Matthew Russo, trombonist & educator

Instructor of Trombone, University of Connecticut

peace, love, trombone

The recital poster for this program featuring the title peace, love, trombone in a groovy 1960s font with a trombone and flower graphics faintly in the background. The event date, and composer names are all listed on the file. You can find this information this page.

About the Program

I had been toying with various program concepts over the last year but was finding myself struggling to find the motivation to perform a recital. The last few years have been challenging for so many, myself included. As I thought about one of the concepts—a program exploring the different interpretations of sleep, dreaming, and night—I realized that what I was ultimately looking for in that repertoire was music that represented peace and rest. I had been preparing Dorothy Gates’s Servant of Peace for a performance in December and felt inspired by her interpretation of Dag Hammarskjöld’s dream of harmony and peace in his role at the United Nations. I considered revitalizing a program that I had assembled a decade ago on War and Peace, but over time I found myself not wanting to engage in the repertoire about war. At the same time, I was enraptured by the music of H. Leslie Adams, to which I was introduced by my good friend and colleague Lisa Williamson, and wanted to play some of his songs on love. The second part of the program came together with Love accompanying Peace. My hope is that this music makes us all think about how peace and love can change our world for the better. 


Love song (1987)
Carl Vine (b. 1954)

Love Song was commissioned by, and is dedicated to, Perth-born trombonist Simone de Haan. Written after a long period in which both Simone and I had been involved in the performance of a great deal of intellectually, technically, and physically demanding music, it is concerned more with the purely lyrical aspects of musical performance. While demanding considerable stamina on the part of a live trombonist, the long, sustained notes throughout the work function as a “warm-up” for the player’s embouchure, culminating in some of the highest notes available to a tenor trombone.”

—Carl Vine

For you there is no song (1960)
h. leslie adams (b. 1932)
Text by Edna st. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)

For You There is No Song was composed by H. Leslie Adams in his collection of Five Millay Songs setting texts by Edna St. Vincent Millay. Adams is perhaps best known for his considerable amount of vocal music, particularly his song cycles. Millay was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1923. The text was published in the collection Huntsman, What Quarry? in 1939 as the second of six poems titled “For Elinor Wylie.” The second poem is dated 1928, the year that Wylie, herself a poet, passed away. The somber acknowledgement of the loss of a loved one is typified by the final lines: “There are ink and tears on the page; only the tears / Have spoken.” 

Radical Dreamers: The Jewel that Cannot be Stolen (1999)
Yasunori Mitsuda (b. 1972)
arr. Laura Intravia (b. 1987)
text by Noriko Mitose (b. c. 1979)

Chrono Cross was released in 1999 on Sony Playstation as the sequel to 1995’s acclaimed Chrono Trigger. Chrono Cross was a divisive game upon release due to changes in tone, an awkward translation, and being only tangentially connected to Chrono Trigger. The plot is unsurprisingly cerebral and confusing, in line with many games of the late ’90s from Squaresoft (there’s time travel but also kid clones, body swaps, and dead main characters for no reason). Boasting a roster of over 40 playable characters but with only a few central to the story, Chrono Cross never reached the heights of its predecessor’s popularity. However, the score by Yasunori Mitsuda was extremely well received by fans and critics. Radical Dreamers is the final track from the game’s credits, composed by Mitsuda and sung by Noriko Mitose. Without spoiling a 25-year-old game in program notes, the song is tightly connected to the climax of the game both in its melodic content (the pitches of the song are central to the “true ending” of the plot) and by the subject of the text (the characters are separated by the events of the ending.)

Servant of Peace (2016)
Dorothy Gates (b. 1966)
  1. The Road
  2. The Cup
  3. The Truth

Dag Hammarskjöld, the subject of the trombone concerto Servant of Peace, was the second Secretary-General of the United Nations. Swedish-born trombonist Thomas Hulten, for whom the concerto was written, suggested Hammarskjöld as the subject of the work when he and composer Dorothy Gates cooked up their collaboration. Gates traveled to the United Nations; the work’s opening phrase came to her while she meditated in the chamber. Gates wanted each movement to represent a phase of Hammarskjöld’s career as a peacekeeper. She derives the titles of each movement from a poem written by Hammarskjöld. His term as Secretary-General was cut short due to his death in a plane crash while on a peace mission in 1961. Rather than eulogizing his death, Gates instead wished to underscore the hope of peace in our world.

Dona Nobis Pacem (c. 1975/1982)
David Fetter (b. 1938)

Dona nobis pacem is a canon that can be traced back for centuries. Once it was attributed to Mozart, but it has appeared in hymnals perhaps as far back as the seventeenth century. David Fetter, longtime Principal Trombonist with the Baltimore Symphony, composed the work for himself in the 1970s but made this version for bass trombone in the early 1980s for bass trombonist Doug Yeo. 

Three dunbar songs
H. Leslie Adams & Adolphus Hailstork
texts by paul laurence dunbar
Love Memory (1990) – from collected songs
My Heart is Thy Heart (1994) – from four romantic love songs
Love Response (1961) – from collected songs

After the publication of his collections of dialect verse poetry in 1895 and 1896, Paul Laurence Dunbar was internationally acclaimed as one of the most influential poets of his time. His poetry was initially set to music by composers of his time, including Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. Tonight’s performance includes three songs set by composers H. Leslie Adams and Adolphus Hailstork.

First in the set is Love Memory, a setting of the poem “A Song,” from Dunbar’s 1905 collection Lyrics of Sunshine and Shadow. In the poem, Dunbar asks the same question three times: “Who knows?” A somber reflection on love and loss, Adams poses Dunbar’s question differently each time with the final one hanging in the air, unanswered. The second song in the set, My Heart is Thy Heart from Adolphus Hailstork’s Four Romantic Love Songs, sets the poem “Song” from his 1895 published collection Majors and Minors. Dunbar’s impassioned declaration of love is matched by frenzied arpeggios in the piano and long stentorian phrases in the voice. The final song, Love Response, sets Dunbar’s “Response” from 1903’s Lyrics of Laughter and Love. Dunbar’s beautiful love song to Phyllis, a subject from one of his earlier poems, was set by Adams in 1961. Triumphant and bold, Adams sets the text with the slightest bit of ambiguity by adding a flat-seventh in the piano before both the first entrance of the voice and the final chord. 

Lament and Scherzo
Emily Denucci

Lament and Scherzo was written in 2022 by Emily DeNucci, during her sophomore year in high school. Over the course of writing this commission, Ms. DeNucci moved to Philadelphia, PA to attend the Curtis School. Lament and Scherzo was commissioned by Dr. Matthew Russo. 

Lena Raine

Celeste is a devilishly difficult platformer that counts the number of times your character Madeline fails (or dies) as she climbs the mysterious Mount Celeste. Along her journey, Madeline encounters her own insecurities which manifest as Badeline, a sarcastic and pragmatic part of Madeline that separates from herself and tortures and taunts Madeline. The game, a landmark title that addresses anxiety, mental health, depression, and loneliness, received near-universal acclaim upon its release in 2018. Exhale, composed by Lena Raine, is heard during the epilogue chapter. Raine enjoyed breakout success for the score and was nominated for many awards after the release of the game, including winning the ASCAP Video Game Score of the Year award in 2019. The version heard tonight was arranged by Trevor Alan Gomes for his album Celeste: Piano Collections, and was originally composed for piano and violin.

Texts and Translations

For you there is no song (1960)
Text by Edna st. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)

For you there is no song,
Only the shaking of the voice that meant to sing,
The sound of the strong voice breaking.
Strange in my hand appears the pen,
And yours broken
There are ink and tears on the page.
Only the tears have spoken.

Radical Dreamers: The Jewel that Cannot be Stolen (1999)
text by Noriko Mitose (b. c. 1979)

I’ve followed this far in search of
That glimmering light
Clasped in the hands of a child
Wandering the brink of time

I have continued searching for you
Though I know not your name
Because I wanted to share
This feeling with you

Time envelops both love and pain
Until they fade away
But I still remember them
And I always will

Thought I cannot remember when
A whisper began echoing
Deep within my heart
Fainter than drops of evening dew

May this prayer I spin
Weave throught the darkness
of the frozen stars
And reach the skies above you, so far away…

Love Memory (1990)
Text by Paul Laurence Dunbar

Thou art the soul of a summer’s day,
Thou art the breath of the rose.
But the summer is fled
And the rose is dead;
Where are they gone, who knows?
Thou art the blood of my heart o’ hearts,
Thou art my soul’s repose

But my heart grows numb
And my soul is dumb;
Where art thou, love, who knows?
Thou art the hope of my after years —
Sun for my winter snows;
But the years go by
`Neath a clouded sky.
Where shall we meet, who knows?

my heart is thy heart (1994)
Text by Paul Laurence Dunbar

My heart to thy heart,
My hand to thine;
My lip to thy lips,
Kisses are wine
Brewed for the lover in sunshine and shade;
Let me drink deep, then, my African maid.

Lily to lily,
Rose unto rose;
My love to thy love
Tenderly grows.
Rend not the oak and the ivy in twain,
Nor the swart maid from her swarthier swain.

Love response (1961)
Text by Paul Laurence Dunbar

When Phyllis sighs and from her eyes
The light dies out; my soul replies
With misery of deep drawn breath,
E’en as it were at war with death.

When Phyllis smiles, her glance beguiles
My heart through lovelit woodland aisles,
And through the silence high and clear,
A wooing warbler’s song I hear.
But if she frown, despair comes down,
I put me on my sackcloth gown;
So frown not, Phyllis, lest I die,
But look on me with smile or sigh.


Matthew Russo

Trombonist Matthew Russo enjoys a dynamic career throughout the Northeast as an educator and performer. Dr. Russo has served on the faculty at The University of Connecticut since 2015 where he teaches applied trombone lessons, brass techniques, and leads the UConn Trombone Choir. He is also on faculty at Wesleyan University and Choate Rosemary Hall.

Dr. Russo is principal trombonist of the Norwalk Symphony Orchestra and appears regularly with the New Haven, Hartford, Waterbury, Wallingford, and Orchestra New England. He appears on Orchestra New England’s latest release for NAXOS Complete Sets for Chamber Orchestra. He is the regular trombonist at the Goodspeed Opera House where he has played over 15 productions since 2015. 

A frequent recitalist and advocate of new music, Dr. Russo strives to bring unknown works to new audiences through innovative programs and themes. In these endeavors he has premiered dozens of new works. 2023 saw the premieres of his latest commissioned work Lament and Scherzo by Emily DeNucci as well as Für Frankie by UConn Alum Michael Denis O’Callaghan. His recording of Robert Carl’s Updraft for ten multitracked trombones is set to be released by Neuma Records in 2024. As a soloist, Russo performs frequently with area ensembles including appearances this season with the Willimantic Orchestra and the Holyoke Civic Symphony. 

Dr. Russo holds a Doctor of Musical Arts from The Hartt School and a Master of Music from the Yale School of Music. His principal teachers include Dr. Ronald A. Borror, Scott Hartman, and John D. Rojak. He is an S.E. Shires artist and plays Hartman mouthpieces. He lives in West Hartford with his wife, Katie, and two children, Frankie and Maggie.

Elisabeth Tomczyk

Pianist Elisabeth Tomczyk began her musical study at the age of three. Encouraged by a supportive family and community she was soon accompanying choirs and instruments by nine years old. After receiving a Bachelor’s degree in piano performance from Webster University and Webster University-Vienna, Elisabeth moved to Connecticut to continue her study at The Hartt School with Dr. David Westfall where she completed her Master’s degree in piano performance.

Ms. Tomczyk has been performing as a collaborative pianist as well as a soloist in numerous venues around the world including Weill Hall in New York City, Harpa in Reykjavik, Iceland, Faneuil Hall in Boston, as well as numerous other performance halls around the US. While enjoying performing quite a variety of musical styles for every kind of voice and instrument, Elisabeth specializes in classical saxophone repertoire having played with over 100 different saxophonists over the past 15 years including a number of internationally esteemed saxophone professors and performers.

As an avid supporter of current music, Elisabeth has premiered and recorded many new works from emerging and established composers. She regularly performs with faculty, students and guest artists at The Hartt School, University of Connecticut and Yale. Recent performances include a concert for the National Music Festival in Maryland with Phil Snedecor, a United States Coast Guard chamber performance in Old Lyme, CT and a concert with saxophone faculty for the American Saxophone Academy. When not performing, Ms. Tomczyk enjoys her time with her husband and cat where they live in Vernon, CT. She is also an avid sewist and bag designer, running a small business on Etsy.