Warren is in for a treat of the musical genre on Wednesday, Nov. 10, when "Foothills Brass" offers two concerts, one at 9 a.m. for Warren County School District students and another at noon for the public. Both concerts will be held at the Struthers Library Theatre, Third Ave., Warren. The noon concert will be free to anyone who wants to bring their lunch and listen.
The concert is being brought to Warren by Warren County Summer Music School (WCSMS), Kay Logan and the Anne Putnam Mallinson Trust through the Community Foundation of Warren County in cooperation with Penn State Behrend.
Foothills Brass wants to inspire and open the minds of young people and share its passion for brass music. This group of five versatile musicians from across North America was founded in 1981 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. With musicians originating from all corners of North America, the quintet is dedicated to exceptional artistic presentation, meaningful educational activities and innovative leadership in the artistic community, according to its website. A Yamaha performing ensemble, Foothills Brass presents more than 100 educational events each year in concert halls, universities, classrooms and gymnasiums. Currently, the group includes two trumpets, trombone, French horn and tuba players.
Claiming to be "serious fun" on their website (http://foothillsbrass.ab.ca), Foothills Brass programs for schools combine "first-rate music with solid entertainment that keeps the students involved. They have achieved an excellent reputation for merging music with other aspects of the curriculum. Concerts explore such topics as history, Canadian studies, and the science of sound while covering aspects of music itself: an introduction to the families of instruments, a demonstration of how music is built, and a great mix of melodies both familiar and new."
"Foothills Brass performs everything from Baroque classics to modern/contemporary music in a brass quintet," said Ann Mead, concert coordinator and director of WCSMS.
"This is our arts in education outreach for the 9 a.m. concert for seventh and eighth grades county wide," Mead said. "The free noontime concert is our community outreach component done in the identical style as the noontime concerts at Penn State Erie (Behrend)," also known as the Logan Series.
Logan Series concerts are held at noontime in a relaxed style, Mead said, "with the artists discussing the works to be performed and taking questions from the audience at the end of the concert. The concerts usually are no longer than 45 minutes, and the audience is often fluid - at least at Penn State Erie - as some lunch schedules may not permit the audience member to be present for the entire 45 minutes."
This presentation of brass follows last year's offering, "Bassoon in the Wild."
WCSMS is always "looking to present in another vein," Mead added.
More noontime concerts may be planned, she said. "They seem to work well in Erie with the Logan Series and with the summer noontime concerts with the Erie Philharmonic."
The Erie concerts, "have been very successful," said Dr. Gary A. Viebranz, director of instrumental ensembles at Penn State Erie and director of the Logan Series. "We're well into our 21st season this year, and attendance has never been better. Our first two performances (this season) each drew audiences over 400."
"I think, under the right circumstances, noon performances can be more attractive than evening performances," Viebranz said. During the day, I think we all tend to focus less on the event and open up to the experience. There's less in the way of formality and many of the barriers between performers and audience fall away."
Erie's concerts attract students as well as groups from senior centers and extended care facilities as well as "members of the business community, parents with children and retirees," Viebranz added. "We really see a nice cross-section of the greater Erie community."
The collaboration between Behrend and Warren County Summer Music School began in 2004 with the opportunity to provide a global music approach to the students in Warren County.
"Through a cooperative effort with Penn State Erie, and special grants from Kay Logan and the Logan Wintergarden Series and the PA Council of the Arts, we featured Huun Huur Tu, (the Tuvan throat singers) to students at Youngsville Elementary-Middle School, the Grammy nominated Imani Winds to WAEC in 2005, and the Shanghai String Quartet to Russell Elementary School and Eisenhower High School students in 2006," Ann Mead said. "In 2007, through a collaboration with the Warren Concert Association, we introduced Alpin Hong to students at Eisenhower High School with two workshops followed by a concert at the Struthers Library Theatre."
A mandate of the Logan Wintergarden Series is that musicians need to be educators as well as performers, and the performers and educators have exposed many Warren County students to global talent, Mead added.
Viebranz believes it's important to continue regional exposure of chamber music groups, especially for children because "the arts, in general, can open so many doorways, not just for those who actively pursue the creation of art, but also for those who enjoy and appreciate the works of others. Chamber music is just one part of the larger picture, but for me one of the more intriguing aspects of chamber music is appreciating the role of the individual within the context of belonging to a larger group. Everyone holds a responsibility to the other members of the ensemble and there's a trust and respect that develops through working together toward a high standard and a common goal. If our young people can recognize the value of cooperation, it's a critical life lesson."
Young people benefit annually at WCSMS, and this outreach is just part of the equation. Supporting students is a prime goal.
Viebranz, who has been involved in education and music education for more than 30 years, recognizes the importance of WCSMS.
"Things are markedly different than they were when I entered the profession," he said. "The focus of public education has changed over the last couple of decades, and, with increased standardization, there are limits to the opportunities and choices available to today's students as part of their education. The choices that remain are often available only at a minimal level and may not even occur on a daily basis. Programs like the Warren County Summer Music School offer students the opportunity to explore areas and activities they may not encounter during the regular school year and examine them in depth. I think that it's important students at all levels experience discovery in the arts while discovering more about themselves. There is a tremendous benefit to supplementing public education without trying to replace it, and WCSMS understands this."