Rachel Moulden for Digital First Media
It is a pleasure for Mark Petty to direct the Zenith Brass, a 25-member multi-school extracurricular honors band for brass and percussion students.
He founded the band in 1995 to provide challenging experiences for young musicians.
“I think the most rewarding part of Zenith Brass for me is creating a unique organization with such outstanding students who can work together for a common goal,” he says. “Members really value their experience.”
Zenith performs a wide variety of classical and popular music, including orchestra and opera transcriptions, marches and movie themes. The band, now in its 22nd year, has performed more than 460 pieces of music over the years. Membership is by audition.
All members of Zenith participate in music programs at their own schools. The all-brass instrumentation has a different sound from a school wind band, and gives members an additional challenge to build their skills. One of the band’s members, Elena Miller, a trumpeter and sophomore at Chippewa Valley High School, shared her own experience with the band.
“I enjoy the positive environment with other high-schoolers that share the same love for music as me,” she says. “I think that having the opportunity to collaborate with people who share similar interests, but are unique in their own way, is extremely important.”
The band typically rehearses from September through May and performs three concerts a year — in fall, winter and spring. They always learn a number of tricky musical pieces.
“Each piece has sections that are difficult in some way,” Petty says. “Technical challenges need motivation in rehearsals and individual practice time. Some pieces might appear easier at first but require rehearsal time to perform musically and with a beautiful sound. We always strive to convey emotion through our performances.”
Zenith Brass will perform a variety of brass compositions, including the Toreador Song from Bizet’s 1875 opera “Carmen,” in their 22nd Fall Concert on Sunday, Nov. 20. In addition, they will perform original music by English composer John Ireland and by Royal Oak native James Curnow. This concert will feature guest artists in the Beaumont Brass faculty quintet from Michigan State University. This professional group will perform several pieces from their recent tour in New York City and Cleveland.
Zenith works to convey a bright image with its music.
“Brass music can be very brilliant and exciting,” Petty says. “The all brass band also can play with a warm emotional sound that is not as often encountered in a wind band or orchestra. It’s not that brass is better, it’s that it is different and can stretch players to grow in new directions.
“I also think that any youth music program displays the best of students. They are among those that we all can take pride in.”
For the program information, upcoming concerts or to learn more about this talented group of young musicians, visit ZenithBrass.org. Zenith Brass’s 22nd Fall Concert program is at 7 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 20, at Oak Arbor Church, 495 Oak Arbor Circle W., Rochester.