Band community emotional after Trombone No. 5 cut, University response minimal

Tatiana Parafiniuk-Talesnick

After a popular marching band routine was cut in August, marching band community members reacted to the news with disappointment and anger, while University public relations response was minimal.

The routine Trombone No. 5, formerly known as Trombone Suicide, was terminated by the Colorado State University Marching Band faculty and the director of the School of Music, Theater and Dance. The routine was popular among both students and alumni.

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In the routine, trombone players line up shoulder-to-shoulder and alternate swinging their instrument and ducking.

Trombone players performing with the Presidential Pep Band during Friday Night Lights in downtown Fort Collins. (Tony Villalobos May| Collegian)
Trombone players performing with the Presidential Pep Band during Friday Night Lights in downtown Fort Collins. (Tony Villalobos May| Collegian)

University faculty, band alumni and current students all reacted to the cut of the routine differently. Some alumni and students took to social media to voice their anger and confusion over the cut, and others wrote to the band directors directly proposing solutions to keep the tradition alive. University response was limited, and included actions on behalf of the band faculty to prevent students from speaking with media.

University response

In April 2016, Dan Goble, director of the School of Music, Theatre and Dance (SoMTD), Rebecca Phillips, director of bands, and Richard Frey, associate director of bands, agreed to consider eliminating Trombone No. 5 according to emails obtained by the Collegian through Colorado’s Open Records Act. The routine was officially cut it April 10, according to a timeline emailed from Goble to Ben Withers, the dean of liberal arts.

A press release was prepared for release Aug. 15, but has yet to be released. When the Collegian inquired about the termination of the routine, the answer was a two-sentence statement, crafted by the University’s external relations team, according to University email records.

The first request for documents and emails regarding the termination of the routine by the Collegian was Sept. 7. However, the University denied the request claiming it was too broad. The Collegian submitted a revised request Sept. 12, and the request was partially fulfilled after 17 days. The Collegian has not yet received all the documents requested, however University officials have told the Collegian the documents will be released in batches.

After the Collegian published the article that broke the news of the termination, the Marching Band faculty reminded students that according to marching band contracts, they are not allowed to talk to press. If members chose to talk to press, they risk their scholarships. On Sept. 29, the Marching Band was called to an “emergency meeting” in which the faculty warned members that the Collegian had access to band faculty emails. The faculty reminded students again that they are not allowed to talk to press.

Alumni reaction

Several former members of the marching band’s trombone section, or “Bruces,” responded to the news by reaching out to the University or commenting on social media.

On Sept. 1 one former CSU Marching Band trombone player reached out to Copper Ferreira, the Assistant Professor of Music Theory. The alumnae’s name was redacted, but it is likely she was Kaelin McDonald, a former CSU marching band trombone player, as the injury described in the email is the same injury McDonald described to the Collegian. In the email, the alumnae asked that the injury would not be used to justify ending Trombone No. 5.

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“I would like to say that I would prefer this information not be used to make a case against continuing Suicides,” wrote the alumnae.

The alumnae offered alternatives to terminating the routine.

“I strongly encourage the current band and university leadership to consider all of the possible alternatives before making a final decision. I truly wish to help keep this tradition alive,” the former band member wrote.

On Sept. 3, another former trombone marching band player reached out and attempted to persuade the University to keep the routine.

“Trombone Suicides are a unique experience that many unfortunately do not get to participate in. It gives students a chance to shine and often to those who need it most,” wrote the Bruce alumni and former Trombone Section Leader in an email to President Tony Frank and Director of Bands Rebecca Phillips. Their name was also redacted.

“The CSU Marching Band and Trombone Section saved me,” wrote the former player. “It gave me a network of great friends, it taught me valuable skills, and it was honestly the best thing I have ever participated in.”

Several other trombone Bruce alumni commented their frustrations on a Collegian article breaking the news of the cut.

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Emails between the Director of Marketing for the University Center for the Arts, Jennifer Jacobs, and the Marching Band faculty revealed that one former Bruce tagged the Marching Band in a thread on Facebook encouraging alumni not to sign up for the alumni band. Other band alumni “liked” the post.

Student and Community reaction

Current CSU students have expressed confusion over the decision to cut the routine. According to the Collegian’s article “CSU discontinues ‘Trombone Suicide’ marching band tradition,” students did not understand why the routine should be cut.

“If someone got hurt that’s the risk you run,” said Jose Diaz, sophomore business marketing major. “They should just keep doing it anyway. It’s tradition at this point and everyone else does it.”

Several students and Fort Collins community members reacted on the Collegian’s Facebook post of the trombone articles.

“I’m pretty sure any sport you would see this being done in front of is more potential for injury than getting whacked with a trombone,” wrote Michael Putlack on the CSU Collegian’s Facebook post.

Others offered solutions to the cut, similar to alumni suggestions to the University for more funding and to resolve safety concerns.

“They should just get a major donor … to pay for the liability, and damages to equipment, then make the trombone number 5 optional or sign some kind of waiver,” wrote Nick Reese on Facebook. 

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Collegian reporter Tatiana Parafiniuk-Talesnick can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @tatianasophiapt.