all barriers of language,” said Dickerson, a graduate student in the Butler School of Music. 

Brickens said the Zurich residency provides students with vital experiences that advance their prospective careers and prepare them to be professional orchestral musicians. 

“This internship will give them an opportunity to go through the entire process of preparing for an audition and the inner workings of life as a performer in two of the world’s finest orchestras,” Brickens said.

Jorge Rodriguez, another Butler school graduate student selected for the residency, said he views the experience as a good opportunity to learn more about European music and technique.

“We’re going to get a lot of exposure to the differences in style,” Rodriguez said. “It’ll be a good learning experience for those who have never experienced the difference between the American style of playing and the European style.”

Brickens said the trombone choir will begin rehearsing for the trip in mid-April. This preparation includes arranging concert music, practicing for mock auditions and putting together musical excerpts the choir will perform for the conductors in Zurich.  

Dickerson said coaching from Garcia and Thomas during the residency will hopefully inspire trombone choir members to believe in their ability and potential to succeed as a musician after graduation. 

“To go there and see UT alums that were (once) sitting in our chairs, studying with the professors we’re studying with right now be extremely successful — the highest level in another country — will speak volumes to everyone that may have any inkling of a doubt that it is possible to explore and travel the world playing the trombone,” Dickerson said.