Unexpected Turns

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.

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4 responses

  1. Nicely said Tom! One never realises where the unexpected turns take us. It is at times we can take control of what seems out of control. It’s great to see you loving and in control of the “eighth position”. Cheers.

  2. What an exciting and successful career! I really enjoyed reading this biography and am so pleased that you have created such a wonderful life for yourself. You will be pleased to know my daughter has some musical talent. She has been a (flute) member of the Hunter Central Coast Regional Wind Ensemble (which is the regions School Representative ensemble) for three years. She is touring the US with them this year (of course I have to chaperone!) visiting and performing in LA, New York (visiting Julliard) amd Chicago. I would be pleased as punch if she achieved half as much as you in her career, but am happy that she gets a huge amount of enjoyment from music. I will show her your story as inspiration! Regards,

    Louise Dibbs

  3. I came 2nd to you once in the states, you were absolutely head and shoulders above me and it was a pleasure hearing you play! It’s great to see you playing professionally in america and I hope one day you will return to our shores!

    Steve Smith.

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