NABBA 2017

Tallgrass Brass Band Performing Extreme Make-Over

In the week leading up to University of Iowa’s Spring Break, I had the opportunity to be part of a newly formed brass band called the Tallgrass Brass Band. It was a group of current and former music students, professors, all the way to come-back players who have different professions like being a sanitation specialist! It is a group that was in the making in late September of 2016, and all the work put in from gathering members from all over the midwest to the point competing at NABBA 2017 was worth it!

NABBA is the North American Brass Band Association, and it hosted its annual competition Fort Wayne, IN this year. Tallgrass Brass Band is one of the newest groups to compete in this competition at the championship. There are seven sections which include championship, first section, second section, third section, open section, youth open section, and youth section. Although North America is in NABBA’s name, groups from Europe have competed in this competition including Arfon Owen’s band (see previous blog post), Stavanger Band in 2014! During the competition Tallgrass Brass Band definitely caught people’s attention due to a new name on the table out of the seven regulars.


This year, NABBA had a theme of Peter Graham’s music being test pieces, and the championship section bands were assigned his piece titled Harrison’s Dream which is an extremely challenging test piece for everyone. Its opening has a fierce backrow cornet section trill and challenging low double-tonguing section that boilsinto something that sounds furious! The competition for championship section bands was held at the Embassy Theater in Fort Wayne, IN, a historic theater that is still used today! Judges were placed behind a screen on the balcony in order to promote objectivity at the highest level.

The next day we played our choice piece, Extreme Make-Over by Johan de Meij, and after that performance everyone was at an all-time high within the band. We were so energized afterward, and felt great about the 20+ hours of rehearsals we all had leading up to the competition.


Tallgrass Brass Band Cornet Section

In the end, we placed 4th place (only ONE point away from third!) out of 7 bands. Even so, we were so happy to have participated in this competition. For a new band that only had roughly 6 days (compared to the 20+ years the other bands had) to rehearse, meet new faces, and develop a unified sound, I would say that is quite the accomplishment! Even Arfon Owen was telling all of us to be extremely happy for what we did, and is looking forward to doing it again next year!

Below is the list of band members:

Alex Beamer - Conductor

Soprano Cornet - John Daniel
Principal Cornet - Amy Schendel
Solo Cornet - Laura Saylor
Solo Cornet - Matt Hartmann
Solo Cornet - Caitlin Berge
Solo Cornet - Paul Waech
Repiano Cornet - Jessica Jensen
2nd Cornet - Kenken Gorder
2nd Cornet - Evan Fowler
3rd Cornet - Ben Drury
3rd Cornet - Steve Kenny
Flugelhorn - Patrick Doyle
Solo Horn - Arfon Owen
1st Horn - Jen Kempe
2nd Horn - Paniz Golrang
1st Baritone - Todd Bransky
2nd Baritone - Dave Neff
1st Trombone - Todd Schendel
2nd Trombone - Robert Parker
Bass Trombone - Casey Thomas
1st Euphonium - Geoff Durbin
2nd Euphonium - Ben Reid
1st Eb Bass - Bo Atlas
2nd Eb Bass - Chris Bird
1st Bb Bass - Josh Calkin
2nd Bb Bass - Dave Earll
Percussion - Lauren Calkin
Percussion - Megan Cooney
Percussion - Aaron Ottmar
Percussion - Kelvin Tra