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New Ensemble Brings Virtual Audience Closer Together

Members of the District Brass, an ensemble within The United States Air Force Band, join forces with students remotely as part of the Advancing Innovation Through Music program, May 22, 2020. (U.S. Air Force video)

JOINT BASE ANACOSTIA-BOLLING, D.C. --

The U.S. Air Force Band has a dynamic new chamber ensemble, District Brass! This group consists of two trumpets, horn, trombone, tuba, and a percussionist, and performs music far outside the realm of a traditional brass and percussion ensemble. The group was founded by Technical Sgts. Adrian Holton and Kristin Cazenave, both of whom are trumpeters in the Ceremonial Brass. They created the group after their experiences together in Stellar Brass, a similar group that is part of the U.S. Air Force Academy Band.

Since its inception two years ago, District Brass has become a vital part of the band’s Advancing Innovation Through Music outreach program, or AIM.
 
“District Brass exclusively performs in our local schools, connecting with our audiences with music they know while sharing our Air Force story as members of the Ceremonial Brass,” Sgt. Holton states. “We have to adapt and perform outside the standard brass quintet repertoire, including music from animated films, arrangements of popular songs you may hear on the radio today, and the music of New Orleans brass bands.”

Sgt. Cazenave works diligently behind the scenes to collaborate with teachers and create the perfect program for each specific school, which helps the group connect with students of all ages. “We provide a highly flexible and innovative setup that can engage a wide demographic in just about any kind performance space. These qualities model some of the capabilities that make the U.S. Air Force great, which gives us a great platform to share the Air Force story through our music.”

In these current and unprecedented times of social distancing, The U.S. Air Force Band had to temporarily cancel its public performances. However, the band has found exciting and innovative ways to inspire and connect with audiences and strengthen its international presence through social media performances and outreach initiatives. District Brass is no exception.

The ensemble recently recorded a video to maintain and bolster its educational outreach mission, with the help of members of the group’s target audience.
 
“In this particular video, we are performing the most popular tune amongst our elementary school audiences, “How Far I’ll Go,” from the animated film, “Moana.” Before we even get halfway through the first verse, the majority of our audience is usually singing along, completely unprompted. To demonstrate how the piece usually goes in a live performance, we recruited the help of some elementary school students in Montgomery County, Maryland to sing along, which brings so much to the piece,” Sgt. Holton explains.
 
The recording process required much coordination and planning, as Sgt. Holton describes: “All the performers, including the students, recorded their parts in their homes while practicing safe social distancing. We used the best audio equipment we had on hand, which for many of the performers was just a smart phone or tablet. With the help of a fantastic video editor, Technical Sgt. Mike Brest, and audio engineer, Master Sgt. Mike Hampf, the virtual collaboration sounds and looks about as close to a live performance as is technically possible.”

The members of District Brass are optimistic that the video’s impact will get students excited about music, and help them learn the importance of honoring those who have served in the military.
 
“Our group not only excites and inspires school age students, but their families and educators as well. We push the boundaries of what the normal brass quintet would perform, which allows us to keep up with the current musical trends and present this sort of group in a new way. Educators tell us their students talk about our performances for days. Our innovative approach makes us uniquely capable of creating a lasting impression and leave lasting messages on the hearts of these students,” Sgt. Cazenave states.

In the short amount of time of the group’s existence, District Brass has made impressive and impactful contributions to the AIM program. Continued success and the impressive reputation of the group is dependent on having a strong and purposeful relationship with educators.
   
“As we continue to develop our group capabilities, would like to keep building these relationships with our local community, and possibly beyond, and expand their excitement and support for The U.S. Air Force Band and the U.S. Air Force,” adds Sgt. Cazenave.

If you’d like to see the collaboration between District Brass and Montgomery County students, please visit: Youtube