Band class made possible by River City Brass, Penn Hills schools partnership
A new music program offered by River City Brass and the Penn Hills School District opened to rave reviews this month.
“I like how I'm getting teachers from all over the world,” said Linton Middle School fifth-grader Jacob Brewer, 11.
He plays the trombone and learned how to “double tone,” or play notes faster, during the first session of the program.
“I think it's interesting,” said Jacob's stepfather, James Stewart. “I was never into band, but he's been learning real quick and he loves it. If the opportunity's there, we're going to push him toward it.”
Penn Hills High School became the second satellite school for the junior and youth brass programs. The first was the Pittsburgh Public Schools Creative and Performing Arts Academy.
Junior brass is for students in fourth through seventh grades. Youth brass is for eighth through 12th grade.
About 35 students participated in opening day Feb. 3.
Classes take place every Saturday. The program culminates in a concert in May. Students do not need to come every session.
“We had a marvelous first day despite the cold weather,” said James Gourlay, general director of River City Brass. “We didn't really need to know what to expect, because it's a new program in Penn Hills. We know it's going to grow.”
Youths from Penn-Trafford and Franklin Regional school districts and students from Sewickley and McCandless took part in the program in Penn Hills. Gourlay and other professional musicians from the Pittsburgh brass band are the instructors. River City Brass, founded in 1981, is a full-time band with 28 members who typically perform 51 concerts a year.
“Some students came with a bit of knowledge and a bit of skill. It was a really pleasant experience for us,” Gourlay said. “You don't need to have played an instrument before. We can start absolute beginners. The immense progress that the young musicians make in a short while is incredibly inspiring. When we're able to give back our talents to young people and see them grow, it's a wonderful experience.”
Cindy Geib, River City Brass operations director, brought the program to the district with the help of Penn Hills Arts and Music Education Foundation founding member Meryl Thomas. Geib is a 1986 graduate of Penn Hills High School.
“I thought it went very well,” Thomas said about the program launch. “The kids were excited. The parents were very impressed with our high school and everyone who was there was very happy to have the program up and running. It was really nice to see so many different areas being represented.”