OU Brass Band plays its way to competition

One of only 10 college-level brass bands in the United States, the OU Brass Band played a set of music on the night of March 22 in preparation for competitions in Ohio and Indiana.

The band is directed by music professor Dr. Kenneth Kroesche, who has been the leader since September 2009.

“We had started out as a very small brass ensemble,” Kroesche said. “When I came here, I believe the brass ensemble I started with had basically about four to five students in it.”

There were several ensembles at first, but things began to change during Kroesche’s winter 2009 sabbatical.

“I had always been involved in playing and conducting brass bands before I came to Oakland,” he said, “and the more I thought about it, the more I thought that a student — a collegiate brass band would be perfect for our students here.”

Since forming, the band has expanded to 32 members, and has competed across in both national and international competitions.

“It is pretty amazing, what [the band] has done in such a short period of time,” Kroesche said.

The band won the 2014 North American Brass Band Championship (NABBA), opening the door to play at the Butlin’s National Mineworkers Open Brass Band Festival & Competition in England, and the Great American Brass Band Festival in Danville, Ky., in 2015.

Despite the highs of international recognition, the brass band is focused on the upcoming midwestern competition: the NABBA in Fort Wayne, Ind.

At the Dublin Festival of Brass on March 23, the OU Brass Band was named Grand Champions for winning the Best March, Best Slow Melody and Best Major Work categories.

Band members also named best soprano cornet (Michael Baker), best Flugelhorn (Ben Feuerhelm) and the trombone, bass and percussion sections were recognized as the best in the competition.

The trombone section is comprised of Austin DeDalis, Tristan Hughes and Scott Voytush; the bass section is Brendan Ige, Colin Holstein, James Long and Brandon Thibault; and the percussion section is Domenic Santini, Kyle Paoletti, Neil Faulkner and Payton Miller.

Outside of competitions, Kroesche said 2018-2019 has been a fantastic year for the band. One of the highlights was being able to play with internationally acclaimed euphonium virtuoso Steven Mead on Dec. 2, 2018.

There is a high standard for students who join the band, according to Kroesche. Full band practices are twice a week, while sections meet at least one time outside of the designated practices.

“There are some sections that are getting together two or more times a week to work on and prepare their parts together,’ Kroesche said.

For members of the band, their time playing serves as the marker of good memories.

“While [in England] we got to sit in on a Black Dyke Brass Band rehearsal,” euphonium player John Andersen said. “Black Dyke is a championship brass band that is world renowned.  I remember very distinctly sitting on the floor of their tiny rehearsal venue right beside their principal euphonium and thinking to myself how lucky I was to be able to do something like this. Things like that are why I’ve continued to participate in our brass band.”