Jeff Dillon of Tooele would like you to know that angels play the trombone.
“Every time a trumpet is mentioned in the Bible,” he said, “the Latin translation is actually closer to trombone!”
After playing the trombone for about eight years, Dillon, age 17, knows all sorts of interesting facts about the instrument.
“Trombones never really have to be tuned,” he said. “The whole instrument is pretty much a tuning slide.”
His passion for the trombone started in fifth grade, when the Tooele High School band visited his elementary — and when he saw a trombone for the first time.
“I was really fascinated with the slide,” he said. “All of the motion and movement that instrument had compared to all the other ones.”
Now a senior at Tooele High School, Dillon has been playing the trombone for almost half of his life. After playing in elementary and junior high school bands, he’s a part of all three of Tooele High’s bands — jazz band, concert band and marching band. They’re also called the Buffalo Brigade.
Starting as a freshman, Dillon practiced a lot to get where he is now. Some of the more experienced seniors were ahead of him.
“But since they’ve all graduated,” he said, “I’m sort of at the top here.”
After years of hard work, he is now first trombone in jazz and concert band, and a section leader in marching band, as well as the band council vice president.
“I’ve been playing the top parts for most of my high school time,” he said.
According to THS band director Orien Landis, Dillon has played a part in the concert band’s success.
“Jeff was a large part in the band program making it into the state band festival last year for the first time since 2012,” Landis said. “… I have been nothing but amazingly proud of Jeff.”
The other bands have succeeded as well. This year, the Buffalo Brigade took third at state after a string of fourth-place finishes in past years. Although jazz band has never made it to the state festival, its musicians hope to make it this year with Dillon as the top trombonist.
Dillon has had success in more than just the ensemble bands; he received a superior rating in a trombone duet with his friend, Jacob Mull, at state last year. And this year, he was the first Tooele High student in over five years to make it into All-State Band.
All-State Band is a collaboration of over 100 of the best high school band musicians in the state, who come together to play a concert at Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake City. More than 50 trombonists in the state auditioned for the All-State Band, but only 12 were selected to perform.
The performance will be on Jan. 19 at Abravanel Hall at 7 p.m. Dillon said he’s excited to play with other students at the venue.
Each musician learned the same song for their audition video, which was submitted and judged. The music was released to musicians around August or September, and Dillon said he recorded about 15 different takes of his video before taking one good enough to send in. Although he normally tries to practice five hours a week, Dillon said he practiced two or three hours every day in the weeks leading up to the audition cutoff to perfect the song.
“I think band musicians in general are a bit underappreciated,” Dillon said. “… For our high school programs, we have early morning practices that start at 6 (a.m.). I’m used to it now, but that’s every day. We put a lot of work into sounding good.”
Since the band director and assistant director live in Salt Lake, Dillon said they’re “getting up even earlier than us to make this happen.”
Although he said he sometimes wants to sleep in rather than go to practice, Dillon doesn’t really mind the hours.
“I enjoy making music,” he said. “And we sound a lot better when we practice compared to when we don’t!”
Landis greatly appreciates Dillon’s dedication.
“I rely upon him heavily to make sure things are taken care of with the band,” Landis said. “He is always early, is the last to leave, and seeks out struggling individuals to be their friend or help them … He is truly a model individual.”
Since Dillon recently began taking private trombone lessons with Bryan Keegan, he said he’s found an even deeper love for the instrument.
“… My sophomore year I got burnt out a little bit,” he said. “… Junior year came by, and I started taking private lessons and fell in love with playing a lot more than I had previously.
“Ever since hearing my private lessons teacher play — he’s honestly been an inspiration for me,” Dillon said. “He plays trombone really well and has the best tone I’ve ever heard.”
Dillon said his teacher pushes him to constantly improve.
“My instructor has been handing me new songs,” he said. “Each time, I think they’re hard, and after I practice for a little bit, he hands me a song that’s even harder!”
Dillon is currently working on learning Concertino by Ferdinand David.
Besides finding inspiration from his mentors, he’s also found inspiration and motivation from his family. His mother grew up playing upright bass and percussion, and taught him and his younger siblings to play the piano. All four of his siblings play instruments. This year, his brother Dorian made it into the junior high All-State Orchestra playing upright bass.
“I think my parents have really pushed me to get good at it, and keep going with it,” Dillon said. “My mom has put a lot of effort into helping me.”
Dillon is busy with more than just the bands; he’s also been preparing for life after high school. He’s submitted applications to colleges and plans to play in college band after high school, hopefully at an Ivy League university. He’s been keeping his grades up in order to make it into such prestigious schools.
He’s also on the ballroom dance team, and was awarded Sterling Scholar in dance this year. He participates in mock trial, which is similar to debate, and also plays competitively “Magic: The Gathering,” a fantasy themed card game. He’s been on sponsored tours to Florida and Spain for the card game’s elite competitions.
“I think Magic is probably my favorite thing that I do,” Dillon said.
With motivation and support from his family and teachers, Dillon has achieved greatness in his passion. But most of all, Dillon loves the experiences he’s had in band that have led him to All-State Band.
“You’re pretty much unified with like a hundred other people in the school.” he said. “You really never feel like you’re alone.”