Spotlight of the Week: Emmy Rozanski

Emmy Rozanski is a trombonist and music teacher who divides her time between Milwaukee and Chicago. She’s played in many different iterations of performance ranging from orchestra to Latin jazz to big band to Serbian brass. She’s currently the principal trombone for Skokie Valley Symphony Orchestra, is adjunct music faculty for Alverno College, a teaching artist for Sistema Ravinia, and low brass instructor for Highland Park High School.

ME: To start, Emmy, tell me about how you got involved with Wisconsin Music Ventures.

EMMY: So, before Allison started Wisconsin Music Ventures she started a musician’s meetup, and I saw that and thought it’d be cool to go to. I went to one of them, and when I did Allison and I realized that we kind of knew each other from the past. We had been in the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra together, but we weren’t really friends yet or anything. We reconnected and started doing things together like going to concerts and taking walks, so I knew about Wisconsin Music Ventures right from the beginning; she started creating that soon after we reconnected. She told me about her member program later and I looked into it and decided to become a member.

ME: Well I’m glad you did! Here we are.

Emmy: (laughs) Yes.

ME: Tell me about your Musical Imaginings Class.

EMMY: It was an idea that I came up with I guess because of other teaching I had done that wasn’t exactly like that but made me think of the idea, and I really hadn’t had the opportunity to do it as much as I’d like. I’ve tried to set up classes and get people to sign up or even offer free ones but honestly it hasn’t worked. I did one thing with my neighbor’s two kids; the older is four and the other is one and a half, and I did one with them in the park late summer and that turned out really well. They kept their focus more than I thought. But basically my idea for it is something that could be multi-generational; kids could come with their parents or grandparents or they could come alone. So one thing I liked to do is to imagine an environment and think of all the sounds you’d hear, and then when you’re ready, try to make some of those sounds; it’s like a group improvisation. So that’s one of the things I do for that, and then the other thing is stories, where I read a story and the class improvises based on it. It can be kind of literal, like if in the story a dog is barking you try to make a sound of that, but it could also be more like a mood where if the story feels sad we’ll make some sad music. Those are just some of the activities; with imagining improvisation it’s not about the technique of playing an instrument but about how you express with it.

ME: Nice, that sounds very authentic. And it’s aptly named.

ME: Tell me about the International Trombone Festival.

EMMY: It happens every year in a different place, so it doesn’t have to be in the United States since it’s international; it was supposed to be in Japan in 2020 but it was cancelled due to COVID. I’ve been to it three times; the first time was in Iowa and I wanted to go because I had never been to it and it was pretty close. Then I kind of realized that I could be part of it, so for the next one in Indiana I applied to do a presentation and I got accepted to do it; it was on cultivating a growth mindset in yourself and your students. It was important to me because when I was younger – and I still struggle with this – if something wouldn’t go well, I would be really worried that I just wasn’t good enough and that I should quit trying to be a musician. When I started researching the growth mindset, I accepted that it’s not a reflection on my whole person and what I could ever do; it’s just that something didn’t go as well as you wanted it to. I felt like that was a really important thing to bring to other musicians because everything’s so competitive and it’s easy to feel discouraged. This last summer at the International Trombone Festival, it was in Georgia, and I went and presented on navigating life after music school. I started a blog last year because I feel that there’s a lot of emerging musicians who are making it work without winning a full-time orchestra job or teaching position, and there’s so many different ways people are making a living in music. I wanted to talk to people and find out all the things they’re doing, and make a resource for other people to get ideas and be inspired and learn. I learned a lot from doing all the blog interviews and I did a presentation about that. I also got to play at the International Women’s Trombone Choir at the festival and that was pretty cool.

ME: Awesome. My dad’s a trombone player and he didn’t play for a long time, but then he started getting back into it a few years ago and he played in the community band.

ME: What is your ideal night out in Milwaukee?

EMMY: Hmm. I haven’t seen the Milwaukee Symphony in their new hall yet, so that’s something I’d really like to do.

ME: Nice. That sounds like a fun outing.

ME: My last question is, what are you working on now? What can people expect from you in the next few months?

EMMY: Currently I teach private lessons at three high schools and I also work for Ravinia; I actually moved to Chicago at the beginning of September because all my schools are in Illinois, but I’ve been in Wisconsin about half the time because I’ve had a lot of gigs here and my family’s here. This whole week I’m in Milwaukee because I’m playing for a musical – 42nd Street at Tosa West. Allison and I did a recording project recently, and we’re seeing if we’re accepted to perform at the International Women’s Brass Conference, which is in May. I’d love to get the Musical Imaginings Class going and I guess a goal of mine is to start my own music school, so you might look out for that in the next couple years.

Visit Emmy Rozanski’s website here.

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