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GSU trombonist earns international acclaim
Eric SpencerWeb
Eric Spencer, left, and Georgia Southern music professor Dr. Richard Mason show off their trombone chops. - photo by ROGER ALLEN/special

    Nineteen-year-old Christian “Eric” Spencer loves to play his trombone — now.
    Honestly, he said, he didn’t get really excited about playing his instrument until he went to a jazz concert on the spur of the moment while a freshman in high school in Augusta, Georgia. As he remembered it, he wasn’t even that crazy about jazz. Nonetheless, he went along for the ride.
    Fast forward several years. Spencer, in his second year at Georgia Southern University, learned recently he placed fifth in the 2014 International Trombone Association’s Larry Wiehe Tenor Trombone competition, in which he competed against more than 500 of the best trombonists from around the world.
    To put the award in perspective, it is only the second time in recent history a student from anywhere in Georgia won such a prestigious Trombone Association award. University of Georgia student David Gonzalez also won fifth place in the same competition in 2007. Moreover, it was a truly international panel of judges who made Spencer a top-five    selection.
    Obviously, everything changed for Spencer that fateful night several years ago after he witnessed trombone virtuoso Wycliffe Gordon work his magic. Eric discovered he couldn’t get enough. His parents took him to play with the Augusta Youth Orchestra, the Augusta Civic Orchestra, and then even the Augusta Conservatory Jazz Band, as his skills increased.
    During his high school career, Spencer was elected to Georgia’s All State Band every year for the trombone and one year for the euphonium as well. After graduation, he decided to attend Georgia Southern University under Dr. Rick Mason, who is in his 12th year as Low Brass Professor.
    Joseph and Kozue, his parents, had one question for Dr. Mason:
    “Does Eric have what it takes to make it as a professional musician?”
    As Dr. Mason recounts: “I told them he had all four of the things he’d need to succeed in the industry. He’s a very talented musician, he’s got a great work ethic, he’s very intelligent and he has a real drive to succeed.”
    As a freshman, Spencer was part of Dr. Mason’s “GSU Trombone Ensemble,” which was one of 23 collegiate trombone ensembles from around the world invited to play before the annual International Trombone Association Festival in Columbus, Georgia.
    Interim Music Department Chairperson Dr. Linda Cionitti agreed that Spencer’s award is a prestigious one, and added it is “indicative of the caliber of music students who are now choosing to earn their degrees at GSU.”

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