Rachel Moulden for Digital First Media
Mark Petty shares a lifelong passion for music which is evident in his role as the director of Zenith Brass since 1995.
Zenith Brass is a group of 30 talented youth brass and percussion musicians from Oakland and Macomb counties in Michigan. The ensemble performs a wide variety of music such as baroque, classical, romantic, jazz and other genres.
Petty had an interest in doing something with a brass group and Zenith Brass was the result that came with his initial idea. He wanted to provide an additional experience that exposed younger people to different types of literature and music outside their own schools.
“There aren’t any other brass groups around like ours,” Petty says. “We use standard band instruments, our group is made up of high school students from 20 schools on average, plus most brass groups such as ours mainly exist at a college level.”
Petty has worked with high school musicians before, but they were all located at the same school. He says the biggest challenge is avoiding time conflicts with other school activities when holding practices. In order to help the members of Zenith Brass when they miss a practice, he holds make-up sessions in which he takes time to review the pieces and helps the musicians go over their parts in more detail.
Before Zenith Brass, Petty originally started his music career by playing the piano from elementary through high school. From there, he moved on to percussion in college and in his 30s he began playing the trumpet. On top of that, he met his wife through voice lessons and even played in the Royal Oak Salvation Army Brass Band for seven years.
“All instruments are my favorite. You’ll hear me say in practice one week my favorite instrument is the French horn and then the next week it will be a different instrument,” he said with a laugh.
One of Zenith Brass’ newest members is Elena Miller, a freshman at Chippewa Valley High School in Clinton Township. Miller started in music when she began playing trumpet in sixth grade at Wyandot Middle School using the same trumpet her mother played when she was young. That same year she joined Carpathia Blaskmusikanten, a German Brass band based at the Carpathia Club in Sterling Heights.
“Zenith offers a great opportunity to further my talent and challenge myself with difficult music,” Miller says. “Aside from the music itself, Zenith offers an environment filled with like-minded students who share a passion for music which I find enjoyable.”
Outside of Zenith Brass, Miller is in her fourth year with Carpathia Blaskmusikanten and also plays in Chippewa Valley’s Wind Ensemble school band and Jazz Band.
Zenith Brass will present its upcoming concert, “Romantic Favorites,” at 4:30 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 28, at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, 620 Romeo Road, Rochester. This program will feature 19th-century romantic compositions and music from 1636 to 1988. The focus of the program is five Romantic compositions written between 1879 and 1893. In addition are two Baroque pieces, a classical Haydn and some recent Latin jazz.
For the complete program and more information about this group of young musicians, visit ZenithBrass.org.