Professor of trombone recognized for excellence in teaching

Ava Ordman receives top award from International Trombone Association.

Ava Ordman performing her new trombone concerto by David Biedenbender with the MSU Wind Symphony, conducted by Kevin Sedatole, March 22, 2018.
Ava Ordman with current senior trombonists Jonah Weller (left) and Taylor LaPrairie (right) following their junior honors recital in April 2017.
From left: MSU alumnus Bob Ward, Grand Rapids Symphony bass trombonist, Cristian Marcelaru, Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music conductor and music director, Ava Ordman, and David Murray, second trombonist of the National Symphony Orchestra, in 2017.
Professor Ordman's support of her students in the Spartan Marching Band is second to none. Here she is seen on a game day in October 2010 with her students (left to right) Michael Ross, Mitchell Clark, Jon Carrothers and Chris Jalilevand.
Ordman's latest release, "It's About Time," features compositions for trombone by women composers.

Ava Ordman has never thought of herself as a pioneer in the world of brass performance and teaching. She’s just someone, she says, who decided to play trombone, inspired by her 6th grade band director and by hearing Shostakovich’s 5th symphony performed by the Chicago Youth Symphony.

But recently, the International Trombone Association acknowledged Ordman’s talents as a teacher of young trombonists. This summer, the professor of trombone at the MSU College of Music will receive the Neill Humfeld Award in recognition of her teaching excellence. She will be honored at the ITA annual festival July 11-14, in Iowa City. While there, Ordman will also perform as a soloist and with the Cramer Trombone Choir made up of trombone teachers and performers from around the world.

“I was thrilled, humbled and very honored to be considered for this award,” says Ordman. “I don’t ever expect these things to happen to me. When I think about it, it brings a smile to my face, and makes me feel that maybe I am doing right by my students.”

Ordman came to MSU in 2002 bringing extensive experience as an orchestral, chamber music and solo musician. She has performed with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the Michigan Opera Theatre, Cabrillo Music Festival, and myriad state and national groups. She was the principal trombonist with the Grand Rapids Symphony for 24 years. Later, she worked as a psychotherapist and taught low brass at Oakland University.

Philip Sinder, professor of tuba and euphonium and chair of the MSU Brass Area, feels Ordman’s unique career path shaped her approach to teaching. In her 16 years with MSU, he estimates she has worked with more than 100 students. Many go on to careers in performance or education with orchestras, military bands, colleges and universities, and K-12 schools.

“She looks after her students in a way that not only builds them as musicians, but that advances them as people,” says Sinder. “She really takes pride in meeting each student at the level they’re at and helping them transform into competent players and music educators.”

Aaron Wright has studied with Ordman for seven years both as an undergraduate and as a master's student at MSU. He also took a private lesson from her in the summer of 2009, two years before starting his bachelor’s.

“Professor Ordman is incredibly demanding of her students, yet she makes a genuine effort to understand their perspective and lives,” says Wright, who earned his bachelor’s in music education in 2016. “While I’m happy that my musicianship and trombone playing have improved greatly because of her, I am also grateful that she was able to mold me into a better human being.”

For Ordman, the award caps a year full of achievements. She was promoted to full professor and released her first solo CD, “It’s About Time, Music for Solo Trombone by Women Composers.” She also created a consortium to commission a new trombone concerto by MSU Assistant Professor of Composition David Biedenbender. The concerto “Their Eyes Are Fireflies,” received its world premiere with Ordman and the MSU Wind Symphony on March 22, 2018.

While Ordman doesn’t regard herself as a trailblazer, she sometimes muses that maybe she did have a small influence on young women who chose to play trombone.

“I’ve always simply led my life knowing there are many things I can do and love to do, and trombone is one of them,” she says. “I’m extremely grateful and look forward to what’s next.”

Ordman with Fritz Foss, Chicago Lyric Opera Orchestra assistant principal horn, and Craig Morris, University of Miami professor of trumpet, during Clarice Assad's new Percussion Concerto performed by Evelyn Glennie at the Cabrillo Festival in August 2017.

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