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Appalachian senior wins jazz competition at Texas State Trombone Symposium

BOONE—A two-day trip to the Texas State Trombone Symposium and four hours of practice a day paid off for Appalachian State University senior Grant Smith.

The performance major from Charlotte won the Rath Jazz Trombone Competition held as part of the symposium.

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Smith said winning the competition that was held in February seemed surreal. “This was my first time entering any kind of competition like this,” he said of the national competition. Entering required sending three recorded musical selections, followed by a live performance at the symposium. Smith’s competition pieces were “Relaxin’ at Camarillo” by Charlie Parker, “How Insensitive” by Antonio Carlos Jobim and “Like Someone in Love” by Jimmy Van Heusen.

As winner of the competition, he received a Rath R100 trombone valued at $1,600, which recently arrived from England. “They’re all handmade,” Smith said. “The reason they’re so in demand is that all the ‘classic’ jazz trombones made by King and Conn have been discontinued for decades. Rath is one of the few modern manufacturers making really high quality jazz instruments right now.”

While at the symposium, Grant attended master classes and concerts and was able to meet one of his favorite musicians – Andre Hayward, who teaches at the University of Texas-Austin.

Smith’s future plans included pursuing a master’s degree and eventually teaching at the college level as well as composing and performing as a freelance musician. He has been accepted into graduate programs at two universities in New Jersey and is waiting on word from a third prospect in New York City.

Smith said he became interested in playing trombone at age 10 and became serious about the instrument when he was accepted to the Hayes School of Music.

“One of the reasons why winning this competition was so gratifying is that the Hayes School of Music is mainly focused on classical music, and so I had to put in a lot of extra time outside of my classes and ensembles to be able to develop as a jazz musician. This competition let me know that all my work has paid off.”

Smith will present a trombone recital April 7 at 6 p.m. in Broyhill Music Center’s Recital Hall. Admission is free. His program includes “Blue Cellophane” by Duke Ellington, “Park Avenue Petite” by Benny Golson, “Syeeda’s Song Flute” by John Coltrane, “Armondo’s Rhumba” by Chick Corea and “Song Bilbao” by Pat Metheny.

Smith is a trombone student of Drew Leslie and a jazz student of Todd Wright, both faculty in the Hayes School of Music.