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Norman Bolter

Trombone Faculty

Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Norman Bolter was first inspired to play the trombone when, at age four, he saw the Captain Kangaroo television show character, Mr. Greenjeans, play the same instrument. Bolter began his formal trombone studies at age nine with Ed VonHoff of the St. Paul Public School System. Later, he studied with Ronald Rickets and Steven Zellmer of the Minnesota Orchestra and with John Swallow at the New England Conservatory (NEC). Bolter is very thankful to these teachers and to former Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) principal bassoonist, Sherman Walt, not only for their technical and musical assistance but also for their encouragement and nurturance of his love of music and trombone playing.

A Tanglewood Fellow and C.D. Jackson Award winner, Bolter joined the BSO in 1975 at age 20, becoming the youngest member of the orchestra at that time. He played with the BSO for 32 years and continues to maintain and active playing and conducting schedule. Bolter also served as principal trombonist of the Boston Pops Orchestra (BPO) and was a founding member of the Empire Brass Quintet, which was the first brass ensemble ever to win the prestigious Walter H. Naumberg Award in Chamber Music.

Bolter has appeared as a member of the BPO on the televised PBS favorite, Evening at Pops, with Arthur Fiedler, John Williams and Keith Lockhart as conductors. He has toured extensively in the U.S., Europe, Asia and South America with the BSO, the Pops and the Empire Brass and has made many recordings with them. He also appears as principal trombonist on recordings with Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine. Furthermore, Bolter appears as soloist and conductor on five recordings of his own compositions, Experimentsin Music, Anew at Home, Occurrences, In Living Continuance and Phoenix. In addition to his numerous trombone solos, Bolter performed the acclaimed euphonium solo in the BSO recording of Mahler's Symphony No. 7 (Philips Classics Productions, 1990) and also played euphonium on the Minnesota Orchestra recording of Ein Heldenleben by Richard Strauss. 

In addition to his extensive performance, Bolter has composed music from a very early age, with the last 17 years' witnessing an outpouring of new works that has won him acclaim as a composer both in the U.S. and abroad. In addition to his own recordings of these works, Bolter's compositions have appeared on recordings by New York Philharmonic principal trombonist, Joseph Alessi; former BSO principal trumpeter, Charles Schlueter; BSO bass trombonist, Douglas Yeo; former BSO principal trombonist, Ronald Barron; Los Angeles Philharmonic co-principal trombonist, James Miller; New Zealand Symphony Orchestra associate principal trombonist, Peter Maunder; Bala Brass Quintet; the New England Brass Band; and many others.

Bolter's compositions are performed regularly throughout the world. Amongst the many who have given live solo performances of Bolter's works are: Joseph Alessi (Arctic Emanations for trombone and piano, and, with Philip Myers, The Archer); Ronald Barron (Sky Dreams for alto trombone and piano); Scott Hartman (Trees for alto trombone and orchestra); Randall Montgomery (Clouncey for tuba and piano and Keepers of the Cosmic Sea for solo tuba and brass ensemble with percussion); Richard Sebring (Nautilus for solo horn and brass ensemble with percussion); Charles Schlueter (On the Cusp for solo trumpet and brass ensemble with percussion, Immersions for solo trumpet and Marsha's Gift for trumpet and piano); Charles Vernon (Of Mountains, Lakes and Trees for solo bass, tenor and alto trombones and orchestra, and Sagittarius2 for bass trombone and piano); R. Douglas Wright (Solar Voyages for solo trombone and brass ensemble; Lakes for solo tenor trombone and orchestra); Douglas Yeo (Of Mountains for solo bass trombone and orchestra, Sagittarius2 for bass trombone and piano, and Temptation for serpent and string quartet); and Jacques Zoon (In the Place of Wild Lavender for flute, horn and cello).

Bolter's works have been commissioned by Joseph Alessi (Arctic Emanations for trombone and piano); Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra of Boston (IOURS for trombone and chamber orchestra); the Zellmer-Minnesota Trombone Competition (Morning Walk for tenor trombone and piano, Sagittarius2 for bass trombone and piano); Mike Roylance (Night of the Soul for tuba trio); Peter Chapman (Immersions for unaccompanied solo trumpet); Bala Brass (Shore Light Breeze for brass quintet); the Online Trombone Journal (The Joy in Being Able for trombone and piano); the University of St. Thomas (A White Company Overture for concert band); and many others.

In his numerous compositions (more than 250 created to date), Bolter explores creating tangible atmospheres inspired by the natural worlds and the human story. His compositions have a broad range of instrumentation, including works for a variety of solo instruments (trombone, trumpet, tuba, horn, flute, didjeridoo, ram's horn, serpent and others), brass ensemble, trombone choir, wind ensemble, brass band, mixed chamber ensemble and orchestra. Notably, Bolter has composed more music for the trombone than any other composer.

A renowned teacher, Bolter serves on the faculties of the New England Conservatory (NEC), The Boston Conservatory and Longy School of Music. Bolter's conducting and coaching include the NEC Trombone Ensemble and brass chamber groups. He founded both the brass repertoire class at NEC and the trombone choir in the NEC Preparatory School. Bolter also has served on the faculties of Mannes School of Music and Boston University, as a member of quintet in residence Empire Brass Quintet; the University of South Florida and the University of Massachusetts (Amherst), where he also taught composition; Boston University Tanglewood Institute; and the Tanglewood Music Center. Bolter's students have included not only trombonists, but French hornists, trumpeters and tubists, many of whom hold positions in major symphony orchestras, chamber music groups and universities around the world.

Mr. Bolter regularly conducts master classes and clinics, face-to-face and virtually via Skype and iChat, in the U.S., Canada and abroad, including weeklong master classes with El Sistema in Venezuela as part of NEC's summer music seminar. Additionally, he co-directs the Frequency Band with Dr. Carol Viera, is coauthor with Dr. Viera, of several publications on music pedagogy and performance, including Methods of Effective Practice, High Range Exercises, It's Not All in the Air and The Metronome Meditation, and is author/composer of a unique sight reading book for advanced trombone players, Reading at the Speed of Sight.

Bolter offers private lessons, as his schedule permits, in which players can experience for themselves his unique and effective one-on-one instruction. Bolter also maintains a popular multimedia music blog, Frequency Bone, offering, in diary format, his ongoing musings about music as a living thing—whether during a lesson, practicing, playing outdoors or even eating breakfast! A variety of sound clips, photos, videos and even an online summer music camp make for a lively, entertaining and informative experience.

Further information about Norman Bolter, his work and calendar of activities is available at

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