Alice Campbell Havre Daily News email@example.com
To uproarious applause from Havre and Shelby band students, Dallas Brass walked into the Havre High School gymnasium and played a song from the animated motion picture "The Incredibles." But throughout the workshop Monday afternoon, the group also showed its versatility by playing personal favorites including rifts from rapper Kanye West and classical composer Tchaikovsky. The group of five brass players and one percussionist, hoped to inspire students by giving them "a concept of what (their) instruments sound like," said founder Michael Levine. While the musicians in Dallas Brass are professionals now, they told students about how they began playing, and no matter how humorous or serious the story, each came down to practice. "The better you get, the more fun it is," said French horn player Chris Castellanos. Nat McIntosh, sousaphone player, told students that "fundamental techniques are the building blocks to musical freedom" that includes imagination. "Anything you can hear in your head, you can play." Levine encouraged students to begin playing outside of school in smaller bands. "There's so many combinations," he said of the possibilities. Regardless of what type of group students play in, Dallas Brass members illustrated the importance of listening by performing songs only with their hands without looking at each other. "The key is l istening, " Levine said, and added that a person's ability to be a good player will "stem from your ability to be a good listener." Students got the chance to test their listening skills when drummer Jeff Handel led them in a similar hand exercise. "Start with small chunks" and then gradually increase the chunks' size and "gradually speed it up," he told students. "Ma ke s u r e yo u s tay relaxed," he added. Group members a l so stressed the importance of breathing to students. "Set, pause, breath, play," Levine said. The group that has toured in every state, except Hawaii, and Eu ro p e an c o unt r i e s including Russia, Germany, Italy and Japan, performed to a packed house at the HHS gymnasium later that night. Middle school students and high school students played with the band. Havre Middle School students played a rendition of "Star Wars" while Havre and Shelby high schoolers played a patriotic medley. Afterward, band members visited with the audience in the high school annex outside of the gym, talking and autographing posters, Cds and T-shirts. Castellanos said playing in Havre was fun, both in the workshops and playing in the gymnasium. The band is usually playing in a dark concert hall instead of a well-lit room, he said. “It’s cool playing in these kinds of settings,“ he said. “It’s kind of fun to put a face to the audience.” HHS band director Dave Johnke said the chance for the band to work with, see and play with a professional, topof- the-line band such as the Dallas Brass is an inspiration to the students. “A lot of the kids said they would go home and practice all night, and they meant it,” he said. Typically, working with a band such as the Dallas Brass will inspire several students, and their inspiration typically inspires other members of the band, Johnke said. “We’ll be carrying this on for a few years,” he said. Student involvement in the band's concerts is "my favorite thing we do," Levine said, and helps the band "build the next generation of music lovers," he added. When the band began performing in 1983, Levine said he noticed a lack of children and students in the audience. The workshops and concert songs played with students are "a way to get kids to come to the concerts ... it gets their families inspired too," he said. "We just want to get (kids) excited. ... If we can get 200 kids pumped up, it's 10 times more satisfying" when the band performs, he added. "We feel blessed that we get to inspire kids." The group will continue on its tour of Montana where, in addition to Havre, it will stop in Butte, Florence, Bozeman, Kallispell, Great Falls and Big Timber. Band members will be on the road for 160 days this year al l over the Uni ted States. Tim Leeds contributed to this story.