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Norman Bolter's Biography

Norman Bolter Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1955, 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. Mr. 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. But Mr. Bolter did not take his inspiration and instruction from brass players alone and counts BSO principal bassoonist, Sherman Walt, among his most encouraging and insightful mentors, all of whom also nurtured his deep love of and natural connection with music itself.

A Tanglewood Fellow and C. D. Jackson Award winner, Mr. Bolter joined the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1975 at age 20, becoming the youngest member of the orchestra at that time. As well, he was principal trombonist of the Boston Pops Orchestra and a founding member of the Empire Brass Quintet, which won the prestigious Walter H. Naumberg Award in Chamber Music, the first brass ensemble ever to win this award. Mr. Bolter played with the BPO and BSO for 32 years and continues to maintain an active playing and conducting schedule to this day.

During his tenure with the Boston Pops, Mr. Bolter appeared 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 Boston Pops, the BSO and the Empire Brass and has made many recordings with all of them. He also appears as principal trombonist on recordings with Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine and appears as soloist and/or conductor on five recordings of his own compositions, "Experiments in Music," "Anew at Home," "Occurrences," "Phoenix" and “In Living Continuance.” In addition to his numerous trombone solos, Mr. 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.

Mr. Bolter has composed music from a very early age, with the last 23 years witnessing an outpouring of new works winning him acclaim as a composer both in the US and abroad. In addition to his own recordings of these works, Mr. Bolter's compositions have appeared on recordings by New York Philharmonic principal trombonist, Joseph Alessi; former Boston Symphony Orchestra principal trumpeter, Charles Schlueter; former Boston Symphony Orchestra bass trombonist, Douglas Yeo; former Boston Symphony Orchestra principal trombonist, Ronald Barron; Los Angeles Philharmonic co-principal trombonist, James Miller; the New England Brass Band and the Washington Trombone Ensemble. Further, his compositions have been performed throughout the world, with performances in Europe, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, South America and the US.

Among the countless artists who have given live solo performances of Mr. Bolter's works are: Joseph Alessi ("Arctic Emanations" for trombone and piano); Ronald Barron ("Sky Dreams" for alto trombone and piano); Scott Hartman ("Trees" for alto trombone and orchestra, “Timeline Contemplations” for trombone and piano); Randall Montgomery ("Clouncey" for tuba and piano, "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, "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); Washington Trombone Ensemble (“Fanfare to the Rising Phoenix” for solo trombone with trombone choir, “Peri-dots” for trombone choir); 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) and Jacques Zoon ("In the Place of Wild Lavender" for flute, horn and cello). Mr. 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 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), Gabriel Langfur (“Moonscape” for bass trombone and piano), John Rutherford (“Life Waves” for trombone and organ), 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 others.

In his numerous compositions (over 300 created to date), Mr. Bolter explores creating "essence music" (music as a living thing) 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, concert band, brass band, mixed chamber ensemble and orchestra. Notably, Mr. Bolter has composed more music for the trombone that any other composer.

A renowned teacher, known for his highly effective, inspiring and “out of the box” creativity and problem solving, Mr. Bolter serves on the faculties of both the New England Conservatory and Boston Conservatory. Previously, he served on the faculties of Mannes School of Music and Boston University, as a member of quintet in residence Empire Brass Quintet; Longy School of Music, the University of South Florida and the University of Massachusetts - Amherst, where he also taught composition; Boston University Tanglewood Institute; and Tanglewood Music Center. Mr. Bolter launched and developed both the trombone and brass repertory classes at New England Conservatory, the trombone choir at NEC Preparatory School and often composes works for his classes and students' recitals. Mr. Bolter's students have included not only trombonists (classical and jazz), but French hornists, trumpeters and tubists, and many of his students hold positions in major symphony orchestras, chamber music groups and universities around the world. Mr. Bolter regularly conducts masterclasses, clinics and private lessons, face-to-face and virtually over Skype or FaceTime, in the US, Canada and abroad, including having conducted weeklong masterclasses with El Sistema in Venezuela as part of New England Conservatory’s summer music seminar. Additionally, Mr. Bolter co-directs Frequency Band workshops and performances with Dr. Carol Viera and is co-author, with Dr. Viera, of several papers and booklets, including "Methods of Effective Practice," "High Range Exercises," "It's Not All in the Air," and "The Metronome Meditation." Mr. Bolter also has written a unique sight reading book for advanced trombone players, "Reading at the Speed of Sight.”

Mr. Bolter maintains a popular multimedia blog, “Frequency Bone,” where he shares ongoing insights and musings about music as a living thing and its many possible expressions, whether in practice, performance, auditions or for one’s own enjoyment. This blog includes sound clips, photos and videos and hosts Mr. Bolter’s annual online summer music camp, “The Frequency Bone Summer Music Connection,” soon to be in its eighth year.

Mr. Bolter can be contacted through his website at or via his conservatory emails at New England Conservatory and Boston Conservatory.

We also invite you to visit Norman Bolter's blog. Here you will find, 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 and videos, posted along the way, make for a lively, entertaining and informative experience.

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Hear the WGBH Boston radio interview with Norman Bolter about his life with the Boston Symphony and his future plans. If you missed the broadcast aired worldwide over their WGBH website on November 23rd, or if you did hear it but would like to hear it again, we have good news. With the kind permission of producer Brian Bell and WGBH, we've posted it to our Audio/Video page. Enjoy!


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