Recently we have been lucky enough to talk and meet Colombian bass trombonist Sebastian Cifuentes.
Innovatrombone: Hello Sebastian, we are delighted to chat with you, welcome to Innovatrombone!
Sebastian Cifuentes: Thank you very much for the invitation, it’s a pleasure.
Innovatrombone: Where do you come from?
Sebastián Cifuentes: I am from a city located in the interior of the country called Manizales, a very small city but with a great tradition of Symphonic Bands.
Innovatrombone: How did the interest in music and/or trombone appear?
Sebastian Cifuentes: As I was saying, this is an area of the country where each town has its own symphonic band. In the school where my parents decided that I should study there was one of these bands that was one of the most prestigious in the country and which always occupied the top places in competitions. So there I started in music and on the trombone.
Innovatrombone: Tell us, with whom and where did you start to study trombone?
Sebastián Cifuentes: My first teacher was Jorge Mario Raigoza, director of the band at the school where I studied, to him I owe my love for this instrument.
From there I moved to the city of Bogota, where I began my university studies with Giovanni Scarpetta, Ruben Rodriguez and finally graduated with Oscar Rodriguez, all of them great trombonists and Colombian teachers.
Innovatrombone: Where did you continue your trombone studies?
Sebastian Cifuentes: I finished my studies in Bogotá, at the Universidad Javeriana and I didn’t continue with more formal studies (for now hehe), but I did attend different festivals and courses in Latin America and Europe. In these I met great artists and teachers that have influenced my career a lot.
Innovatrombone: Can you tell us about the teachers who have influenced you the most and why?
Sebastian Cifuentes: In these courses that I am talking about I had the fortune to meet great teachers, such as Denson Paul Pollard (MET Opera) from whom I learned to have a more intelligent and efficient practice,
I also took lessons from James Markey (Boston Symphony) his musicality and virtuosity on the bass trombone are unique.
Finally the maestro Angel Subero (Boston Pops) who taught me that you can play tenor and bass trombone without any problem, (as some teachers told me I shouldn’t).
Innovatrombone: We know that you are an artist of the well-known brand Shires. Can you tell us about the trombone and mouthpiece you currently use?
Sebastian Cifuentes: Since November 2019 I’m a Shires Artist and I use a trombone with bell model by Blair Bollinger with Axial Flow valve and Dual Bore slide.
I have used the mouthpiece Schilke 59 since I play the trombone.
Innovatrombone: Tell us, what is your current occupation?
Sebastian Cifuentes: I am currently a bass trombone player with the National Symphony Orchestra of Colombia and a trombone professor at the Universidad Javeriana and Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá.
Innovatrombone: Could you share with us how was your arrival to this orchestra, audition process, etc) and secondly, what is your experience there?
Sebastian Cifuentes: I entered the Orchestra as an extra musician in 2010, so I played only a few weeks, in 2011 I auditioned to have a contract for a few years, since the place would not be opened yet, so I took the audition and won the contract, and in this way I was there until 2015, when this place was finally opened, I took the audition again and I was the happy winner.
The first selection was made through videos, then we were summoned to a live audition and I was the lucky one to get the position.
It’s an orchestra that works quite a lot, we have a very good programme every year, so I’ve had the opportunity to play almost all the repertoire that we trombonists dream of, in addition to this we have a great brass section, so it’s very enjoyable to do this kind of repertoire with them.
Innovatrombone: What advice would you give to a young trombonist who wants to become part of a professional orchestra?
Sebastian Cifuentes: First of all you have to learn the repertoire very well, then you have to listen carefully to the works (hopefully complete) to know what is happening in the musical context, and finally you have to listen to many orchestras from all over the world, not just to play a specific one, but to broaden your horizons and listen to European, North American, Latin American and Asian orchestras. With YouTube it is very easy to do this, so there are no excuses anymore.
Innovatrombone: have you had any experience with other professional orchestras?
Sebastian Cifuentes: Yes, I have always been looking to do more tests in other countries and orchestras, this helps me a lot to keep in shape.
During the 2017/18 season I had a one-year contract at the Zurich Opernhaus, it was one of the best experiences of my life.
Last year I got a Trial for the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, but due to some visa problems I have not been able to attend yet.
And there is a very special memory as my last concert before the pandemic started was with the Orchestra of the Marinsky Theatre in St Petersburg and Valery Gergiev here in Bogotá. We only had 10 minutes of rehearsal before the concert so you can imagine my nerves, but after playing the first note and seeing Gergiev conducting all this was forgotten and I think it is a concert I will never forget.
Innovatrombone: What is a day in the trombone life of Sebastián Cifuentes like?
Sebastián Cifuentes: Well I try in the mornings to dedicate myself to everything I consider basic and fundamental, so I use the mornings to make long notes, glissandos, flexibility, scales etc. And in the afternoon I dedicate myself to the repertoire I’m preparing at the moment, orchestral passages and books or methods, and then finish the session with some salsa or popular music.
Innovatrombone: Can you tell us about your latest projects?
Sebastian Cifuentes: In 2019 I was the first Colombian to be invited to an ITF to give a recital,
then I decided to commission pieces from Colombian composers to be performed in this concert, so we are in the process of recording these works and looking for more composers interested in writing for our instrument in order to finish my first recording production.
Apart from this some tests in Europe that were suspended by the pandemic, but you have to be prepared because they can happen at any time.
Innovatrombone: It has been a pleasure Sebastian, we wish you much success and at Innovatrombone you have your home.
Sebastian Cifuentes: Thank you very much to Innovatrombone for these spaces to make us known, and for showing the world that in Latin America there is also a very high level of trombonists and that great things are coming.
Innovatrombone: To say goodbye we leave you with two videos of our interviewee.
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