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.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Take Two

Welcome to the new home of the Milwaukee Community Music blog. The blog has been in place since the beginning of the 2007-08 season on another hosting site, but it was recently gagged and edited by the hosting site because of advertising (the site forbids advertising). What I learned was that, in their mind, listing the different concert dates and locations for community bands and orchestras in the Milwaukee area was considered advertising. I felt that the best way to pass on information about community music groups was to include concert information, and so I had to move the blog to this hosting site which allows concert dates.

Some of the information that was removed from the post included the concert calendar for the spring. I've rebuilt most of that calendar and will post it here for all. Unfortunately I had a brain cramp and did not have a backup copy of the calendar, so please add any missed dates in your comments. Together we'll have a more complete Milwaukee Community Music Calendar.

  • 8th and 9th: The Menomonee Falls Symphony present their annual concert / dinner at the Silver Spring Country Club. This year's theme is Neopolitan Love, featuring Italian music. Dinner service begins at 6:30 PM. For more information or to purchase tickets, call Delores Chrzan at 262-679-0779.


  • 16th: The Milwaukee Festival Brass presents The Luck of the Irish at 3 PM at the Schwan Concert Hall on the campus of Wisconsin Lutheran College. More on this concert in a future post.
  • 30th: The Milwaukee Metropolitan Community Concert Band presents Look To The Sky, at 3 PM also at Schwan Hall, Wisconsin Lutheran College.


  • 5th: The Lakeshore Symphonic Band performs at the Cedarburg Performing Arts Center at 7:30 PM
  • 6th: The Knightwind Ensemble, the area's only community band awarded the Sudler Silver Scroll by the Sousa Foundation, presents Heroes at the Schwan Concert Hall on the campus of Wisconsin Lutheran College. Much more on this concert in a future post.


  • 18th: The Lakeshore Symphonic Band performs at the Cedarburg Performing Arts Center at 7:00 PM.
  • 26th: The Knightwind Ensemble performs its annual Memorial Day Pops concert at the Milwaukee County Zoo's Peck Welcome Center at 1 PM.
  • 26th: The Milwaukee Metropolitan Community Concert Band performs a special Memorial Day concert at Memorial Hall at the Milwaukee War Memorial


  • 7th: The Milwaukee Festival Brass performs Prime Time Brass at the Whitefish Bay United Methodist at 7:30. More on this concert in a future post.

And there you have it...a nice calendar of Community Music Events for this spring ready for your referigerator door!

And so, the Milwaukee Community Music blog is back up and running. Comments welcome!