Sunday, February 22, 2009

News from the Milwaukee Festival Brass

The Milwaukee Festival Brass will perform their Festival concert on Sunday March 8th in the Schwan Concert Hall on the campus of Wisconsin Lutheran College, 88th and Wisconsin Avenue at 3 PM. Every March the MFB salutes one of the ethnic groups within the City of Festivals, and this year the group salutes Finland with the performance of Jean Sibelius' tone poem Finlandia.

But the MFB is also saluting our Armed Forces and Veterans, performing Henry Fillmore's Americans We, and an Armed Forces Salute.

From the Brass Band world of music, Alan Fernie's brass band standard American Variations will be a highlight to the concert. Rafael Petrie Davilla will be the featured soloist for Edward Gregson's Tuba Concerto and the cornet trio will dazzle you with an evergreen favorite, Leroy Anderson's Bugler's Holiday. And as always there will be a few surprises as the MFB salutes our veterans.

And if you're interested in playing with a British Style Brass Band, the Milwaukee Festival Brass is announcing their Guest Night. You can try it out to see if it works for you, and I guess they can try you out as well. All this will happen on April 7. All they ask is that you contact the band manager so they can have a folder for you (you'll have to bring a stand). RSVP to

And another exciting announcement from the Milwaukee Festival Brass next week. Stay tuned.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A fair question, part 2

This post is a continuation of the thoughts from last week.

I've always felt that the health of a system depends on the health of the different components. When all of the components are healthy and working together, the system is healthy. In southeastern Wisconsin, the arts community is healthy. Classical music, ballet, and theater are all thriving. This is not to say that the different groups are not feeling the recession - we just received a letter from the MSO stating that while ticket sales are good, they are expecting financial problems because of slower donations from corporations. And in any recession, this is to be expected. People and corporations will reduce discretionary spending, as their total funds are reduced.

We have a good tool for funding the larger groups within the Arts community in the United Performing Arts Fund. UPAF has done a wonderful job keeping our large arts groups thriving. However, they focus on the larger groups that also employ many people. They do not have funding for amateur groups with very small budgets, groups that produce concerts or events completely with volunteers.

An aside: In working with amateur groups for many years, I believe it would be very helpful for a foundation to set aside 10 to 20 grants of no more than $500 each to fund amateur group events (local guest artists, guest conductors, etc.). However, until I win the lottery, I can only lobby for such an idea to be implemented.

So, instead, I try to help by blogging about all the different community music groups in the area, in an attempt to generate interest and attendance at those events. Once a person has attended a concert or an event, they can determine if they wish to donate to the group to keep it thriving.

The end goal is to keep the good amateur groups growing, which will bring interest in attending events by the semi-pro groups (Waukesha, Racine, and Kenosha Symphony Orchestras as examples). That will in turn help boost attendance at the MSO concerts and keep our Symphony Orchestra world class. (When I travel on business, I always check to see if a classical concert is scheduled while I am in that city. I have been lucky to see a number of orchestras in a number of different cities. Our MSO is better than most of them! We are very blessed!)

And that's why I post every week!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A fair question

There have been a number of times over the past few months when people have asked why I post on Blogspot every week about community bands. They want to know why I even bother. My initial reaction was that community bands have very little exposure outside of their supporters, and that the information needs to get out to people. The blog is a good tool for doing that. That certainly is the simple answer. But there is a more complex one as well.

The complex reason is actually based on my view of the arts in this area, and how we can keep them viable and healthy. It took me a while to come up with a metaphor I like, but I view the arts community as an eco-system. My personal metaphor is that of a river. The larger creatures in the river remain healthy when the smaller ones are healthy, and so on down the line. If one level of creatures has problems, it affects all levels.

In my view of the Arts community, the professional groups need the amateur groups to remain healthy. Many members of the amateur groups are the audience of the professional groups. Also, many who come to the amateur group concerts are potential audience for the professional groups. To my view, keeping the amateur groups healthy must be part of the effort to keep the professional groups healthy.

For example, I know of some folks who came to a friends concert (an amateur group) and enjoyed it very much. Later, they joined their friend at a Milwaukee Symphony concert. In the past they had declined the MSO invitations from their friends in the amateur group because they were unsure of what to expect. Attending their friend's concert took away some of the anxiety.

And they are not alone. I know of others who are intimidated by a symphonic concert. They love the concert experience if the event is a rock concert. But they do not know the "rules of behavior" in the symphonic concert. After a few questions, I learned that they did not know when to applaud. They were confused by the seeming ending of the music and no reaction from the audience, followed by more music and a large ovation.

On a business trip to San Francisco a few years back, I was lucky enough to attend a performance of the San Francisco Symphony. But there was a section of the program that caught my eye. It explained the idea of movements and suggested that the new attendee wait for others before applauding. So even the world class professional groups are experiencing this problem and working to overcome it.

I'll write more next week about the need to support the amateur groups, especially in these trying economic times.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Big Game Day

Today is the day of the big game, the Super Bowl. I always have mixed emotions about this day, even if the Packers are playing.

I agree with the talking heads from ESPN who point out that the Super Bowl could be a bigger media event and party if held on Saturday night. It would certainly be easier for parents not to have to put their kids to bed in the middle of the third quarter. And the rest of us would have a day to recuperate before going back to work!

But that's not the main reason for the rant today. The main reason is that the Super Bowl folks schedule a show during half time, but do not produce a traditional football game half time show (at least in my opinion). I would love to see marching bands or drum corps perform at half time, maybe award winning units that would be chosen from the home areas of each of the teams. End the show with massed bands coming together for one big encore! That's what a half time show for a big football game should be. I'm already feeling goosebumps!

Ever since the Orange Bowl stopped showing marching bands and produced spectacles on rolling stages that no one in the stands could see, we have had very little in the way of traditional half time shows with marching bands and drum corps.

So, I'll be watching the game. And I'll be watching the Springsteen show. And I'll be wishing we could see a nationally acclaimed marching band instead.

But the nachos will be good!

UPDATE the next day: OK, maybe my rant was premature. The Springsteen show was excellent. The game was memorable. I guess this time the show was better than a marching band...