Empress Trombone Quartet

The Empress Trombone Quartet performs multi-style concerts for diverse audiences. With repertoire ranging from Medieval plainchant to swashbuckling movie scores, Empress concerts have something for every kind of music-lover, and as a female-centered trombone quartet, Empress is about breaking ground, and smashing stereotypes. Founded by Karen Marston in 2019, the Empress Trombone Quartet calls on the diverse musical backgrounds of its players, which range from orchestral and chamber music, to commercial and studio playing, to push the boundaries of chamber music.

Empress is also committed to new music, and has commissioned two brand new works for trombone quartet: The Lady of the Lake, by LA composer Stephen Mahpar, and Lotus Flowers, by Fátima Abramo Acuña, trombonist of the Orquesta Sinfónica del Congreso Nacional del Paraguay, which will be premiered in 2022.

Empress has been featured at Fresno Trombone Day, SoCal Trombone Day, the 2022 International Trombone, and Mission Hills Trombone Day, and has given recitals at Mt San Antonio College and the University of Southern California.

Empress Trombone Quartet is: Dr. Karen Marston, Shelly Suminski, Amy Bowers, and Dr. Lori Stuntz.

Dr. Karen Marston is currently on the full time faculty at Mt San Antonio College in Walnut, CA, where she works with brass players in both applied and chamber settings and teaches music history courses. Prior to this position, she spent 15 years on the full time faculty at San Jacinto College in Pasadena, TX.  Karen holds degrees in trombone performance from the University of North Texas and Rice University, and both a masters and doctorate in music education from Columbia University, where she was the recipient of the Elin B. Stein Graduate Fellowship.  Her teachers include Jan Kagarice, Dr. Vern Kagarice, Dr. Royce Lumpkin, and David Waters. 

Karen is also active as a freelancer, and has performed with the Houston Symphony, the San Antonio Symphony, the Ebony Opera Guild, Orchestra X (Houston), the American Radio Chamber Orchestra, the Composers Orchestra of Houston, the Millennial Choirs and Orchestra (Orange County, CA), Alliance Brass, Ambient Brass, and the Texas Brass.  In 2020, she was scheduled to perform as guest soloist with the Youth Wind Ensemble of the Pacific Symphony, and has also been featured numerous times at the International Trombone Festival, most notably as a founding member of the Composers Workshop, an initiative for new music, and as founder of the International Womens Trombone Choir, which gave its inaugural concert in 2021.  

Shelly Suminski received a Bachelor of Music in Trombone Performance from the University of Southern California as the 2007 recipient of the Robert Marsteller Outstanding Brass Musician Award. In 2009, she earned her Master’s Degree at the California Institute of the Arts, studying under James Miller, Associate Principal Trombone of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

As an active freelance musician in Southern California, Ms. Suminski has performed with many local orchestras and musical theater companies in the region and with the Macao Orchestra in China. In addition to classical performance, Shelly also performs and tours with local rock and big bands, and has recorded for film, television and other media projects. Her career has led her to play in major venues across the United States, Middle East, and Asia. She has shared the stage with renowned musicians and entertainers such as John Williams, Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, Emanuel Ax, Will Ferrell, and the band One Direction.

Devoted to music education, Suminski has been involved with non-profit organizations in the Los Angeles area since 2005. She has worked with music organizations such as the Young Musician’s Foundation, USC’s JazzReach program, and Los Angeles Philharmonic’s YOLA at EXPO in Los Angeles. In addition to teaching at the Colburn Community School of Performing Arts, she is currently on the faculty of the award-winning Harmony Project in Hollywood, CA. Presently, Shelly is serving as the Vice President of the Board for the Kodály Association of Southern California.

Amy Bowers is an active freelance musician in California and tenured member of Santa Rosa Symphony, beginning in 2002.

Miss Bowers is a highly sought after orchestral musician performing with a variety of orchestras including Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Los Angeles Opera, Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Pacific Symphony, Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra, Pasadena Symphony, among many others. 

​Amy currently teaches at Orange County School of the Arts and she maintains a large private studio with students throughout Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties. Her students have gone on to prestigious music schools including Juilliard, Eastman, San Francisco Conservatory, Vanderbilt University, Rice, University of Southern California (USC), University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), among others.

​Amy graduated from USC with an undergraduate and graduate degree in trombone performance, going on to be an adjunct professor from 2002-2016. 

​She has won many solo competitions including Pasadena Solo Competition, Sigma Alpha Iota Young Artist Competition, USC Concerto Competition, YMF Debut Orchestra Concerto Competition, and the Pasadena Young Artist Solo Competition. She has also been a featured soloist with the Colburn Zipper Orchestra, Idyllwild Wind Ensemble, Fullerton College Wind Ensemble, and was the recipient of the Robert Marsteller Outstanding Brass Player Award from the Thornton School of Music.

​Amy has also performed with a wide variety of artists such as Andrea Bocelli, Kanye West, Seth McFarlane, Merv Griffin, Kenny G, Michael Feinstein, Marvin Hamlisch, David Foster, John Williams, and Katherine McPhee.

Lori Stuntz is a freelance trombonist in the greater Los Angeles area. She has a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the USC Thornton School of Music, where she also received her Master of Music. She received a Bachelor of Music degree from San Jose State University. Lori plays principal trombone with the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony, trombone with the San Bernardino Symphony Orchestra, and frequently performs with many orchestras including the Santa Barbara Symphony, Riverside Philharmonic, and Symphony Silicon Valley. Dr. Stuntz is on the faculty at Cal Poly Pomona, Riverside City College, and Glendale Community College.

As a commercial player, Lori plays lead trombone for the all female big band Maiden Voyage, 2nd for The Mike Barone Big Band and has performed with artists such as DIVA, Nancy Wilson, Jack Sheldon, Diane Schuur, Ray Anthony, Lionel Hampton, Bill Watrous, and The New York Pops. Her international performances include concerts in Germany, Japan, Austria, France, Mexico, and the Caribbean. As a recording artist she has appeared on many major motion picture soundtracks, commercials, video games, and records including Mile 22, Alice in Wonderland, Superman Returns, and X-Men 3. She is the first female trombonist to record on a major motion picture soundtrack. Lori is proud to be a performing artist for Greenhoe Trombones.

Select Perforamances

International Trombone Festival 2022

Jabberwocky, Christopher Prosser

Flores de Loto, Fátima Abramo Acuña, WORLD PREMIERE

Lady of the Lake, Steven Mahpar, EMPRESS COMMISSION

Ave Maria, Astor Piazzolla, Arr. Karen Marston

For booking information, contact Karen Marston at klmarston@live.com.

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