Nina Bell Suggs Endowed Professor of Trombone
Dr. Ben McIlwain joined the faculty of The University of Southern Mississippi in the fall of 2010 and was named the Nina Bells Suggs Endowed Professor of Trombone in May of 2014. He holds degrees from Middle Tennessee State University (B.M.), Manhattan School of Music (M.M.) and The Florida State University (D.M.)
One of Dr. McIlwain’s main passions and research interests is supporting new music for the trombone. As of June 2014, Dr. McIlwain has commissioned 27 new works for trombone solo and/or ensemble. This includes compositions for his group, Tromboteam, which successfully funded a Kickstarter.com campaign in 2012 that raised $10,000 for new works for trombone ensemble including composers James Kazik, Kevin McKee and Alan Theisen to name a few. Tromboteam released their debut album, Last Lap, on the MSR Classics label in December 2015. The album contains all nine of these Kickstarter.com funded commissions and is supported by a Scholarly and Creative Arts Grant provided by the College of Arts and Letters. After being awarded the Aubrey Keith Lucas and Ella Ginn Lucas Endowment for Faculty Excellence, Dr. McIlwain was able to fund a new concerto for trombone and orchestra by Russian composer, Polina Nazaykinskaya. In addition, the composer has agreed that this piece will be written in memory of McIlwain’s former student Gustavo Campos Cassemiro, who lost his battle with cancer on December 4, 2013. The title of this work will be: Concerto for Trombone and Orchestra, In Memoriam to Gustavo Campos Cassemiro. Premiere performances included with the Southern Miss Symphony Orchestra in February 2015 and with the U.S. Pershing’s Own at the American Trombone Workshop in March 2015. Upcoming projects include a recording project with clarinetist, Dr. Jackie McIlwain, and pianist, Dr. Ellen Elder.
In addition to these commissioning and performance opportunities, Dr. McIlwain has been active in service to the International Trombone Association. The former President of the International Trombone Association, Jiggs Whigham, appointed him, Director of TAPAS (Trombone Artists Performing for Amateurs and Students), which aimed to increase membership in the Association. Dr. McIlwain is also a frequent contributor to the ITA Journal as a writer and literature reviewer.
At Southern Miss, Dr. McIlwain directs all aspects of the trombone studio including The Southern Miss Trombone Choir and Hub Bones (jazz trombone ensemble). The Southern Miss Trombone Choir was invited to perform twice at the 2013 International Trombone Festival in Columbus, GA. He is also a member of the Southern Arts Brass Quintet, the faculty brass quintet at Southern Miss. In June 2015, Dr. McIlwain joined members of Tromboteam to start an annual summer trombone camp: Summer Slides @ Southern Miss with Tromboteam, which was a rousing success. His primary teachers have included Dr. David Loucky, formerly of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, and Dr. Per Brevig, former Principal Trombonist of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, along with Dr. John Drew, professor of trombone at Florida State University.
As a Presidential University Fellow at Florida State University, Dr. McIlwain was the first doctoral trombone student and one of two in the entire College of Music at FSU to ever receive this honor. The research for his doctoral treatise titled, “Select Contributions and Commissions in Solo Trombone Repertoire by Trombonist Innovator and Pioneer: Stuart Dempster,” consists of extensive interviews with Stuart Dempster and Pauline Oliveros, among others. He has published articles in the Grove Dictionary for Music and Musicians and the International Trombone Association Journal. Dr. McIlwain has also performed as a guest artist at the International Trombone Festival, the Eastern Trombone Workshop and Trombonapalooza.
In addition to the Suggs Endowed Professorship and Lucas Award, Dr. McIlwain has also been awarded the Junior Faculty Creative Achievement Award and the College of Arts and Letters’ Junior Faculty of the Year Award at The University of Southern Mississippi.