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Trombone quartet proves it's possible to 'make it'

While being able to travel and play music with friends may only be a dream for some people, the members of the Maniacal 4 Trombone Quartet have made it reality. On Jan. 22, the four trombonists will bring to Grand Valley State University their own approach to music.

“Being able to make music with three of your friends and call it a job seems too good to be true, and we hope the audience…becomes a part of what we do. Sharing friendship…through music,” said Matt Jefferson, bass trombonist of the group.

Kicking off this semester’s installment of the Arts at Noon series, the quartet will give a recital in the Cook-DeWitt Center that will be free and open to the public. The group’s program ranges from an arrangement of a Vivaldi violin concerto to several Romanian folk songs composed by Béla Bartók. Later in the afternoon the group will also give a master class to GVSU students, covering both trombone performance and pursuing the music business.

Maniacal 4 was formed in 2006 when its members were freshman at the University of North Texas. Originally, the group was only put together to gain class credit.

“Things progressed,” Jefferson said. “We entered school competitions and when we finished up, we thought we had a good thing going and would try to make a run of it professionally.”

While the group was in school, it began traveling for performances in Brazil, Denmark and Sweden. Since graduating, group members have been able to add France and the Netherlands to their resume. Today, they have received international acclaim and are sponsored by Buffet Group USA, a company that manufactures wind instruments, and by Antoine Courtois Paris trombones.

“They have a growing reputation; they’ve performed at number of trombone workshops,” said Mark Williams, professor of trombone at GVSU and coordinator of the Arts at Noon series. “They’ve given clinics around the world. They are a young group, very entrepreneurial. They fashion a good model for students, as well. Because they were en route, it made sense to put them in our Arts at Noon series.”

The group plays a wide variety of music, from the classical music it will present during Wednesday’s recital, to jazz to covers of classic rock. Its first CD release is titled “Carry On,” and with the help of a rhythm section, the group recorded eight tracks as a tribute to 1970s classic rock.

“We try to do a bit of everything,” Jefferson said.

They also strive to play many of the works written by member Carl Lundgren, who plays tenor trombone.

“Carl has been doing all the composing and arranging for us,” Jefferson said. “We use (performances) as kind of a resource to get some of Carl’s music out there.”

During the group’s tour, it will also be stopping at several high schools and middle schools, both to perform and give master classes. The group aims to show hopeful musicians that a professional playing career is possible.

“We try to keep (master classes) as informal as possible,” Jefferson said. “The music world, or business, is changing because there (are) a lot of highly qualified young musicians and not that many jobs. It can be discouraging for music majors in college who are facing an uncertain future. What we like to do is talk about ways you can create an opportunity for yourself. If you have a product you feel you can market…it is up to you to turn it into something significant.”

Both the class and recital will expose audience members to a unique ensemble.

“Any opportunity to hear a group of professional chamber musicians perform is an opportunity that as many students can partake in as possible,” Williams said. “Listening to different to types of music helps broaden every individual’s musical horizons.”

And while it may be a job, touring is no 9-to-5 to this quartet.

“It really is just being able to spend time with friends and hang out and make music, and it’s just really fun,” Jefferson said before the tour. “It feels likes an adventure. We are going to new places we’ve never been before, and I get to go with my three closest friends. I am excited for the experience of traveling and playing.”



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