Austin Pancner

bass trombone

Hometown: Fort Wayne, IN

Alma maters: Indiana University, Carthage College

Instagram: @thefunctionalmusician


Photos by Matt Dine


Awards/Competitions: 2nd place, Indianapolis Musicale Matinee Competition; Finalist, 2017 American Trombone Workshop Division III Solo Competition

Appearances: Terre Haute Symphony Orchestra, Principal Bass Trombone, 2017–21; Prague Summer Nights, 2016

What is your earliest memory of classical music? I remember huddled up in front of the TV on my grandma’s farm watching hours of Looney Tunes. The soundtracks included a lot of orchestra arrangements of favorite classical works, including “Ride of the Valkyries,” Swan Lake, and The Nutcracker. Little did I know this would have such a huge impact on me!

When did you realize you wanted to pursue music as a career? Music has always had a huge impact on my life. I can’t imagine what it would be like not being able to express myself through the sounds the bass trombone is capable of making. I’m not sure there is a definitive moment.

What do you think orchestra concerts should look like in the 21st century? I think orchestra concerts need to be flexible, adaptable, and offer a variety of genres and repertoire while striving to build a supporting community. I also think orchestras need to be open to trying new things, such as movie soundtracks, guest artists that resonate with the communities in the area, and making concerts more accessible.

As a musician, I dread long concerts, and as a society, I think attention spans are decreasing as technology is increasing. By making concerts shorter and choosing more diverse repertoire outside of the “classical” setting, I believe audiences will be more likely to keep coming back for more entertainment and experiences.

Who is your biggest inspiration? My grandfather is my biggest inspiration. He encouraged me from a very young age to pursue my dreams and I would not be here without him. He is also 86 and still working full time because he loves helping people.

Which composer or genre of music do you feel you connect with the most? This is a difficult question, but I resonate with most composers from the Romantic era. I love the freedom of form, expression, and musical approaches these composers take. I often also leave feeling like I went on an emotional roller coaster after listening to their works. Some composers include Berlioz, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Wagner, and John Williams (even though he is considered a modern, neo-romantic composer).

What is your favorite piece of music, and why do you love it? Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade! Even though there isn’t a significant bass trombone part, this piece is filled with fairy-tale musical storytelling. There are times where I will listen to this piece everyday. Also, anything by John Williams or Hanz Zimmer.

Favorite non-classical musician or band: Dream Theater if I am exercising or Lucas Graham during casual listening

If you could play another instrument, what would it be? I would play jazz piano. I am extremely jealous how jazz pianists can simply sit down at a piano and play what is in their head.

If you weren’t a musician, what would you be doing? I would continue pursuing a career as a health and wellness coach. Specifically, helping musicians live and perform without pain. I would also pursue other entrepreneurial/business ventures and try to find a way to make a positive impact in this world. I am most fulfilled when I am giving back or helping other people.

Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to have dinner with and why? Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and Thomas Edison, three revolutionaries in the way people invent, think, and serve their communities. I would love to fuel a discussion and pick their brains to find out how their minds work.

Tell us something about yourself that might surprise us: I am the founder and CEO of The Functional Musician, an online coaching company that helps musicians live and perform without pain. I am also a huge fan of games: pool, darts, corn hole, poker, board games. I LOVE games.

Piece of advice for a young classical musician: There is more to life than just music. Totally practice as much as you need, but please take care of your mind and take care of your body ! Also, don’t be scared to go out and live life. Your music making will be impacted by what you experience in life and this cannot happen in a practice room.