Music fit for Carnegie Hall

In a small office in the Fine Arts building, the sounds of a trumpet, trombone and piano are heard merging to form an original melody. The mesmerizing sounds were being performed as if for a concert.

That’s because Confluences, founded in 2001, is practicing the first cut from its self-titled CD released in 2002. Professors Jay Coble, Tom Brantley and Corey Jane Holt have been preparing for their debut at Carnegie Hall, where legendary artists such as Judy Garland, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis, as well as new artists like Wyclef Jean, have played. Confluences will play Tuesday at 8 p.m.

Chuck Owen, a jazz professor at USF who gave the group its name, composed the title track.

“We commissioned a piece by (him) and he titled the piece Confluences because he saw it as two rivers, the Brantley (and) Coble rivers merging, and then we thought that was pretty true of the group so we took that name,” said Coble, 45, assistant professor of trumpet for the School of Music at USF.

“He didn’t intend it to be the name of the group, and in fact, Corey wasn’t officially a member yet when we commissioned the work. But Corey’s river, so to speak, came in and fit in really well,” said Brantley, 33, a trombone professor.

Holt, 40, the group’s pianist, taught for 10 years at the USF Florida Community Division before the program was cut, and is an active member in the Bonk Festival, an annual celebration of new music. She became a member of the group after one of her performances.

“She performed ‘Concertino’ by Casterede,” Brantley said. “When we decided to start performing and touring, we asked her to join us and she did.”

Brantley and Coble’s daily rehearsals go through with Holt are a small part of their days. They usually meet for nighttime performances.

“We (Coble and Brantley) are one-on-one professors,” Brantley said. “Our teaching load is extremely high.”

Though both professors teach students on a personal level, all students, graduates and undergraduates, meet in classrooms and recitals for an hour once a week, Coble said. But this profession has allowed them to travel beyond the constraints of the offices.

Coble, who is from North Carolina, has visited all but Hawaii in the United States and recently traveled to Poland and Germany during the summer.

Brantley has also traveled the United States. His recent tours have taken the Louisiana native to the Caribbean, the Middle East, Canada and Japan. And Holt, a native of North Dakota, has toured England, Wales and the United States. Their experiences serve as a motivating factor to one of Coble’s students.

“Normally, professors have a strength in one area, but both (Coble and Brantley) are accomplished all around,” said David Bethea, a 24-year-old graduate student.

Bethea, who is pursuing a master of arts in music degree, said that his professors ‘diversity gives him an edge in the field of music. He performed with them last year in the Faculty Brass Quintet.

“Since they are so diverse, it gives me a diverse background,” he said. “That’s what’s great about these professors. I can play anywhere. And they’re always available if I need help.”

But the trio’s tours are not their only accomplishments. Holt has performed on numerous recordings, both classical and pop, and released her solo CD in 2002 titled Unmistakably Modern. She said the album includes piano and background electronics. And along with serving on the board of the Bonk Festival of New Music, held each spring in Tampa, she performs as well. She’s also a frequent soloist with the USF Percussion Ensemble and has recorded many new works with them.

Brantley, who started performing professionally at age 13, serves as the trombonist for the chamber group Rhythm & Brass that has been acclaimed by Entertainment Weekly as “smart and deliciously off-centered.” While in graduate school, he was the lead trombonist and jazz soloist for the Grammy-nominated One O’ Clock Lab Band, under the direction of Neil Slater. He also spent a summer playing at Disney World.

From 1987 to 1990, Coble toured with Tom Jones. Although his passport is well stamped, he’s musically active in the Tampa Bay area, appearing with the Florida Orchestra and the Florida West Coast Symphony.

He’s been invited, on several occasions, to go to The People’s Republic of China to teach and perform, and has been invited to return there to perform recitals and teach graduate classes in 2004. Coble and Brantley are Yamaha performing artists.

“(They) help finance master clinics and help pay our fees,” Brantley said.

Their musical tastes are also varied.

“I listen to Fountains of Wayne, IDA (a pop group) and Liz Phair,” Holt said.

“I enjoy a large scope of music,” said Brantley. “(Some of) the artists I like are Ray Charles, James Brown, Steely Dan, Beck, The Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Beastie Boys.”

But Coble’s selection is much more succinct.

“If I listen to music, I listen to jazz (artists such as) Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and Chet Parker,” he said. “If not that, then classical music.”

Coble, a married father of two, Brantley, a married father of one and Holt, a married stepmother, said the toughest part of their music careers is the time away from their families.

“We spend a lot of time away from them,” said Coble. “But they knew what they were getting into.”

Though this is their first time performing as a group at Carnegie Hall, it is not Holt and Coble’s first performance there. Coble performed in 1982 with Buddy Rich & His Big Band, and in 2000, Holt played the piano with La Petite Choeur.

While in New York, they plan to record music and attend a workshop at State University of New York at Purchase. But mainly they are anxiously waiting the performance

“The chemistry is a lot of fun,” Coble said. “When we get on stage, it’s fun time.”