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On Taking Risks: The Origins of Spectacle Brass

One of our trumpet players, John Thomas, recently wrote a blog about the founding of our group. Check it out below:

I have been very blessed to have so many talented people in my life. Two years ago, I met four fellow music students at the Kennesaw State University School of Music and we soon found we had similar interests in performing music, no matter what style, setting, or place. Music is a gift, and the five of us shared our collective influences and decided to start an ensemble, which we thereafter named “Spectacle Brass.”

From the beginning, the mission of the group was only somewhat clear: we would learn as much music as possible with the goal of engaging the greater community with exciting programs of brass music. Over time, however, the mission became more refined. We began to compose and arrange our own music, organize our own events, and seek out projects we believed would advance the accessibility of music for all.

Our first year brought many interesting undertakings. One of our members, Michael Lockwood, organized a benefit concert for Children’s Healthcare of Augusta, we collaborated with two local composers to premiere their music at the Kennesaw Festival of New Music, and we performed at a wide variety of community events. But once again, we wanted to find a creative project to push us in our development as a performing ensemble.

As with many things in life, luck and being in the right place at the right time can offer defining moments. In 2012, the Boston Brass, one of the country’s most established performing brass quintets, visited Kennesaw State, where we were honored to gain ample insight on the music business. In 2013, we learned of the opportunity to spend a full week with Boston Brass in Gunnison, Colorado as part of the Crested Butte Music Festival.

The financial risk in funding a national trip seemed like a daunting undertaking at first, but we were full aware of the incredible reward of studying with the Boston Brass in a performance-based setting. We had to ask ourselves, “Who cares that Spectacle Brass exists?” We were faced with demonstrating the value of our work to our professional contacts and the greater community. Over several months, we launched an online “crowd-raising” campaign, performed benefit programs, and built working relationships with our donors which included performing an outdoor program in downtown Augusta, Georgia for those who offered funding for our endeavor. Lastly, we were very grateful to the KSU School of Music for awarding us a grant to attend the week-long seminar.

With our efforts to fund our project, we had an incredible week in Colorado which culminated with a performance at the Crested Butte Music Festival at a beautiful outdoor venue beneath the rolling Colorado ski slopes. But the “pay-off” in this project was not only performance-based, but entrepreneurial. We gained practical business-minded strategies for growth from one of the most prolific chamber groups of our time.

One year later, we’re striving to take greater risks to grow. We are vigorously arranging new music for our ensemble and organizing a month-long trip to the Bay View Music Festival in Michigan, where we will perform a wide variety of music. Spectacle Brass recently became a LLC in Georgia and performs corporate events, weddings, and other special functions throughout the Southeast. Thanks to our school, mentors, and generous sponsors, the group continues to create a niche in the music community.

While there is financial risk in this business, the more important investment is time (and how we use it). I am thankful everyday to be around four creative, hardworking individuals who all work toward a common goal of a making great music. Where the risk is high, the reward is great–and worth it.

-Written by John Thomas Burson (Trumpet, Spectacle Brass)

Thank you for your time in reading about Spectacle Brass! Please check out our current campaign to see how you can become a part of our projects: www.gofundme.com/spectaclebrass.

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