July 30, 2019

MSM Spotlight:
Trombonists Seth Birrell
& Kenton Campbell

Students Seth Birrell and Kenton Campbell give us an inside look at working part-time at MSM as part of the Summer Work for Housing Program.

Seth (BM ’21, Classical Bass Trombone) and Kenton (MM ’20, Orchestral Tenor Trombone) talk about spending the summer in New York City, and what they’re looking forward to in the new school year.

Tell us about your experience as student workers at MSM.

Seth: I’ve been working in the library since my freshman year. At the start of the summer it’s very hectic, because all of the books that were checked out during the school year must be returned. We take in stacks and stacks of returned books during this time, there aren’t enough carts to hold them all! There are also a number of students that want to take home books for the summer, so we manage those requests as well. Now things have settled down, and my day shifts are a bit more relaxed. I open the library, check-in books that have been returned through the book drop, and then get to read for a little bit. Last summer I found my favorite book here, it’s called The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon. It’s a fictional work about the lives of two Jewish cousins, one born in Prague and the other in NYC, around the time of World War II. They form a creative team and write and draw a comic book series called The Escapist that’s a fantastical interpretation of their lives. It’s a really fascinating story!

Kenton Campbell (MM '20) (left) and Seth Birrell (BM '21) | Photos by Toby Winarto (BM '19, MM '21)

Kenton: I have been working in the Office of Admissions since the beginning of summer, and I really like it so far! Whenever I’m applying for a job, I’m always thinking about the new skills I can learn and develop. For example, I’ve worked a few different types of jobs over the course of my college career, but this is the first job where I’ve been required to give campus tours. Being a tour guide has taught me how to project my voice, capture attention, keep a group together, and answer important questions — I know so much more about MSM than I did before this job. I also help with answering the phones and filing the necessary documents you need to enroll as a student; it’s interesting to see how the process works from the Admissions standpoint rather than as an applicant. I get to develop my social and leadership skills, all while living rent-free in Andersen Hall and New York City for the summer!

What else are you up to this summer?

Seth: I work two jobs, one here at the library and one at Buffalo Exchange, which is a vintage clothing store downtown. I work at the library in the mornings and then head to my other job in the afternoon, and the dynamic is very different between the two. You meet so many different and interesting people at a place like Buffalo Exchange. It’s great living in NYC for the summer because, with no classes to attend, you have so much more time to explore the city.

Kenton: I had a few different options for the summer, but one of the opportunities fell through and I ended up staying here. I’m so glad that I did, because I’ve had such a great experience. I’ve been able to save money by living on campus, gig around town, teach a few students, and see more of NYC. I was born here originally, but it’s my first time living here on my own. I’ve had a lot of fun exploring different parts of New York, from uptown to downtown and a couple different beaches too.

I love the collaborative aspects of an orchestra, how everyone plays an important role in making it all come together.

Orchestral Tenor Trombone, MM '20

What are you looking forward to in the new school year?

Kenton: One of the main reasons why I decided to come to Manhattan School of Music was so that I can have more opportunities to play with an orchestra. I’m not necessarily excited about any particular piece, but I love the collaborative aspects of an orchestra, and how everyone plays an important role in making it all come together. I’m also looking forward to continuing my studies with my teacher, Colin Williams. I came to MSM to study with him specifically because he overcame a muscle tear in his lip to perform with the New York Philharmonic, and I had been dealing with a slight embouchure change. He’s been the perfect person to help me navigate this new set up. I feel I’m in a much better place now and ready to take on audition season.

Seth: I’m kind of the opposite in the sense of wanting orchestral experience, as I don’t necessarily want to be a classical musician by definition. I came here to be the best bass trombonist I could be, and MSM is the place to make that happen. I’m lucky to have two teachers I split lessons with, Stephen Norrell and David Taylor. They’re very different in terms of their playing styles and experience. Stephen’s more classically focused and has been playing with The Metropolitan Opera for over 35 years, while David, who has been freelancing as a bass trombonist in NYC since he went to college here, encompasses everything else I’d like to learn. This year, I’m excited to try new things, whether it’s taking different types of classes or joining a jazz combo. I am really interested in Latin Jazz, and I was able to play in Paquito D’Rivera’s big band last year which was amazing. I’m looking forward to branching out as much as possible!