By Tom Burge
Trombonist – Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, USA
Many of you reading this won’t know who I am. That’s okay; it’s been a long time since I have been in Australia. So let me give a hasty introduction. My name is Tom Burge, and I am an Australian trombonist, born in Sydney. I started playing the trombone when I was seven years old and had no teacher until I reached the age of 18. With little money as I was growing up, trombone lessons just were not on the agenda.
I was accepted to the Sydney Conservatorium in the late 1980s and, only when I got to college, had my first regular trombone teacher—the wonderful Arthur Hubbard. A few years later, I heard about a very fine teacher living in Canberra by the name of Michael Mulcahy. At the time, the Canberra School of Music, where he taught, was something like an Australian Juilliard. So I packed my bags for the national capital and studied with both Mike (now a trombonist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra) and the inimitable Ron Prussing, principal trombonist of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in music.
I knew that I wanted to be a professional orchestral trombone player. This was a difficult decision because there aren’t that many jobs out there—particularly in the Australian market—for a classically trained trombonist. You have to be very good, and, to be fair, I was only slightly above average. I have always been a pretty musical fellow, but I had holes in my technique and my thought process.
After leaving school, I became a freelancer in Sydney and a private trombone teacher in many places, including Goulburn and Bowral (both in rural New South Wales) and some schools in Sydney. I pieced together an existence for a few years before deciding that I needed something more.
Continue to page 2…