John Tribelhorn is the Chair of the Music Department for the Mt. San Jacinto College District, a full- time professor at its San Jacinto Campus and director of its MSJC Concert Band. His desire and success at teaching a diverse group of students has gotten him noticed in the community and recognized as April’s Artist of the Month by Arts Council Menifee.
A graduate of the University of Redlands School of Music, where he earned Bachelor and Master of Music degrees in trumpet performance, Tribelhorn was a frequent soloist (on trumpet and piano) in many of the university’s ensembles.
“I’ve always been much stronger on trumpet. Basic proficiency on piano is a part of most music degrees, but I started taking piano more seriously when I was in college as a way to better understand jazz improvisation and music theory,” said Tribelhorn, 30. “I’m not sure that I prefer one instrument over the other. I enjoy playing piano and keyboards in jazz and popular music, and playing trumpet for classical music.”
He received Presidential and Talent scholarships during his four years of undergraduate studies and played with every performance group there – both classical and jazz. In his senior year, he was selected to play in the prestigious Presidential Honor Recital.
After completing his degrees he wasn’t sure what direction to take. He was playing as much as possible and delivering pizzas. Then a part-time teaching position became available at MSJC in 2011.
“As soon as I taught my first class there, I was hooked and immediately knew that I wanted to be a full-time community college instructor and started working towards that goal,” Tribelhorn said.
He worked as an associate faculty member through spring of 2013 and became full-time faculty in fall of 2014. He began directing the concert band the following year and currently leads about 25 members.
Tribelhorn is solely responsible for the selection of all the pieces the band plays. He said he considers the ability of his musicians and tries to find pieces that push them out of their comfort zone without being too frustrating.
“One of the things that I like best about teaching at a community college is the diversity,” he said. “Many of the members of my band are retired music instructors, and it’s great that they are able to share their experience with the younger students.”
Tribelhorn has performed, recorded, composed and arranged music for a variety of southern California classical, jazz and popular music groups, and maintains an active performance schedule on trumpet and keyboards. Although his background is primarily in classical trumpet, Tribelhorn also specializes in teaching jazz improvisation and music theory, directing groups that have unique or experimental instrumentation, and working with students that are new to music.
“It’s a bit of a cliché, but I really enjoy teaching and listening to all genres of music,” he said. “I think that something happens to your brain when you’re a music major in college. You get bombarded by such a variety of music that it becomes necessary to stop thinking about music in terms of good or bad, and instead learn to appreciate music for what it’s trying to accomplish and why it exists.”
Tribelhorn got an early start with his own musical instruction. He joined the band at Callie Kirkpatrick Elementary School in Menifee in fourth grade, playing the clarinet. The following year his teacher, David Bledsoe, suggested he switch to the trumpet.
John Tribelhorn Sr. said his son was the only sixth grade student in the jazz band at Menifee Valley Middle School. He was also named “Sixth Grade Musician of the Year.”
During seventh and eighth grades, his band instructor was Richard Kettner, who is an associate faculty at MSJC’s Menifee Valley Campus. Tribelhorn continued his music instruction at Paloma Valley High School and played with a youth jazz group in Temecula called Musicians Workshop.
“Musical talent is not something that some people have and others are incapable of attaining; it’s just like any other skill – it takes hours of consistent dedication and practice, much of it extremely tedious, over the course of many years,” the younger Tribelhorn said. “We performers are driven to do it because we value the reward from our patience and hard work.”
Tribelhorn works as a freelance musician, hired for specific events along with other musicians, when he isn’t busy teaching. He also plays trumpet with the Desert Winds Freedom Band, a community concert band in Palm Springs.
“As a community college professor, it’s especially great to see my former students go on to do great things and to think that I had some small part in helping them along on their journey,” he said.
The Mt. San Jacinto College Concert Band, under Tribelhorn’s direction, will perform its Spring Concert at 2 p.m. on April 2 and its end of the season concert at 7 p.m. on May 16. Both will be at MSJC’s San Jacinto Campus Theater, 1499 N. State St. in San Jacinto. Cost is $6 for general admission, $5 for seniors and $4 for students. Box office, 951-487-3790 or visit www.msjc.edu/performingarts.
To learn more about ACM, please visit www.artscouncilmenifee.org or call 951-290-2781.