School of Music

Low Brass Festival

The Wright State University School of Music Low Brass Studios, under the leadership of Dr. Gretchen McNamara and Dr. Steve Darling, are excited to be hosting another festival for low brass musicians from our region again this year.

January 21, 2019
Creative Arts Center
Wright State University

Each January we bring you world-renowned guest artists and clinicians for a day of music-making, master classes, and performances. We are excited to announce the 2019 Low Brass Festival guest artists will include Samuel Chen, Principal Trombone, Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, and Jason Smith, Professor of Tuba and Euphonium, Ohio University. The day will also include the finals round of a collegiate low brass solo competition and industry vendors on-site with instruments to try and supplies to purchase. The festival is open to high school and college students, amateurs and professionals. Advanced middle school students are welcome to participate as well.

The festival will also be host to a performance solo competition in one division for collegiate students up to age 25. Competition rules, registration, and fees are described in the tabs below. Click for more information.  

Hosts: Gretchen McNamara (trombone) and Steve Darling (tuba and euphonium)


$15 – Festival participant fee

$25 – Collegiate Solo Competition entry fee (includes the festival)

$10 – Music teachers

All participants under age 18 must submit a Medical Form on the day of the event.

All festival events will take place on the Wright State campus in the Creative Arts Center. 

Directions to Wright State 

Solo Competition Info 


Preliminary round (recorded): Submitted electronically by Monday, November 19, 2018
Notification of finalists: Monday, December 10, 2018

Deadline to request an accompanist for the finals round: Friday, December 14, 2018

Final round (live): January 21, 2019, 10 a.m.

Cash Prizes:

1st - $150 (Sponsored by Buddy Rogers)

2nd - $100 (Sponsored by McCutcheon Music)

3rd - $50 and gift card (Sponsored by Buddy Rogers)

The first-place competition winners will perform in a recital later the same afternoon (January 21, 2019) at Wright State's Low Brass Festival

Entry Fee:  $25

Entry fee payment is online and can be made by using: 

  • Mastercard 
  • Visa 
  • Discover 
  • webCheck 

Competition Eligibility and Repertoire:

The Wright State Low Brass Festival solo competition will be in one division and is open to university students regardless of degree program up to age 25 (born after January 15, 1994).

All competitors must record one of the following selections:

Tenor Trombone: Piece in Eb minor – Guy Ropartz OR Andante et Allegro – J Ed. Barat

Bass Trombone: Sonata for Bass Trombone – Patrick McCarty OR Allegro Maestoso – Jan Koetsier

Euphonium: Concert Piece No. 1 – Joseph Turrin OR The Southern Cross – Herbert L. Clarke

Tuba: Sonata No. 1 in F - Marcello arr. Nelson/Little OR Concerto for Bass Tuba: I. & II. - Ralph Vaughan Williams

The preliminary round MUST be performed with piano accompaniment 

The final round will be performed live with piano accompaniment and an accompanist will be provided IF NEEDED. Finalists are strongly encouraged to bring their own accompanist. A staff accompanist will be provided for $30 payable in advance. Rehearsals with accompanist (if needed) will be scheduled for the morning of January 21, 2019

All applicants must be available to perform in the live finals round on campus Monday, January 21, 2019

The first-place competition winners will perform in a recital later the same afternoon (January 21, 2019) at Wright State's Low Brass Festival

Submitting your recording:

Recordings must be submitted electronically by Monday, November 19, 2018

No recording will be considered without submission of the application fee. 

All submissions must be in MP3 format

*** Please include with your recording the following information:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Email address
  • School
  • Year in school

Recordings must be submitted to:

Gretchen McNamara (tenor and bass trombone only) - 

Steve Darling (tuba and euphonium only) –

Competition Judges

Preliminary Round: Dr. Danny Chapa (Adjunct Faculty of Low Brass, Stephen F. Austin State University), Dr. Chris Dickey (Clinical Assistant Professor of Tuba and Euphonium, Washington State University), and Dr. Russ Zokaites (Visiting Professor of Trombone, Morehead State University)

Live Round: Preston Light (Adjunct Instructor of Tuba and Euphonium, Northern Kentucky University), Dr. Louis Setzer (Adjunct Instructor of Low Brass, Marion University), Kay Sun (DMA Candidate of Euphonium, University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music)

Guest Artists and Clinicians

Samuel Chen, Trombone 

Samuel S. Chen, a Huntington, Indiana native, was raised in a musical family, graduating from Interlochen Arts Academy in 1993. Sam earned his B.M. in Trombone Performance from the Cleveland Institute of Music in 1997, studying with Steven Witser. Continuing his education at Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, Sam studied with, Carl Lenthe, and M. Dee Stewart, earning the Artist Diploma in 2004. Other influences include James DeSano, Scott Hartman, and Ed Zadrozny.  

Sam joined the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra as principal trombone in the fall of 2000, and maintains a busy schedule as a symphonic trombonist, holding positions with Oak Ridge Symphony Orchestra, Symphony of the Mountains, and the Lakeside Symphony Orchestra. Sam has previously served as principal trombone of the Missouri Chamber Orchestra, bass trombone for the Jacksonville Symphony, and has performed as a substitute for the New World Symphony under Michael Tilson Thomas, Fort Wayne Philharmonic, Kalamazoo Symphony, Akron Symphony, Evansville Philharmonic, and is currently active as a substitute for the San Diego Symphony Orchestra.

Honors and awards include solo appearances with the KSO under conductors Kirk Trevor, Daniel Meyer, Cornelia Laemli, Keith Brion, Sande MacMorran, and James Fellenbaum. Sam has also performed as soloist with Oak Ridge Symphony Orchestra under Serge Fournier, the Missouri Chamber Orchestra under Kirk Trevor, and Fort Wayne Philharmonic under Ronald Ondrejka and David Crowe as a young artist. Sam is the only trombonist to have won the Cleveland Institute of Music concerto competition, a win which resulted in a performance of the Grondahl Concerto for Trombone and Orchestra conducted by Alan Gilbert. Additional solo performances include performances with the Case Western Reserve University Wind Ensemble, the University of the Cumberlands Wind Ensemble, the International Symphonic Band of Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp, and the Erie Band of Huntington, IN. Sam received the award in excellent performance from the Interlochen Arts Academy and also won the Leonard Falcone International Euphonium Competition in 1992.    

As a clinician and educator, Sam has presented masterclasses for the Tennessee Music Educator’s Association’s Clinic, The University of Memphis Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music, and Eastern Kentucky University. Teaching privately in the Knoxville area, Sam is an instructor for Music Arts in Oak Ridge, and the Maryville City Schools Band program. Sam has also served as faculty for the New York Summer Music Festival in Oneonta NY (2006-15) and is proud to have seen students go on to attend such institutions as: Cleveland Institute of Music, Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, the Manhattan School of Music, the University of North Texas and the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. 

Sam is available for private instruction and may be reached at

Jason Smith, Tuba-Euphonium 

Jason Roland Smith, Professor of Tuba & Euphonium at Ohio University, has presented performances at conferences, festivals, and universities internationally. As a founding member of OhioBrass, Ohio University’s faculty-artist brass quintet in residence, he has toured nationally and also performed at the Music Teachers National Convention and the Ohio Music Educators Association Conference. Dr. Smith is also a member of OU's faculty low brass trio, 3BASSO, along with faculty Dr. Lucas Rego Borges and Dr. Joseph Brown (trombones).

As an adjudicator, he has served as head judge for the Young Tuba Artist Competition at the 2010 International Tuba Competition and has adjudicated for ITEA solo and excerpt competitions as well as the prestigious Leonard Falcone Competition. As an orchestral tubist, he has performed with many orchestras in the region and currently serves as principal tubist with the Ohio Valley Symphony. Jason has served on the faculties of Wright State University, College of Mount St. Joseph, Northern Kentucky University, Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp, and Cannon Music Camp. From 2002-2011, was Chief-Editor for the ITEA Journal, quarterly publication of the International Tuba Euphonium Association, and currently, he serves on the organization’s Board of Directors as Publications Coordinator.. 

Since arriving at O.U. in 1999, Jason has had students compete and win such competitions as the Leonard Falcone Euphonium & Tuba Competition, the ITEA Solo and Euphonium/Tuba Excerpt Competitions, and the Markneukirchen Solo Tuba Competition. In addition, graduates are employed as music educators throught the United States as professional performers, college teachers, and music therapists throughout the United States.

Dr. Steven Darling currently serves as the Adjunct Instructor of Tuba and Euphonium at Wright State University, Tubist with the WSU Faculty Brass Quintet, Content Resource Manager of the International Tuba-Euphonium Association (ITEA) Pedagogy Video Library, and Principal Tuba of the Lakeside Symphony Orchestra. 

An accomplished competitor, Dr. Darling has recieved accolades in over 10 solo and chamber competitions including the Falcone Festival Tuba Artist Competition and the International Tuba-Euphonium Conference Euphonium Artist Competition. Steven has appeared as a soloist throughout the USA with such ensembles as the Wright State University Chamber Orchestra, Cincinnati Brass Band, and Wisconsin Youth Wind Ensemble. In 2018 Steven will premiere Daniel Baldwin's Concerto for Tuba and Orchestra with Orchestra Omaha at the Omaha Conservatory of Music. 

Dr. Darling's original compositions have received premieres and performances at regional and international ITEA conferences, the United States Army Band Tuba-Euphonium Workshop, the International Euphonium-Tuba Festival, and universities throughout the USA. Steven's debut solo album Dualities, published on the Emeritus Recording Label in 2018, was the recipient of two Global Music Awards. A future recording project comprised of newly commisioned works for the Darling Duo, a chamber ensemble comprised of flute (Lizzy Darling) and tuba/euphonium (Steven), is currently underway. 

Steven has appeared as a soloist and lecturer at conferences and universities throughout the USA including the Midwest, Southeast, Great Plains, Northwest, and International Tuba-Euphonium Conferences, the Indiana Music Educators Conference, the Midwest Trombone-Euphonium Conference, the Wright State University Low Brass Festival, University of Wisconsin-Platteville, and the University of Northern Iowa. In January, Dr. Darling serves as Competition Chair, Guest Artist Liason, and Co-Host of the annual Wright State University Low Brass Festival alongside Dr. Gretchen McNamara. 

An advocate of new music, Dr. Darling has premiered works throughout the USA by award winning composers Ellen Ruth Harrison, Benjamin McMillan, Lawton Hall, Ian Lester, Richard Wetzel, Elaine Ross, Andy Francis, Sy Brandon, Michael Neumeyer, and Daniel Harrison. Steven's own works have recieved publication from Cimarron, Cherry Classics Publishing, Absolute Brass/ Publications, and Potenza Inc. Former students have won competitions throughout the USA, gained acceptance into prestigious programs including the Cleveland Institute of Music, won positions with the 100th United States Army Bands, and currently serve as music educators throughout the Tri-State Region. 

Dr. Darling is a Miraphone Performing Artist (Tuba) for Miraphone eG Instrument Manufacturer, performing exclusively on the F281 Firebird and CC188.

Dr. Gretchen McNamara is Senior Lecturer of Trombone at Wright State University, a position she has held since 2007. In addition to her responsibilities with the trombone studio, she also teaches Instrumental Music Education and supervises Field Placements. Dr. McNamara has presented clinics (2012, 2013, 2015) and performed as a member of the Wright State University Faculty Brass Quintet (2009, 2017) and Wright State University Chamber Orchestra (2012) at the Ohio Music Educator's Association State Conference. She has been a featured artist/clinician at the International Trombone Festival (2014); Midwest Trombone and Euphonium Conference, Charleston, IL (2014, 2016); Big 12 Trombone Conference, Lubbock, Texas (2013); and artist in residence at the BrassChix Festival at the University of St. Thomas (2010, 2011). Recently, she has served as the guest conductor of the OMEA District 16 Honor Band (2017) OMEA District 12 Honor Middle School Jazz Ensemble (2016), OMEA District 14 Honor Middle School Jazz Ensemble (2015), OMEA District 12 Honor Symphonic Band (2014), and has served as an invited guest clinician/adjudicator for the Weekend of Jazz in Beavercreek, Ohio (2014). Dr. McNamara has also been a featured soloist with the Wright State University Wind Ensemble, Kettering (Ohio) Civic Band, Wright State University Symphonic Band, Xavier University’s Symphonic Winds (Ohio) and the Shoreline Concert Band (Washington). She has also performed with the Middletown Symphony Orchestra (OH), Lima Symphony Orchestra (OH) and the Newark-Granville Symphony Orchestra (OH).  

​Outside of her position at Wright State University, Dr. McNamara writes CD Recording Reviews for the International Trombone Association. She also maintains a private trombone studio with students from the greater Dayton area. Dr. McNamara has served on the faculty of Xavier University and the University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music Preparatory Department. 

​A native of Seattle, Washington Dr. McNamara has earned a Doctor of Musical Arts Degree from the University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music, a Master of Music degree from Kent State University, and a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Washington. Before beginning the DMA, Dr. McNamara was the director of bands at Patapsco High School and Center for the Arts in Baltimore, Maryland. Her principle instructors include David Vining, JoDee Davis, Mathew Guilford and Stuart Dempster.

Schedule of Events

2019 Low Brass Festival Schedule
Time Activity
8:00–9:00 am

Solo Competition Rehearsals (Finalists Only- as needed)

Vendor Set-up

Festival Registration Open

9:00 a.m.

Trombone Warm-up Master Class -  CAC 190

Tuba/Euphonium Warm- up Master Class – CAC 180

Vendor Set-up

9:30 a.m.

Solo Competition Finals (Schuster Hall)

Vendor Set-up

10:00 a.m.

Vendors Open

Solo Competition Finals (Schuster Hall)

11:00 a.m.

Festival Ensemble Rehearsals
    Trombone (CAC 190)
    Tuba (CAC 180)

Vendors Open


Vendors Open/Lunch

High school students are encouraged to pack a lunch, off site locations across Colonel Glenn are also available.

1:00 p.m.

Recital: Guest Artists (Schuster Hall)
    Samuel Chen, Jason Smith, Darling Duo

Vendors Open

2:30–3:45 p.m.

Guest Artist Clinics
    CAC 190 (Trombone)
    CAC 180 (Tuba)
    Topics to be announced

Vendors Open

4:00–5:00 p.m. Recital: Solo Competition Winner, WSU Studio Ensembles, Festival Ensembles (Schuster Hall)
4:30 p.m.  Vendors Close
5:00 p.m. Low Brass Festival Concludes



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