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The Chicago Musical Pathways Initiative website lists each of its current fellows, arranged alphabetically by first name; you will find their names, photos, and a short bio that states the instrument they play. Nonetheless, there are some CMPI fellows who actually play multiple instruments. One such fellow is trombonist Owen Riordan. While he is focused on trombone performance, Owen says he also enjoys playing other instruments including piano, bass, trumpet, tuba, and percussion.

Bone RangersA rising senior in high school, 17-year-old Owen has been playing the trombone since he was 6 years old. “My house was always filled with music and especially trombone, so I developed an early love for the instrument. I’ve continued mainly playing trombone and also playing other instruments for fun,” Riordan said.

He is continuing to study his main instrument under the tutelage of his father, the accomplished trombonist and educator Timothy Riordan.

It was during one of his lessons at the Merit School of Music that Owen first learned about CMPI. He recalled, “It initially seemed appealing to me because I could own my own instrument, but it soon became much more than that!” Indeed, Owen attests to the many things he loves about being part of the CMPI program, including various opportunities and experiences that have opened up for him. “For instance, there recently was the NIMAN Festival Orchestra that I had the great pleasure of being a member of. That could not and would not have happened without CMPI’s influence and help,” he explained.

In his 11 years of studying the trombone, and playing other instruments as well, Owen has learned lessons that apply in music and in life. Recognizing that becoming a good musician entails much hard work, he shared some of his insights, and gave advice for other young musicians like himself:

“No matter what, everyone is going to have a hard time in their life or in music that leads them to lose motivation or quit. I actually experienced this for nearly a year recently and I’m finally out of it. The most important thing to remember then is why exactly you love playing the instrument, and focusing on that. Maybe do something different that adheres to that aspect! If you’re strictly a classical player, try experimenting in jazz! Write or transcribe a new piece! Just never quit. I believe that if someone ever has a sliver of musicianship in them, that sliver will stay for the rest of their life.”

“Music is always going to be hard, and for a lot of musicians, including myself, mental problems may occur. The best way to keep interest in music and also keep yourself mentally stable is to find another hobby that you can look to when things get too hard or too much. For me, that is weightlifting! I powerlift almost every day, and it helps clear my mind and deter negative emotions.”

Watch and listen to a performance of Owen below.


Owen Riordan in the 2020-22 Bone Rangers Trombone Quartet

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