Student’s Perspective on Studio Experience

Impromtu visit by acclaimed trombonist results in planned visit for the fall.

Tom “Bones” Malone has been a member of the Blues Brothers, the house band for the David Letterman Show, and toured with Frank Zappa, Blood Sweat and Tears, and Gil Evans. But that international acclaim hasn’t stopped him from jamming with local talent at the Michigan State University College of Music.

“Bones has been so supportive of our students and everything we do,” says Michael Dease, MSU assistant professor of jazz trombone. “It’s incredible since he is about as high profile of a musician as you can get.”

Dease maintained his personal and professional ties with the legendary musician after coming to MSU. In early winter, Dease told Malone about recent successes of the Jazz Trombone studio. Unprompted, Malone penned an original composition for the Spartan Jazz Trombones.

Then, in April, Bones telephoned Dease. He said he was in Ann Arbor for a performance, and invited Dease and his studio to join him for lunch. Josh Dargavell was among the students who went.

“I didn’t know a ton about him, but I knew he was one of the most successful musicians out there,” says Dargavell, also a member of the Spartan Jazz Trombones. “He’s played with literally everyone, so it was really exciting.”

Dargavell was awed by the stories Malone related about his musical travels, as well as the insights he shared about jazz harmonics, sight-reading, hard work and practice. He was also impressed when Malone promised to autograph and mail copies of his trombone technique book to all seven students who came to lunch.

“It was just a great lunch and a fantastic Q&A session,” says Dargavell. “I wish we had twice the time.”

Dargavell will get that wish. On the request of students, Malone will be coming to MSU this fall to visit the Jazz Studies Program. More immediately, he will come to the Jazz Trombone Studio to play gratis on the ensemble’s first CD.

Dargavell says meeting Malone reinforced his decision to come to MSU for his graduate work. He says he’s exploring the piece Malone wrote for the ensemble, and is continuing to digest the insights Malone shared over lunch.

“One things he said that stuck with me was to be nice to everyone,” says Dargavell. “As a musician, you think of getting a gig based on your playing skills. His words were a reminder that it’s not all about playing—it’s also about people and treating people how you want to be treated.”

To read more about recent success and activities of the MSU Jazz Trombone Studio, click here.

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