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Gregory van der Struik Interview

Posted on 06 June 2008. © Copyright 2004-2020 Composition:Today

C:T talks to trombonist Gregory van der Struik who runs the Trombonis Australis Project, hoping to encourage new work for the trombone

Gregory van der Struik
Tell us something about your background.

While I felt that a great deal of repertoire was available from overseas, programming within Australia lacked any sense of a national identity. This feeling extended back to high school where examination requirements always expressed that an Australian work should be performed wherever possible. Sadly finding suitable, readily available repertoire for brass was not easy to do. In terms of professional repertoire the Lovelock and Hanson concertos were known at least by name and the predominantly Avant Garde work of Simon de Haan was well known. But where were the works that other professionals and students could turn to? In terms of answering these questions I realised that a pro-active stance needed to be taken in order to stimulate interest in and develop new works. One prime example seemed to be that of the Paris Conservatoire which in a relatively short period developed a large body of repertoire by the way it encouraged and commissioned works to be used for examination purposes.

In 1990 I decided to initiate the Trombonis Australis Project. The aim is to work with interested composers to develop repertoire for solo and pedagogical use. As a performer I realise the need to encourage composers of a wide variety of styles to write for brass instruments and help develop a body of works that will become a resource for future generations of performers.

In order to successfully promote new repertoire I aim to regularly perform works in concert along with recordings to reach an even wider audience. I soon realised that without good editions of the music, new works would struggle to be taken up by other performers. I encourage composers to prepare editions and have them available through the Trombonis Australis Project or other organisations such as the Australian Music Centre.

It is also important for other players to know about works so I have written a number of reviews and analyses of the repertoire for the Australian Trombone Association and Australian Trumpet Guild.

To date the project has facilitated the development of over 45 works by more than twenty composers. I have also had composers from England, France and New Zealand contribute works. I have given over 100 performances of many of the solo works in Australia, China and Europe. The Trombonis Australis Project has never received any funding and participation is open to all interested composers.

What inspires you about a piece of new music, what turns you off?

I am always thrilled to think that a composer has taken a great deal of their time to write something for me. Sometimes I am involved throughout the creative process and at other times I receive a finished score which I workshop with the composer. Depending on the experience in writing for trombone, I may or may not need to suggest changes. It is inspiring to feel that a new work will reveal to audiences a new aspect of the trombone's abilities. It is even better when a composition is accepted as an independent piece of music that engages people rather than being just a piece for trombone.

Gratuitous effects and unidiomatic writing often leads to a lack of interest from performers and can be tiresome for audiences.

What are the most common mistakes composers make writing for Trombone

Many don't understand how glissandos work, expecting that you can simply slide between ANY two notes. Composers also need to understand the level of player they are expecting to perform the work such as professional or school student. In terms of longer works stamina is an important consideration. Writing a twenty minute work exclusively in the upper register is perhaps not the best approach!

What are your plans for the future?

I love my work in the orchestra and see myself remaining for the foreseeable future. I am also passionate about presenting the trombone as a solo instrument and will continue with my recital work.

The most exciting thing for me is when other players program project works into their recitals. From this point I will continue to invite, persuade or even cajole composers into writing more works for brass! The aim is to develop as large a body of quality works from composers of differing styles as possible.

In recent years I have returned to composition with my latest works being largely for brass. I enjoy the challenge and as it is something in addition to my playing I don't have time pressures in terms of having to have works written by a particular date. While I have my works available through Trombonis Australis Editions and shortly Reed Music, I have not included them with project details as I do not wish Trombonis Australis to be viewed merely as a vehicle for my works.

Please list any links online where we can hear your playing or find out more about you?
I have some sound files but will soon update to include a larger selection of my own playing and project works. I can be contacted at

Interview by Composition:Today © Copyright 2004-2020

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