The 2019 International Trombone Festival (ITF) has come and gone in Muncie, IN. Ball State University was the site for the largest gathering of trombonists in the world this year. Dr. Chris Van Hof, my professor, was the host. As a graduate student at the host school and a volunteer worker, I experienced the festival from a unique point of view. Below are a few reflections and highlights from the ITF last week.

While the festival took place from July 10-13, volunteers and ITF staff arrived to Ball State campus as early as Sunday, July 7. There was much to do setting up rooms, gathering equipment, and preparing to host the 1000-plus festival participants and approximately 150 youth workshop participants.

As the head student worker, my responsibilities involved coordinating the small army of college-student volunteers who traveled from around the country to help run the festival. This meant that I got to see and be involved in the boots-on-the-ground behind-the-scenes work that it takes to run a sizable professional conference. My perspective was not quite the eagle eye big picture but rather seeing to the immediate needs of artists, presenters, the student workers, and participants.

Attending the host site school for ITF was actually one of the key factors in my grad school selection decision. ITF is one of the biggest yearly events in the trombone field, and it certainly attracts some of the big names and heavy hitters from performance and academia. Hosting the festival at Ball State was a very cool opportunity.

Several special opportunities to perform and interact sprung up due to the festival. I was able to chat semi-privately with artists, VIPs, and some of my “trombone heros” when I drove them around in the ITF shuttle van. I was able to perform a fun show as a special guest with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra low brass. I played three instruments on the opening ceremonies concert with the Ball State Cardinal Trombone Choir, and we featured a world premiere performance of “Clouds of the Cosmos” by Jim Beckel. I performed two new pieces for trombone ensemble on the Composers Workshop recital. I played bass drum (with claves) on “Fratres” by Arvo Pärt during the Jörgen van Rijen recital. That was terrifying but super satisfying musically. It was fun and engaging to be up close and personal with people from around the world who I admire as trombonists and educators.

It was also wonderful to meet up with old friends and peers. I picked up and sightread some quartets with buddies from out of town. I attended concerts with my dad who is a trombonist and came to Muncie to attend the festival. I caught up with some of my previous teachers and met a lot of interesting people. In general, trombonists love to hang out with other trombonists! Overall, I had a good time at ITF 2019 and I’m glad to have had the experience. Thanks, Dr. Van Hof and until next time, ITF!

Josiah Williams is entering his second year of his master’s degree studies in trombone performance. He was recently featured in our “Day in the Life” video series.