Every fall James Madison University’s campus is buzzing with the excitement of a new year. At the turn of each semester there is also the anticipation of ensemble auditions for musicians at JMU. Music students find their multiple audition excerpts posted online, which challenge various aspects of the musicians’ abilities. Preparation is key, especially when auditioning for JMU’s Brass Band because it is one of the top ensembles available. Being a part of the brass band requires high levels of technical, lyrical, and overall musical playing. The Brass Band is constantly challenged to ‘bring something to the table,’ by director Kevin Stees. Members are encouraged to work together in order to produce a desired sound and product for listeners.
Matt Harper, the band’s secretary and principal cornet player for the past two year says, “It always seems like the cornet section and the band as a whole gets better every single year I have played with the band! I'm really looking forward to performing with an older and very mature band, especially the cornet section. The repertoire and the expectations become more demanding with time but the band always finds a way to step up and make awesome performances happen. The audition process was a little different this year in that we got two solo pieces - one technical and one lyrical piece - instead of one test piece that we would perform at the first concert. We were given Hungarian Melodies by Vincent Bach – a nice change of pace but still challenging nonetheless – and The Lark in the Clear Air arranged by Gordon Langford. I'm personally really looking forward to my audition and the new opportunities to make music this coming year!”
Another music student, Charlie Frise, summarizes his experience preparing for auditions as “a challenge to put out the best product I can for not only Mr. Stees, but also for myself. It is not just the notes and rhythms… I want to move people in some way with the sounds coming from the end of my horn. The correct notes and rhythms are only the first step when preparing for an audition.”
This is just the start of an impressive semester for the James Madison University’s Brass Band.