CHICAGO – When 12-year-old Chickasaw Steven Warren first picked up a trombone, he had little idea how music would shape his life.
Now a 23-year-old graduate student at Northwestern University, the Oklahoma State University alumnus is working hard to make his dreams come true.
Playing with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for nine days last spring and again during Thanksgiving were major highlights in his life.
One of his teachers at Northwestern invited him to participate, according to a news release.
“Chicago Symphony has always been the ensemble I have looked up to and being asked by my teacher to play in the ensemble was a dream come true,” said Warren, who is Chickasaw, in the release. “It was amazing.”
The request was rare, considering only one or two Northwestern students each year are asked to perform with the symphony.
“I went to the symphony to pick up my music and they thought I was there to pick up music for the Youth Orchestra,” he chuckled.
He performed two different programs with the symphony; a pops concert at the “Keys to the City” Festival and a traditional program.
To prepare, he poured his concentration and focus into the music.
“I listened to that music constantly,” he said in the release. “There was no way I was going to make a mistake in that first rehearsal.”
During that first surreal rehearsal, he performed with his heroes.
“I’ve looked up to everyone in that orchestra since I started playing, and to be able to make music with them was an incredible opportunity,” he said in the release. “They were all super nice, too. Some of the nicest people I have ever met.”
After three rehearsals, it was time for the concerts.
Nerves set in.
“Usually I don’t get nervous for orchestra performances,” he said in the release. “I am in the back the orchestra and play my part, but the first rehearsal and first concert with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, I was so nervous, and my heart was pounding. You just can’t make a mistake.”
Warren’s summer performances ended, but he is still setting and working toward goals.
His ultimate dream is to work with his role model, Mark Lawrence, a trombonist with the San Francisco Symphony.
“Once I heard him play, I said ‘I want to sound like him.,” Warren said in the release.
Warren was able to work with his idol the past summer at the The Music Academy of the West Summer School, in Santa Barbara, Calif.
The Music Academy of the West has trained the next generation of great classical musicians by providing opportunities for advanced study and intensive performance in a supportive environment, according to the release.
At the academy, he was selected to serve as a mentor to a high school student and he gained personal satisfaction from that experience.
His ultimate dream is to play in any orchestra in California, where the music scene in thriving, and teach at a university.
Starting on the path
When Warren was introduced to the “band” concept, the sixth-grader wanted to play drums.
On try-out day, though, he was told he could choose between the trumpet and the tuba.
“So I chose the medium, the trombone,” he said in the release.
In high school, he began to take band seriously.
“I just loved it and I didn’t want to do anything else,” he said in the release.
He contemplated studying chemical engineering and psychology.
“But there was no choice,” he said in the release. “Music was the thing to do.”
After graduation, he went on to study at OSU.
While a student at Oklahoma State, Mr. Warren made history as a member of the OSU Trombone Octet and Quartet, according to the release.
The group won several awards including the 2008 Down Beat Student Music Award for Classical Group, ITA Remington Trombone Choir winners, and the Seretean Trombone Quartet. The 2010 OSU Trombone Quartet was selected best of 29 quartets from around the world.
While an undergrad, he was also was selected to participate in the 2011 CCM Spoleto Program at the Festival dei due Mondi in Spoleto, Italy.
His advice to younger band students is to “keep doing it” and “don’t’ give up.”
Warren is the son of Wayne “Fuzzy” and Gwen Warren, of Ponca City.
He received his bachelor of music degree from OSU and is currently a master of music candidate at Northwestern University, in Evanston, Ill.