It gives us great pleasure to announce that the recipient of the University of Illinois 2023–2024 Robert E. Gray Award is junior Ethan Groharing.

The Robert E. Gray Award has been presented annually to a member of the UIUC trombone studio since 1992. The award is named in honor of Dr. Robert E. Gray who was Professor of Trombone at University of Illinois from 1955–1991. A transformative trombone teacher who also served as President of the International Trombone Association, Robert E. Gray was also the founder of the University of Illinois Wind Ensemble. The award is given to an outstanding trombone student who embodies the ideals of Dr. Gray, as exemplified in his words:

“Take your time in your work. Don’t always push and do what is expedient. Develop an understanding of life and humanity in your degree work. It will make you a better person.”

In selecting Ethan Groharing for the 2023–2024 Robert E. Gray Award, we note not only Ethan’s ongoing growth as a trombonist as he prepares for a career as a music educator, but his leadership as trombone section leader for the Marching Illini for 2023–2024. Ethan is also active in leadership roles in Kappa Kappa Psi, the national band fraternity. Also, for the last two years, Ethan has raised money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention through Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia for suicide prevention awareness. Ethan’s “Go Red and Black Go Green” fundraiser—the Foundation’s colors are red and black and green is the color of the mental health awareness ribbon—raised $500 for the Foundation in 2023 and $2000 in 2024. In addition, Ethan dyed his hair green, something he said he would do if the fundraiser met its goal (it did). Among the most recent recipients of the Robert E. Gray Award are Charlie Hall (2020–2021), Jerry Min (2021–2022), and Poorna Kumar (2022–2023).

Ethan plans to finish his coursework at University of Illinois in spring 2025 and student teach and graduate in fall 2025. The Robert E. Gray award, which has been endowed thanks to the generosity of Dr. Gray, his family, and former students and friends of the Illinois trombone studio, carries a cash prize, and Ethan’s name now appears on the Gray Award plaque that hangs in the UIUC trombone studio. Ethan will also receive the Robert E. Gray Award medal that he can wear at graduation. Please join us in congratulating Ethan.