The final notes of “The Star-Spangled Banner” hang in the air, fading away slowly. But by then members of the group have begun to trade playful quips about who missed a note or who was in the wrong key. Within Ahwatukee Brass, the camaraderie is palpable.
You can tell by watching them that they not only have known each other for a long time, but they have played together long enough to know each other’s playing style and strengths as a musician. That says a lot about their dedication. It can be hard to find time for a hobby, let alone committing to do it on a regular basis, especially when a family and career come along.
But making time to pursue their passion is what keeps the five members of Ahwatukee Brass together.
“That’s the benefit of a small group, you get to know each other from a musical perspective and you learn through each other,” said trumpet player Mike Downey.
The quintet takes pride in improvement and doing something different to keep their music fresh each time they pull out their instruments.
The group formed five years ago and knew each other from playing in the Mountain View Lutheran Church orchestra before that. Former MVLC orchestra director and current tuba player for Ahwatukee Brass, Roger Moore, did the initial recruitment for the group.
“I wanted to start a group from scratch,” Moore, a former band director for Pueblo Middle School, said. “I enjoy the learning curve of it. The best part is learning a new piece of music, playing it and perfecting it.”
The gigs have piled up over the years — they’ve played Tasting Ahwatukee twice — so there is a good chance you may have heard them. Their next is a unique opportunity. They will return to Chase Field on Wednesday, Aug. 22, to play the National Anthem before the second game of a doubleheader that day.
They all agree it’s an honor, and believe this should be performance No 3.
“The first time we auditioned, we were one of the last groups and by that time some of the judges had even left,” said trombone player Jeff Hubus. “We were quite a bit louder than everyone else when we played. When we were done people were clapping and cheering, but by that time it didn’t matter. We made sure to get in line early the next year.”
With all being experience musicians, it has allowed them to take on more challenging pieces and performances. They have covered songs from the Beatles, James Bond themes, and experimented with New Orleans Jazz.
“We get the opportunity to play more diverse music, which keeps us going,” said french horn player Heather Stewart. “We’re not pigeonholed to what we play.”
The future is bright for Ahwatukee Brass, who is scheduled to play with the Chandler Symphony Orchestra in May as well as Don’t Stop the Music, a 24-hour charity performance at Arizona State University.
“We really enjoy playing together and we enjoy each other’s company,” said trumpet player Skip Welch. “We all play in different groups, but we always come back to this one.”
Added Hubus, “I think we all care about this one the most.”
To find out more about Ahwatukee Brass, visit www.ahwatukeebrass.com.
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