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You can never have too much tuba

Burning Brass ensemble formed to showcase the talents of players of some real heavy metal (instruments)

trumpet player

April 19, 2018

Burning Brass turns it up to 11. 

The newest ensemble at Arizona State University packs some serious heavy metal. Not the "big hair, makeup and screaming guitars" kind, though: the "trumpets and horns that used to call cavalry into battle above the boom of the cannon" kind. 

“I would say the brass players tend to be the heavy hitters, the trumpets have the melody and the trombones have other loud stuff,” said conductor and doctoral student Melanie Brooks. 

“There can’t be enough tuba; you have to have more tuba.”

Four months ago a group of ASU tuba, euphonium, trumpet and horn players met over pizza and settled on a name for their new brass ensemble: Burning Brass. The group — 19 students and alumni with one conductor— formed to showcase the talents of brass players and raise funds for a brass scholarship at ASU.

Brooks, who just defended her dissertation, is like most in the group: balancing gigs, rehearsal and her own instrument and work.

She saw a challenge in conducting the group of instruments that often play a supportive role to the winds and strings. Brooks, a saxophonist, not only studies the music and leads her players, she also loads instruments and arranges a U-Haul for performances. To the conductor, it's worth the trouble. 

“This is a good chance for them to shine as their own entity,” said Brooks.

For graduate student Brianne Borden, who has loved the trumpet since she could drown out her brothers’ instruments with it, the challenge has been preparing for their first performance as an ensemble.  

"We are often accused of, and guilty of, being loud and overly confident and strong," said Borden, who hopes that the group can show the softer side of brass.

“I think the kind of default assumption of brass is that it's loud," she said. "We do have both of those components … but you can be both of those things and have the softer and more gentle and lyrical side."

The group will be playing its first concert at the Church of the Epiphany in Tempe and raising funds for a new scholarship. 

For those in the audience, Borden is sure they will experience an emotional response and be pumping their fists — very metal.

Burning Brass

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 20.

Where: Church of the Epiphany, 2222 S. Price Road, Tempe.

Admission: $10 online, $12 at the door.

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