Brass bands shine at national championship

April 7, 2019

Tracey Jensen struggled Saturday to explain what she loves about the North American Brass Band Association’s annual championship.  

“The conductors and the talent that are in these bands : and for your child to experience that : it makes you want to cry,” she said as tears welled in her eyes.

The Missouri woman is a chaperone this weekend for the Fountain City Youth Brass Honor Band. Her 15-year-old son, Jordan Jensen, plays euphonium in the Kansas City-area ensemble.

This is the sixth time in seven years that the national competition has been held here, according to Joel Collier, the association’s vice president. The group has committed to returning the next two years.

“Fort Wayne has really taken care of us, and the Embassy Theatre is beautiful,” he said. “It’s such a great place to play.”

With 36 bands participating and about 30 musicians in each, the three-day event includes more than 1,000 performers from teenagers to retirees. Admission is free for spectators, who can expect to hear orchestral-style music written especially for brass and percussion instruments : no strings or woodwinds.

“The brass family is diverse enough that it can still give that impact of a full orchestra with only 30 players,” Collier said.

Sam Ely, 18, plays percussion for Triangle Youth Brass Band from North Carolina with his friend Myles Parker, 17.

“I just like playing in a band different from ones with woodwinds in it,” Ely said. “You get a different sound.”

Each band is judged by a three-person panel that listens for accuracy, style and artistry as the group plays one assigned piece and one piece of the members’ choosing, Collier said.

“What makes this band’s presentation unique?” he asked, channeling the judges’ thoughts.

Jennifer Dudding, who is also chaperoning the Fountain City band this weekend, knows what makes the annual music event unique for her 16-year-old daughter, Gabrielle. The competition, Dudding said, allows students to strike up friendships and support each other even though they’re competing.