With a series of performances coming up this summer, including preparations to host a national competition for the next two years, the Old Crown Brass Band appear not to have much time to breathe, let alone blow.
But the Old Crown Brass Band has stuck to their Youth Ensemble initiative they planned for this season, and for the inaugural concert Monday, the band will sit side by side with 34 of the city’s skilled high school musicians.
Dave Jones, baritone horn player for the Old Crown Brass Band, says the Youth Ensemble is an opportunity for young musicians to experience a slightly different instrumentation. He says brass bands do not use reed instruments like the clarinet and saxophone, which are common instruments in high school music classes.
They play marching band music and concert band music in their school bands, but it’s important for them to understand the subtle differences between what the brass band does and what marching band or concert band does, Jones says. If we get them to play with us side by side and have this great experience, then they may go to back to their schools and talk it up. We also want to improve their musicianship so that they are better players for their own ensembles at their own school.
The inaugural performance includes a selection of traditional pieces like Ralph Vaughn Williams’ English Folk Song Suite and Shipston Prelude by Stephen Bulla. Jones says the ensemble will also have a chance to play the contemporary, energetic piece Adrenaline Engines.
For the second half of the concert, the Old Crown Brass Brand will take the helm, performing highlights from the musical Music Man and George Gershwin’s Strike up the Band.
Stylistically, I think the goal is to show them what a real brass band is like. If you see other brass bands in Europe, and across the U.S., what do they play? A lot of the time, they don’t get that kind of literature, Jones says. We picked out some of the more traditional pieces, but then we picked out the Music Man’ so that we can show them there are other things we can do. There is flexibility when it comes to brass bands.
Although the band is preparing to host the North American Brass Band Association’s national championship in 2015 and 2016, it was important to get the Youth Ensemble going.
In lieu of auditions, the band sent a notice to area band directors to nominate students they thought would be fitting for the performance. Selecting 34 young musicians who both fulfill the group’s skill requirement and instrument positions, the band has committed the ensemble to only one performance this season, taking into account that the students may have a number of extracurricular activities already.
I think the goal is to have an annual type of thing with the kids, and maybe that will attract them to our concerts, and if it works, then maybe down the line we can have them do their own concert, he says. Obviously, this is a first-time deal, so we’re going to see how it goes. If it seems to get a lot of positive feedback, we would like to make it a traditional thing.
The Youth Ensemble sets up an opportunity that benefits both parties in the long run. Jones says it’s important to show students that there are local opportunities for them to continue playing music after high school, and it’s also important to keep in mind that the brass band needs to have interested musicians who can supplement members who may step down.
One of the things that they will learn and see is that the person they are sitting next to may be an accountant, or computer programmer or a doctor. We do have some band directors, some Philharmonic musicians in there but, we hope that they would realize that after high school, there are performance opportunities out there for them like the brass band or community band. Sometimes I don’t think they even realize that, he says.
I think some of our older members will just get a kick out of showing the kids the ropes about how they do it and how they practice. I think it’s a great benefit because when you do something like that, you kind of have to self-analyze how you do things.