Big Band

The band that began as a master’s thesis project for Jeff Ball B.M. ’03, M.M. ’08, has grown so big that it has split into two. The Brooklyn Wind Symphony grew to 95 members last summer, and it just couldn’t accept any more. The newly formed band has taken the symphony’s original name, the Grand Street Community Band.

Before the Brooklyn Wind Symphony split, “I was turning away up to 10 people every month,” Ball said. “But turning people away goes against my philosophy. One of the many things I learned at Ithaca is that all people should be able to enter into music at any age.”

Ball’s belief that people should be able to play music at any time in their lives is what spurred him to create the symphony in the first place. When Ball submitted his teaching philosophy to his thesis adviser at Ithaca College, the adviser urged him to put the idea into action. So Ball gathered together a band of 30 friends and contacts in New York City who were all semiprofessional adult musicians—many of them IC grads. He also began advertising membership in the group on Craigslist, and his idea exploded into reality.

Ball’s philosophy and the effect it had on the local community impressed Jasmine Britt, M.M. ’11, so much that she is now the president of the Metropolitan Music Community, the overarching nonprofit that encompasses both ensembles. She is one of five other IC alumni involved in the enterprise: Hugh Ash ’99 plays trumpet, Kelly Cuevas ’95 plays flute, and Dieter Winterle ’00 and Michelle Free ’00 play saxophone.

Now that there are two groups, the Brooklyn Symphony Orchestra and the Grand Street Community Band, each has a new direction. “The Brooklyn Wind Symphony is going to function more like a collegiate ensemble that seeks to push the artistic envelope in hopes of giving professional-level performances—but from an all-volunteer ensemble,” said Britt.

“The Grand Street Community Band is going to serve as a finishing school of sorts for members who really want to dig into established and contemporary wind band literature, and our members will get the chance to sharpen their skills beyond where their musical training left off.”

Ball has plans for the future, too. When the new Grand Street Community Band grows to 80 or 90 members, which Ball said he expects to happen in a couple years, that group will also split to form a new group. “Our goal is to never turn away an adult musician,” he said. “We hope to have a beginner band someday, but that’s a five-year plan.”

 Britt said, “Jeff, myself, and the board of directors are placing a lot of energy and effort into the success of Grand Street Community Band because we have the chance to give more people what our Brooklyn Wind Symphony members and audiences have experienced—great concerts and great music making.”

Read more about Jeff Ball here.

Visit the Brooklyn Wind Symphony website


– Robin Roger