Will Whitten (He/Him)
My name is Will Whitten and I am currently a Music Education and Music Performance Major at Northern Arizona University. Music has always been a driving force in my life since the fifth grade, and it has taken me on an incredible journey that has shaped me into the musician I am today. I began on the saxophone, which I played until my junior year of high school when I made the switch to trombone and became the section leader of my high school's low brass section. I then pushed myself to audition for Drum Corps International groups, such as The Academy Drum and Bugle Corps, for which I completed two full seasons (2018-2019) as well as two more seasons with the Santa Clara Vanguard (2020-2021).
Currently, I am the principal bass trombonist at NAU and the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra and I have performed with many groups such as Extra! Extra! Brass Band, F-Town Sound, Summit Dub Squad, and the Interference Series. I have enjoyed performing music for people so much that it led to a co-creation of the Flagstaff Klezmer Orkestra (FKO) with Kaia Guscott. I have been studying Klezmer since 2021 and have been the lead arranger of FKO. In addition, I am a recipient of the Student-led Projects in the Arts, Creative Activity, and Scholarship (SPArCS) at NAU where I undergo undergraduate research of klezmer's performance, history, and ideologies
For my compositional style, I find concert band music to be some of the most flexible and expressive music imaginable. Between thirty to sixty people all coming together to create a homogenous organism that moves, breaths, and communicates as one provides an opportunity to influence so many people at once. Although after coming up on ten years of performing concert band music, I believe that it often does not fully connect a musician's knowledge, skill, and artistic sensitivity in performing music. The standard concert band composition is a structured soundscape where all the musicians are placed in a role. Most often, a conductor is the leader of an ensemble; they are the ones who put together concepts from the score to present to the musicians.
This standard setting is practical, but there is an oversight of composers writing meaningful material for all instruments which deprives musicians and audience members of engaging in all facets of musicianship. For a composer to give melodic material to a flute, where the instrument has great dexterity and flexibility, is normal and is often employed in concert band music. However, giving a tuba or a percussionist the melody is not common because of the specific and "appropriate" roles these instruments are assumed to have in the band. This structure deprives all musicians of exposure to performing different musical skills. A composer should continue to develop their ideas but with the effort to expose every instrument within the concert band to as many factors of musicianship as possible. This approach will not only elevate a musician's experience but also enhance the audience's experience as they will hear a diverse range of sounds and expressive qualities exhibited by each instrument.
Also, I see there should be no barriers between formal concert music and "popular" music. So, when venturing into composing for chamber groups and concert bands, I tend to draw inspiration from various musical cultures such as klezmer as well as skillfully fuse elements from artists I admire such as Björk, Louis Cole, Tyler, the Creator, Masayoshi Takanaka, Little Simz, and Vulfpeck.
As I mentioned before, Kaia Guscott and I formed a band called the Flagstaff Klezman Orkestra (FKO) in late 2021. We wanted to bring something new and exciting to the music scene in Flagstaff. So, we created FKO which combines different music styles like Classical, Jazz, Romani, and Balkan music with a unique blend of Middle Eastern-inspired melodies and upbeat traditional Jewish songs. Our goal is to create an energetic sound that will make people want to dance and have fun, while also standing out from any other music ensemble in Flagstaff. We are so excited to share our love for klezmer music with our community and can't wait to see FKO grow and evolve in the future.
The next step in my career as a Bass Trombonist is to be able to offer lessons to students of all ages and skill levels. I'm dedicated to helping anyone achieve their full potential, and I'm committed to providing a fun and engaging learning experience. With my strong background in music education and performance, I'm well-equipped to teach anyone the technical and artistic aspects of playing the Trombone as well as offer support and guidance for music school.