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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

SBCC Trombone Choir encourages musical curiosity and education

After celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2023, the SBCC Trombone Choir once again organized and introduced its “Slide Show” Master Class and Concert. The show was directed by Eric Heidner, instructor in jazz studies and director of the SBCC Concert Band and “Good Times” Jazz Ensemble. This year, Heidner invited a special guest, Professional Trombonist Alex Iles

The main event took place from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, April 6, in the Business and Communications (BC) Forum on City College’s West Campus. It included a master class with Iles earlier that same day from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., giving the students enough time to rehearse before the final show for family and friends. 

Four different groups formed the concert, including the SBCC Trombone Choir, the SB Junior Trombone Choir, the “8th Position” Trombone Octet and the “SlideWays” Trombone Quartet. 

Heidner shared how the music department has long been underrated among students, especially at City College. 

“We bond together because of the trombones, but it’s also as musicians in general, just being able to learn from each other,” Heidner said. 

Stephen Hughes, a music professor at City College and director of the SB Junior Trombone Choir, also conducted some pieces during the concert, including “Test Drive” from Dreamworks’ “How To Train Your Dragon,” the main theme piece from “Pan’s Labyrinth,” and a medley from Dreamworks’ “Kung Fu Panda.” arranged by one of the bass trombonists, Joseph Alex Reyes.  

Hughes shared how when the junior trombone choir was told they would be playing “Kung Fu Panda,” it was easier for the students to connect with it. 

“People respond to the movie music, you know,” Hughes said. 

The junior choir welcomes students of all ages to play with different ranges of experience. In order for every one of his students to find success, Hughes arranges the musical pieces into three parts: a base, a challenge, and a final part that is safe for all players to try. Hughes worked alongside Iles during a full morning of sessions with all of the students, including the junior ensemble, the youngest student being 12 years old. 

“They’re doing good work, and [Iles] was able to give them great advice and approach them at their level, which was really impressive on his part,” Hughes said. 

According to Heidner and Hughes, the concert was a great opportunity for the students, expressing it will help them appreciate an education in music and any future it can lead to after college. 

“I think people think of it as like you’re either going to be a performer or a teacher,” Hughes said. “Like, those are basically the two options. There’s some truth to the fact that those are the main ones, but I mean, ten feet away from us, there are people selling trombones from the local music shops. And then I’m a music teacher. There are ways you can build yourself up as a musician, whether it’s your vocation, your avocation.” 

One of Hughes’ students, Henry Thielker, started playing the trombone years ago and has now majored in it, composing his own music and hoping to find a career that way.  

“Regardless of what comes next, he’ll be a musician,” Hughes said with a smile as Theilker practiced before the show. “Whether it’s the main source of income to his main job, he’ll have something that he can participate in and make some money on the side for as long as he lives.”

In between the master class and the concert, Alex Iles took the stage during a Q&A session where the students and faculty were able to hear from his own experience as a professional trombonist, working on soundtracks for films like “The Incredibles,” “The Lion King,” and various recordings used in the “Star Wars” franchise like “The Mandalorian” and “Rogue One.” 

“So I’ve been really fortunate to have lots of different kinds of opportunities that I’ve been able to explore with playing music and sharing music with other people,” Iles said. “It’s like being in class all the time. I always feel like there are always new things to learn, new people, new ways of doing things, and different kinds of music.”

Iles shared how he has played for years because of his love for the instrument, wanting to share his music and play with others. His work in multiple franchises also taught him valuable life lessons, sharing them with his audience. 

“I don’t think any of us took up the instrument in order to have a specific job. And so, I found that that’s a very important lesson,” Iles said. “I encourage you to not get distracted by things that can lead to a competitive perspective that can hurt people.”

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