I am a Performer

I enjoy playing in a wide range of musical settings: solo classical recitals, chamber and orchestral performances, electro-acoustic festivals and new music concerts. I even plug my trombone into an effects pedalboard and play with an experimental rock band called Mr. Chair!

Falling by Mark Hetzler from the Mr. Chair Underground Excerpts video series.

Playing Electric Trombone  at The Frequency- Madison, WI  (photo by Angela Villa)

Playing Electric Trombone  at The Frequency- Madison, WI  (photo by Angela Villa)


education and orchestral background

I was born in Sarasota, Florida in 1968, and began playing my father's trombone at the age of twelve. I graduated from the Booker High School for Visual and Performing Arts in 1986, and then went on to receive a Bachelor of Music degree from Boston University (1990) and a Master of Music degree from the New England Conservatory of Music (1992), both in Trombone Performance. In 1991, I was a fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center and in 1995, I completed a three-year fellowship with the New World Symphony, under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas. I was formerly the Principle Trombonist of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, and have performed with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Pops Orchestra, as well as the Florida Orchestra, the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, the Springfield Symphony Orchestra and the Palm Beach Opera Orchestra. Since moving to Madison, WI in 2004, I have performed often with the Minnesota Orchestra.

The Wisconsin Brass Quintet (photo by Michael R. Anderson)

The Wisconsin Brass Quintet (photo by Michael R. Anderson)

chamber music

I am currently the trombonist of the Wisconsin Brass Quintet, a chamber ensemble in residence at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Since joining the group in 2004, we have concertized extensively throughout Wisconsin, and toured Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan and Louisiana. We perform music from a huge repertoire of original works for brass, early music transcriptions, and arrangements of tunes in a diversity of genres, including broadway, jazz, dixieland and rock. We also conduct clinics and master-classes with students throughout the Midwest on a wide variety of music topics. Check out the Wisconsin Brass Quintet webpage on the UW-Madison School of Music website: Wisconsin Brass Quintet

Or go to the Wisconsin Brass Quintet webpage: www.wisconsinbrass.com

And give us a look and a listen:

Before joining the WBQ, I was a member of the Empire Brass Quintet, from 1996 to 2012, making me the longest standing trombonist in the history of the quintet.  We concertized all over the world, including engagements in Australia, Taiwan, Korea, China, Venezuela, Brazil, Japan, Hong Kong, Germany, Italy, Austria, Malaysia, Singapore, Canada, Switzerland, Bermuda, St. Bartholomew and across the United States. I appeared with the group on live television and radio broadcasts in Asia and the United States, and in front of numerous symphony orchestras as a guest soloist. I have performed on several Empire Brass CDs on the Telarc label, including Firedance, The Glory of Gabrieli, and a recording of Baroque music for Brass and Organ.

I have also performed with a number of other prestigious brass chamber groups, including the Isthmus Brass, the Burning River Brass and the Nay Palm Bones trombone quartet. As former Principle Trombone of the Isthmus Brass, I appeared on a holiday CD titled Isthmus Brass Christmas and concertized with the group throughout WI. I have recorded numerous chamber works for trombone quartet with the Nay Palm Bones, which can be found here: 20th Century ArchitectsBone Moan and Sonic Horizons

The Empire Brass Quintet

The Empire Brass Quintet

The Isthmus Brass

The Isthmus Brass

The Nay Palm Bones

The Nay Palm Bones

The Burning River Brass

The Burning River Brass

the electric trombone

Mr. Chair  (photo by Max Schmidt)

A large part of my current artistic activity is with Mr. Chair, an experimental ensemble that plays rock, jazz, heavy metal, modern classical and other contemporary improv-based styles. Comfortable on acoustic and electronic instruments, the group creates sounds, textures and grooves that are beautiful, hip and at times surreal, all the while exploring a dynamic range that spans the gamut, from whispering lyricism to thunderous wails. We have performed in venues from concert halls to nightclubs, on university campuses and at new music festivals. Playing a mix of original music and arrangements, the group is comfortable in just about any musical setting, and prides itself in speaking with a musical voice that stretches the expectation of their listening audience.

Visit the Mr. Chair website here: www.mrchairmusic.com

watch a video that features my composition Mile of Ledges: 

Or this video of my tune Fear of Dust by the Handful:

solo performances

(photo by Katrin Talbot)

(photo by Katrin Talbot)

In addition to my work with Mr. Chair, I am very active in the creation of new music for trombone. I have worked with composers in some of the leading new music research studios around the world on compositions that combine trombone with electronics. In 2004, I commissioned NYU Professor Dr. Robert Rowe to write a composition titled Arcturus that utilizes a computer program which listens and responds to the live performer. In another collaborative effort, University of Oregon Music Technology instructor Chester Udell composed Brass Alchemist for me, a work that incorporates a variety of technological applications, including MAX software. After a successful premiere at the New York Electro-Acoustic Music Festival, the work went on to win the First Prize in Composition at the 2010 Society for Electro-Acoustic Music's yearly festival in St. Cloud, MN.

I love to play recitals and have performed a solo concert here at UW-Madison every semester since joining the School of Music faculty back in 2004. Most of my recital programming is tied into my recording activities, which is also tied into the ongoing relationships I have with composers from all over the world. In 2004, I commissioned Chicago-based composer James Stephenson to write a sonata for trombone and piano. Jim's stunning piece is featured on my Summit Records CD American Voices, Vol. II: Sonatas, and has recently been chosen as a contest composition for various national and international trombone competitions. I enjoy performing contemporary music and program repertoire by today's composers as often as possible, including works by Anthony Barfield, John Stevens, David Vayo, Matthew Burtner, Joseph Blaha, James Fulkerson, Daniel Schnyder, Meredith Monk, Anthony Plog, Michael Colgrass, Michael Torke and Jan Bach, among others.

I have performed as a soloist internationally in Taiwan, Japan, Brazil and Australia, as well as throughout the United States. I have also performed recitals at many colleges and universities, including the Eastman School of Music, Yale University, Indiana University, Ithaca College, Boston University, Rice University, Texas Tech University, University of Texas-Austin, University of North Texas, University of Maryland, Penn State University, Rhode Island College, University of Florida, Florida International University and New York University. I have performed as a soloist on many occasions with the UW-Madison Symphony Orchestra, Wind Ensemble and Chamber Orchestra, as well as throughout the state of Wisconsin with numerous high school bands.

I also compose original music for trombone in a variety of settings. I've written electro-acoustic music- Unnatural Disaster, chamber music with percussion and piano- Three Views of Infinityand a few pieces for my former rock group Sinister Resonance- Murmuration and Fear of Dust by the Handful



“The other memorable moments came with the turn-of-the-century Pryor-style of writing for the trombone. With everyone clapping in tempo, Mark Hetzler sounded as if he could play all 76 parts of the 76 Trombones variations. His clear pedal tones along with the other pyrotechnics done with wide intervals on his horn displayed phenomenal technique. Although he could be funny as he stopped between notes to make some funny gesture, his performance throughout the evening was more than just flash and dash. His tone could, at times, dissolve the listener into pure ecstasy.”

-The Star Press, Muncie, IN

“There was also a comic-serious turn by trombonist Mark Hetzler in his remarkably fluent rendition of a genuine tour-de-force: avant-gardist Luciano Berio’s Sequenza V, in which the composer sketched the Swiss clown Grock, using the instrumentalists wind column to alternately play and sing and repeat the clown’s famed metaphysical question: Why?”

-The Miami Herald

“One of the hidden benefits you don’t hear about when big-time groups such as the Empire Brass comes to town is what they leave behind. Several of them, including Mark Hetzler, a public school grad from Sarasota and now trombonist with this great quintet, showed up at the Festival of Winds at the University of South Florida. Not only did he teach the master-class, but one observer said his encouragement had a profound influence on several of the USF students.”

-The Tampa Tribune

"Trombonist Hetzler zipped his slide around like a violinist, showing a lustrous tone and a remarkable sense of ease."

-Beacon Journal, Akron

“For an encore, there was 76 Trombones from Meredith Willson’s The Music Man. The Empire Brass had only one trombone, but one was enough. Backed by the other musicians, trombone soloist Mark Hetzler supplied variations that were so elaborate that they verged on the un-playable. But the trombonist persevered, like the exceptional music man he is.”

-The San Diego Union-Tribune