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Q&A: first annual CSU Brass Festival concerts

This spring break will begin an annual tradition for the Colorado State University Department of Music.

The first annual Brass Festival kicked off Thursday night and will continue through Saturday afternoon. It is an opportunity for brass students and other workshop registrants to take master classes with guest artists from all across the country, and to showcase their work in concert.


The first concert, featuring special guests Sinister Resonance with CSU faculty, took place Thursday and the second, with special guest Nick Finzer, takes place Friday at 7:30 p.m.. The third, with all workshop guest artists, is Saturday at 1:30 p.m.

The concerts are open to the public and tickets cost $7 for CSU students. A full-festival pass to the workshops costs $125 and a single-day pass costs $75, and both include free concert admission. Tickets and passes can be purchased online, at, or at the door.

John McGuire is one of the event coordinators responsible for organizing the guest artists and lecturers. He has been teaching brass horn at CSU for three years, playing brass horn professionally for 20 years and playing French horn for 30 years.

“Students usually work with faculty when they’re studying music at universities,” McGuire said. “This festival exposes CSU to very successful musicians and shows what’s possible for brass playing outside of CSU. Not a lot of other universities are able to do this.”

McGuire, who has toured worldwide throughout his performance career, said he sees himself more as a “mentor” than he does as a “professor,” helping young people build confidence and realize their potential in more ways than just with their music.

“If you look at the CSU music department’s track record over the last 10 years, it’s only grown in quality and numbers,” McGuire said. “A lot of music programs suffered during the recession, but CSU expanded, and will only continue to build. That kind of University support is amazing.”

Christopher Van Hof, an assistant professor in trombone and euphonium, is in his second year of teaching at CSU. He also helped coordinate the festival. He sat down with the Collegian for this interview about the event:

What can people expect to take away from the experience of coming to this festival?

Each (concert) features something different. Thursday night (was) an exploration of electronic and acoustic sounds that blend classical music, rock and jazz. Friday night will be all jazz with various performers from CSU, CU and DU, as well as headliner Nick Finzer, a jazz trombonist from New York City. Saturday afternoon will feature the guest artists for the workshop as soloists. The during-the-day events will be geared towards brass performers, teachers and students to help become better musicians and performers. The featured evening events will be enjoyable by any music audience, not just brass players.


What inspires your music and how does that inspiration translate into your work here?

The primary goal of a workshop like this is to enhance the education in music of both CSU students and members of the music community in Colorado and the region. As someone who makes a living both as a performer and a teacher, this commitment to engaging audiences and creating world-class opportunities for my students and the people of my state are both very important to me. I think we accomplish that with the workshop.

How is this festival different from anything else you’ve ever worked on?

The scope and size of the workshop is immense. Eight guest artists, half a dozen or so vendors, many dozens of attendees and eight separate performances make for a massive undertaking unlike anything I have ever organized. But that also means the level of artistry and teaching happening among all those various events is second-to-none in terms of similar events I have been a part of.

What do you envision the future to be for this department at CSU?

The music department has incredible assets and is poised to be among the top programs of its kind in an eight-state region, to be sure. We have strong and talented faculty, both old and new, and our music majors continue to perform and teach at a high level once they graduate from CSU. CSU’s music department is quickly becoming recognized as a place to go for excellent artistic training and solid career preparation for a life in the arts.

Collegian A&E Writer Hunter Goddard can be reached at or on Twitter @hunter_gaga.

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