Max Bonecutter Music lessons



Whether you are a professional auditioning for an orchestra, or a student just learning the instrument, Max Bonecutter is one of the premier teachers of trombone, bass trombone, tuba and euphonium in the United States. Contact Max to schedule your lesson now!



At the age of fifteen Max was invited to attend the prestigious performing arts school,  Interlochen Arts Academy, from which he graduated with honors in 1970. He went on to Northwestern University’s School of Music where he studied with Frank Crisafulli, second trombonist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He also studied with Jay Friedman, principal trombonist of the Chicago Symphony, and Ed Kleinhammer, bass trombonist of the Chicago Symphony. As a student, Max played in the Chicago Civic Orchestra, the Pierre Monteaux Festival and the North Carolina School of the Arts summer tour of Europe.

After many years of performing full-time with leading orchestras (see Career section) Max obtained a Master's of Music degree with high honors from Indiana University in Bloomington, and completed most of the work toward a doctoral music degree also at Indiana University before accepting a full-time teaching position at the University of Kansas.



In 1973, while still a student at Northwestern University, Max had the honor to be asked to play as a substitute for The Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Sir George Solti. He went on tour with the symphony as bass trombonist.  In 1975 he won the audition for bass trombone at The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and performed there under conductors such as James Levine, Sarah Caldwell, and Georges Prêtre.

Wanting to perform a greater range of music, he auditioned for and won a seat at The Minnesota Orchestra where he remained for five seasons performing under such conductors as Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, Sir Neville Marriner, and Klaus Tennstedt.

In addition to these full-time positions Max enjoyed summer sessions at music festivals including the Grand Teton Music Festival and the Colorado Music Festival.

Max then went to Indiana University, obtained a Master's Degree, started work on his doctorate, and then left to accept a teaching post at the University of Kansas. During this time he played with several other major musical ensembles including the Chicago-based Music of the Baroque, the Saint Louis Symphony, the Cincinnati Symphony, and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. During the summers he performed and taught at the Eastern Music Festival in Greensboro, North Carolina. 

In 1993 he began teaching at the University of Northern Iowa. Max now teaches courses at Indiana University (Northwest) and continues offering private lessons in Illinois and Indiana.




As you can see from the list of my former students who are professional orchestral musicians, university professors, and university music students, my students have been highly successful. My approach to each student is first as a person, second as a musician, and third as a trombonist. I believe that my role as a teacher is to help each student to improve as a musician and a trombonist – regardless of the student's current level of ability - no matter whether they are a junior high school student just getting started or a seasoned professional.

Although I emphasize basic musical literacy and fundamentals of sound production with all students, I tailor lessons to the individual. I mostly teach from the classical western tradition of written music, but also encourage students to play by ear. Regardless of a student's musical interests in classical music, jazz, rock, folk, salsa, musical comedy, etc., I emphasize that the physics of playing the trombone remains the same. All students benefit from thoroughly learning the basic grammar and syntax of western music by practicing scales and arpeggios in all major and minor keys, learning to play rhythms accurately, and attending to detailed expressive markings, such as dynamics, and articulations, as well as indications of tempo and mood. I also emphasize that students should develop the flexibility to perform in a wide range of styles and emotions.



I help younger students to prepare for school placement auditions, solo and ensemble contests, and all-state competitions by emphasizing what the judges listen for at these events. Preparing for such competitions is analogous to preparing for competitive sporting events. I aid students to improve their attention to musical detail, which scores more points on the judge's score sheet. At the same time, I encourage students to play expressively and to simply enjoy the music. If you enjoy the music you're performing, your audience will enjoy it with you, even if the audience is a judge at a competition or an audition. I also teach advanced high school students to read the tenor and alto clefs

Because my professional career was as an orchestral trombonist and then as a university trombone teacher, I excel at preparing students for university and orchestral auditions. Such students learn to refine their abilities to perform standard solo literature and orchestral excerpts. I not only prepare students who want to become music majors for university music school auditions, but also have an excellent reputation and personal relationships with many of the best university and conservatory trombone professors. Through my personal contact with these trombone instructors, I help students to meet these instructors and to take lessons with them before their auditions.

Successfully performing orchestral excerpts for professional auditions requires a combination of great accuracy and musical expressiveness. Students preparing for such auditions learn the standard interpretations of excerpts and also the flexibility to play in any manner requested by the audition committee or the conductor. Excerpts should be played partly as if you were playing with the full orchestra and partly as a solo. When I was preparing for orchestral auditions, I repeatedly heard that the committee wanted to select someone who not only played accurately, but also “musically.” I emphasize playing excerpts both accurately and expressively.

 As Frank Crisafulli said, "Remember to simply enjoy making a sound!"

Max with members of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra brass section


One of my areas of expertise is in guiding students in the art and craft of ensemble playing. There is a special challenge as well as a special joy in playing in groups - whether as large as a symphony orchestra, a band, a chamber group or a brass quintet. Each type of ensemble has its own musical dynamics and learning how to fit within the group is an art that can be learned to the student's advantage.

Prior to taking an audition it may be useful for both seasoned professionals as well as students to refresh their ensemble skills, and I am happy to coach in this particular skill set.

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