Welcome from Tom Ashworth, UM Professor of Trombone

Welcome to the University of Minnesota Trombone Studio web page! I hope you find the content helpful, and encourage you to contact me if you should have any questions. Additionally, I invite you to visit the UM Trombone Studio Facebook Page at facebook.com/UMGopherBones.  Click on the following link to download the text of this web page: Download this info (.pdf).

Enrollment and undergraduate/graduate student balance of the UM Trombone Studio

The University of Minnesota Trombone Studio includes undergraduate Performance, Music Education, Music Therapy and BA majors, along with graduate students pursuing the MM and DMA degrees. We look for talented and motivated students who will enjoy being inspired and challenged by our faculty and students. If you are looking for a supportive, focused and productive learning environment in a Trombone Studio with a proven record of success, please consider the University of Minnesota School of Music.

The total enrollment of the UM Trombone Studio enrollment can range between thirteen and sixteen students, with approximately one third of those being graduate students. We control the size and balance of the studio for the following important reasons:

  • Music majors will study with a UM Trombone faculty member and will not be assigned to a Teaching Assistant.
  • There will be room in our major ensembles for every Music major.
  • Music majors will not be over-committed in their ensemble assignments, and will have ample time to study and practice.
  • Undergraduate and graduate students will often play in the same ensembles, creating a very healthy mentoring environment.

Brief faculty biographies-click on the underlined names for full versions

Tom Ashworth is the Professor of Trombone at the University of Minnesota. He teaches alto, tenor and bass trombone, directs the Trombone Choir and coaches chamber ensembles. His students have enjoyed success as public school and university educators, orchestral and military ensemble musicians and as freelance performers and teachers. As the featured trombonist with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, he recorded numerous CD's and performed on tours in New York, Chicago, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore. 651-983-0865 | ashwo001@umn.edu

Dr. John Tranter, Affiliate Faculty, has served as an instructor of Low Brass at the University of Minnesota since Spring 2003, and is an active freelance musician in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area. In addition to performing regularly with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Mr. Tranter has also performed with the Minnesota Opera, the JazzMN Big Band, and many touring Broadway shows at local venues.
 612-624-4148 | trant004@umn.edu
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Living and Learning in the Twin Cities

The University of Minnesota School of Music offers a comprehensive learning environment, and our students also enjoy the many benefits provided by our metropolitan location. Many of our students have developed successful local freelance performance and teaching careers during their years in Minnesota.The Twin Cities area boasts a thriving live music scene, including the Minnesota Orchestra, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Minnesota Opera, Jazz MN Big Band, numerous chamber music and choral music series, jazz clubs booking local and national performers and an endless array of clubs featuring rock, blues, ska, salsa and other music. Most venues are within a short drive or bus ride from the School of Music, and many offer reduced ticket prices for students. There is also a busy music theater industry featuring local and national productions of Broadway shows.

In addition, the Twin Cities are well known for their commitment to the visual arts, and students enjoy visits to the numerous museums and galleries.The University of Minnesota School of Music is committed to providing a rich learning environment for students, and has hosted recitals and master classes by numerous renowned low brass guest artists and brass ensembles, including:

Joseph Alessi, Christian Lindberg, Raymond Premru, Michael Mulchay, Charlie Vernon, Mark Lawrence, M. Dee Stewart, R. Douglas Wright, Elliot Mason,Phil Wilson, Mark Nightingale, Jacques Mauger, Eugene Pokorny, Roger Bobo, Steven Mead, Jon Sass, Daniel Perantoni, Patrick Sheridan, Sam Pilafian, Oystein Baadsvik, American Brass Quintet, Saint Louis Brass Quintet, Dallas Brass

Lessons and Juries

Weekly applied lessons will focus on tasks at hand, including solo and chamber music recital repertoire and excerpts required for orchestral and/or military ensemble auditions. You will notice a constant emphasis on achieving musical goals through listening, score study and focused practicing. For entering students, the first semester of lessons generally focuses on refining core concepts such as posture, breathing, sound modeling, articulation, flexibility and range. Physical skills are honed through working on technical and lyrical etudes, as well as assignments from my own compilation of proven exercises. Digital audio and video recording provides additional feedback to the student, and students can be provided with CDs of their in-lesson mock auditions and recital rehearsals.

Chamber music (assigned and sight-reading) is an integral part of applied lessons, and students can expect to play duets by Telemann, Bach, Beethoven, Defaye, Matej, Pederson and a variety of other composers. Chamber music puts a premium on listening skills, and students are challenged to react to subtle changes in dynamics, tempo, timbre, vibrato and articulation. Students are also expected to be aware of the importance of melodic (horizontal) and chordal (vertical) intonation.

Orchestral and wind band excerpts are often assigned, and students preparing for auditions will have mock auditions in lessons. In these mock auditions, excerpts are digitally recorded, and can be transferred to a CD or flash drive at the end of the lesson. The student and I use a standardized audition comment form to make written notes on Sound, Pitch, Rhythm, Technique and Style. Students are taught to practice each excerpt "in layers", focusing on each of these five critical elements of ensemble performance, and are given specific practice techniques to develop a polished and musically convincing final product.

Required weekly activities of applied lessons:

  • Brass Recital Hour: Students benefit from hearing each other perform solo and chamber music recitals, and are exposed to a wide range of repertoire and performance styles. The performers enjoy having a large audience of their friends and peers. Some Brass Recital Hours will feature special presentations by UM faculty or guest artists.
  • Trombone Studio Class: Studio Class provides students the opportunity to perform for their peers, develop critical listening skills and learn more about their instrument’s repertoire and pedagogy.
  • Performance Juries are scheduled at the end of each Spring semester, and are graded by a panel of UM Brass Faculty. Jury repertoire typically includes solo repertoire and orchestral excerpts. Students presenting a full recital during the second half of the Spring semester may elect not to present a Jury that same semester.


Students in the BM-Performance program are required to present Junior and Senior recitals, and many choose to present additional recitals during their first two years of study. Students pursuing the MM are required to present one solo recital, and most are also involved in a graduate trombone chamber ensemble recital.

We have two distinct DMA degree programs, each with its own recital requirement. The traditional DMA program requires a total of five recitals, typically four solo recitals and one chamber music recital with a graduate trombone quartet. Those DMA students declaring a Secondary Area (Theory/Composition, Musicology, Music Education) are required to present three solo recitals, and they have an increased academic component in their Secondary Area. Doctoral students in the traditional DMA degree program who win our annual Concerto Competition or a significant external solo competition may count those performance as one of their DMA solo recitals. Certain professional-level invited solo performances can be considered for DMA solo recital credit for students in the traditional degree program.

With all solo recitals, music is selected during the semester prior to the recital, with the goal of broadening the student's repertoire and improving their technical skills. Thanks to our outstanding graduate program in Collaborative Piano and our metropolitan location, there are numerous experienced pianists available for recitals.  All collaborative artists must be cleared by me before the recital is scheduled for one of our weekly Monday afternoon Brass Recital Hours.


After performing an ensemble audition during the first week of the Fall semester, six to eight trombonists are assigned to a rotating pool of players for our Wind Ensemble and Symphony Orchestra, with the remaining students being assigned to the Symphonic Band and/or Campus Orchestra. Spring semester ensemble placement auditions are scheduled at the end of the preceding Fall semester.

Students can also perform with a Jazz Ensemble, Jazz Combo, Brass Choir or Trombone Quartet (as arranged). Graduate students receiving financial assistance should refer to their award letters for specific ensemble requirements.

Degree Requirements

For complete information on degree requirements, please see the BA, BM, MM and DMA listings under Degrees and Programs.

Prospective doctoral students should review the section regarding our optional Secondary Areas of study. You can also download the complete Graduate Handbook, which is full of useful information. Graduate students interested in transferring existing graduate credit must have all potential transfer credits approved by your advisor (Professor Ashworth) and the Director of Graduate Studies. Previous courses and/or applied lesson credits do not automatically transfer.

All graduate and undergraduate music majors transferring to the University of Minnesota must perform a Transfer Jury at the end of their first semester of study (Fall or Spring). Based on that Jury and the quality of work in that first semester of lessons, the UM Brass Faculty decide how many (if any) previous lesson credits will be applied to the student’s degree.
Graduate Diagnostic Exams

The School of Music requires all entering graduate students to take the diagnostic exams in music theory and music history during Welcome Week (the week prior to the beginning of classes in the Fall) or at the first available opportunity for those entering their degree programs during a term other than Fall. Please see the Graduate Handbook for complete information on our diagnostic exams.

I strongly encourage all entering graduate students to invest considerable time preparing for these diagnostic exams, in order to avoid repeating undergraduate-level courses and to ensure that the have the maximum amount of time and energy to commit to their instrument and graduate-level courses.

Applying, Visits and Auditions

Choosing a school is a major decision and will have an enormous impact on your life, so please invest the time and money and schedule a visit to our campus. Many prospective students schedule visits during the summer and/or semester prior to their auditions, others arrive several days before our official on-campus audition dates. Visiting students meet with me to discuss educational and career goals, and to review audition repertoire. I also enjoy meeting with parents to discuss the many important issues involved in choosing the appropriate school and teacher.

A complete two-day itinerary could include a tour of the University and the School of Music, classroom and ensemble observation, meetings and possible chamber music reading sessions with current students and appointments with appropriate faculty and staff members. It also provides you the opportunity to explore the local housing market. In addition, many visiting students attend Minnesota Orchestra and/or Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra concerts or visit one of the area's fine jazz clubs. Please contact me ASAP if you would like to schedule a pre-audition visit. Special audition times can be arranged if you are unavailable on our official audition dates.

Apply to the School of Music. All trombone audition repertoire must be confirmed with Professor Ashworth via email at least one month prior to your audition date. Please review the important guidelines for undergraduate and graduate applicants. I also encourage students to view my list of Suggested Audition Repertoire. 

Related links

UM School of Music:  https://music.umn.edu/


I would encourage you to contact several of my current students to discuss these important issues, and I can provide you with phone numbers and/or email addresses. The majority of our new undergraduate students are assigned to the Middlebrook dormitory-if they take care of the paperwork and deposit very early in the application process. While this does not guarantee you a spot in Middlebrook, it does greatly improve your chances of living there-right across the street from the School of Music!

For graduate students, I always recommend the Roseville/Lauderdale/St. Anthony Park/Falcon Heights area. It's a very central and safe location, approximately four miles from the School of Music and about ten minutes from Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis and the Ordway Theatre in St. Paul. There is plenty of shopping close by, including Cub Foods, Target, Barnes and Noble and the large Rosedale Mall. This area is very close to the UM Saint Paul campus (primarily agricultural sciences), which has a very nice gym with a pool. You can walk to the UM Saint Paul campus bus transit hub and ride free to the main UM campus, including the School of Music on the West Bank of the Mississippi River. The area is also served by the MTC buses (Metro Transit Corp.), which have great routes to campus.

Other graduate students prefer to live closer to school, on the West Bank or across the river in the Dinkytown area. I have also had students locate in the Uptown area of Minneapolis, close to the central lake district. Regardless of the location, it’s a good idea to look for an apartment that has off-street parking and gas (heating) included in the rent.

Scholarships and Teaching Assistant Opportunities

While I cannot make any promises as to financial assistance, rest assured that I will always be a strong advocate for our Trombone prospects. There are undergraduate scholarship funds available for top Performance, Music Education and Music Therapy prospects, and the prestigious Groth Music Scholarship is awarded to select prospective Music majors (except BA) who are also admitted to the University of Minnesota’s Honors program.

Scholarship options for graduate Music students include talent-based awards and Graduate Teaching Assistantships. Prospective graduate students should tell me what they consider to be their strongest complementary teaching fields (theory, musicology, jazz, music technology, non-major courses, etc.), and I will explore any options available for the coming year.