• Interview with Dr. Paul Droste

    Nowicke: Then I have a couple of the Coordinator Reports, and then this article you wrote on the brass bands.

    Droste: Oh yes, performing opportunities for euphonium and tuba players. This really is where I am today. I am totally immersed in the brass band world, and sometimes I will pose a question to one of my euphonium players, but I'm really asking it of myself, "If you could be the tenor tuba player in the New York Philharmonic, the principal euphonium player of the
    U.S. Marine Band, or the principal euphonium of the Black Dyke Mills Band, which would you choose?" I would choose Black Dyke Mills. Definite apologies to the Marine Band, but, in terms of challenging-bordering-on-ridiculous euphonium parts, the brass bands have it. I think you could take somebody out of one of the top wind bands, and throw them into a brass band, and it would take them a little while to find their legs, their endurance, and the technique that's required of brass bands. I mean, you do a transcription, you're playing the cello parts, not the clarinets and saxophones, it's the euphoniums that are playing the cello parts. A body of literature of which we know very little but is almost as vast - well, it's probably as vast as the concert band. Could we say that safely, Paul [Bierley]? I mean the concert band has thousands of pieces, and the brass band has thousands of pieces - mostly England.

    Nowicke: A totally different musical tradition.

    Droste: We don't get Russian brass band music. It's a totally different way, different approach, different challenge.

    Having grown up, really, in the concert band movement, I am looking forward to the newer things that the brass band has to offer, for instance, newer arrangements. We played for Contest last year an arrangement of the Samuel Barber Adagio for Strings. I brought the
    O.S.U. orchestra director in (my good friend) to listen to us and rehearse us one night, and he said, "Before I start anything I want you to just play through it for me so I can hear what you are doing with it," and got to the end, and there was silence. He looked up at me, at the band, and said, "By God, you guys can play this piece," and then started to refine us even a little bit more.

    So, it's a very eclectic type of literature, I mean, we can play any march we feel like, we can play pop stuff, we can do some of the corny things (that we don't do too much) but we can play some very serious, both traditional and contemporary pieces as well. The expectation of the audience, I think, is just a little bit broader than the normal band audience might be. They think "Here come those brass banders, I wonder what they're going to do next?" Where, in a concert unit, you tend to know what they are going to do next, many times.

    Nowicke: Where is your audience coming from?

    Droste: Older people... We have a very strong senior citizen following. Young people with young families. We missed the middle, of, let's say the teenagers on up to the yuppies. I think if they come and hear us once, they'll probably come back again, but I think this idea of a brass band doesn't have any recognition to them, or any real great desire to do that. I would say our audiences are probably primarily senior citizens and they are very loyal. We have a newsletter which goes out to about 800 people and we always put an up-to-date schedule in there. We are actually using that newsletter to solicit funds for our trip to England. We have out of the 800, close to 100 who have donated. I think we are up close to $8,000 on that, and it's coming in $25, and $50, and $100 donations, but that all adds up.

    Nowicke: Do you have 501(c)(3) status?

    Droste: Yes we do.

    Nowicke: Excellent! You know, the River City Brass Band gets well over $200,000 a year in grant money.

    Droste: Yes, I went to a workshop there and got well acquainted with Bob Burnett while he was still alive, and then in the early years of the B.B.C. we talked on the phone quite often. In fact, he called me one day and said, "How would you like Bob and Nick Childs to solo with your band." I said, "Oh, that's great, what date?" He said, "Well, this is the only date." This was their first tour over here, although I had heard of them through recordings. First tour here, Boosey & Hawkes was paying everything - transportation, whatever fee, so, what we had was a one-night rehearsal, and then the next night we did a concert with them. That was fantastic. Paul [Bierley] will remember that.

    Bierley: Yes sir!

    Droste: Let's see, Paul, what have we not covered?

    Bierley: Your influence on other brass brands in the area.

    Droste: Thanks to Yamaha, there is a program that's running a little loose right now, but for many years was pretty active, of summer brass band workshops, where if somebody was considering starting a brass band in a certain area, or somebody maybe said, "Well, we've been started for about six months, but we need a push to keep this going," up to five times a summer, I would go out and spend a weekend with a brass band or at least to start one. I'd take a suitcase full of music. Yamaha in the beginning years, sent a van-load of instruments, I mean, two BBb tubas, two EEb tubas, a couple euphoniums, a couple baritones, eight or ten cornets, the alto horns, even some percussion things. Lately we do pretty good to get an Eb soprano and maybe two British baritones and maybe a couple alto horns out of them, but it's a money thing obviously.

    Nowicke: There aren't that many people building alto horns.

    Droste: Anyway, as a result of that, I've been doing that, I think, for 10 years, and probably the first six or seven years I was averaging five a summer, but now it's down to one or two. About half of those really caught hold and became legitimate ongoing brass bands, which I think is a pretty good percentage. They need to have local leadership, because the minute the weekend is over, we pack up the instruments, those go back to Yamaha, I go back to Columbus, and they're on their own. Some very good successes. Here in the state of Ohio, the Cincinnati Band, that's directed by Anita Cocker Hunt, the Ohio Valley Brass Band out of Dayton, which is directed by Ed Nichol, I started those. Minot, North Dakota, I started that one, and there's a couple in Minnesota, Winona, and, ... one other in Minnesota, they're ongoing now. So, I've had some pretty good success and pretty good influence in either getting bands started from scratch, or helping them get over the first big hump.

    [Removed conversation about remaining time for interview.]
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