BU Jazz Trombone Students to Study via Skype

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posted December 19, 2011

Brandon, MB — Four Brandon University jazz students, whose principal instrument is the trombone, will have the opportunity to study with one of the jazz world’s greatest trombonists. In January, Jeffrey Acosta, Kena Olson, Neil Plumridge and Ryan Premack will start receiving bi-monthly lessons – via Skype – from Robin Eubanks.

“We are tremendously honored to have the legendary jazz artist Robin Eubanks work with our music students,” said Michael Kim, the Dean of the BU School of Music. “They will benefit greatly from the scope of his experience and artistic accomplishments and I am very grateful to (Associate) Professor Michael Cain for his role in securing this opportunity for our students.”

One of the young musicians who is particularly thrilled by this unexpected opportunity is Kena Olson, a third-year student. Her interest in pursuing jazz performance is due in part to her admiration for Robin Eubanks and his skills.

“I had been playing for a couple of years before I heard Robin. After I heard him, he solidified why I wanted to play. He really inspired me to keep going,” she said. “I never thought that this would ever happen or that I’d get to meet Robin. So, this is really crazy. I feel lucky enough to study with Mike Cain here, so for him to go that extra mile and hook this up for us is really amazing, and I’m very grateful for him too.”

A seasoned jazz pianist, bassist and composer, Cain performed with Eubanks’ band in North American and Europe, for eight years during the 1990s. He can attest to Eubanks’ stellar calibre of playing and understandably is thrilled that this has come together for his students.

“I’d been thinking about distance learning for a while. Most working musicians tend to live in the city centres — New York, Montreal, Toronto, places like that. I started thinking: ‘Wouldn’t it be great if they could make contact (with our students)?’” said Cain, who had been working with the trombonists.

Through conversations with those students, he realized that the classical training they are also receiving as undergraduates is a great foundation, but is very different from the jazz language and requirements for his classes. Cain proposed connecting with Grammy-winning Eubanks and though this called for a different approach, it will soon become a reality for the trombonists.

“It’s expensive to always bring these folks here and when you do, they’re here for a very short time. It would be great if the students could have more, consistent contact,” said Cain, adding that there have been a few Skyping sessions with other professional musicians within the School of Music. “It’s been explored and so this started to be something that would make sense.”

A relatively new proponent of Internet learning and collaborations, Cain contributed to a compositional endeavour by American composer Joe Pignato in October. The latter enlisted nine composers from around the globe to interact simultaneously, in a piece entitled “All Over”. The project was brought to life via Skype for an audience in Oneonta, New York, where Pignato is based.

“I don’t Skype much and this was the first time I saw how it really works. I was performing for the (Oneonta audience) in my living room! It was the first time I used Skype as a musician would,” Cain said. “That was the beginnings of this idea.”

Now convinced that this type of long-distance learning is possible, Cain thinks that his strong connections with some of the greatest jazz instrumentalists today will enable similar lessons, for other School of Music students, to be organized in the future.

For more information and/or photos, please contact:

Joanne F. Villeneuve
Brandon University
270 – 18th Street
Brandon, MB R7A 6A9
Tel. 204-727-9762




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