For trombonist Andrew Ripenburg, opportunity awaits in new places

When Andrew Ripenburg moved to Huntsville, Ont., this past summer, the young trombonist and composer was in a place he’d never been before with just one goal.

“I was anxious to get connected into the music scene here,” he says. With his talent and drive, that happened quickly.

Before long, the 22-year-old began playing in the Muskoka Big Band as their lead trombonist. He then joined the brass section of the funky R&B band Soul 45. Over the winter, he was asked to play a four-hour show with Tobin Spring and the Muskoka Blues Connection at Deerhurst Resort. And this summer, he began tutoring a high-school student interested in studying trombone in post-secondary education.

Now, the Mohawk College graduate is back in Beamsville, Ont., where he grew up, and he’s been working hard on getting more of his own arrangements recorded, as well as connecting with local theatre companies.

We asked this former participant in our Jazzology program to tell us more about what it was like to be a young musician breaking into a new music scene, what gigs and recordings have made him especially proud, and what to expect from this up-and-coming talent in the future.

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So, you recently moved to Huntsville. What was it like going to a new place and getting acquainted with the music scene there? How did you get the lay of the land?

Moving to Huntsville was a huge change for me since I knew nobody. It was an intimidating but exciting challenge to explore the growing music scene. Luckily I was introduced to a saxophone player named Joe Alfano whose nephew is a friend of mine from Mohawk. He gave my name to one or two musicians and word seemed to get out really fast that there was a new trombone player in town. As people I came in contact with heard I was a musician they introduced me to others they thought would make good connections like the local theatre manager or other musicians. All in all I would say it taught me how to make connections and become more interactive with other musicians.

Since then you seem to have gotten really involved, and have kept busy. Can you tell us more about what the jazz scene is like in the Muskoka region?

The connections with other people in the music scene seemed to grow rapidly. I played with the Muskoka Big Band for a while as their lead trombonist, and I joined the horn section of Soul 45, an R&B/funk band — I learned that this seems to be a popular style of “jazz” in Muskoka. I’ve played gigs with other bands and have heard others perform at events and there are many talented musicians who love to get together and jam to blues, funk and soul music.

You’ve also joined Soul 45. What kind of artists influence that band? What’s the sound?

Soul 45 is heavily influenced by artists like Stevie Wonder, Tower of Power, Aretha Franklin, etc. The arrangements are similar to the original recording but quite often they put their own spin on them, for instance by adding new horn lines or adding new vocal harmonies. It has a fantastic, grooving sound and the level of musicianship and attention to detail is what sets its bar so high.

What are some of the favourite gigs you’ve played recently?

I would say my favourite gig I have played here was in the spring, when Soul 45 played a show at the Algonquin Theatre. There were about 400 people in attendance and from the moment we stepped on stage there was a great vibe in the room. Everyone played their best that night and the audience was very enthusiastic and responsive to our music.

Any recordings that you’re particularly proud of as well?

So far I have made five recordings of my own arrangements which can be found on Soundcloud and soon Bandcamp, Spotify and YouTube. They were all recorded in Hamilton with fellow Mohawk musicians. I’d have to say that the one I am most proud of is My Romance, one of my favourite jazz ballads. Everything about the soloing and comping and overall mood of the song just seemed to fit when we recorded it, and it is also the first jazz recording I have sung on.

How was your experience with the Jazzology program? What did you like about it?

I still consider the interview on Jazzology to be one of the highlights of my music career. It was so thrilling to meet some of the people and artists at the station, and of course getting to chat with Heather Bambrick was really fun. Although I was nervous going into the interview, not knowing what to expect, as soon as we started chatting I immediately felt like I was a part of this jazz community. I believe that this is an amazing opportunity for those who get the chance to be a part of this show.

How did the program help with your personal and professional development?

Once anyone hears that you have done an interview for the Jazzology program on JAZZ.FM91, it immediately puts you at a certain level of musicianship or professionalism. It is a fantastic way to get your name and music out and I am extremely grateful for the chance to be a part of it. Also, after the interview it really pushed and inspired me to write and arrange more and make more recordings.

If you could thank our donors that support the Jazzology program, what would you say?

I would say a huge thank you … I know that I am not alone in saying that the Jazzology program has definitely helped me in my music career and it is of course through the generosity of donors and sponsors that great programs like this are able to continue.

What about your plans for the future? Where would you like to be years down the road?

I have been working on some new arrangements for small ensembles that I would like to record in the near future. Since moving back to Niagara I would really like to get reconnected with the local theatre companies. I really just can’t wait to be playing with all of the great friends and fellow musicians that I’ve connected with over the years. Sometimes it’s hard to see myself 10 or even five years down the road because things are always changing, sometimes even unexpectedly. However, I know that whatever I am doing, music will always be a huge part of my life.

You can follow Andrew Ripenburg on Facebook or visit him on Soundcloud or Bandcamp.