An Aussie in New York

By Shannon Barnett

New York-based Australian jazz trombonist

Shannon with Curtis FullerShannon Barnett with American jazz trombone legend Curtis Fuller

If you had asked fifteen year-old me where I thought I’d be in twice that number of years, chances are my answer wouldn’t have been working as a freelance trombone player in New York City. Music was always going to be the main focus in my life, but the opportunities and experiences I have had are far beyond what I expected.

I started out like many other young musicians, in the band program at my high school in regional Victoria. Thanks to some extremely inspiring and patient mentors, I graduated from the Victorian College of the Arts and forged a name for myself as a freelance player in Melbourne. After several years of performances, recordings and tours, including a stint with Circus Oz, where I learned to play hanging upside down by one foot, it came time that I needed a new perspective on my craft and some time away from Australia.

It was actually the three weeks I spent in Canada at a workshop run by trumpeter and composer Dave Douglas that became the impetus for me to make the move the United States. Having previously visited New York on a number of occasions, it was easy to observe that the place was thriving creatively and was inhabited by an extraordinary number of talented artists. I set about applying for graduate school at several institutions, and after an involved audition process, weighing up of the pros and cons and a frantic gathering of finances, I accepted an offer to attend the State University of New York – Purchase College. Purchase has an incredible faculty, and one that is extremely well-versed in the traditions of the jazz idiom. The chance to study this music in the country where it originated and to absorb knowledge from musicians who were and remain an active part in the development of the music was an indescribable thrill.

Two of the most influential teachers for me during my study were John Fedchock and Jon Faddis. Hopefully many of you are already familiar with Fedchock’s astounding facility on the trombone and his obvious thorough knowledge of the idiom. You may have even played some of his excellent big band charts. Add to that some serious dedication as an educator, and well, I’m very lucky to have spent two years under his tutelage. We focused primarily on melodic and harmonic language. Transcription is an integral part of that, so he had me transcribe players including Kenny Dorham, Tom Harrell, Frank Rosolino and Freddie Hubbard.

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