Korea Brass Choir

Keeping with my blog's "international" inclusion of the world's vast number of brass ensembles, here is the Korea Brass Choir. It is another example of something that is so great and you'd like to hear more of or learn more of, but the information is almost nonexistent...

Anyway, this ensemble is obviously from South Korea, and it appears that they play some quite good arrangements of some notable pieces of music! Playlist below:

Carter and Tymoczko - ABEL Listening

In our Advanced Brass Ensemble Literature class, we listened to two pieces by composers Elliot Carter and Dmitri Tymoczko who each had very different styles. We were asked to provide our thoughts on each of the composer's pieces. Below are mine:

Brass Quintet - Elliott Carter


It is interesting to ask what my feelings or the effect that the piece evoked. After being exposed to “new music” in my undergraduate career and even more here at University of Iowa thanks to the Center for New Music Ensemble, I found this piece to be rather tame compared to what I am used to hearing or playing. It seems that so many “new music” composers are interested in creating unique timbres and very specific rhythms musicians should play. If I were to describe this piece in a few words, I would say that it sounds like it is wandering in some sort of space. I think Carter achieves this by 1) utilizing a rather “slow” tempo in order to allow the music to organically grow and 2) having such well-placed moments of tutti growth or glissandos like at around 7:30 of the recordings.


From a listener’s perspective, the music may sound rhythmically free, however there is a method to the piece’s madness in terms of rhythm. It is organized chaos. In terms of harmony and melody, the piece is obviously atonal, but is not jarring as one may expect. Further, there is no concrete melody that one may latch onto, rather a series of sounds that are quite unique.


Rube Goldberg Variations - Dmitri Tymoczko

  1. http://dmitri.tymoczko.com/rubegoldbergm1.m4a

  2. http://dmitri.tymoczko.com/rubegoldbergm2.m4a

  3. http://dmitri.tymoczko.com/rubegoldbergm3.m4a

  4. http://dmitri.tymoczko.com/rubegoldbergm4.m4a


I found this piece to be more exciting to listen to thanks to having a forward motion with the movements in the brass, but having the addition of prepared piano creates a unique set of sounds to play with. For my description, I would say that this piece is exciting and sounds a little like Philip glass and Steve Reich combined. I think there is some sort of planned out structure for this piece since parts of the prepared piano gradually come off as the piece progresses.


The music definitely provides listeners with the feeling of forward momentum. Each movement had its own quirk, but it seemed to me that there was a different groove to each, but it was all contributing to the piece as a whole, and had a type of uniformity. I think the melody is in the groove and rhythm of each movement.



I found the Rube Goldberg Variations more entertaining to listen to compared to Carter’s Brass Quintet as there were a number of unique sounds from the ensemble harmonically and melodically. I think for Carter’s piece, one must have more patience and a focused mind to listen to the piece in its entirety, whereas Tymoczko’s piece has something to draw listeners’ attention in each movement. Further, Carter’s work seems to have a more organic and natural development that sounds rather improvisatory compared to Tymoczko’s piece that sounded more planned out than aleatoric.

Thoughts from National Trumpet Competition

The UI Trumpet Ensemble recently competed in the 2017 National Trumpet Competition (NTC) in Denver, CO. This would be my 5th time attending this annual event, and after listening to many different performances from middle school through graduate level trumpeters, several thoughts came to mind.



What defines a great musician/trumpet player is the time and effort one puts in. It doesn’t matter whether you’re older than another musician; time remains a constant, and it is what you do with that time that determines your success. After hearing the different divisions at the competition, I found that there was not much of a difference of sound and playing ability from high school through graduate level performers. In fact, a handful of players from the undergraduate and high school divisions had impressive, beautiful, and mature sounds that were equal, if not better than sounds graduate level performers produced. One cannot make an assumption that soloists or performers at a competition like NTC are the greatest after only hearing them play one piece. It may be that the person who left you in awe could have worked on only that single piece for the year and nothing else, or that he or she is just a great musician overall!



Next, I realize that for those who have never experienced being surrounded by extremely high-level musicians, that it may be jarring to not be “top dog”. It also may be tempting to make comparisons with yourself and another, however comparisons are arbitrary. Perhaps you do not have as much experience as another person--this is OK! One should embrace the melting pot of superb musicians he or she is surrounded by, and not be afraid to interact with anyone here! Everyone’s human, and we all have our own strengths and weaknesses, and are not robots. Socialize and ask “how were you able to do ‘x’ in that piece?! That was awesome!” I guarantee you that mostly everyone is eager to meet new friends and make conversation. Any competition or mass gathering can be a source of inspiration! You never know if you will make life-long friends at NTC or other large-scale events



One of the greatest things at NTC is that the focus is primarily on the students who are competing, and not guest artists (although this is a bonus!). Another is that NTC is free to attend as long as you are not a competitor. Since you are surrounded by students of your age or who are older or younger, there are barely any barriers other than yourself for interacting with others. At a larger event like International Trumpet Guild Conference, it may be intimidating to speak with guest artists who are high-profile, although I recommend that you make an attempt to speak with he or she anyway! They most likely will engage in conversation, and won’t bite!



NTC and mass musical gatherings are an excellent source of inspiration, motivation, and networking. You must remind yourself, however, that you are in control of what you are capable of, and not anyone else! If you hear an incredible performer, become really obsessive or adamant in learning how to achieve that level of musicianship. You must be persistent, have grit, and be consistent in your practice and work ethic in order to become successful. You can do anything you put your mind to!

Philip Jones Brass Ensemble

Here is an ensemble from the UK called the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble. It was an ensemble that was founded in 1951 by trumpeter Philip Jones, and was one of the first modern brass ensembles. The ensemble was flexible in either being a 10-piece group for large spaces, or a quintet for more intimate settings.

The ensemble has recorded a large number of albums from its inception through today.

Below is a full concert of the group I found on YouTube. Enjoy!

Warsaw Brass Trio

The Warsaw Brass Trio is an ensemble from Warsaw Poland that is made up of the members, Zoltan Kiss (trombone), Lubomir Jarosz (trumpet), and Henryk Kowalewicz (horn). The three members formed the ensemble when they were in high school, and still continue to play today.

Fun fact: Zoltan Kiss is also a member of the incredible Mnozil Brass!

Below are two vides of the trio performing at the Schagerl Brass Festival in 2008.

NABBA 2017

Tallgrass Brass Band Performing Extreme Make-Over

In the week leading up to University of Iowa’s Spring Break, I had the opportunity to be part of a newly formed brass band called the Tallgrass Brass Band. It was a group of current and former music students, professors, all the way to come-back players who have different professions like being a sanitation specialist! It is a group that was in the making in late September of 2016, and all the work put in from gathering members from all over the midwest to the point competing at NABBA 2017 was worth it!

NABBA is the North American Brass Band Association, and it hosted its annual competition Fort Wayne, IN this year. Tallgrass Brass Band is one of the newest groups to compete in this competition at the championship. There are seven sections which include championship, first section, second section, third section, open section, youth open section, and youth section. Although North America is in NABBA’s name, groups from Europe have competed in this competition including Arfon Owen’s band (see previous blog post), Stavanger Band in 2014! During the competition Tallgrass Brass Band definitely caught people’s attention due to a new name on the table out of the seven regulars.


This year, NABBA had a theme of Peter Graham’s music being test pieces, and the championship section bands were assigned his piece titled Harrison’s Dream which is an extremely challenging test piece for everyone. Its opening has a fierce backrow cornet section trill and challenging low double-tonguing section that boilsinto something that sounds furious! The competition for championship section bands was held at the Embassy Theater in Fort Wayne, IN, a historic theater that is still used today! Judges were placed behind a screen on the balcony in order to promote objectivity at the highest level.

The next day we played our choice piece, Extreme Make-Over by Johan de Meij, and after that performance everyone was at an all-time high within the band. We were so energized afterward, and felt great about the 20+ hours of rehearsals we all had leading up to the competition.


Tallgrass Brass Band Cornet Section

In the end, we placed 4th place (only ONE point away from third!) out of 7 bands. Even so, we were so happy to have participated in this competition. For a new band that only had roughly 6 days (compared to the 20+ years the other bands had) to rehearse, meet new faces, and develop a unified sound, I would say that is quite the accomplishment! Even Arfon Owen was telling all of us to be extremely happy for what we did, and is looking forward to doing it again next year!

Below is the list of band members:

Alex Beamer - Conductor

Soprano Cornet - John Daniel
Principal Cornet - Amy Schendel
Solo Cornet - Laura Saylor
Solo Cornet - Matt Hartmann
Solo Cornet - Caitlin Berge
Solo Cornet - Paul Waech
Repiano Cornet - Jessica Jensen
2nd Cornet - Kenken Gorder
2nd Cornet - Evan Fowler
3rd Cornet - Ben Drury
3rd Cornet - Steve Kenny
Flugelhorn - Patrick Doyle
Solo Horn - Arfon Owen
1st Horn - Jen Kempe
2nd Horn - Paniz Golrang
1st Baritone - Todd Bransky
2nd Baritone - Dave Neff
1st Trombone - Todd Schendel
2nd Trombone - Robert Parker
Bass Trombone - Casey Thomas
1st Euphonium - Geoff Durbin
2nd Euphonium - Ben Reid
1st Eb Bass - Bo Atlas
2nd Eb Bass - Chris Bird
1st Bb Bass - Josh Calkin
2nd Bb Bass - Dave Earll
Percussion - Lauren Calkin
Percussion - Megan Cooney
Percussion - Aaron Ottmar
Percussion - Kelvin Tra

Arfon Owen Lecture on Brass Bands

Arfon Owen

Arfon Owen, a tenor horn virtuoso and Yamaha Performing Artist gave a lecture to our Advanced Brass Ensemble class. Not only is Owen an exceptional soloist, he is a highly sought-after tenor horn player for brass bands within Europe. The most notable band that he has performed with is the Black Dyke Band. He now lives in Norway, and plays with the Stavanger Band. In addition to playing this instrument, he is an educator, conductor, and organist.


The lecture Owen gave provided us with much insight into the world of brass bands and their origins. Surprisingly, virtually everyone who attended did not have any background knowledge of this type of ensemble, and it was quite refreshing to learn new information about it. The critical catalysts of the origins of a brass band was to distract workers from the harsh work conditions and to keep them from forming unions during the Industrial Revolution. Although this was a dark origin, workers embraced the new hobby and began competing against other companies’ bands in competitions. It became so competitive that companies scouted and procured the best players from different companies to play in their bands, and as a result, music these groups played became more challenging. Additionally, advances in brass instrument manufacturing skyrocketed.


Unfortunately, as the two world wars occurred, there was a halt in the production of brass instruments as metal needed to be used for guns and ammunition during both wars. Even so, the brass bands persevered and now become a staple in the UK and surrounding areas. For each competition, there is a test piece and a choice piece. The test piece literally tests the capabilities of each section of the band technically, stylistically, and as an ensemble. According to Owen, competitions are held in different countries, and each host country has a resident composer write the test piece. The choice piece can be a selection by the band that exemplifies their musical capabilities, or could be test piece that was used from a previous competition. We were shown Johan de Meij’s (Danish composer) piece, Extreme Make-Over. Interestingly, this was one of the pieces I was going to present in my listening presentation for our class, and even more, I had the opportunity to play this difficult piece with Arfon and other high-caliber players at the 2017 NABBA competition (this will be the next blogpost)!

After the lecture and after performing with a brass band for the first time, I have a much greater appreciation of what it takes to be a brass band musician, and have gained a better perspective in how much I need to practice if I am to perform with a brass band again in the future.

Wednesday Brass Listening Party 2/22/17

As part of our class, Advanced Brass Ensemble Literature (ABEL) at University of Iowa, Wednesdays are typically listening presentations shared by students individually. Unfortunately, our Professor was out of town, so we gathered together in one of our offices and shared a piece of music each; the last piece ended right at the class's end time, 10:20!

Below is a list of what each of the 6 members of our class shared, along with comments of my own:

  • Anna

    • Breakaway by David Sampson

    • 2 trumpets and Electronics, Raymond Mase and Kevin Cobb

    • I have heard this piece only a handful of times, and it still amazes me that composers are continuing to innovate in their compositions or learning new skills to enhance a work of theirs.

  • Caleb

    • Music for Brass Instruments by Ingolf Dahl

      • Mvmt 1.

    • Brass sextet - New World Symphony Brass

      • Optional tuba part (doubles bass trombone part)

      • Low brass parts were originally intended for tenor and bass trombones

  • Komsun

    • Corpendium #1 by Richard Bissill

    • 6 horns - Guildhall Horn Ensemble

      • This was a very enjoyable piece to listen to because you rarely hear horns swing! It seems like it is getting more and more popular for horns to play outside of their comfort zone of "classical" repertoire, and explore other genres.

  • Mark

    • Konzertmusik fur Brass, 2 Harps & Piano, op. 49

    • Mvmt. III. Massig Schnell

    • Philip Jones Brass Ensemble

      • 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, 1 trombone

      • 2 harps, piano


  • Evan

    • Concerto for Brass Quintet & Wind Orchestra by Mark Rheaume

      • Atto Terzo from Concerto for Brass Quintet: Intrada-Aria-Finale

    • http://www.markrheaume.com/concerto-for-brass-quintet.html


  • Me

    • Gloria by John Rutter

    • Mvmt. 3 - Vivace e ritmico

    • Philip Jones Brass Ensemble