Trombone player to compete against 1,000 others in Paris

By Kayla Reeves

One Baylor freshman will play his trombone at an international competition in Paris this summer.

Niceville, Fla., freshman Stephen Farrell, a trombone major, is one of three finalists in the Gilberto Gagliardi Trombone Competition, an annual contest meant to find the best tenor trombone players age 18 and under.

The finalists will compete for further recognition at the International Trombone Festival on July 5 in Paris.

Associate professor of trombone Brent Phillips teaches Farrell, along with two other Baylor students who placed in other age groups of the Gagliardi competition, and one who got honorable mention in Farrell’s age range.

Phillips said he encourages his students to compete and audition in order to test their skills.

Farrell beat out young musicians from all over the world in the Gagliardi competition by submitting a recorded solo piece with piano accompaniment.

Farrell said it took several months to practice the song — “Piece Concertante” by Samuel Rousseau — and find a pianist to accompany him.

He said he rented out Roxy Grove Hall from 8 p.m. to midnight two nights in a row and recorded his piece about 30 times.

“It’s an enjoyable process,” Farrell said. “You get a lot better by listening to all the recordings and figuring out what you like and don’t like about them.”

Phillips said he knew Farrell had a good shot at winning because of his dedication.

“It’s not always about who has the skill; it’s who has the work ethic,” Phillips said. “Stephen outworked everybody else. He’s dedicated.”

This summer, Farrell will play a new piece from memory in front of new judges, while being around “probably about 1,000 of the very best trombone players in the world,” Phillips said.

“It’s a lot more pressure,” Farrell said. “I get one shot to play it.”

But for now, with the competition still a few months away, Farrell said he is more excited than nervous.

Still, overcoming performance anxiety is something all musicians generally have to practice, he said, adding that this is the biggest issue for performers, second to their actual skill.

“You have to learn how to focus that energy to make yourself perform better instead of losing focus,” he said.

Farrell said he practices about 30 hours a week —more than the three hours a day that Phillips requires — and is now starting to work on the new piece for the Paris competition.

Phillips said he is very proud of Farrell, and humbled and honored to teach such talented students.

But he can’t take much credit, he said.

“I feel like I’ve instilled in them a strong work ethic and given them the tools, but they’ve been the ones to show a tenacious effort and zeal, and they deserve the credit,” Phillips said.