May 2012 Community Band Spotlight May 15 2012, 0 Comments

New Horizons Community Band Dallas, TX

Contributed by Jim Lawrence, trombonist and media relations Late on a windy morning in April, musicians from Dallas' New Horizons Concert Band gathered inside the Frontiers of Flight Museum, a huge converted hangar at Love Field. Assembled near rows of U.S. Navy personnel in dress blue, with historical aircraft suspended overhead, the band entertained with a concert as the audience arrived, then played for a change of command by the Dallas Navy Recruiting District. It was the sixth U.S. Navy ceremony the band has been called to play for in as many years. While it is just one example of the varied appearances booked annually by Frank Bray, 1st trumpet and vice president of scheduling, it is described by Bitsy Laney, band president, as highly rewarding. She notes that the musicians consider it an honor to be part of the tradition, and the Navy's continuing invitations reflect the quality of the band. NHB Dallas, a nonprofit association of more than 65 volunteer musicians, has come a long way since four founding members met in the back of a local music store in 1999. Today, in addition to the Navy ceremonies, repeat performances include the popular Christmas concerts at Dallas' NorthPark Center, the Denton Arts & Jazz Festival, and the V.A. Medical Center during National Salute to Veterans Week. The remainder of the concert year is booked by private groups such as retiree, church and business organizations. Concert programming includes marches, patriotic and other holiday-appropriate music, along with selections from motion pictures and Broadway, spanning the decades from "The Sound of Music" to "The Phantom of the Opera." Audiences might hear a light classical touch such as a Holst suite, Pachelbel's Canon or something by Johann Strauss II. Recent additions to the play list include Frank Erickson's "Toccata for Band" and the alternately stately and energetic "Encanto" by Robert W. Smith. Other sure-fire audience pleasers are John Williams' "March from 1941" and a medley of his familiar movie and television themes. Music Director Mike Rossi also likes to keep Elmer Bernstein's theme from "The Magnificent Seven" handy as a popular stand-by. When it comes to marches, Bob Sims, 1st trombone and music librarian, has ensured that NHB Dallas audiences hear the real thing by providing the original arrangements of Sousa compositions, Karl King's "Barnum and Bailey's Favorite," E.E. Bagley's "National Emblem" and others. Vocalist Stephanie Askew, who regularly doubles as MC, is frequently featured on pop standards from the era of Gershwin or Rodgers & Hart, and her moving version of "I Dreamed a Dream" from "Les Misérables" has captivated audiences of all ages. During livelier numbers, she often delights young people in the audience by inviting them forward to dance or march to the beat. Another vocal soloist, Joe Staser, consistently earns ovations at patriotic-themed concerts. Contributing to the success of NHB Dallas are its members' passion for making music – many play for more than one ensemble in the area – and a tradition of professional-level leadership, with each conductor building on the foundation of the last. Under Rossi, who took the helm in 2010, the band has achieved its highest artistic level to date and has seen unprecedented growth, with some instrumental sections reaching capacity. He continually seeks to inspire and challenge the musicians to be their best, through technical polish and musical interpretation, while never forgetting another priority: Have fun with it. A professional trumpet player with a master's in music performance, Rossi has taught music at the university level, has substituted on trumpet for several symphony orchestras and has judged band competitions in several states. He is also a veteran whose service included a tour of duty with the U.S. Marine Drum & Bugle Corps, known as "The Commandant's Own." He occasionally finds time to join other former Marines in a group called The Band of America's Few. At 41, Rossi is the youngest member of NHB Dallas, which generally requires a minimum age of 50 and has a couple of musicians who are 80-plus. Throughout the band are veterans of the armed forces. Those who played in a military band, by current instrument and branch of service, are: Walt Dean, trumpet, Air Force; Buddy Givens, bassoon, Air Force; Ken O'Grady, saxophone, Navy; Epi Quintanilla, trombone, Army; Perry Stephens, clarinet, Marine Corps; Jimmie Stewart, bass clarinet, Air Force; and Rick Vishnesky, trumpet, Navy. A member of the tuba section, D. K. "Dinty" Moore, is a graduate of the U. S. Naval Academy. Helping to set the organization apart from many North Texas community bands is its affiliated 20-member jazz band, UpSwing. Conducted by Rossi and managed by Phil Cook, French horn player and past president of NHB Dallas, UpSwing keeps a busy schedule taking its "big band" music to hospitals, senior and church groups and other audiences. A recent performance was for a banquet honoring POWs from World War II, Korea and Vietnam. The newest and most compact offshoot from the main band is an eight-member Dixieland group called DixieSwing, which started booking engagements in late 2011. More information is available at the band's website Visit us on Facebook at Dallas New Horizons Band