Kris Garfitt

Trombone Teacher and Performer

Kris’s Music Story

Kris grew up in Sheffield and first started playing the piano at about age 5, influenced by his mother who was an enthusiastic amateur pianist. By age 8 he had decided though that he really wanted to play a brass instrument and so started playing the euphonium, then moved from this to trombone at about age 12.

Kris is a great example of someone who did not go to specialist music school but still has successfully achieved a career in music. He played and learnt trombone at school and played in lots of local brass bands, school music groups and played in the City of Sheffield Youth Orchestra. It was not until he was 16 that he had additional lessons every couple of weeks at the Royal Northern College of Music. The teacher there encouraged him to apply for the Guildhall School of Music, which is where he later went onto study.

Since graduating from the Guildhall School of Music, he studied in Germany with Fabrice Millischer, a renown trombone soloist. Fabrice’s teaching focussed more on being a soloist, in contrast to the Guildhall where it had been much more about how to blend the trombone sound with others in a section; about playing in orchestra and in a section. Since graduating Kris has won the Gold medal of the 2019 Royal Overseas League Music Competition and was first prize winner of the 2019 Jeju International Music Competition, 2018 International Tenor and Bass Trombone Competition in Budapest, the 2018 International Juozas Pakalnis Competition of Wind and Percussion Instruments in Vilnius and the 2019 International IPV Trombone Competition in Germany.

Kris has since stayed in Germany, currently working in Cologne. He has performed with several orchestras there and since 2021 is the solo trombonist of the WDR Symphony Orchestra, and previously a member of the German Radio Philharmonic Orchestra from 2016-2021. Germany has about 130 professional orchestras, more than any other country, whereas the UK has just 44 so it is a great place to be part of the orchestral scene. He still does work for the City of Sheffield Youth Orchestra, as well as teaching privately online and in person.

"My approach to teaching varies depending on the student but there are a few things I really try and instil in everyone."

What was the Guildhall School of Music and Drama like?

I did not come from a specialist music school or other organisations like the National Youth Orchestra, so I did not already know people at the Guildhall, but I soon made friends and it was just such a great experience. The timetable was extremely busy, so you moved between brass class, repertoire class and orchestral rehearsals which sometimes did not leave you much time for individual practice, but it was a great experience.

In addition to fantastic teaching and performance opportunities, Guildhall was also good in helping you manage becoming a professional musician. There were classes on how to deal with your tax return, how to operate as a freelancer, tips on auditions for orchestras and even etiquette of playing in an orchestra! I think this was a valuable part of the course at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, which is perhaps not covered at all music colleges.

Why play the trombone?

I like to think the trombone is one of the instruments closest to the human voice. It is a very versatile instrument and can be played in jazz groups, big bands and orchestras. If you want to experience a range of genres then it is a fantastic instrument, and it is not super expensive to get a great instrument. There are also good job prospects vs some other more niche instruments. I would highly recommend it!

Where would you suggest people buy a trombone from?

Prozone Music and Phil Parker Ltd in London are great shops to get a trombone. I would recommend these places in the UK. A great product to buy which should last you a while is the Conn 88H. This is about £1000 second hand or £3500 brand new. I play a Courtois trombone, AAC440BR, which works well for me. A great trombone is much more affordable than a great violin or piano, which is another great reason to play.

What age do you recommend starting to play the trombone?

With the trombone you need to be old enough; with adult teeth and with an arm long enough to play properly! Some people start on an alto trombone earlier, but I would recommend the route that I did; learning something like the euphonium at an earlier age, then transitioning to the trombone at about age 12.

So, what are you like as a teacher?

My approach to teaching varies depending on the student but there are a few things I really try and instil in everyone. Creating a structure around your practice is important. Start with a variety of warmup exercises that test different techniques and help you develop; deliberately work on elements you need to improve. Afterwards, simply sing and make music.

What has been your career highlight to date?

Playing in the BBC Proms for the first time with the European Union Youth Orchestra, and the final of the Royal Overseas League Music Competition.

What trombone pieces would you recommend people listen to, to inspire them to play?

Mahler’s 3rd Symphony has a fantastic part for the trombone.
The Acrobat by John A Greenwood is a fun piece for children to listen to, which shows off the instrument.
Other great pieces include Weber’s Romance for Trombone and Guy Ropartz’s Piece in E Flat.

Book Kris