Trombone Student Gains International Acclaim

June 21, 2010

Trombone Student Gains International Acclaim

VALDOSTA -- Trombone student Timothy Hilgert is one of 140 budding instrumentalists -- and the first in VSU history -- selected to participate in the Music Academy of the West, an eight-week festival for the nation’s top student artists to study and play with world-renowned musicians and conductors.

During the festival, June 21 through Aug. 14 in Sana Barbara, Calif., the Valdosta native will study with the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s former principal trombonist, Ralph Sauer, and former principal trombonist of the San Francisco Symphony, Mark Lawrence. Admission into the academy is a highly selective audition-based process, with full fellowships provided to those talented enough to obtain an invitation.

Dr. Doug Farwell, professor of Trombone, said Hilgert’s rare mix of exceptional natural talent and tenacious work ethic has earned him recognition on a global scale. The fellowship is just one of the many academic and performance accolades the junior has attained throughout the past year, including VSU’s William Bartram Award for Intellectual Exploration -- given each spring to an honors student who demonstrates exceptional achievement and creativity.

“Timothy was recently selected as a finalist for the International Trombone Festival alto trombone solo competition, which is a worldwide competition for which finalists are selected by a panel of judges from around the world,” Farwell said of Hilgert, who is the only undergraduate competitor in the July 7-10 finals in Austin, Texas. “This is the world’s largest gathering of professional trombonists, teachers and students with more than 1,000 people in attendance. Just to be a finalist is an honor and showcases his immense talent.”

The president of the VSU Trombone Ensemble is no stranger to international competition; as a Valdosta High School student, he won the Eastern Trombone Workshop and the Music Teachers National Association Brass Competition. But Hilgert, who started playing in fifth grade, doesn’t perform for acclaim. The modest middle of five children plays because music is his favorite language.

“There's a feeling, like an inherent emotion, that happens when you play, and not even all the time; but when it does happen, it's like nothing matters except the music,” said Hilgert, who plans to graduate in spring 2011. “Music moves people in spite of differences and can speak in ways no other language can.”

Hilgert said that although “big name composers” inspire and influence his music, the musicians whom he admires the most are those who have directly influenced his journey. His middle school band director, Susan Brashier, instilled in him the discipline and passion needed to be great. Farwell showed Hilgert to treat the instrument as an extension of himself. Maila Springfield, the university’s piano accompanist and instructor, continues to push Hilgert to explore his range and effectively collaborate with other musicians.

Hilgert said he speaks trombone whenever he can. He has played in the Peach State Summer Theatre orchestra for the past four years and contributes to the Valdosta Symphony Orchestra, Jazz Ensemble, Opera Orchestra Wind Ensemble and Trombone Ensemble. Hilgert has also played with the Presidential Brass Quintet. His love for performance has fueled his dreams to earn a doctorate in performance and perform with a professional orchestra.

“The first thing I plan to do after graduation is to marry my fiancée, Nikki Lunceford. She means the world to me and I don't know what I would do without her,” Hilgert said. “Music-wise, though, I plan on going to graduate school, followed by either a doctoral program or playing in a professional orchestra.”

Watch the imbedded video to hear a recording of Hilgert playing the first movement of Gottfried Finger's Sonata in E-flat for Alto Trombone. This is the preliminary piece he sent in for International Trombone Festival alto competition.