Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Holidays are upon us

The Holiday concert season has ended. Hopefully you enjoyed at least one concert of Holiday music. I know that all the volunteer members of all these different groups enjoyed performing the music for their audiences.

Just a short note about the Horns A Plenty Christmas concert in Appleton on Saturday the 20th. Mother Nature was not as kind to the event as a nasty storm came through southern Wisconsin on Friday and a second one on Saturday afternoon. As a result, not as many horn players joined in the fun as last year. But it was a large and appreciative crowd who witnessed the concert. Kudos to all who played, especially the soloist, Dr. Bruce Atwell from UW-Oshkosh. And by the way, the concert was very nice.

One other interesting thing to report about the concert: there will be a Horns A Plenty Christmas Concert next year in Appleton AND in South Dakota. The group is trying to nationalize this holiday treat Ala Tuba Christmas. So, for you blog readers in South Dakota, I'll keep you informed!

But even though the formal concerts have completed, there is still community music for you to enjoy. Whatever religious celebration you keep, there will most likely be music. Whether it be a brass or woodwind group, small orchestra, or choir alone, these musicians are using their talents to make the celebration even more festive and joyous. That is what community music is all about. So enjoy the music, the celebration, just enjoy it all! And if you do not keep any religious festivals this time of year, have a nice day!

I'm going to take some time off from posts. I'll begin posting about the spring season of concerts around January 3rd or 4th. Until then, all the very best to you and yours!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Two more Holiday Concerts

Reminder: The Milwaukee Festival Brass Christmas Concert is this afternoon at 3 PM in Schwan Concert Hall on the campus of Wisconsin Lutheran College, about 88th and Wisconsin.

Two more concerts are coming up in this Holiday season and they both look like a lot of fun.

The first is in Wauwatosa. The Wauwatosa Community Band presents Christmas On Broadway, combining the sounds of the season with music from some wonderful Broadway Shows. The concert begins at 7:30 this Tuesday December 16th at Longfellow Middle School in Wauwatosa, the corner of 76th Street and North Avenue. Tickets are $5, $3 for seniors and students and can be purchased at the door.

Some of the Broadway shows represented include Phantom of the Opera, Fiddler on the Roof, and West Side Story. The Christmas music includes one of my classical favorites, the Troika from Prokofiev's Lt. Kije Suite, as well as Leroy Anderson's Christmas Festival, maybe one of the best medley's of Christmas music written for band. (If you're not familiar with this arrangement, I have one thing to suggest for you listen for. Toward the end of the piece, Anderson completes Jingle Bells and goes into O Come All Ye Faithful. But if you listen carefully, you'll hear the low brass performing Faithful, and the trumpets (in the background) continuing on Jingle Bells. In fact, Anderson used the Jingle Bells rhythm in the background during the big ending. And yet it works...wonderfully! Keep an ear out for that one!

The second concert is Horns A Plenty Christmas performed by the Fox Valley Horn Choir, Saturday December 20th in Appleton, at the City Center Plaza Mall, 200 East Washington Street, across and up the street from the Paper Vally Hotel. The concert begins at 1 PM and if you would like to sit and listen to the concert, be sure to BRING YOUR OWN CHAIR! The chairs that the mall has will be used for the nearly 100 French Horn players who will perform. They literally take up the entire center court of the mall!

This concert was a big success last year, not only for the wonderful music, but also because the Fox Valley Horns set a Guinness World Record for the number of horn players performing in a Christmas Concert. This year they intend to break their own record.

And the concert will have a special guest. Bill Barnewitz from the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra will be there, and will bring copies of his CD, proceeds of which benefit research on Parkinson's Disease. Wonderful music, a CD that would make a great stocking stuffer, all a few days before Christmas. It doesn't get any better than that.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Upcoming concerts

Before I get into the upcoming concerts, just a reminder that the Menomonee Falls Symphony Orchestra is performing their Sing Along Messiah this afternoon at 2 PM in St. Sebastian Church. Time to warm up the vocal chords!

There are two concerts coming up to tell you about. The first concert is Friday December 12th at Shattuck Auditorium on the campus of Carroll University in Waukesha. The Waukesha Area Symphonic Band will present their annual concert of Holiday favorites. The neat thing about this concert is that it features many small ensembles from the band. The last one I attended included music by a brass choir, a flute choir, a woodwind group, and the full band. So, you'll get to hear familiar music in new settings. In the spirit of the season, the $5 admission will be waived if you bring in 5 non-perishable food items for the Waukesha Food Pantry. For more information, please call 262/370-6129.

The second concert is Sunday December 14th featuring the Milwaukee Festival Brass. The concert will commence at 3 PM in the Schwan Concert Hall on the campus of Wisconsin Lutheran College. Dr. Pat Backhaus has planned a very nice Holiday concert, featuring some familiar and some less familiar music.

Their performance of Silent Night will feature Flugelhorn and Tenor Horn players Brian Bolling and Lonna Brooks. For something less familiar, there is Nigel Horn's arrangement of The Boar's Head Carol. Solo E-flat tuba player, Rafael Petrie Da'vila will be featured on Remembrance by Barton Cummings.

The centerpiece of this concert sets the tone of an ancient British court where feasts and music abounded. It is Ralph Vaughan Williams' Henry V and contains The Agincourt Hymn remembering Henry's victory at the city of the same name and a paraphrase of William Byrd's Earl of Oxford's March.

Dr. Pat also hints that there may be some surprises as well.

Both of these concerts will be lots of fun. They will get you in the mood for the Holidays, and get your mind off the snow shoveling!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Holiday Concert Calendar and More!

The Holiday season is upon us! In this post I have the schedule of all the Holiday concerts that I am aware of. If you have one that I do not, add a comment with that information, so that we all can have a complete calendar.

But before the calendar, here is some very neat news. Last Holiday season, the Saturday before Christmas, the Fox Valley Horn Choir performed in Appleton. They invited horn players from around the state to join them. Their goal was 100 players, but they were a bit shy of that goal...they had 87 players performing. However, the list and pictures were sent in to the Guinness World Records organization anyway.

The director, Don Krause (hrntchr on U-Tube), received a reply from the Guinness people a few weeks ago. The Guinness people have recognized last December's performance as the largest Horn Choir performing Christmas Music and have sent a certificate of achievement. Congratulations to all of the performers. And be sure to set your calendar for Saturday December 20th at the College Avenue Mall in Appleton for this year's concert, where we may see a new record! Here's the link to their web site for more information:

And before that, the Horn Choir is performing this Thursday the 4th with the Fox Valley Symphony for their Holiday Pops concert. Here's the link for more information:

One more honor for the Fox Valley Horn Choir: they have been invited to play at the 2009 International Horn Society Symposium in June to be held at Western Illinois University. Quite the honor, congratulations!

Finally, here is the Holiday Concert Calendar, all dates in December. Be sure to add a comment if I missed one that you know of. Thanks.

7 - Menomonee Falls Symphony perform the Sing Along Messiah at St. Sebastian's Church in Milwaukee at 2 PM
12 - Waukesha Area Symphonic Band performs their Christmas Concert at 7:30 at Shattuck Auditorium
14 - Milwaukee Festival Brass perform O Christmas Brass at 3 PM in the Schwan Concert Hall
14 - Lakeshore Symphonic Band perform their Christmas Concert at 7:30 PM at the Basilica of Holy Hill in Hubertus
14 - Milwaukee American Legion Band performs their Christmas Concert at 3 PM at Milwaukee Lutheran High School
16 - The Wauwatosa Community Band performs their Christmas Concert at 7:30 PM at Longfellow Middle School
20 - Horns A Plenty Christmas in the College Avenue Mall in Appleton at 1 PM. Bring your own chair, the place gets crowded.

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

My computer will be down until next week Monday at the earliest. So, I apologize that the normal Sunday post will be on Monday or Tuesday next week.

Until then have a wonderful and happy Thanksgiving Holiday. We have much to be thankful for...including all the musicians who volunteer their time to make music in our community groups. And the people who help those groups continue to operate. And all the people I'm forgetting!

Happy Thanksgiving!! :-)

Friday, November 21, 2008

A busy weekend ahead

Well, it's Friday evening. Normally I post something on Sunday morning (or sometime Sunday if I'm late). But this post goes out on Friday evening because this weekend will be filled to the brim.

Tomorrow I'll be coordinating the dress rehearsal for the Knightwind Ensemble concert on Sunday. I'll start in the morning and won't finish until well after sunset.

On Sunday, we begin about lunch time and finish about 7 PM. A full day to say the least.

So, not much to put in the post this evening. I hope to see you on Sunday. I'll be at the ticket table before the concert, so stop by and say Hi. If you bring the concert announcement from the Knightwind web site, you'll get $1 off all of the adult tickets in your party. Here's the link:

I'll have a post for the Christmas concerts the Sunday after Thanksgiving, including two special performances by the Fox Valley Horn Choir. And one of them might be a record breaker!

See you at the Knightwind concert. Be sure to say Hi!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The last of the fall concerts

The fall concerts are almost completed. There are two concerts left on the calendar. The first is Friday night at West Allis Hale High School at 116th and Lincoln at 7:30. The Suburban Concert Band will present their concert in the school auditorium. Unfortunately, I do not have any information about the program. But if you have Friday evening open, this is a nice option for you.

The other concert is next Sunday at 3 PM in the Schwan Concert Hall of Wisconsin Lutheran College, 88th and Wisconsin Avenue. The Knightwind Ensemble will present Pastiche, with a number of wonderful works, including a band transcription of Pictures at an Exhibition. As I wrote in an earlier post, the transcription is of the Ravel orchestration, not of the original Moussorgsky piano music. This is one not to miss.

And if you do decide to take in the Knightwind concert, stop by and say hello. I'll be at the ticket table. And if you'd like $1 off your tickets, print out the Knightwind Web Site page with the concert info:

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The fall concert season is almost completed...

The calendar shows that the Suburban Concert Band performs on the 21st, and the Knightwind Ensemble performs on the 23rd. Those are the last two concerts of the fall season that I have information on. After Thanksgiving, I'll have a quick summary of all of the concerts between Thanksgiving and New Years. The Holidays almost have a concert schedule of their own. One thing about community music groups in this area: if you have nothing to do over a weekend, the community groups offer many opportunities. And if you do nothing over that weekend, you only have yourself to blame!

Just a note...I attended the performance last night by the Menomonee Falls Symphony Orchestra. A nice performance was witnessed by a good sized audience. I especially liked seeing the many families in the audience. Getting children exposed to classical music in a family setting can plant the seed for the future. And to me, that's one of the beauties of community music groups: the seed is planted and when they become adults, there is a better chance they will attend classical concerts and arts performances in general. Community groups definitely improve the quality of our life in the Milwaukee area. (And if the economy gets any worse, the community groups offer those arts at a much reduced cost...)

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Upcoming Orchestra Concert and some news

This coming Saturday November 8th at 7:30 PM, the Menomonee Falls Symphony Orchestra presents their fall concert A Fantastic Night of Fantasy. The featured piece is Paul Dukas' Sorcerer's Apprentice. Those of us boomer-types remember the wonderful treatment of this music by Walt Disney in the movie Fantasia. However, the music stands on its own wonderfully. Great piece of music.

Looking at the program, I get the feeling that Music Director Michael Kamenski wanted to touch on famous fantasy shows and movies. Besides Fantasia there is music from Brigadoon, Jurassic Park, Star Wars, and Star Trek. The famous Blue Danube Waltz by Strauss represents the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. And the program begins with Moussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain (one of my favorites and another selection from Fantasia).

The concert will be held at the Menomonee Falls North Junior High School. Tickets can be purchased at the door: $15 adults, $12, Senior, and $6 Students. You'll enjoy this one.

And one comment on the upcoming Knightwind Ensemble concert on Sunday November 23rd. I was at the rehearsal on Wednesday evening. Over the last few weeks the group has rehearsed Lollapalooza, a very difficult piece by minimalist composer John Adams. But Wednesday night was different because the piece started coming together. The piece is very difficult to play because a musician cannot listen to other sections to make sure that they are blending as a whole. Each musician must play their part and block out the other sections (sometimes others within their section). Only the director and the audience will be able to hear the "whole" piece. But Wednesday night there were themes scampering across the band, little bits and pieces that moved through the band. It was as if you could watch the music move across from one side to the other. A few more rehearsals like that one, and that piece will by dynamite! And the rest of the concert is sounding very well too, especially the Padstow Lifeboat and Pictures At An Exhibition. Better mark the 23rd on your calendar now. You do not want to miss it!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

An extra post this week

In Sunday's post I forgot to mention a concert by the Milwaukee Festival Brass, coming up this Sunday November 2 at 3 PM at the United Methodist Church of Whitefish Bay on East Silver Spring Drive. This concert celebrates Dr. Pat Backhaus' 40th anniversary of playing the cornet. I guess she started when she was 2 years old ;-) . On the program will be some of her favorite pieces and composers, but she won't tell me any more than that. You'll have to attend to find out what they play.

Seriously, these concerts are always a lot of fun and a lot of good music. I suggest you mark you calendar for this one. I'm disappointed that I will be traveling for my job and cannot attend...maybe you can attend for me!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Concert Preview

Just a reminder about the Halloween concert presented by the Wauwatosa Community Band this Saturday November 1st at 1 PM at Longfellow Middle School in Wauwatosa, at 76th and North Avenue.

This week's post describes a few more pieces to be performed by the Knightwind Ensemble at their Pastiche concert on November 23rd. For ticket info, see the web site:

On the program is Edward Gregson's Partita, written around 1970. This music is somber as the thread throughout the work is the Dies Irae from the Requiem Mass. Hammer-like chords begin and end the first movement with a more lyrical modal tune in between. In the second movement, the Dies Irae is the bases for an extended melody and five variations.

Also on the program is the James Spinazzola transcription of John Adams' Lollapalooza. Now I have to admit that my familiarity with the name Lollapalooza extends only to heavy metal concerts. However, John Adams wrote this interesting and very difficult piece as a 40th birthday present for Simon Rattle, the music director of the City of Birmingham Symphony. The theme is the rhythm of the word itself: lollapalooza, da-da-da-DAH-da. But there are also other motives and they all appear, disappear, and chain together. It is a very interesting piece and the group is working hard at rehearsals to keep all the motives together. This is one of those pieces where some people will like it, some people won't, and many people won't be sure! So come have a listen and judge for yourself.

Finally on the program is a band arrangement by Mark Hindley of the Ravel orchestration of Moussorgsky's Pictures At An Exhibition. The transcription is very true to the orchestration and the music is wonderful. Not much more to say about this piece. The sound is magnificent!

Again, for more information or to order tickets, see the web site:

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Halloween Concert

I usually post on Sunday mornings, but this weekend is messy. So, here's to an early posting.

Mark your calendars for Saturday November 1 for an afternoon of Halloween music, fun, and surprises with the Wauwatosa Community Band. The concert begins at 1 PM and admission is free if you are in costume (only $2 without a costume).

No Halloween concert would be complete without Moussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain. But the little ones will also enjoy Scooby Doo, Where Are You? and Rats Bats and Spiders. And a piece by P.D.Q. Back entitled March of the Cute Little Wood Sprites will not be what you think. But then again, none of the music of P.D.Q. Bach is what anyone would think!

Great fun for Halloween, and practical too! After all, the little goblins will get to wear their costumes twice, once for Trick or Treat and again to the concert. And the concert does not interfere with Trick or Treat (a very important point, especially for the costumed crowd)!

Everyone will have fun. There will be prizes for the best costumes, and treats will be served. All in all, no better way to spend an afternoon.

It all begins at 1 PM at Longfellow Middle School in Wauwatosa, at the corner of 76th and North Avenue. Don't miss it!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A concert in Racine this Thursday

The Racine Concert Band is performing this Thursday evening at Horlick High School with the Horlick High School Band at 7 PM. On the program are Four Dances from West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein, Walter Hartley's Sinfonia No. 4, and Tears by David Maslanka. For the finale, members of the High School Band will sit in with the Racine Concert Band for a rousing Karl King march.

Just one comment for this upcoming concert. The big season of performances for the Racine Concert Band are the performances during the summer at the Racine Zoo. But during the school year, these musicians play at the Racine High Schools, and with the High School bands. It is a nice touch which gives the school musicians a taste of what performing is like after high school. A great tool to keep someone playing their horn in college! If you have Thursday evening open, I suggest you take in the concert.

On another subject, let me congratulate the members of the orchestra, and all of the cast at the Modjeska Youth Theater. Their performance of West Side Story was very good (I saw it on Friday evening). Here is a group that needs our support. The members of the Theater Group come from schools all over the Milwaukee area and must maintain a B average or better to continue. The performance I saw was very high quality - an excellent show. The orchestra was made up of members of a number of community music groups and their performance was equally as good. The Theater group has decided not to mount a production for the Christmas Season, but concentrate on fund raising instead. They are very short on cash and need to stabilize the finances before moving forward. Their production of Willy Wonka will be moved to the spring. Here is an excellent group doing wonderful things for our community, and they get very little publicity. Please consider supporting them...they do very good work.

Next week, a post on a special Halloween concert by the Wauwatosa Community Band.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Concert Preview

Before I get to the first concert preview of the season, just a reminder. One weekend of performances is in the books for the Modjeska Youth Theater's production of West Side Story. But you still have one more weekend of performances. Don't miss the show, it's a good one. As an aside, a number of different community music groups are represented by the members of the pit orchestra: Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra, Waukesha Area Symphonic Band, Wauwatosa Community Band, and the Knightwind Ensemble. Here's another example of community musicians improving the lifestyle in the area. And don't forget the good work that the Modjeska Youth Theater Company does. Kids can be a part of the performances ONLY if they have a B or better average in school. Definitely a group worth supporting! And the shows very good!

Also for those of you in the Sheboygan area, the Milwaukee Festival Brass performs next week Sunday the 11th at St. Mark's Lutheran Church. Here's a link to an article about that upcoming concert from the Sheboygan Press:

And onto the first concert preview of the season. Many of you know that I volunteer for the Knightwind Ensemble. As a result, I get to know about the music for their concerts very early in the season. So I thought I would describe a few of the selections for the November 23rd concert. (Be sure to put that on your calendar and to visit their web site:

I have to write about a charming march that is on the program: The Padstow Lifeboat by Englishman Malcolm Arnold (arranged by Ray Woodfield). First a bit about the composer. He was very active in writing for motion pictures: 132 film scores. His most famous is from the movie The Bridge on the River Kwai, for which he won an Oscar in 1958. While he wrote many works for band, he also wrote chamber music, operas, and nine symphonies. This march, written for the opening of a new lifeboat station in Padstow in 1968, has a distinctive foghorn sound within it. The opening tune is in the key of A flat, and the foghorn sounds are in D. So the foghorn sound, which is played very loud compared to the rest of the march, sticks out more than just a bit. One review I read called it "a bit rude". It's quite the charming little march; lots of fun to listen to.

Another piece on the concert is the mourning sounds of Elegy for a Young American by Ronald Lo Presti. Written in 1964, it is dedicated to the memory of President John F. Kennedy. Feelings of shock, denial, anger, and remorse are heard, but are replaced by a celebration of the contributions of this great American. A wonderful piece, you must hear it.

There are three other pieces on the concert. I'll have a bit on each of them in an upcoming post.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

More dates for the Calendar

I heard from the director of the Wauwatosa Community Band this week. She was finally able to confirm the concert dates. Their first concert is a Children's Halloween concert on Saturday November 1 at 1 PM. Their Christmas concert is Tuesday December 16th at 7:30 PM. Both concerts will be held at Longfellow Middle School at the corner of 76th and North Avenue.

Just a note: the Wauwatosa Community Band always has a fun show. I suggest you attend one (or both) of these concerts, especially if you need a little cheering up. You'll have a great time.

Also of note are the performances coming up this weekend by the Modjeska Youth Theater. This group, based out of the old Modjeska Theater on Historic Mitchell Street, accepts school age kids for performances ONLY if they maintain a B average in their school work. On top of that, their performances are always well done and entertaining. I've personally seen a number of their performances and have always enjoyed them.

This weekend and next the Modjeska Youth Theater performs West Side Story, Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet set in late 50's New York with wonderful (and difficult) music by Leonard Bernstein. Tickets are $10 to $25 and can be reserved by calling 414-384-4550. For more information, see their web site: I saw this group perform this show a few years back and was stunned by how good the performance was. If you have an opening in your calendar the next two weekends, I suggest you take in a performance.

I'll be in the audience next week Friday the 10th. Say hello at intermission!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

We have one, most communities do not!

Many communities have a band, folks volunteering to make life in their communities richer. Some communities have orchestras. But very few communities have a brass band of the British style. The Milwaukee area is lucky to have the Milwaukee Festival Brass.

The first big difference is in the instrumentation. Instead of trumpets, they use cornets. Instead of french horns, they use the upright alto horn (called tenor horns in Europe). The rest of the instrumentation includes trombones (tenor and bass), baritones, euphoniums, and Eb and Bb tubas. As a result the "color" of the sound is much different, very lush. You really have to experience it yourself. Definitely worth taking in one of the concerts of the Milwaukee Festival Brass.

One big difference in the brass band tradition is the idea of competition. In Great Britain, the country is divided into sections. To reach the National competition in the fall, you must place in the top 2 or 3 in your section competitions in the spring. Here in the US, there is the Great American Brass Band Festival in spring, and the US Open Brass Band Championships in northern Illinois in fall. There are many other brass band festivals and competitions, but those are the two big ones.

And if you'd like to see the Milwaukee Festival Brass in competition this fall, reserve November 8 for your trip to St. Charles Illinois at the Norris Cultural Arts Center. While the details are not fully set, Dr. Pat Backhaus emailed me that they were intending to compete at the US Open this year, as they did last year. (In fact, if you bring up the US Open page, on the left side you can hear a short portion of an MFB performance.)

So, for something different, take a ride to northern Illinois on November 8th and take in the US Open Brass Band Championships

Friday, September 12, 2008

As promised - the 2008-09 Season Calendar

I know you're ready to print this post and decorate your refrigerator! But I'm still waiting for responses from two of the local band directors, and I have no info at all on two other groups. I'll need your help to get that info, more on that later. When the information comes in, I'll add it to this post so that everything will be in one place. And I'll be sure to alert you to the additions in the weekly postings. And now, on with the calendar of concerts!


11 - Milwaukee Festival Brass perform Fabulous 40 at St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Sheboygan at 7 PM.
18 - Lakeshore Symphonic Band performs their fall concert at 7 PM at the Cedarburg Performing Arts Center


1 - The Wauwatosa Community Band performs a Children's Halloween Concert at 1 PM at Logfellow Middle School
2 - Milwaukee Festival Brass performs Fabulous 40 at the United Methodist Church of Whitefish Bay at 3 PM
8 - Menomonee Falls Symphony Orchestra performs a Fall Fantasy Concert at 7:30 at the Menomonee Falls Jr. High School
9 - Milwaukee American Legion Band performs their Fall Concert at 3 PM at Milwaukee Lutheran High School
11 - Waukesha Area Symphonic Band performs their Fall Concert at 7:30 at Shattuck Auditorium at Carroll University
21 - Suburban Concert Band of West Allis performs their Fall Concert at 7:30 at Nathan Hale High School
23 - The Knightwind Ensemble performs Pastiche at 3 PM at Schwan Concert Hall on the campus of Wisconsin Lutheran College


7 - Menomonee Falls Symphony perform the Sing Along Messiah at St. Sebastian's Church in Milwaukee at 2 PM
12 - Waukesha Area Symphonic Band performs their Christmas Concert at 7:30 at Shattuck Auditorium
14 - Milwaukee Festival Brass perform O Christmas Brass at 3 PM in the Schwan Concert Hall
14 - Lakeshore Symphonic Band perform their Christmas Concert at 7:30 PM at the Basilica of Holy Hill in Hubertus
14 - Milwaukee American Legion Band performs their Christmas Concert at 3 PM at Milwaukee Lutheran High School
16 - The Wauwatosa Community Band performs their Christmas Concert at 7:30 PM at Longfellow Middle School



13 and 14 - Menomonee Falls Symphony present their annual Valentines Day Dinner and Concert at the Silver Spring Country Club. Dinner begins at 6:30.


6 - Suburban Concert Band performs a winter concert at 7:30 at Nathan Hale High School in West Allis
8 - Milwaukee Festival Brass performs Americans We at their annual Festival concert at 3 PM at the Schwan Concert Hall. This year's concert salutes our Armed Services.
8 - Lakeshore Symphonic Band performs their spring concert at 3 PM in the Cedarburg Performing Arts Center
22 - Knightwind Ensemble performs their spring concert at Schwan Concert Hall at 3 PM



1 - Waukesha Area Symphonic Band performs their annual Spring Benefit Concert featuring the winner of the Concerto Competition at 7:30 in Shattuck Auditorium
15 - Suburban Band of West Allis performs their spring concert at Nathan Hale High School at 7:30
16 - Menomonee Falls Symphony performs Springtime featuring the winner of their Young Artist Competition at 7:30 in the Menomonee Falls Jr. High School
17 - Lakeshore Symphonic Band performs their Concerto Concert featuring the winner of their concerto competition at 3 PM at the Cedarburg Performing Arts Center
17 - Milwaukee American Legion Band performs their spring concert at 3 PM at Milwaukee Lutheran High School
25 - The Knightwind Ensemble perform their 20th Annual Memorial Day Pops Concert at the Milwaukee County Zoo at 1 PM


7 - Milwaukee Festival Brass present Intergallactic Brass at 3 PM at the Schwan Concert Hall

I am still waiting for information from the director of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Community Concert Band. As I mentioned above, when it comes in, I'll let you know and then add it to this list.

Also, I have had no luck finding the schedules for the Milwaukee Concert Band and the Greendale Village Band. If you have information on their season schedules, please post a reply with the information. Thanks.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Couple of things

I was hoping to have a season calendar for the different community music groups in the area, but it's taking longer to put together than I had hoped. I'll put that together for next week.

In the meantime, get out those old instruments, blow off the dust (maybe rinse them out if you need to), and get that lip back in shape...or get the sticks and the practice pad out and get the wrists moving again. Then check the post from August 21 and join in on the fun!

OR maybe you've just chuckled reading that last paragraph, knowing that there is no way you could ever play again. In that case, contact your favorite group and volunteer your time. Every group needs help, some at rehearsals, some only on concert dates. Personally, I know that the Knightwind Ensemble needs some help on dress rehearsal and concert days (two days in November and 2 days in March, and that's all the commitment needed). There is a lot to do and every group can use a little help. So, take a look at your calendar and ask yourself if you could volunteer four afternoons over the next 7 months or so. Then contact your favorite group's web site (see the post from August 21 for the links) and give them a hand. They'll appreciate it very much and you'll feel great about it.

Time is so much more valuable than money...of course, money is pretty good as well!

Finally, don't forget the first concert of the season by the Menomonee Falls Symphony, coming up on Wednesday evening September 10th at 7:30. See the details in the last post.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

First concert of the fall season

We haven't even made it to September and there is a concert coming up!

The Menomonee Falls Symphony Orchestra observes the seventh anniversary of the September 11th tragedy with a performance of Karl Jenkins The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace. The performance will be on Wednesday evening September 10th at 7:30 PM at the Basilica of St. Josephat, corner of 6th and Lincoln. Joining the MFSO are the choirs of St. Sebastian Parish and the Milwaukee Archdiocese.

Here is a description from the composer's web site: "In a manner reminiscent of Benjamin Britten's War Requiem, The Armed Man interpolates a number of different texts within the usual Mass form. Malory, Dryden, Swift, Tennyson, Kipling, The Koran and the Hindu Mahàbharàta contribute to a compelling account of the descent into and terrible consequences of war."

Tickets are $10. For more information or to purchase tickets, please call 262-679-0779. You can also send email to

Thursday, August 21, 2008

As promised, here's the list!

As promised, here is the list that I have of the community music groups in the Milwaukee Area, the nights they rehearse, and other information. This will give you all an understanding of the different groups, what they offer, and how to contact them. If you'd like more information about a particular group, send me an email at bigbruceb at yahoo dot com, and I'll get it to the correct person.

The post is organized by the day of the group rehearsals. Here we go:

Sunday: There is one group rehearsing on Sunday evening, the Milwaukee Metropolitan Community Concert Band. The band is always looking for new members. If an audition is needed, it is in order to determine where a person would sit. The group performs a more traditional concert band repertoire, and performs most of the year. The group is lead by conductor Karen Lippert. Unfortunately the group does not have a web site at this time. If you're interested in more information, please send me an email and I'll forward it to the conductor.

Monday: There is a community orchestra rehearsing on Monday evenings, the Menomonee Falls Symphony, directed by Mike Kamenski. Auditions are required. The group performs traditional symphony orchestra works. To get more information, see the web site:

Tuesday: There are three groups rehearsing on Tuesday evening: the Wauwatosa Community Band, the Waukesha Area Symphonic Band, and the Milwaukee Festival Brass, the area's only British style brass band. First, the Wauwatosa Community Band is sponsored in part by the Wauwatosa Parks and Rec department and welcomes any and all players. Their concerts are lighter in nature with some more serious works for band. See their web site for more information: http://www.arcfile/com/wcb/index.html

Also on Tuesday is the Waukesha Area Symphonic Band. WASB performs more serious works and more difficult works for band. Auditions are required. Their web site is If you have problems displaying the web site, I do know that their site maintenance is going on now. Send me an email and I'll forward your contact info to the correct people.

Finally on Tuesday is the Milwaukee Festival Brass directed by Dr. Pat Backhaus, one of my favorite groups. If you are a brass or percussion player, this group offers something different from most community groups as the instrumentation is that of a traditional British Brass Band. The music is a wide variety from Pops favorites to very difficult brass band competition pieces. Auditions are required. See the web site for more info:

Wednesday: There are three groups rehearsing on Wednesday evening: the Sudler Award Winning Knightwind Ensemble, the Lakeshore Symphonic Band, and the Milwaukee American Legion Band. The Legion band is modeled on the traditional patriotic military band. Not sure if they require auditions. Please see the web site for more information:

The Lakeshore Symphonic Band is located in Ozaukee County in Grafton. Their performances are at the Cedarburg Arts Center. You can get more information from their web site:

The Knightwind Ensemble also rehearses on Wednesday evening. The Ensemble specializes in performing newer works for band and wind symphony. Their web site has the list of the pieces performed in concert over the past 10 years plus, and it includes international award winning pieces. Auditions are required, and the band will add you to the waiting list if the section is full. See the web site for more information: The Ensemble received the Sudler Silver Scroll from the John Philip Sousa Foundation in December of 2005. of the tens of thousands of community bands eligible for the award, the Knightwind Ensemble is one of 34 groups to EVER receive the award. Quite the accomplishment!

Thursday: Three groups rehearse on Thursday evening. The first is the Milwaukee Concert Band. As they do not ave a web site, it is difficult to get information about the group. However, if you are interested in a Thursday rehearsal, send me an email and I will make sure that the director receives it. Also rehearsing on Thursday is the Suburban Concert Band in West Allis, and the Greendale Village Band. These groups do not have web sites either. However, the Wisconsin Music Group Band list at has contact information for them. The problem is that the list is a bit out of date and I do not know if the contact information is correct or not. However, if you are interested in these groups, this is the best information available.

And that wraps up the list of community music groups in the Milwaukee area. If I missed one that you know of, please email me or add a comment to the post. I'll be sure to add it to the list.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Summer is near the end...

However, in the last week, I have been out of the area vacationing. And it was very nice, thank you very much! However, it also means I did not work on the list of community music groups, when they rehearse, whether an audition is needed, etc. So I promise to do that in the next week and post it on Sunday the 24th.

Thanks for your patience.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

We're lucky, and that gives you options

The summer community band season is winding down. Many groups have completed their summer season while a few have a couple of concerts left. So get out and support your local community band!

But if the summer season is winding down, that means the fall season preparations are underway. Many groups are selecting music, and some are scheduling auditions. We're lucky here in the Milwaukee Metro area in that we have so many different community music organizations of all different skill levels. We have a community orchestra in Menomonee Falls, a number of concert bands all over the metro area including one that is nationally recognized, lots of different types of groups playing for church services, and a number of jazz big bands. We even have a British Brass Band. Very few communities can make that boast. And one of my co-workers who has had assignments all over the world has mentioned that there are areas of our country where there two or three community bands in the state. He was always amazed that our area had so much musical talent to support the many musical groups in the area. We are really lucky!

Another of my friends made this observation: if someone in the metro area wants to play in a band or orchestra, and they find that they are not doing so, they only have themselves to blame!
And that statement is also true. There are so many groups at different talent levels, rehearsing on different nights of the week, that it would be difficult NOT to find a group to play with.

So in the next few posts, I'll be going over the different community music groups in the area. So if you are debating about joining a community music group, you'll have a number options to evaluate. Until then, it's time to get out the instrument and dust off your beginner or intermediate method books and get those musical genes working again. Rehearsals will begin in the next few weeks!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Peak of Summer

Well, the peak of the summer season is here: the Sate Fair has opened. And there is something you can do to support bands...

If you go to the Fair, there will be a number of music groups playing mini-concerts around the grounds all afternoon. Different groups on different days, but there is always a group playing. Be sure to stop, listen, and cheer. Many of these groups are high school and middle school bands, and it may be the first time they perform for total strangers. Those of us who support community music groups must do all we can to make sure that the young'uns in school bands have a good time and leave high school with a positive outlook on their instruments, and on music in general.

So, go and enjoy a cream puff. After walking a lot, stop in the DNR area and enjoy the shade and the breeze that always seems to be there. See the pig races. But be sure to stop and take in one or more of the mini-concerts, and cheer for the musicians. Even if their performance is not perfect, they need your support. And maybe, just maybe, they'll be in a community band once they graduate from college.

Friday, July 25, 2008

A Tradition in Racine

While I've mentioned the Racine Concert Band in a number of posts, I never did get into their history, which is very impressive. Best to do that now!

The roots of the band go back to the 1870's. The Schulte brothers began providing music in the park for Racine residents. In 1923, Henry Schulte approached the city council for funds for an official city band. And so, the Racine Park Board Band was born. For 44 years, it provided over 300 free concerts for Racine residents. Pretty successful by today's standards!

In 1967, the band, then under director John Opferkuch, changed the name to the Racine Municipal Band, which was affectionately called the "muni band" by members. The band also expanded the schedule to include a year-round concert schedule.

The band received a very special award in 1995. The John Philip Sousa Foundation awarded the band the Sudler Silver Scroll. This award is given only to those community bands that demonstrate excellence in musical performance and a strong community presence. In all the years that the Sousa Foundation has been awarding the Scroll, only 34 community bands have received it, even though tens of thousands of bands are eligible. The Racine band was the 10th group to receive the Scroll.

In 1996, the name was changed to the Racine Concert Band, to better describe the group's music and community support.

In 2002, Mark Eichner was appointed Music Director, being only the fifth director of the group since the first official band in 1923. And just this past July 4th, the band performed its 1400th free concert for the residents of Racine. Quite the history indeed!

And as long as we're on the topic of the Racine Concert Band, here's their schedule for the rest of the summer. All the concerts are at the Racine Zoo and begin at 7:30. Admission to the zoo for the concert is free.

Sunday July 27 - Children's concert
Sunday August 3 - Featuring Baritone Gregory Berg
Sunday August 10 - Featuring Rick Sunier on Euphonium
Sunday August 17 - Featuring Soprano Jeanie Hatfield
Sunday August 24 - Featuring Mezzo Soprano Allison Hull and Mark Eichner on Trumpet

I'll be at most of them. Hope to see you there.

Friday, July 18, 2008

No, I'm not knocking Sousa...

Here's a topic that some people find infuriating. They get so mad at me when I state that my favorite march king is not John Philip Sousa. I tell them that Sousa is my favorite composer of what I call "serious marches", but that I prefer "fun marches". I guess it's an emotional thing. Let me recap a true story from May that started all this.

The Knightwind Ensemble was performing at a Senior Apartment complex, one of those buildings with apartments for independent Seniors, and also apartments for those needing assisted living. The director asked the audience to name American composers, hoping that someone would mention the name "George Gershwin". Instead one gentleman shouted "John Philip Sousa". When our director mentioned that he was looking for a different name, the gentleman became upset. However, the audience did enjoy the Gershwin medley and the issue was forgotten.

But it showed me that to some people, Sousa was the greatest American composer ever, greater than Gershwin, Copland and Bernstein! And it illustrates why, when I mention that he did well at "serious marches" but that other marches are more fun, they are so upset with me. And then, when I mention the name Henry Fillmore, they do not recognize it. Fillmore is the guy that I think of for fun marches! I guess Fillmore needed better PR! But then again, Fillmore never really did what he was told to do...

At a young age, Henry Fillmore was very interested in the slide trombone. His father was not happy about that. His father, a very conservative publisher of church music, felt that the trombone was a sinful instrument. But Fillmore's mother got him a trombone anyway. Later, Henry did something else that his father was not happy about: he ran away to join a circus and married an exotic dancer working in the circus. Bet he scored a lot of points with that one!

Fillmore was always proud of his compositions. Fellow composer John Klohr told Fillmore that his marches sold because of his name, and not because they were good. So on a bet with Klohr, Fillmore wrote a new march under the name Gus Beans from Lima, Ohio. He named the march Mt. Healthy, after one of the suburbs of Cincinnati. And it was a hit anyway. Actually, he wrote marches under 5 or 6 different names. His march total was well over 200. If you're keeping score, Sousa wrote 136. However, to be fair, Sousa also wrote suites and operettas.

Fillmore's most famous group of tunes are known as The Trombone Family, a group of 15 rags featuring trombone smears. The one I most commonly hear at band concerts is Lassus Trombone. It turns out that Lassus Trombone was one of Sousa's favorites as well.

So for me, the summer band concert should end with a serious Sousa march...but somewhere in the middle should be one of two works by Henry Fillmore...lots of fun during the concert and a serious march for the ending! Doesn't get any better than that!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Transition Time - More concerts

We're in that transition time. It's the only time of the year when community band schedules get a bit messy! Some summer bands start in early June and go well into September. Others start at about the same time and finish in July, giving their members some of the summer for themselves. Still others don't have their first concert until July 4th, and then play until school starts. We're in that transition time!

So, some groups, like the Milwaukee American Legion Band, are shut down for the rest of the summer. Other groups, like the Racine Concert Band, are just getting going. And drum and bugle corps like Pioneer, will be going right through August. In any event, get out there and take in their performances. It's good fun, easy on gas and your wallet, and you'll have a great time.

If you live near Racine, take in the concert on July 13th at 7:30 PM at the Racine Zoo. It's free and fun featuring a xylophone soloist!

If Thursday the 17th is a better date for you, get to Atwater Park in Shorewood at 7 PM for the final performance of the Shorewood Concert Band for this season. Dr. Pat has quite the program in store.

In this concert, the trombone section is featured in Henry Fillmore's Lassus Trombone. The kids will like the variations on London Bridge by James Parcel. For the concert band aficionado, Dr. Pat has two works: the Vaughn Williams Flourish and the Holst Second Suite in F. Let me comment here that summer bands rarely play music of this difficulty, having only one rehearsal to put the entire program together. The fact that Dr. Pat is comfortable programming both pieces on the concert shows the level of musicianship within the group.

A few years ago, Dr. Pat introduced small groups to the Shorewood Concert Band series, and the practice has grown over the years. The last concert featured the Hornicopia Horn Quartet. This concert will feature a Clarinet Quartet.

Then, just to throw you a curve ball, Dr. Pat has programmed some rock (All You Get From Love is a Love Song). And she hinted that there might also be a famous Polka thrown in. Trust me, it doesn't get much better than this!

And all that in about an hour!

And I'll be there sitting in my green lawn chair. Stop by and say hi! (Not too many green lawn chairs there so far this season, so you won't talk to strangers!)

Sunday, July 6, 2008

A tradition Continues

Tonight, July 6th at 7:30 PM, a tradition continues that has lasted 85 years. The Racine Concert Band will perform a series of 8 concerts beginning tonight at 7:30. For the next 8 Sunday evenings, you can enjoy a free concert at the Racine Zoo every Sunday evening.

The venue is very nice. The band shell is at the edge of a meadow at the bottom of a small hill with its back to Lake Michigan. The audience sits on the hill overlooking the Lake, and of course, the band. This natural amphitheater gives lots of room for you to bring the family, stretch out on a blanket or two, pop up your lawn chairs, or just sit on the grass. If you come earlier in the day, be advised that the Zoo now charges admission. But if you come for the concert, there is no admission charge.

It should be noted that the Racine Concert Band was also nationally recognized by the John Philip Sousa Foundation as one of the top community bands in all of North America. The Foundation awarded the Sudler Silver Scroll to the Racine Concert Band in 1995. The great music continues today.

Right now I do not have the listings of the music to be played, but I will get that information and publish it as soon as I have it. If you would like more information on the concert series, here is the link to the Racine Concert Band web site: And if you need directions or information about the Racine Zoo, check out their site:

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Celebrate the Holiday

Time for another July Fourth Celebration. Wherever you live, there will be some sort of celebration of our freedom, whether it be a picnic in the park, a parade, entertainment, or some combination. In many communities, the civic or municipal band will perform. Be sure to support these performances; after all, the volunteer members are your neighbors.

There are so many groups playing this weekend that I can't list them all. I know that Shorewood will celebrate with Family Day at Atwater Park on the 4th, with the Shorewood Band performing at 6:30. I know that the Racine Band will be in the big parade, and later perform a concert at the park. Also next Sunday, the Racine Band begins their 2008 summer concert series at the Racine Zoo. Concerts begin at 7:30 and are always free.

Since I have such a short list, do me a favor and write a reply. Post your own schedule of the community bands you know of, and their performance schedule for Independence Day. We'll get a nice calendar of things to do for the Holiday!

Happy Fourth!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Two concerts this week

Normally I draft each week's post about Wednesday or Thursday, and finalize it for posting on Saturday night or Sunday morning. However, this week was messy to say the least. So the post goes up on Sunday night, not long after coming back into town.

Don't forget the only Milwaukee American Legion Band concert of the summer this Tuesday at Humboldt Park beginning at 6:30!

And you won't want to miss the concert on Thursday night at 7:00 PM at Atwater Park in Shorewood. The Shorewood Concert Band under the baton of Maestra Dr. Pat Backhaus will perform another wonderful concert and welcome special guests.

Dr. Pat has a fun concert lined up, including the Radetzky March and a Henry Fillmore trombone favorite Lassus Trombone. The band will also perform Constellations, music dedicated to astronomical wonders, by James Curnow, perfect for a summer band concert on a starry night. And I have it on good authority that Dr. Pat will pull out the march book so that the band can sight read a march or two for your enjoyment...and maybe their stress.

Dr. Pat and the Shorewood Concert Band also welcome special guests Hornucopia, a French Horn quartet. They will perform a hunting horn movement from an original suite composed by quartet member Mike Keegan. They will also perform a fun frippery! If you don't know what a frippery is, you'll just have to come to Atwater Park, corner of Captiol Drive and Lake Drive in Shorewood, and find out! See you on Thursday at 7:00!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

A Milwaukee Tradition for 43 years

A good concert yesterday by the Shorewood Concert Band...completed just as the first drops of rain descended upon Atwater Park. And as always, the chicken was marvelous. Now, onto the Milwaukee tradition.
You only have one chance this year to be a part of a 43 year tradition. On Tuesday June 26th, the Milwaukee American Legion Band will perform their one and only concert of the summer at Humboldt Park. The band has been performing at Humboldt Park during the summer since 1965. This year the number of performances has dropped to one.

The Milwaukee American Legion Band was organized by veterans returning from World War I, and has been performing in Milwaukee since 1920. It has won numerous national and international awards in its history. Quite an impressive history!

I do not have advance information on the program, but I do have some advice if you'd like to attend the concert. Bring a lawn chair and maybe some bug repellent. While the grass in front of the Swiss-chalet style stage is relatively soft at the beginning of the concert, your back side might be a bit sore by the end of the concert. And with all the rain we've had, all types of flying and biting pests will also be in attendance.

The concert begins at 6:30 PM. See you there. And don't forget your chair...and your spray!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Summer Season is Here!

Sorry for the late post...I was out of town over the weekend. This coming Saturday June 14th has two summer concerts you may be interested in. One is in town and the other is a bit of a ride away in Appleton.

The Shorewood Concert Band performs this Saturday at 4:30 PM outside in Atwater Park (Lake Drive at Capitol Drive), as a part of the Shorewood Men's Club Chicken Dinner. The event helps raise money for a number of deserving charities in Shorewood, including the Shorewood Concert Band.

Dr. Pat Backhaus has chosen a fun concert for the audience, and a challenging one for the players (yes, it is the same concert). The First Suite of Gustav Holst, an evergreen band favorite, will provide light and lyrical sounds for the audience while providing a challenge for the band members. Then everyone gets to have a good time with classics like Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight and Basin Street Blues. And of course there must be a march: Sousa's Washington Post. So come enjoy the music and the chicken...from Rupena's. Both will be wonderful.

And after you've had your fill of chicken and music, get in the car and drive to Appleton and the Fox Cities Stadium, home of the Timber Rattlers, for an outdoor concert by the Fox Valley Symphony. The concert will feature baseball music including Casey At The Bat, a salute to our veterans, and will finish with the 1812 Overture. Rumor has it that real cannons will be used during that portion of the Overture...doesn't get any better than that! You can contact the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers office for more information and tickets. Or check out the web site of the Fox Valley Symphony:

Finally, post the summer band concerts you know of in a reply and we'll all be able to enjoy them.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

That inbetween time

We are just finishing up the regular season for some community bands while some have completed theirs. And the summer bands have not started up yet. But there is news about one more concert.

The Milwaukee Festival Brass performs "Prime Time Brass", their last concert of the season on Saturday June 7th at 7:30 PM at the United Methodist Church of Whitefish Bay on East Silver Spring Drive. For the brass band fan, the group will perform Stephen Bulla's Canticles in Brass. For the kids (of all ages), Dr. Pat has programmed some Disney Favorites. And the MFB will have two soloists. The first is George Hunhke, who will sing Mack The Knife. Also joining the MFB is trumpeter Andrew Neesley on two big band tunes, Jumpin' at the Woodside, and Stardust. Andrew grew up in Glendale and now is based in New York. He is stopping by his home town before his band tours Italy. Andrew's latest news is that the CD he performed on with the Bobby Sanabria Big Band was nominated for a Grammy. It's great to see a local do so well in the world of music! Don't miss this concert!

The first summer band concert that I am aware of is Saturday June 14th in Shorewood at Atwater Park. The Shorewood Concert Band will entertain in the late afternoon at the Shorewood Men's Club Chicken BBQ dinner. Once I get some details of the music, I'll post it. The Shorewood Band concerts are always a good time. And the chicken is from Rupena's...the best!

If you have schedules for summer bands, post them in a reply and we can all update our calendars. Thanks.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

More fun, part 2 and some thoughts

Turns out that the mess from last week filtered into this week. I found out on Monday that the truck reserved for the Senior home concert was changed to another local company....but they also changed the date of the rental. So, on the phone I went again. I got the rental corrected and assigned to a third local company, the one I am to use on Memorial Day. Later that day I called the local company and asked to verify both reservations. Lo and behold, all was well.

So, the Senior home concert went off without a hitch. And the people at the local rental company were very nice to work with. But I guess the lesson learned is that followup is always needed to catch mistakes and carelessness from the vendors and their partners. In this case, there were four different companies involved. I'm glad that the people at the last company were so nice...I plan on working with them again.

Memorial Day

There are two concerts to bring to your attention, both on Memorial Day, Monday May 26th. The first is the Knightwind Ensemble concert inside the Peck Welcome Center at the Milwaukee County Zoo at 1 PM. Free with your Zoo admission, the concert is an old fashioned band concert in the park. It will conclude with a special salute to our Armed Forces in observance of Memorial Day.

The second concert is at 5 PM at the Milwaukee County War Memorial Center downtown presented by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Community Concert Band. This concert will also include patriotic music in observance of Memorial Day. Take in one or both of the'll have a great time and you'll be reminded of the reason we observe Memorial Day.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Ever have one of those days?

I just got through one of those weeks. And I did not get to prepare a post on community bands because of it. But one of the episodes I had this week has to do with the final two Knightwind Ensemble concerts. So, here's one example of the week's fun!

Many of you know that I help out the Knightwind Ensemble. One of my duties is to rent a truck to move percussion equipment to our concerts. So, back in April I reserved trucks for both our Senior Home concert and the Memorial Day Pops concert. I was assured there would be no problem. Then last week went nuts and everything seemed to be going wrong. I decided that I would call and confirm the truck rentals just to be sure.

Turns out that the national phone number I called passed the rental reservation to the local company just fine. The Senior Home concert will be smooth. However, I also found out that the local company is not open on Memorial Day. The reservation was on their books but they would be closed. They suggested I call the national number again.

The person at the national number took the information and promised me that someone would call back within two hours. Then she gave me the phone number to call in case I missed their call. That was 3 days ago...still no call. But thanks to the person who gave me their number. I get to hassle them tomorrow. At least I have a week to get this straightened out before Memorial Day. With apologies to Linda Ellerbee, "and so it goes".

On another note, Summer band concert season is just around the corner. I'll be logging a few of the festivities right here. If you know of summer band concerts, post them in a reply and we can all enjoy them! Thanks.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Upcoming Concert: Memorial Day Pops Concert

Coming up on Monday May 26th is the Milwaukee County Zoo's 19th Annual Memorial Day Pops concert presented by the Knightwind Ensemble. The concert begins at 1 PM at the Peck Welcome Center on the Zoo grounds. The concert is free with your Zoo admission.

Milwaukee's Knightwind Ensemble plays newer (and harder) music at their formal concerts in November and March. However, every Memorial Day they perform "an old fashioned band concert in the park," except that the park is the Milwaukee County Zoo, and the setting is the Peck Welcome Center, just behind the penguins as you enter the Zoo. Memorial Day weather varies greatly from year to year, but the concert setting in the Welcome Center is always dry and nice. And surprisingly, the sound in the hall is very good.

This year Maestro John Steinke has pulled out some evergreen favorites for the concert, including The Peanut Vendor, Baby Elephant Walk, the Floyd Wherle arrangement of Fandango, a medley of Irish tunes, and music from the Broadway Show Gypsy.

In observance of Memorial Day, the Ensemble closes the concert with their Salute To The Armed Forces, a medley of all five of the service hymns (can you name all five service branches?). Maestro Steinke always requests veterans to stand when their service hymn is played and be recognized by the audience. It is a special way to end a concert....and a season. For once the Pops concert is concluded, the Knightwind Ensemble breaks for the summer. Many members play with summer municipal bands in their home towns.

Bring your Holiday weekend to a musical conclusion by taking in the Knightwind Ensemble, and enjoying a day at the Zoo. And stop by and say hello. I'll be the Knightwind Roadie For The Day, hauling the percussion equipment and driving the truck. You'll see me setting up and taking down equipment.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Upcoming concert: Menomonee Falls Symphony

The Menomonee Falls Symphony Orchestra, a community orchestra in the Milwaukee Area, will present The Many Faces of Vienna on Saturday May 17th at 7:30 PM in the auditorium at North Junior High School in Menomonee Falls. The special guest will be the Orchestra's Young Artist Winner, Britt Johnson.

Every spring, the Menomonee Falls Symphony holds auditions for promising young musicians. Not only does the winner receive a scholarship, they also perform with the orchestra at the last concert of the season. This years winner, Britt Johnson, is a freshman at Colombia University in New York. Her musical studies are at the Manhattan School of Music. She graduated from Neenah High School summa cum laude last year, where she was also an all conference / state swimmer. She will perform the first movement from Prokofiev's Third Piano Concerto.

The rest of the concert will feature a variety of music associated with Vienna. Strauss waltzes will be featured in Tales from the Vienna Woods. A more modern approach to Vienna can be seen in Schoenberg's Five Pieces for Orchestra. The concert concludes with Beethoven's Symphony Number Seven.

Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for Seniors, and $6 for Students. For more information, please see the Orchestra's web site, or call 262-679-0779.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

An Upcoming Audition and Something completely different

Audition news from the Milwaukee Festival Brass

Mark May 23rd on your calendar. The Milwaukee Festival Brass will hold auditions for adults wishing to be on their sub list, but there are immediate openings in the group for Bb tuba and Eb tuba. Also included will be auditions for the Milwaukee Festival Brass High School Apprentice Program. This is a new program and looks to be a wonderful way for high school musicians to gain more experience. See the Milwaukee Festival Brass web site for more details:

A different type of Community Music Group

There is a community music group based in Appleton that is different from all of the groups I've written about before. The group is the Fox Valley Horns, all french horns all the time! The group is made up of many middle and high school students, as well as adults. Everyone volunteers their time to make music, french horn style. I think this group is special because it allows those just starting out on the horn to play with more accomplished and experienced horn players. Everyone has fun...and that's what music should be!

The Fox Valley Horns have a concert coming up on Saturday May 10th at 1 PM in the Bethany Lutheran Church, 520 West Parkway, in Appleton. The featured soloist is Bruce Atwell, professor of Horn at UW Oshkosh. He will perform Jimmy Van Heusen's Here's That Rainy Day. Also on the program is Norwegian Suite, arranged by Cynthia Carr, a former professor of Horn at Lawrence University. The featured piece is an arrangement of the 1812 Overture for Horn Choir. This will be a fun concert and I encourage everyone to attend.

I heard a great story about how the Horn Choir was able to get the music for the 1812 Overture. Last year the Horn Choir performed an arrangement of music from the movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves for horns. The performance was captured on video and posted on YouTube. It turns out that a horn choir in Japan saw this and posted their performance of the 1812 Overture as well. Don Krause, the director of the Horn Choir, contacted the group in Japan to find out where they got the music. Turns out that the arranger is in Florida and was kind enough to send the music to Don. And so it goes...

Groups like this are special in my view. Everyone enjoys themselves, good music is made, and young students learn a bunch. It doesn't get any better than this.

See you on the 10th.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

It doesn't happen that often

It's always a number of years between their concerts here in Milwaukee...

Last Friday, April 11th, marked a return visit by "The President's Own" United States Marine Band. They performed both Friday night and Saturday afternoon in conjunction with MENC: The National Association for Music Educators conference. We attended the Friday concert and I saw representatives from many community bands around the Milwaukee area: the Knightwind Ensemble, Milwaukee American Legion Band, Milwaukee Concert Band, the Racine Concert Band, and the Milwaukee Festival Brass. And I'm sure that other bands from the area were also represented in the audience.

I've been lucky enough to see the Marine Band perform 4 or 5 times, and I am always impressed by the quality of their performances. No, I take that back: I am blown away by their performances. They may very well be the best symphonic band in the world.

Let me just list as few observations about the performance. The ensemble work is unbelievably clean. This was evident in the performance of Shostakovich's Festive Overture, the Grainger Children's March, and Respighi's Roman Festivals. I was also amazed at the differences in dynamics. There were times when we had to lean forward (from the balcony) to hear the music played at pp, while we were blown away when they played fff. Some of my goosebumps had goosebumps.

There was no downside to the concert, but there was a downside to the audience. The program included the world premiere of Scamp by Melinda Wagner. It is a very interesting piece, mischievious in nature but a lot of fun to listen to (and a bear to play, I bet). Unfortunately, a couple of former Marines in the row in front of us were not interested in the music and were discussing something among themselves. The piece was tough enough to listen to, as there was so much going on, without having to tune out conversation as well. They just did not realize that this part of the program was aimed at the MENC conventioneers (and a few members of community bands in the audience), not at former Marines. What a shame.

Their performance of Respighi's Roman Festivals brought the audience to their feet. After a well deserved standing ovation and a few curtain calls, the Band performed the most appropriate encore: The Marine Hymn.

An evening doesn't get any better than that.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Waukesha Area Symphonic Band Concert April 25

The Waukesha Area Symphonic Band under the direction of Rick Kirby will present a special concert on Friday April 25th at the Shattuck Auditorium on the campus of Carroll College. The concert will feature the winner of the 2008 WASB Concerto Competition, trumpeter Brandon Viliunas. The concert will also benefit Waukesha's Adaptive Community Approach Program. More on that later.

Brandon Viliunas is a Senior at Greendale High School and has been playing the trumpet for 8 years. He has performed with the UWM Youth Wind Symphony and the MYSO Senior Symphony. At Greendale, he participates in jazz band, concert band, pit orchestra, marching band, and pep band. He is a member of the National Honor Society and participates on the Tennis Team for Greendale High School. He'll perform Herbert Clarke's variations on Carnival of Venice.

The concert program, Music From The Silver Screen, will include the Prelude from the 49th Parallel of Vaughn-Williams, music from Porgy and Bess, and swashbuckler music by Antonin Dvorak and John Williams.

WASB has been performing an annual benefit concert for a local charity for a number of years. This year the concert will benefit Waukesha's Adaptive Community Approach Program, which serves adults with physical disabilities in Waukesha County. They support a wide variety of programs from graffiti effacing to lawn and garden work to meal cooking. Certainly a worthwhile recipient.

Tickets are $10 and are available at the door. For more information, please call 262-370-6129.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Did you ever wonder?

Were you ever curious about what happens behind the scenes at a concert? The Knightwind Ensemble concert was Sunday (and went very well, thank you). My job on concert day is all of the things that happen in the lobby. I thought I would list a few of the interesting things that happened this weekend.

Saturday - We picked up the rental truck (to transport all of the percussion equipment) and had to replan our weekend when the rental company told us they no longer allow off-hour truck returns. Took a while, but we were able to complete the change in 3 people's schedules to comply with this surprise (never had that problem before). The dress rehearsal went very well.

Sunday - Arrived at the concert hall and set up the ticket table. We had about 12 to 15 sets of tickets held at Will Call. The good news is that almost all of them were picked up. Even though it was a nice day, we had a good number of "at the door" sales. So far, so good.

Once the concert was underway, I had to change the lobby to the intermission layout, so that people could congregate and visit. We could show off our commendation from the Milwaukee County Board and promote our Friends group.

One of my duties on concert day is to address the audience before the second half begins and alert them to our different fund raising programs. That also went well. The audience laughed in the right places. At the end of my presentation I invited people to stop by and view the Sudler Silver Scroll, the International Award from the Sousa Foundation that we received in 2005. This time three people stopped by to take a look after the concert, including a grade school student just starting in her school band. That's always nice.

After intermission, I set the lobby for people to pass by two of our fund raising programs on their way out. We ask the audience to help us buy new music and we place an old field drum on the table near the center of the lobby. Setting that up quietly is sometimes a challenge!

After the concert, one very nice lady complemented my side burns....that doesn't happen every day!

Just one other note: I was able to hear only one piece of music because of all the activity in preparing the lobby.

Now, wasn't that a fun way to spend a day?

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Rehearsal Notes - Part 2 and a Special Deal

My last post described a number of pieces being rehearsed for the Knightwind Ensemble concert coming up this Sunday April 6th at 3 PM in the Schwan Concert Hall at Wisconsin Lutheran College. Here's an update from last night's rehearsal.

The ensemble performed the concert end to end last night. It is really coming together well. Saturday's dress rehearsal in the concert hall will give everyone the chance to hear what it will sound like for the concert on Sunday. There were two pieces that I did not mention in the last post that were rehearsed last night.

The Dam Busters - This English march is really very nice. The group has this one in hand and it will provide a nice start to the second half.

The Suite from Robin Hood, Price of Thieves - This work is a concert suite of the music from the Kevin Costner movie. Lots of drama, as in all movie music. The horn and trumpet parts are really tough, and the group performed them very well last night. Lots of goose bumps to finish the second half of the concert.

The encore - I won't tell you what the piece is, but I will tell you that it is a new arrangement of a very familiar work by a very famous composer. You'll just have to attend the concert to hear this - its great!

The Man Who Invented Music - Again, the piece was rehearsed with our guest narrator, Mr. Norman Moses. The timing is now coming together and the flow was wonderful. I was able to find an old recording of this work that the group performed 20 years ago, and the current performance is light years ahead of that performance. What a delightful piece.


Print this blog posting and bring it to the concert on Sunday and you will receive $1 off every adult admission in your group as a Thank You for reading the Milwaukee Community Music blog!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Rehearsal Notes and Reminders

Even though my posts are about different community music groups in general, I volunteer time to the Knightwind Ensemble. And one or twice a concert season, I like to post a report on what is happening in the rehearsals as the group prepares for a concert. This is one such post.

The Knightwind Ensemble has been rehearsing for the Heroes concert since mid-January. I've been watching the progress on the music since then and it is amazing to see it come together. Here's some thoughts on the different pieces as they were rehearsed.

Olympic Fanfare - This John Williams piece from the 1984 Olympics is one of my favorites. It is a tough piece to play, but a really tough piece to play well. Every section needs to focus on blending into the whole to make the piece work. But there were a number of spots in the rehearsal that the goose bumps appeared....definitely starting to work. This will be a great way to begin the concert.

Sinfonia Hungarica - The feature piece is very difficult, but the group is getting over the hurdle of the notes and is working on the music. The Arpad movement begins in a dream mood, and in the rehearsal the woodwinds and percussion created a very eerie sound....really neat. There is also a more war-like section, driving and pulsating, but the sounds are unexpected and surprising...a very cool effect. The Istvan movement ends with the strains of the National Hymn of Hungary, a truly majestic finish. You have to hear this piece. I only wish that the first movement from this symphony, dedicated to Attila the Hun, was available to complete the concert. I guess the Ensemble will have to perform all three at a later concert once we are able to purchase Attila.

The Man Who Invented Music - This is a delightful piece, telling the story through the narrator of how Grandfather was able to get little Wendy to sleep: by telling her the story of how he invented music. The other rehearsals worked through the music as best as could be done without the narrator. However, our special guest Norman Moses was able to attend the rehearsal. After spending some time going over sections and details, the group performed the piece beginning to end. Wow! This will be a wonderfully fun piece at the concert. Mr. Moses did a great job narrating the story. What a difference when someone with Theater background is added to the ensemble!

William Tell Overture - The group ran through this one with no stops, but since it had been rehearsed heavily earlier, the sound was very nice. A lot of work was done earlier in the storm section, when different sections come together all playing sixteenth notes. Everyone has to concentrate on blending or the music sounds muddy. But the sounds came through clearly. Obviously this will be an audience favorite, but the attention to detail is already there.

I'm hoping to be able to report on the other pieces next week.


The Milwaukee Festival Brass is having their Open Rehearsal on Tuesday April 1st. If you'd like to bring your horn and sit in with a British style Brass Band, here's your opportunity. See their web site for all the details:

And don't forget the Milwaukee Metropolitan Community Concert Band is performing Sunday March 30 at 3 PM in the Schwan Concert Hall on the campus of Wisconsin Lutheran College.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Hot News!


The Knightwind Ensemble will welcome a special guest at its concert, Heroes, on Sunday April 6th at the Schwan Concert Hall at Wisconsin Lutheran College at 3 PM. The Ensemble will perform Don Gillis' composition The Man Who Invented Music. The Ensemble is proud to announce that Norman Moses, one of Milwaukee's favorite actors, will narrate the story. This delightful piece is a musical depiction of Grandfather telling Wendy a bedtime story, the story of how he invented music. Mr. Moses will surely bring his unique flair to the part.

Mr. Moses has been an actor/singer/director in the Milwaukee area for the past 30 years and has performed with such companies as the Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Goodman Theatre, Skylight Opera Theatre, Chamber Theatre, Next Act Theatre, Renaissance Theaterworks, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Omaha Symphony, the Dayton Philharmonic and the Buffalo Philharmonic. In addition, he has been in hundreds of commercials and industrial films, as an on-screen and voice-over talent. In his spare time, of which there is little, he prepares tax returns for fellow performing artists in and around the Milwaukee area. He makes his home in Milwaukee with his wife, Carrie, and daughter, Kelsey.


I received word from the Waukesha Area Symphonic Band about their upcoming concert, set for Friday evening April 25 at 7:30 in the Shattuck Auditorium on the campus of Carroll College. This special concert, entitled Music From The Silver Screen, will benefit the Adaptive Community Approach Program, a Waukesha non-profit serving people with disabilities. Featured will be the winner of the Concerto Competition, trumpeter Brandon Viliunas. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the door. For more information, you can call 262-370-6129. I hope to have information on some of the music on the program for a future post.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Some smaller items


The Milwaukee Festival Brass concert celebrating Irish Fest this Sunday the 16th at the Schwan Concert Hall on the campus of Wisconsin Lutheran College (roughly 88th and Wisconsin) at 3 PM. See the web site for all the details: Come and enjoy the Luck Of The Irish. And don't forget a donation of food for the Hunger Task Force.

An Open Rehearsal

Speaking of the Milwaukee Festival Brass, they will be hosting an "open rehearsal", so that people, who are interested in playing with the group but not really sure it is for them, can "test drive" the group to see if they will enjoy playing with the MFB. Here's what director Pat Backhaus has to say about the "open rehearsal":

April 1st (no foolin') is Milwaukee Festival Brass' annual open rehearsal. Any and all brass and percussion players are invited to sit in with the band to test drive what the brass band experience is all about. Some music will be available in the American brass format for players not yet skilled in the all-treble clef British brass band tradition. There is no cost, but MFB requests that anyone interested RSVP to their manager at

United Methodist Church of Whitefish Bay – Fellowship Hall (lower level)
819 E Silver Spring Dr; Whitefish Bay WI 53209
Rehearsal 7:30 to 9:30.

So, if you'd like to try a British Style Brass Band with no commitment, here's your opportunity!

A Knightwind Rehearsal Blog

One of the members of the Knightwind Ensemble is blogging about her experiences during rehearsals for the upcoming concert. Actually, our Knightwind Girl has been blogging since the beginning of rehearsals for the concert last November. You can get some insight into what the rehearsals are like, what areas of the music need work, and most importantly, what cracks up members the most! If you've ever played in a music group, maybe the high school band during summer competition or a drum corps or even a summer community orchestra, you know that rehearsals can have moments of laughter and moments of quiet misery. While the Knightwind Girl's blog is not a soap opera, it does touch on what rehearsals are like; the good as well as the bad.

So spend a moment reading the Musical Musings of one Knightwind Girl at If you played in a group years ago, it will bring back a flood of memories. And if you've never played in a group, it will bring some insight into what it takes to put a performance together. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Knightwind Ensemble Upcoming Concert - Part 2

In the last post I mentioned a few of the pieces on the Knightwind Ensemble's upcoming concert Heroes, on Sunday April 6th at 3 PM. In this post, I'll write about the feature piece by Jan van der Roost: Sinfonia Hungarica.

The History of Hungary

Sinfonia Hungarica is a three movement symphony written in celebration of Hungary's millennium, celebrated in 2001. It's premiere took place on March 31, 2001 in Budapest, performed by the Symphonic Band Kinskunfelegyhaza (the commissioning band) and was conducted by the composer. The three movements were inspired by key historical figures, wars, and other important events. It is, literally, a history of Hungary set to music.

Unfortunately, because only the last two of the three movements of the symphony were available, the Ensemble will not be able to perform the first movement, based on Attila, the King of the Huns. For the record, the movement is characterized by fear, threat, aggression, and cruelty. The exciting ending illustrates the speed of Attila's army, as they pursued their victims and killed them. One might also argue that music based on Attila the Hun should not appear on a concert dedicated to Heroes. However, I'm sure this exciting music will turn up on a future concert.

The Ensemble will perform the second movement, which focuses on Arpad, the founder of the Hungarian State. It begins in a dreamlike state, evoking his grandmother Emese, who dreamed of his future destination. One of Arpad's opponents, the Bulgarian Prince Zalan, was chased away after a fight. After this, Arpad officially named the territory Magyarorszag.

The final movement is named after Istvan, the King of Hungary who introduced Christianity into Hungary, and who was crowned by Pope Silvestro II on January 1, 1001. A solemn start leads to a war-like passage ending in loud crashes. This symbolizes the fact that the body of the pagan Koppany was cut into four pieces and sent to the four castles of the country as an example. After a quiet intermezzo, the National Hymn of Hungary is introduced. This broad gradioso ending also has a symbolic meaning: after 10 centuries, Hungary has many reasons to look back on its past with pride, and to look to the future with optimism and confidence.

It should be noted that the national hymn actually appears throughout the entire symphony. It is used as a thread, often hidden or partially hidden, hardly recognizable at the beginning and becoming more and more obvious near the end. It concludes the symphony as a final apotheoisis, making the band sound like a majestic living organ.

Even though this piece is very difficult, it is very listenable. The Ensemble is rehearsing the piece very hard, and the results are amazing. You will enjoy this piece. Again, Heroes will be presented on Sunday April 6th at 3 PM in the Schwan Concert Hall on the campus of Wisconsin Lutheran College. For more information, see the Knightwind Ensemble web site:

And Don't Forget

The Milwaukee Festival Brass performs on Sunday March 16th at 3 PM, also in the Schwan Concert Hall, featuring Irish music. It is guaranteed to be great fun! And don't forget to bring a non-perishable food item to donate to the Hunger Task Force!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Concert Preview - Knightwind Ensemble April 6

The upcoming concert by the Knightwind Ensemble is set for April 6th at 3 PM in the Schwan Concert Hall on the campus of Wisconsin Lutheran College. The theme of the concert is Heroes, and the selections will include musical portraits of heroes, some real, some imaginary, some specific, and some general.

Heroes of Hungary

The feature piece of the concert is Sinfonia Hungarica, written by Jan van der Roost. This three movement symphony depicts the history of Hungary itself. Because this piece is so special, I'll devote a post to it in the next few weeks.

Teams of Heroes

Also on the program is a concert march by Englishman Eric Coates and used in the in the 1954 British War Film The Dam Busters. It turns out that the march was written by Mr. Coates before he received the call from the producers of the movie. He wanted to produce a march in the Elgarian form, along the lines of the Pomp and Circumstance marches. After hearing about the film, he thought that the march he just completed could be used...and it was.

Saluting modern heroes, the Ensemble will perform John Williams' Olympic Fanfare and Theme, written for the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles. In an interview in 1992, Mr. Williams stated that his music was intended to musically represent "the spirit of cooperation, of heroic achievement, all the striving and preparation that go before the events and all the applause that comes after them." It is still an audience favorite today.

Specific Heroes

The Ensemble will also salute specific heroes. The first piece in that vein will be the music from the 1991 motion picture Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves, starring Kevin Costner with music by Michael Kamen. The music is dramatic, difficult, and very enjoyable for both the audience and the performers. Milwaukee's Paul Lavender created this arrangement of the music.

The Ensemble also salutes a very important fictional hero by performing the Don Gillis work The Man Who Invented Music. This delightful work mixes music and storytelling, with the narrator taking the role of Grandpa, telling his granddaughter Wendy how he invented music. It is guaranteed to make you smile.

Finally, the Ensemble will perform an evergreen favorite: the Overture to William Tell by Rossini. Whether you believe William Tell was real or fictional, this Eric Leidzen arrangement of the Rossini favorite is wonderful.

In an upcoming post, I'll go over the movements of the Sinfonia Hungarica, Stay tuned!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Upcoming Concert by the Milwaukee Festival Brass

The Milwaukee Festival Brass, the only British-style brass band in our area, performs their annual Festival concert, The Luck Of The Irish, on Sunday March 16th at 3 PM in the Schwan Concert Hall on the campus of Wisconsin Lutheran College. Music Director, Dr. Pat Backhaus, describes the concert this way.

Our March Concert is always a Festival program where we salute one of ethnic festivals, since we are the Milwaukee Festival Brass. This year we salute Irish Fest. We'll be doing a great Irish march Bravest of the Brave. There's a fun piece with a nod to the very popular Irish dance craze of the past decade or so. It's called Celtic Rock. Of course we could hardly do a program of this nature without doing The Irish Washerwoman, which will feature our trombone section.

Lonna Brooks, our solo tenor horn player will be featured on She's Like the Swallow, arranged by Jim Curnow. Our featured work is Music for a Festival by Philip Sparke. The band enjoys his compositions very much. I'm doing a totally non-Irish solo in Demare's Cleopatra - a classic cornet chestnut. And there will be some fun and surprises along the way too.

We always partner with the Hunger Task Force on this concert, so concertgoers should bring a non-perishable food item.

If you are not familiar with the music of Philip Sparke, he writes very enjoyable music to listen to, but a real bear to play well. His music is always a challenge for the performers, but always fun for the audience.

This is a concert you should not miss. And don’t forget to bring your food donation for the Hunger Task Force.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Your Help Is Needed

In the last post I discussed a number of different reasons that community music groups need financial support. Very few groups are able to get all of their support from agencies or programs. In fact, there are a number of groups in the Milwaukee area that must raise 100% of the funds they need to continue operating...and they do it. In this post I'll mention a number of different fund raising efforts by different groups in the area. Hopefully you can assist one or more of these groups. And certainly, all of these groups thank you in advance for your consideration of their efforts.

Music, Instruments and More

The Milwaukee Festival Brass, Milwaukee 's only British-style brass band, has a number of different opportunities for you to consider. First, they have a list of music that they would like to add to their library, and they would be very happy if you were kind enough to purchase one for them. Second, they are raising funds for new percussion instruments (which are quite expensive in and of themselves). Third, they include advertising in their concert programs. Fourth, the band participates in the We Care program at Pick'N'Save. Their next performance is Sunday March 16th when they salute Irish music (more on that concert in an upcoming post). There are lots of ways to assist the Milwaukee Festival Brass and they are listed on the web site:

Advertising and Friendship

The Knightwind Ensemble, awarded the Sudler Silver Scroll in 2005 by the John Phillip Sousa Foundation, is Milwaukee 's premier community music group. The spring concert program book is their biggest fund raising effort for the year. Businesses can advertise in the book and individuals can add their names to the Patrons page, both at very low prices. If you purchase a full page ad (at $100), you'll receive two tickets to the concert on April 6th entitled Heroes as a thank you gift. See the web site for an ad form and more information:

The Knightwind Ensemble also has a Friends organization. Being a Friend brings you a newsletter published before each concert, as well as invitations to meet the guest artists after the concert. Again, see the web site for more information.

Your Help Is Crucial

The issue of fund raising is not one that many groups wish to aggressively discuss. Their main goal is to play music for appreciative audiences. However, in today's world, if the fund raising is not successful, the group will fold. Costs continue to rise, and different programs that fund community groups continue to be cut. The community groups find different ways to contribute to the quality of life of the community, and it is fitting that we find ways to contribute to their fund raising efforts. After all, we all want them to survive!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

One issue for almost all community music groups

One issue that lies below the surface for Community Music groups is the issue of funding, an extremely important issue but one that is not always talked about openly. Some groups are sponsored (all or in part) by a municipal recreation department or by the mayor's office. For them, they must raise funds that are not covered through their connection to the municipal budget. However, there are many groups in the Milwaukee area that are completely independent. They are incorporated as 501(c)3 organizations and are registered charities within the State of Wisconsin. They must raise all of their funds in order to continue operating. This post discusses some of the major areas of expense for a Community Music group to give you an idea of what goes on behind the scenes. In the next post, I'll write about some of the fund raising efforts by different music groups in the area, what they do to raise the funds needed to operate the group, and how you can help them.

Costs related to Music and Concerts

There are a number of items in this category for music groups. The most obvious cost is the rental of the concert venue. Some groups use High School Auditoriums or Gyms. Other groups use halls connected to a parks department or a government agency. Still others will rent a concert hall at a local college. In most cases, the Community Music Group must pay a fee for the use of the hall. At some locations, they must pay additional fees for tech help to control the lighting and sound systems, ushers, chairs, music stands, grand piano, etc. There are very few Community Music groups that perform concerts without the cost of the concert venue on their budgets. And, of course, the nicer the concert hall, the more expensive it is to rent.

A second major expense for Community Music groups is the cost of new music. Over the last five to ten years, that cost has jumped. Years ago, a major piece of music would be priced in the hundreds of dollars range. In today's market, a major work is now priced at hundreds of dollars per movement. For a piece of three or four movements, the cost of the entire piece can play havoc on a community group's budget. On the other hand, without new music to play, both the audiences and the volunteer members will tire of the same music concert to concert. And so, many Community Music groups work to find creative ways to fund the purchase of new music.

Costs related to the operation of the group

Another cost the groups incur is the cost of storage and rehearsing. Many groups rehearse at schools and churches, but very few groups do so at no cost. Besides using a large room for rehearsing, the percussion instruments (many, like tympani and chimes, tend to be quite large) and the music library must be stored year round. With the cost of heating and cooling skyrocketing, many churches and schools have had to raise the rents of Community Music groups, further straining the budget.

A large expense is liability insurance. This insurance is required by many concert and rehearsal locations before they will consider allowing a group to use their facilities (regardless of any rent being charged for the facility use). As a result, most if not all Community Music groups have libility insurance. It should be noted that most venues for concerts require proof of a one million dollar policy being in force before they will allow their facility to be used.

An annual charge for copyright fees is another cost that is incurred. Without the fee being paid, the Community Music group can be shut down. While this fee is not huge, it is still a good percentage of a group's budget.

Finally, many groups provide small stipends for the Music Director and the Music Librarian. Some groups also fund a managerial position. In reality, these amounts are very small compensation for jobs that take much time. However, these costs do add up and they become a good percentage of the group's budget.

The vast majority of people participating in a Community Music group volunteer their time and efforts for the good of the organization, to contribute to their community, and for their own enjoyment. There are some organizations in which everyone volunteers their time. However, even those groups will still have expenses as noted above.

Next time...

In the next post, I'll go over some specific fund raising efforts of different groups in the Milwaukee area, and how you can help.