Allen Ostrander

While Kauko Kahila is generally acknowledged as the leading force behind creating the Reynolds Contempora double-valve bass trombone (1958), Allen Ostrander was a strong proponent of the finished horn, or at least of the valve design, which he attached to an old Conn 9½” yellow brass bell and .547/.562″ dual-bore slide for the majority of his NYPO playing. An image of a bass trombone with the Reynolds double-valve section appears on the front of my copy of Mr. Ostrander’s “Double-Valve Bass Trombone Low Tone Studies” method book (see below).

The following biographical text is used with permission from the Ithaca College Trombone Troupe, who sponsor the Allen E. Ostrander Composition Prize.

Allen E. Ostrander was born in Lynn, Massachusetts on December 14, 1909. He began trombone study in 1923 with Aaron Harris and graduated from the Ithaca Conservatory of Music in 1932 with a B.S in Instrumental Music where he studied trombone with Patrick Conway and Ernest Williams. Later study with Simone Mantia, Gardell Simmons, and Walter Lillebeck also contributed to his remarkable professional playing career.

Following graduation, he attended the National Orchestral Association in New York City for three years before landing his first professional position as bass trombonist with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C. Following one season with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in 1937, he was selected by Arturo Toscanini as bass trombonist with the NBC Symphony, a position he held until 1946. Between the years 1942 and 1945 he spent three years in the U.S. Army before returning to NBC for a final year. From 1946 until his retirement in 1975 he served as bass trombonist with the New York Philharmonic.

In addition to his outstanding playing career, Ostrander has taught on the faculties of West Virginia Wesleyan, Julliard, the Hartt School of Music, Columbia Teacher’s College, and Ithaca College. He also co-designed the Reynolds Contempora double-valve bass trombone and has authored a number of method books for this modern instrument. In addition to his original compositions for bass trombone, he has arranged, transcribed, and edited numerous other brass works, of which over one hundred are still in print.

Since retiring to his current home in Ithaca, New York in 1975, he has been honored by the International Trombone Association for his lifetime achievements and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Music from Ithaca College in 1993.” [Ed. Mr. Ostrander died in 1994.]

In an interview with the International Trombone Association, George Roberts relayed the following annecdote about Mr. Ostrander:

I heard that Allen Ostrander was a hell of a bass trombone teacher – he was with the New York Philharmonic. So I had a lesson. I said, “Allen, how do you play a D-pedal tone? Can you play one?” He very softly played a D-pedal. And he said, “That’s a D-pedal.” I’d always used that high embouchure, so I picked my horn up and played a D-pedal, like waaaahhh, like this! He almost jumped out of his seat! And the minute I left the office I understand he picked the phone up and called the other two trombone players with the New York Philharmonic and said, “I just had a lesson with a kid that’s with Gene Krupa’s band. We’ve got to watch out for this kid!”

Photo Gallery

Photo credits: NYPO images reproduced from The Trombone Forum. All other images courtesy of ElShaddai Edwards.