The German Youth Jazz Orchestra
Directed by Peter Herbolzheimer

The International Trombone Workshop 1995
by Jürgen Neudert

Gallery  • Young Lions • Trombone Workshop • Return of the Young Lions

From 30th May to 3rd June this year the International Trombone Workshop was held in the University of Nevada in Las Vegas. The workshop is produced by the International Trombone Association with the aim of gathering as many trombone players together as possible for exchange of views and experience. This includes professional and amateur players. Any one can take part, and there is a scholarship for especially talented players, to help them financially with travel and hotel expenses. One of the scholarships is the Frank Rosolino Prize, which was won this time by Jürgen Neudert, a member of the German Youth Orchestra, which has caused such a sensation with its recent BuJazzO 3 CD. Jürgen is only the second European to win the award, which was created upon the death of Frank Rosolino in 1978.Entrants must be students in a music high school, and no more than 25 years of age. The entry takes the form of a demo cassette tape. Two titles are required: three choruses on a Blues, and three on any self–chosen standard. Jürgen goes on to tell how he won this prestigious award.

I decided to play Gingerbread Boy for the Blues and Bye, Bye Blackbird as the standard. The recording, which took place in the Music High School of Cologne, became both hectic and chaotic, right from the start. The rhythm section I wanted was not available, so I had to make do with people I’d never met before. At the last moment the pianist didn’t turn up, so Jiggs Whigham sprang into the breach.

Günter Bollmann and Nils Wogram, two very good trombone players from the same high school had also made demos. When I heard them I was convinced that my own efforts wouldn’t stand a chance, but I pressed on, and somehow managed to finish the demo under what were, for me, the worst of conditions.

To my surprise I won! Later on Carl Fontana, who was on the jury, told me why my demo had pleased him so much. In his opinion the other entrants had played competitively, as if determined to win, filling their demos with very many notes, and not an awful lot of music. On the other hand, both of my pieces had been in medium tempo. I didn’t try and demonstrate a fantastic technique or virtuosity, but concentrated on making a reasonable recording to show my musical capabilities, no more, and no less. Carl liked that, and so, obviously, did the rest of the jury.

When I arrived in Las Vegas it was to find myself amongst trombonists from all branches of music. Jazz, classical and avante garde were all represented, with many soloists and groups of all types and sizes. There were workshops offered by professionals, concerts produced and staged. On the campus an exhibition made it possible to view and buy new instruments, music and computer programmes. Specialised workshops dealt with selected subjects such as Breathing, Technique, Innovations in Electronic Music for Trombone, New Teaching Methods, etc. And at every turn: new instruments to try, advice and encouragement.

The Congress began with a grand opening concert, to which all members were invited. The daily order over the five days was divided into units. Each day at eight in the morning a Group Warm–Up took place, always with a different teacher. Immediately after came four different Master Classes, repeated each day, so that every member had the chance to visit all of them. Following these came a period of freedom to visit the exhibition. Afternoons came open concerts and rehearsals covering every possible aspect of trombone playing.

The whole affair was the most wonderful thing that could have happened to me, as I was, almost at once, in close contact with some of the best trombone players in the world. With some of them: Carl Fontana, Jiggs Whigham (my teacher), Bill Watrous and Ian McDougall from the Rob McConnell band, I played a concert in the Concert Hall of the University of Nevada. Another concert with Jiggs took place with a small group on a Late Night Jazz programme. I had long admired all these great players from afar. Meeting them in this way gave me, without a doubt, the biggest motivation possible for my further studies, and the exchange of experience and views I gathered from these giants of the instrument gave me a huge advance in my own development. Added to this was the singular experience, for me, of being able to play as a soloist in front of such an illustrious gathering of the world’s greatest talent.

Next year’s workshop will be held in Feldkirch, Austria. Meanwhile I’ll continue to play with the BuJazzO, and Peter Herbolzheimer, another great teacher, finish my studies and then look around for a job in one of the German radio bands. At the moment I’m running a jazz quartet with trombone, tenor, bass and drums. The lack of piano makes an interesting sound because we have a lot of harmonic freedom. We’ve already won first prize at a newcomer festival in Leipzig, so I’ll keep on with that as I’m almost 25, which is the age limit for the German Youth Band.  

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