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Paul Brooks: Paying it Back, and Paying it Forward

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Angela Mitchell

Manager of Marketing & Communications, Lamont School of Music

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Paul Brooks

Paul Brooks (BM ’77, MA ’82) first came to know about the Lamont School of Music when he was a student at East High School in Denver. Having grown up in Denver and started the bass trombone at age 9, he was already very active in music. His teacher, Tasso Harris, also happened to be the director of the jazz band at Lamont. 

“I was so self-directed as a musician, I believe, that I received almost no college counseling,” he recalled. “Midway through my senior year, I realized I’d better get on the ball in terms of college. Tasso asked me where I was going to college, and I told him I’d applied to CU, UNC, and DU.” 

The response from his trombone teacher? “Well then, you’re going to DU.” 

“That was the sum total of my college counseling,” Brooks said.

In addition to the rigorous academic and performance curriculum at Lamont, Brooks played in the DU hockey band. (“Those were some great memories!”) He says that he learned so much about chamber music while at Lamont, and also gained a ton of performance experience playing in the Colorado Brass Quintet. 

“Probably my most memorable experience as an undergrad at Lamont, was to play for two years in the first Colorado Brass Quintet,” he said. “I played with Legh Burns, Director of Bands at Lamont, Jacob Larson, trumpet professor at CSU, Carlberg Jones, horn professor at CSU, and Robert Funk, also an undergraduate trombone student at Lamont.”

Brooks started playing professionally by the end of his sophomore year, appearing with the Denver Municipal Band, at ice shows, the circus, and dance halls. He says it was a very lively scene in Denver for big bands, as it allowed him to perform steadily for about ten years. Also during that time, he started playing in the Central City Opera Orchestra. 

Right after graduating with a Bachelor’s of Music Education, Brooks started his Master of Arts in Trombone performance. He also took on the position of adjunct professor in low brass, where he stayed until 1985. 

A teaching opportunity took Brooks to Phoenix that year, where he taught general music and band to middle schoolers. “That’s where I sacrificed most of my hearing,” he said, laughing. He was fortunate to still be able to perform with Central City Opera in the summers. 

When Brooks was ready to retire in 2006, he decided to move back to Denver. He also knew it was time to start giving back to Lamont. 

“Supporting Lamont is very personal for me,” he said. “My family growing up was what I call a FINO - Family in Name Only. Singing and playing the trombone were my refuge in the chaos of my FINO. I didn’t realize until I got to Lamont that I’d been searching for family, and Lamont was my first experience with unconditional family support.”

Brooks became a donor with the Lamont Society in 2010, and president of the Lamont Society Council in 2011. He also expanded his support to the broader DU community, serving on the DU Alumni Council. 

To this day, he attends up to four performances per week at Lamont, and continues to think of the community as his family. He considers his support to be giving back to a place that has given him so much, AND paying it forward to students.

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