Today’s installment of my occasional “Gadgets and Gizmos” series highlights not a physical piece of technology or other equipment, but rather a fairly recent forum for the development and exchange of ideas with regard to pedagogy, equipment, repertoire, and other matters of interest to low brass players. Despite its now ubiquitous presence in our society, social media in its current form is a phenomenon well less than twenty years old, and few would argue that its influence has been universally good. Certainly even a cursory glance at the present political and cultural landscape will show us that it has perhaps not been a net good, since one can argue that social media has been a major contributor to our present fractiousness.
Despite this demonstrated potential for ill, some individuals and organizations have figured out ways to use social media as a tool to improve relationships, institutions, and professions. For low brass players, Facebook groups have been a boon to the sharing and refinement of ideas regarding our craft. In a way, this is a natural extension of activities we knew going back into the mid-1990s, when the Trombone-L and TubaEuph email distribution lists were in full swing, followed by the development of online discussion forums such as The Trombone Forum and TromboneChat.com (two sites whose interrelationship is complicated and not worth discussing now), TubeNet BBS, TubaEuph, and others. The low brass community has always had its share of nerds and techies, and that is not a bad thing!
The adoption of Facebook groups by our community has been fairly recent, but extremely successful, not just in terms of numbers of members but also in the fruitfulness of discussions had in these usually well-moderated groups. Here are a few of my favorites, with short commentary on each.
Trombone Pedagogy. This group is, in my opinion, the best of the Facebook low brass groups, with numerous daily discussions covering topics related to trombone teaching and performance. Discussions of equipment, performances, and other matters are relegated to other pages, so the mission of this group has remained focused and helpful. This is thanks largely to an effective moderating team that keeps things on track without becoming draconian.
Trombone Equipment. While the title might suggest that this is a sales-oriented page, it is instead a place where questions and ideas regarding equipment can be discussed separately from the pedagogical discussions on the above page.
Tuba/Euphonium. There are some discussions here like those at Trombone Pedagogy, but interspersed with more performance videos and other “links of interest” rather than having content limited to serious discussion. Equipment-related matters are also discussed here.
Bass Trombone Appreciation Society. Somewhere between the Trombone Pedagogy and Tuba/Euphonium groups in terms of consistency and seriousness of content, but more or less limited to bass trombone-specific topics.
Low Brass Pedagogy. For some reason, this group is not as busy as some of the others, but occasional topics of interest do arise.
TromboneForum.org/TromboneChat.com. As the title suggests, this group somehow functions as an extension of the aforementioned discussion forums outside of Facebook. It is not as strictly moderated as Trombone Pedagogy.
Trombone Marketplace and Tuba/Euphonium Marketplace. Buying and selling used instruments—and avoiding eBay fees where possible—has always been a key function of low brass groups online, and Facebook is simply the latest forum for this. There is a certain “buyer beware” aspect of such transactions, of course, though online low brass communities are fairly good at self-policing, warning members about possible fraud, bad deals, and even known unscrupulous sellers.
I’m sure there are other groups like these on Facebook and other social media sites, but these are the ones with which I am the most familiar and which I find most helpful. I would be remiss if I did not also mention the Facebook pages for the International Trombone Association and International Tuba-Euphonium Association, but these mostly serve as places for advertising conferences, journals, and articles, as opposed to the almost organically growing discussions on the other pages listed here. While there is certainly still an important place for high-quality published books, articles, sheet music, and other resources that have been filtered through “gatekeepers” such as editors, publishers, and reviewers, the internet has provided and through social media continues to provide fertile ground from which new streams of information, ideas, and sounds can edify, inspire, and challenge us.
At the very least, it provides a place where I can share these blog posts!