Close this search box.

June 1960 Idea Exchange, New York Brass Quintet

The years since World War II have witnessed a rapid growth of interest and activity in the field of the brass ensemble and in brass chamber music in the United States. Today there is a large repertoire of several hundred published compositions for brass ensemble; numerous professional and student brass groups are springing up all over the country, and many recordings of brass music are now available.
   The New York Brass Quintet has been active in this field during the past decade, having done pioneer educational concert work for Young Audiences, Inc., made educational films, performed concerts extensively, and recorded a good deal of the brass literature. Other present activities include brass clinic work and brass music publishing (Mentor Music, Inc.).
  Recently, the Quintet made a tour of the Midwestern and Southwestern states, visiting many schools, colleges, and universities. It was certainly a most rewarding experience for us as performing musicians; and we would like to share some of our impressions with our fellow musicians, educators, and students.
   Of great importance to us was the vital, creative contact we made with the field of music education thru the many concerts, clinics, and conferences at various schools. We were indeed grateful for the opportunities afforded us to further the mutual co-operation and assistance between the professional performer and the educator in promoting the development of our American music culture. Our experiences served to confirm the belief that a closer association of performers and teachers is necessary to assure the continued development of higher musical values in our country today.
   Of course, we found that a brass quintet can be challenging in other ways too. As relatively settled New York performers, we discovered that the physical aspects of our trip were quite demanding. We had to cover approximately 8,000 miles in four weeks. And, we had to adjust quickly to temperature differences ranging from about 8° below zero in Minnesota to almost 90° in the shade in New Mexico. In North Dakota the weather was so cold that when we took our instruments from the car and began to blow thru them, tiny ice pellets actually bounced out of the trumpet bells.
  In addition, being accustomed to performing at near sea level, we were challenged by the difficulty of performing very strenuous programs in the rarefied atmosphere of 6,000 and 7,000 feet altitudes in Colorado and Wyoming. Fortunately, we exercised a certain amount of caution, having been forewarned that singers, unused to the altitude, have been known to pass out during a performance. Such occurrences convinced us that adaptability is a prime requisite for the members of a traveling music group.
   Unusual circumstances attended many performances. On one particular occasion we were immediately preceded by Robert Kennedy, who was campaigning for his brother’s presidential candidacy. This was a pretty tough act to follow! On another occasion I had the very dubious honor of sharing a dressing room with a friendly black bear who took part in a musical show for children.
   Demands upon our time and energies were numerous but necessary. We had to be prepared for a speech at a women’s club luncheon meeting, to be interviewed for the radio or newspapers, or to confer with educators, music dealers, or civic leaders about the various aspects of our tour, the local musical scene, etc.
   Perhaps the most interesting and worthwhile part of our efforts was the clinics we held for music students and teachers. We were particularly impressed by a group of young people who made a 600 mile round trip by bus within a 24-hour period to attend an afternoon clinic and an evening concert!
   Still another very heartwarming discovery for us was the progressive attitude (and actions) of many music dealers. I am reminded of one example of a dealer who commissioned an American composer to write a symphonic work for band. Would that some of our music publishers were so inclined. We were also happy so see such interest in new music among the students everywhere.
   Needless to say, we were most pleased to see the extent of brass ensemble activity in the schools today compared to that of several years ago. We are firmly convinced of the importance of the brass ensemble in music education, and we are hopeful that its potential effectiveness as an educational tool will soon be more fully realized by both teacher and student.
   It is with such thoughts in mind that we are already looking forward to the prospect of another tour. There is much to be done, and we welcome the opportunities of the future for making new friends for brass ensemble music.    – Robert Nagel, Director, New York Brass Quintet.