Brass and chamber music collide for concert

3:14:50 PM CDT - Thursday, September 07, 2006

By Shannon Littlejohn

The American Brass Quintet will bring chamber music to WSU in September as the first performers of this year's College of Fine Arts Connoisseur Series. They will also bring a Wichita son home.

The group returns with WSU graduate Michael Powell as trombonist. Powell, who grew up in Wichita and still visits his mother and brother when in town, has become one of the most in-demand trombonists in New York City. He joined the quintet in 1983.

brass quintet

Courtesy photo
Wichita native and WSU alum Michael Powell plays the trombone for the American Brass Quintet, who will play at WSU Sept. 30.

In 1960, brass chamber music wasn't standard audience fare. That same year, however, the American Brass Quintet was formed with one goal in mind: to promote the mix of chamber with brass.

Powell's quintet cohorts are Raymond Mase, trumpet; Kevin Cobb, trumpet; David Wakefield, horn; and John Rojak, bass trombone. All have equally impressive bios.

Known as the country's most distinguished brass quintet, the five are "the high priests of brass," according to Newsweek.

"It's always good to come home," said Powell, who now lives in Leonia, N.J. He pays homage to WSU and retired trombone professor Donald Hummel, with whom he studied from 1969-73, among others, in a "Thoughts" link on his Web site, http://home.earthlink.net/~gmpowell/home.htm.

Russ Widener, associate professor of trombone for the School of Music, said that he has met Powell several times, and since the American Brass Quintet is in residence in Aspen, several of Widener's students have studied with Powell in the summer.

"We're excited," said Widener of the quintet's appearance on campus. The School of Music is scheduling master classes by all of the quintet members for trumpet, horn and trombone students.

"One of the things that's different is that most brass quintets have two trumpets, horn, trombone and a tuba," said Widener. "Instead of tuba, they use the bass trombone."

Another of Widener's students studied in Aspen this summer with the quintet's Rojak on bass trombone.

Music faculty require their students to attend the concerts, but Widener said they don't really need to. "The students love to go," he said.

The American Brass Quintet will perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 30, in Wiedemann Recital Hall. Tickets go on sale on Friday, Sept. 15, and are $16 with discounts available. Call the Fine Arts Box Office at 978-3233.

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