In the past 60 years, the name of the school has changed nearly as many times as its trombone teachers. It all began in 1947 when Leon Brown, a young trombonist just out of the U.S. Navy Band joined the North Texas State College staff as its first brass teacher. Over the next 25 years he built one of the largest and most productive trombone programs in the U.S., during which time he inaugurated the North Texas Brass Choir and the North Texas Trombone Choir. Many students went through his studio and went on to become some of the outstanding performers and teachers of the 20th century. To list all the names would be a dangerous task, as many significant people would undoubtedly be left out.
In the mid-1970s, an additional trombone position was created. Royce Lumpkin, one of Mr. Brown’s students from the 1960s, became a significant figure as he complemented Leon in his final years of teaching. During Lumpkin’s 28-year tenure at North Texas, he not only served as trombone professor and associate band director, but also as brass coordinator and associate dean. In 1998 he left UNT to accept an administrative position at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Like Mr. Brown, he left a legacy of successful students, again a list too long to print.
In 1983, the third trombone teacher in UNT’s history, joined the North Texas faculty. Replacing Leon Brown on his retirement, Vern Kagarice, a successful teacher from Youngstown State University in Ohio, teamed up with Royce Lumpkin to move the trombone program to even higher levels. During this 15-year period, still more graduates won prestigious positions, and ensembles won more prizes.
In the two years after Professor Lumpkin’s departure, the program went through a tenuous period, with only one full-time trombone professor (Kagarice) left to keep things afloat. Fortunately, because of an excellent team of adjunct faculty, guest artists and Teaching Fellows, the program not only survived, but actually flourished. Special mention should be given to the outstanding work of adjunct faculty Jimmy Clark from Texas A&M University–Commerce, Dennis Bubert, bass trombonist of the Ft. Worth Symphony Orchestra and Jan Kagarice, founding member and bass trombonist of the PRISMA Trombone Quartet. Teaching assistant at that time—Marte Kennedy, David Krosschell, Jim Kazik and Tom Brantley were also important cogs in the teaching machine during this period.
In the spring of 2000, a significant event happened at UNT. For the first time in more than 25 years, an additional brass faculty position was created, in order to continue the tradition started by Professor Brown and continued by Professors Lumpkin and Kagarice.
The new position was awarded to an extremely talented performer and teacher named Tony Baker. He joined the UNT faculty after a successful teaching tenure at Kent State University in Ohio and Ohio University. It is interesting to note that Mr. Baker’s educational lineage has a direct connection to Mr. Brown. Two of Mr. Baker’s important teachers are graduates and former students of Leon Brown, namely Denis Winter at the University of Central Arkansas and Tom Ashworth at the University of Minnesota.
In 2001, Jan Kagarice returned to the UNT trombone teaching team as an adjunct trombone professor, following several years of teaching in Montessori schools. Her expertise in studio teaching and chamber music coaching was invaluable.
In 2007, Steve Wiest, an outstanding jazz trombonist and a graduate from the 1980s as a student of Vern Kagarice, joined the UNT jazz faculty as a jazz composer and arranger. Until his departure in 2015, Steve taught a partial load of jazz trombone students, and also initiated a new jazz trombone ensemble called the U-Tubes.
In 2014, Vern Kagarice, musician, mentor, and friend to so many people, lost his battle with cancer. Vern's loss was deeply felt throughout the trombone community, and perhaps nowhere more keenly than at UNT. In 2015, Jan Kagarice left UNT to pursue professional opportunites outside of Texas.
In 2016, after an international search, trombonists Natalie Mannix and Steven Menard joined the trombone teaching team as assistant professors. Natalie, having previously taught for 8 years at Towson University, is Principal Trombonist of the Delaware Symphony Orchestra and a former member of the U.S. Navy Band in Washington DC. Steve previously taught for 5 years at Louisiana State University and is currently a member of the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra and the Utah Festival Opera Orchestra. Both have extensive and varied backgrounds as soloists, orchestral trombonists and pedagogues.
Today’s trombone teaching team consists of Tony Baker, Natalie Mannix, Steven Menard, Ryan Haines with Teaching Fellows Eston Bell, Kenny Davis, Zachariah Davis, Dan Hinman and Jerry Umholtz.