Young trombonist finds community–and inspiration–at the UW-Madison School of Music

Hot on the heels of “Trombone Week” in Madison, which featured three famous trombonists performing in town (Trombone Shorty, Papo Vazquez and our own alum Chris Washburne), we now offer a story about a trombonist at the other end of the career spectrum: Brittany Sperberg, a junior from Shawano. Brittany is a recipient of several School of Music scholarships and has put them to good use, having formed her own Dixieland band which has played several concerts in Madison and around the state. She’s also played with the UW Jazz Orchestra (directed by Prof. Johannes Wallmann), the UW Wind Ensemble (directed by Prof. Scott Teeple), the Trombone Choir (directed by Prof. Mark Hetzler), among others.

Brittany Sperberg

Brittany Sperberg.
Photograph by Tori Rogers.

We asked Brittany to describe her time in Madison, and how scholarships have benefited her education.

“My name is Brittany Sperberg and I am a junior music education major.  One of the things that always inspired and guided my education has been my sense of community.  I am from Shawano, Wisconsin, which is a fairly small town and farming community near Green Bay.  In fact, one of my favorite things to do when I go home is to sit outside my house with a view of my barn and vast numbers of trees, and practice trombone. (Sometimes my grandma even sits in her house which is a farmer’s field apart from mine to listen!)   Because I have been so used to having a supportive and small community encouraging my entire grade school music experience, I knew that when I made the jump to college that it was important to go somewhere where I could recreate that atmosphere.  I truly feel that I have found this family here at UW-Madison!

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The Dairyland Jazz Band. Travis Worth, banjo; Jacob Bicknase, washboard; Gavin Garrett, sousaphone; Brittany Sperberg, trombone; Jacob Riederer, trumpet; and Alex Charland, clarinet.
Photograph by Erika Anderson. Missing: Pat Doty, piano.

“The thing that I am most proud of during my time so far at Madison is making my own Dixieland band, The Dairyland Jazz Band.  The Dairyland Jazz Band was created last semester in part of an independent study I did with my trombone professor, Mark Hetzler, as a way for me to learn more about jazz outside of my involvement with the UW Jazz Orchestra.  The independent study required me to write a research paper, put on a Dixieland recital, and present a lecture to my trombone studio.  I was incredibly lucky to find the six musicians that I did to play with me.  I have learned and been inspired by their incomparable talent, professionalism, and enthusiasm.  Leading and playing in this band has been nothing but a fun and challenging experience. Our recital last April was a huge hit and Morphy was nearly filled!  We also played at a cabaret at the bar  “Plan B” on Williamson Street, where we opened for some singer-dancers from the touring group of Mary Poppins. Because we all love working with each other and playing this kind of music, we have since stayed together. Besides myself, the members of my band  include Travis Worth, banjo; Pat Doty, piano; Gavin Garrett, sousaphone; Alex Charland,  clarinet; Jacob Bicknasse, washboard; and Jacob Riederer, trumpet.  Creating this band has taught me to become a better musician and strengthen my leadership and organizational skills.

“In September, my band traveled to Shawano to play two shows in two days.  Our first show was a concert that my former boss hosted at her reception hall, “The Gathering.” The concert went really well and we had nearly 90 people there to simply listen to our music–impressive for a small town!  I was really happy to have such a great turnout because I had been in charge of all the planning of the event from ticket sales, making posters, putting them up, finding repertoire, rehearsing the band, and playing myself.  The next day, my band played at my church’s annual Church in the Barn, which we host in my family’s barn.  Because this type of live music is not often heard there, some people were so strongly affected by the music that they had tears in their eyes.  One person even sent a letter to the Shawano newspaper about our gig and the personal connection he felt with the music.  Recently, the band also played at the Collage Concert.

“Last year I played trombone in the pit for “Space Voyage: The Musical Frontier” (a musical written and directed by School of Music students Nicholas Connors) and can be heard in the album that will be released soon!  I have also played in the touring group, Kids From Wisconsin, for the past two summers.  This group was an amazing opportunity and gave me the chance to perform for audiences as big as 4,000 people!  I also have been a guest college clinician at the Shawano Jazz Festival where this will be my third year performing with such musicians as Wayne Bergeron, Eric Marienthal, and Gordon Goodwin.  My current involvement includes: UWJO (3 years), Wind Ensemble (2 years), Trombone Choir (3 years), substitute trombonist with the Ladies Must Swing (3 years), Dairyland Jazz Band (1 year), and Brass Quintet (1 year), among others.

“I have received various scholarships from the School of Music and the awards ceremony.  At the 2012 awards convocation, I was awarded the Jeanette Ginzl Scholarship . In 2013, I received the Edda Valborg Ofstie Scholarship, Raymond F. Dvorak Music Education Award, and Full Compass Foundation Scholarship. I also receive another scholarship through the School of Music.   I have been truly, truly blessed to have such positive support and encouragement from my school.  If it were not for these scholarships, I am not sure I would have been able to stay at UW-Madison. These scholarships have not only helped me financially, but have also served as a tool to encourage me to follow my musical aspirations.  I am touched by the generosity others have shown me and want to impact others through my music, just as others have influenced me.

“My college experience has been incredible.  I have an endless amount of appreciation and respect for my studio professor, Mark Hetzler.  I think what is so amazing about the School of Music is that we have some of the best teachers and resources.  Professor Hetzler has been an incredible mentor and I am inspired by his dedication and creativity as a performer and teacher.  I really get excited about my lessons every week, and it is great that Professor Hetzler encourages me to explore a variety of genres and musical outlets in my studies with him.  Also, how many people can say that their studio teacher has his or her own metal band, “Sinister Resonance”?  Any prospective students should know how lucky they would be to study under the teachers found here at UW-Madison!

“I am not sure what the future holds for me, but I am excited to see the directions that music will continue to take me!   I would love to go to grad school and get my masters in trombone performance.  After that, I would like to have a career as both a music educator and performer, as I am very passionate about both aspects of music.”

We hope Brittany’s story will inspire others to contribute to scholarships at the UW-MadisonSchool of Music. Click the link to donate!

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