Tuesday, April 22, 2014


Today we travel north of the border to visit Canada, America's hat.  The Canadian Brass has recorded over 100 albums/DVDs, and it is one of the most prominent brass ensembles in the world.  Pretty good, eh?

Juilliard Trumpet Ensemble

This video is from the 2009 National Trumpet Competition Finals featuring the Juilliard Trumpet Ensemble playing Festive Overture.  Enjoy!

(Not only do the soloists exhibit an excellent high range, the lower parts really fill out the sound of the ensemble.)

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Composer Spotlight: Michael Giacchino

Happy Easter! This week's Composer Spotlight is on Michael Giacchino, an American film composer.  Before writing for film, Mr. Giacchino got his start by composing music for popular video games such as "Call of Duty" and "Medal of Honor."  Eventually, Giacchino would write the music for the critically acclaimed 'LOST' series as well as movies like 'Up' and 'The Incredibles.'

Much like John Williams, Michael Giacchino utilizes the brass section in most of his thematic material.  The video below is from one of his first video game soundtracks.  You'll notice the use of the full horn section, as well as trumpet and low brass interjections.  Enjoy!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Civil War Brass Bands

To follow up on my previous post about the Marine Drum & Bugle Corps, I want to look back at the beginning of brass ensembles in the United States.

 Band of the 10th Veteran Reserve Corps, Washington, D.C., April, 1865.

By the 1850's, brass band music was becoming increasingly popular in the United States.  The advancement of brass instruments opened up the window to more playing opportunities.  When the American Civil War broke out in 1861, the popular brass bands would end up serving a vital role in the armed forces.

(Federal City Brass Band)
(Federal City Brass Band, Civil War Era Brass Band)

These brass bands would play at parades, recruitment stations, and even on the battlefield.  They would play before the battle to inspire the troops as well as afterwards for comfort.  One of the most unique stories I found about civil war bands happened on the front lines between two Union and Confederate groups. Within earshot of each other, the two groups exchanged their side's patriotic tunes until an artillery barrage ended the 'music battle.'

"The Commandant's Own"

Today's group will feature The United States Marine Drum and Bugle Corps, otherwise known as, 'The Commandant's Own.'  Out of all of the American brass ensembles featured on this blog so far, I can think of none more patriotic than this one! Dressed in their traditional red and white uniforms, The Commandant's Own has been performing for 80 years.  Their goal is to motivate, inspire, and entertain not only fellow Marines, but also civilians.  One particular aspect I enjoy about this group is their military tradition and precision on and off the field.  They bring a special passion to what they do that you might not find in other Drum & Bugle Corps.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Hypnotic Brass Ensemble

The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble was formed by eight brothers from Chicago, IL.  What began as a household family group that has scheduled 6am rehearsals before school has become one of the most unique brass ensembles of the day.  The HBE has perfomed all over the United States and is recognized for its special combination of hip-hop, funk, jazz, and rock.  Their name, 'Hypnotic,' actually came from when they were performing on a platform of the L Train in Chicago.  A man watched them play and described their sound to be hypnotic.

Their song, "War," is a great example of how they combine their jazz roots with hop-hop.

The song has become popular enough that it was featured in rapper Childish Gambino's album, Royalty.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Composer Spotlight: John Williams

If you enjoy music and have never heard of John Williams then you either live underneath a rock or you are probably a Justin Bieber fan.  Either way, John Williams has been one of the most prolific composers of the last half century.  Known primarily for his distinguishable film scores, Williams has written the music for blockbusters such as: Star Wars, E.T., Jurassic Park, Saving Private Ryan, and Harry Potter.  Try to see if you can hum the main theme from the films listed, then click the link and hear how close you are.  You might do better than you think!

Today I would like to share my favorite piece of John Williams' music, "Revisiting Normandy," from the score of Saving Private Ryan.  If you haven't seen the movie(go see it), this piece accompanies the opening scene.  One of Williams' greatest strengths is his ability to match the music with the emotion of the film, which is done beautifully at this moment.  (The soundtrack won the 1998 Grammy Award for Best Score)

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Four Hornsmen of the Apocalypse

You heard right, today's spotlight is on The Four HORNSmen of the Apocalypse.  This horn quartet started as a student group at the University of Southern Mississippi in 1998.  Although the group was formed as a fun way to play with friends, they began touring and their popularity increased.  The Four Hornsmen(and one hornswoman) eventually all ended up in Champaign-Urbana at the University of Illinois.

Today, The Four Hornsmen of the Apocalypse horn quartet has performed throughout the country at various universities and festivals, including the International Horn Society Workshop.  In addition to all being excellent musicians, the group has a very unique way of interacting with it's audience while on stage.  I was lucky enough to see the quartet perform this year at The University of Iowa and it was one of the most entertaining recitals I have been to. Not only are they incredible horn players, but their goofy, relaxed stage presence made for a great concert.