Published: March 8, 2023 By

Sarah StonebackSarah Stoneback was already an accomplished musician when she enrolled in the master’s program at the University of Colorado Boulder College of Music in 2008.

She had earned a bachelor’s at Arizona State University in Tempe and she’d built up an impressive performance résumé with band members who just happened to be family: The Stoneback Sisters and Brass featured Sarah and her sisters, as well as her mother and father—all of whom played trumpet and brass. Complementing her undergraduate studies, this experience offered Stoneback real-world credits as a touring musician and a professional artist.

It was her experience at the College of Music, however, that helped steer the course of her chosen career. 

“When I think about the College of Music, I think about a vibrant learning environment and a vibrant space to grow,” says Stoneback, an active Conn-Selmer Bach clinician and artist. “I had the opportunity to work with faculty and administration in ways that helped me learn about the way the academic system runs and operates. That’s how I navigate my career at Montana State University.”

At MSU—as Assistant Professor of Trumpet Pedagogy and Performance—Stoneback is a respected educator, clinician, soloist and chamber musician who’s been featured on stages across the globe in various ensembles. She credits many of her accomplishments directly to the guidance, inspiration and encouragement she found at our college, where she earned a Master in Music degree and a Doctorate of Musical Arts in performance and pedagogy.

At CU Boulder, Stoneback embraced world-class performance opportunities: As a member of Flatirons Brass, she participated in numerous national competitions and world tours. In 2009, the ensemble was a Bronze medalist in the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition. And in 2011, Flatirons Brass worked as artists in residence at the University of Renmin in Beijing, China; the group conducted workshops, provided individual instruction and performed recitals.

“That was a major part of my time at CU Boulder,” Stoneback recalls. “We did competitions, traveled internationally and did a lot of educational outreach. We had so many experiences that were musically enriching.”

Stoneback also leveraged opportunities to record professionally—and to participate in the marketing, design and packaging of the “Of Love and Life” CD, a performance she participated in with the CU Boulder Wind Symphony under Professor Emeritus Allan McMurray.

“The university invested in me by inviting me to work with them,” Stoneback says. “They welcomed my skills and interests. It was a pivotal experience.”

Just as critical to Stoneback’s development were the teaching opportunities she found at the University of Colorado. Stoneback participated in the college’s graduate teacher program, an opportunity that taught her how to teach students of all backgrounds and specialties how to build a professional portfolio, refine different performance styles, and effective ways of becoming better musicians and scholars of their chosen discipline. These teaching experiences, along with the chance to serve as an adjunct professor at Denver’s Regis University, laid the groundwork for her current role.

“The College of Music provided me the tools that I keep developing in pursuing my own teaching career,” notes Stoneback whose approach to teaching incorporates her evidence-based research in applying the Kolb Learning Style Inventory. “The academic side of my experience at CU Boulder helped me become more multifaceted.”

She concludes, “I loved every aspect of studying at the College of Music. I loved earning my graduate degrees in Boulder. I remember driving in the first time and thinking, ‘I just have to be here. This is exactly where I want to be.”