Thursday, February 21, 2013

CSU Trombone Ensemble: A Beautiful Noise

Welcome back to another Kickstarter Conversation!  Today I am very happy to be joined by Professor Bradley Palmer from Columbus State University who has joined us today to talk about his Kickstarter project the CSU Trombone Ensemble CD project: A Beautiful Noise. Thank you for joining us Brad!

Thank you for the invitation!

I’m just going to get this out there right away, I am a trombone player so of course your project caught my eye.  As such I want to congratulate you on hitting your goal. I like to think that a successful project like this is a win for all the trombone players out there!

We were thrilled to see the response from our backers.  We reached our primary goal in the first 24 hours of the campaign and are now chipping away at the stretch goal which will fund a new composition for trombone octet.

Speaking of all the trombone players out there, I’ve never actually heard a “trombone ensemble” before.  How did this all get started?  

It was Beethoven that really put the trombone on the map in “serious” music.  Not only did Beethoven include trombones (alto, tenor and bass trombone) in a few of his symphonies, he also composed a three-movement trombone quartet piece called “Drei Equale”.  The piece was played by a quartet of trombones at Beethoven’s funeral.  In fact, Beethoven’s funeral procession was lead (in order) by: a cross-bearer, followed by the four trombones, and then clergy, a choir, mourners, etc.  Fast-forward to today, trombone ensembles are part of most schools of music in the US and Europe.  It is an amazing sound!

Indeed it is! I’m sure I might not have been as bored by classical trombone music if I had heard of an ensemble like yours when I was younger!  Though that’s one of the points of this project isn’t it?  To spread the power of trombone music to trombone players everywhere?

It has been amazing to see how many people out there enjoy listening to trombone ensemble music!  The Columbus State University trombone choir has put several videos on YouTube, and one in particular has well over 100,000 views.  The video I am referring to is from a performance of a transcription of Morten Lauridsen’s “O Magnum Mysterium” which was originally a choral composition.  Due to the range of the trombone, music for choir often works extremely well when played by trombone ensembles.  We do a number of transcriptions (including a nice arrangement of Toto’s “Africa” with percussion) but this CD contains all music written for trombone ensemble with trombone soloists.

Honestly I was extremely bored of the trombone during concert season and it was only marching band and jazz band that kept me playing.  How hard is it to get new players interested in the trombone when much of the early music they seem exposed to is so dull?  

Band and orchestra music at the younger levels is not always the most exciting, but to make matters worse, the trombone parts are often especially lame.  It’s no fun watching the other instruments have their chance to play the melody while you count rests and play long notes underneath it.  I do a good bit of orchestral playing, and when the trombone section does get a chance to play, it is some of the most fun playing I ever get to do, but then we go back to counting rests and sitting while the instrument gets cold.  That’s one of the best things about trombone ensemble playing; the level of involvement and responsibility is high for every player in the group compared to the larger ensembles.  The variety (from Beethoven to Toto, for example) is also something that keeps players interested and having fun.

You have quite the collection of talent on this CD, how did you pull them all in?  How many are current students at CSU?  

All of the soloists on the project are guest artists we brought it to work with the students over the last 6 semesters.  They are some of the world’s leading soloists and orchestral players from the New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, Atlanta Symphony, New York Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and others.  The ensemble that the soloists perform with is composed entirely of student players, anywhere from 6 to 8 players in the ensemble at a time depending on what the music calls for.

How did we pull in the soloists?  Many of these guys are old friends of mine.  I had worked with all but one of the soloists before starting this project, and 6 of the seven soloists had already performed and recorded in our amazing concert hall before.  I had the pleasure of producing recordings for 5 of the 7 soloists before this project started, and when it was time to choose the soloists for the project, I already knew who I wanted to work with, and who would be an inspiration for the students - on and off the stage.

I notice you are releasing a copy of an octet score at the $50 level.  Has this score been written yet?  How experienced a group of trombone players will be needed to perform it?  

Yes, the piece has been written, and is currently undergoing some minor revisions after our first couple of rehearsals on it.  It is a FANTASTIC new piece by Anthony DiLorenzo, and I can’t wait to perform it at the International Trombone Festival when we host it here in Columbus, GA this summer.  It does require experienced players to play it, especially the two bass trombone parts.  Mainly college and professional groups will do the piece, but a high school group that is ready for a challenge will have a lot of fun with it.  We need to hit that $5500 goal to be able to fund the commission though!

I’m curious, why aren’t there any download levels in your rewards?  Everything involves a physical CD.  

I think that the STORY behind the CD, including the connections between the soloists and Columbus State that I mentioned above, as well as some background especially for the new pieces that were composed for the project are important to have in the liner notes.  There are also some fantastic pictures from the sessions that will go in the liner notes (and even more in the photo book that we include as one of the rewards) and I know that it is possible to make all of this downloadable, but I think once people can hold the CD and its packaging in their hands they will appreciate it.  The notes also include the students’ names, bios for the soloists, and much more.

How did you discover Kickstarter?

I learned about it through the funding of a couple of friends’ projects, and it seemed like a good fit for what we were trying to do.

A key part of successful Kickstarters is backer participation and how to convert a potential backer into a full backer.   How are you engaging your backers?  What kinds of things do you have planned for updates to give notice to those who just hit the “remind me” button and surf on?  Interviews?  Videos?  Stories from the project?

This is my first Kickstarter project, and I am figuring this out as I go.  We already packed interviews and videos into our project video, so I didn’t really hold too much back.  I’ll have to think about that one.  

CSU Trombone Ensemble CD project featuring guest soloists -- Kicktraq Mini 

What kind of media attention have you received with your project?  How are you spreading the word?  Facebook?  Twitter?  Google+? Youtube?  Advertising?  Are you using Kicktraq to track your progress?  

Facebook has been the main tool.  According to the dashboard, ⅔ of the backers have found their way to the Kickstarter project through Facebook.  Our other main outlet has been YouTube.  With several hundred subscribers already appreciating the CSU trombone choir videos, we put the Kickstarter project video up on YouTube and it has been picking up more and more hits.

Do you have any tips/advice would you give to anyone looking to start a Kickstarter?

Kickstarter’s own tutorials and videos are excellent.  It is not hard at all!  I think the most important decision, which is probably also one of the toughest, is to set the project goal.  When I saw that our $3500 goal had been reached in the first 48 hours, of course I was thrilled, but also wondered if I should have set the goal higher.  Maybe that’s the case with every successful project, I don’t know.  Having our stretch goal of $5500 will hopefully keep people interested in backing a project that is already met its goal.

Thank you for spending your time with us!  Do you have any final thoughts for our readers?

Again, I really appreciate the invitation!  Thank you for helping us get the word out about this fantastic new CD featuring the Columbus State University students and some of the finest trombone soloists in the world!  You should come down to Georgia for the International Trombone Festival in June to rekindle your passion for the trombone!

Thanks again and I hope to hear good things from your Kickstarter!

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