Going Gershwin: Spectrum Brass performs in Centerville, enters new era



It will be a major return to the stage for Brian Buerkle when Spectrum Brass, the ensemble he leads, opens Miami Valley Community Concert Association’s 2023-2024 season at Centerville Performing Arts Center on Thursday, Sept. 7. It will not only be the group’s first public concert since he took over leadership in 2020, but also his first since being involved in a multiple-vehicle accident last year.

“We haven’t had any concerts like what we’re going to have at Centerville High School,” Buerkle said. “We have this summer seminar at the Bay View Music Festival each year. We still did the seminar this summer, but I wasn’t there. They still taught up there and I just went up and conducted a concert with the full brass ensemble. I did it last year and I did it again this year where I conducted the concert but I’m looking forward to doing a proper concert again.”



Returning from injury

Buerkle was driving home from a performance in Destin, Florida, in March 2022 when an 18-wheeler plowed into the musician’s car and other automobiles stopped on I-65 due to a traffic backup. Buerkle had internal bleeding, a concussion, a shattered left arm and fractures in his pelvis, clavicle, sternum, four ribs and two vertebrae. He was airlifted to a hospital in Birmingham for surgery and post-op care. He had multiple brain bleeds and experienced left side paralysis. After a month in Alabama, he was transferred home to Cincinnati for additional medical treatment at Encompass Rehabilitation Center at Drake Hospital, where he was released that June. He continued physical therapy and began playing his trumpet again.

“I’ve been fine for a while now,” Buerkle said. “The biggest injury I had is a mild concussion. It’s called T.B.I., which is a traumatic brain injury. There are a lot of different things that can go wrong but I haven’t had any major issues. My memory is a little spotty at times but mostly everything has been fine.

“I was able to resume my normal life as soon as I got out of the hospital and rehab center last summer,” he continued. “It’s just been tough because people haven’t always known how I was doing so it has been difficult to get back into the gigging world and that sort of thing.”

Revamped ensemble

It’s a new era for Spectrum Brass, which was formed by Jacob Cameron in 2008. The quintet is now owned and operated by Buerkle and features three new members.

“Our former tuba player started our group and I took over during the pandemic,” Buerkle said. “I’ve kind of been in the process of revamping the group. During the pandemic, we recreated some of the videos from the past. We re-recorded them because I wanted to have new representation because we have new players, including our singer. When we’re going out concertizing, I want people to see a video of who is actually going to show up and not a bunch of people that recorded this long ago.”

The current version of Spectrum Brass includes Buerkle (trumpet) and original member Scott Thornburg (trumpet) with new additions Erich Peterson (French horn), Andrew Mitchell (trombone) and Matthew Lyon (tuba). The group also performs with backing from Anthony Patterson (piano) and David Zerbe (drums, percussion). Carrie Hennessey is featured vocalist on select numbers.

“A lot of the players in Spectrum Brass have performed with some of the great orchestras in the world,” Buerkle said. “I perform with a lot of orchestras. I’ve been on tour to Europe with the Cincinnati Symphony and the Pittsburgh Symphony. I’ve played at Carnegie Hall with the Detroit Symphony and the Pittsburgh Symphony.”



Going Gershwin

Spectrum Brass released its debut album, “Rhapsody: The Music of George Gershwin” in 2009.

“We recorded the album and then immediately started doing concerts,” Buerkle said. “We all started getting together in 2008. Jacob, who started this group, had done this show with a different ensemble called the Avatar Brass. All of the original arrangements had been written for that group by a guy named Jeff Stevenson except for I did the arrangement for ‘Rhapsody in Blue.’ The show had been done before and Jacob just decided all the music was just sitting there. He was like, ‘Why aren’t we doing this?’ He wanted to start it up again and that’s when we started Spectrum.”

“Rhapsody in Blue” is the big 17-minute centerpiece of the Spectrum Brass album.

“Jacob told me about the group and his idea,” Buerkle said. “He knew I did arrangements, so he asked me, and I told him I’d love to do that. I had the Ferde Grofé orchestration as well but what I really wanted to do was model it after Gershwin’s original jazz band version the Paul Whiteman Orchestra played back in the day. That’s what I based all of my arrangement on.

“I wanted it to sound as good as the Ferde Grofé orchestrated version, but I wanted the original flavor,” he continued. “We have five brass players, a drummer and our pianist. We also have our singer for the vocal numbers. There are eight of us on stage. It’s not like I added jazz to it, I just created something from the original score so it would have that original flavor.”

Sample a bit of George Gershwin as performed by Spectrum Brass:

Community concerts

Spectrum Brass is bringing its Gershwin show to town for Thursday’s concert.

“This is a difficult show,” Buerkle said. “It’s not a cakewalk for any of us. The original orchestrations sound great and they’re fun to play but they’re not easy on the lips. But it’s a great show and we’re excited to do it.”

The MVCCA series continues with the Fries Band on Oct. 3, the Everly Brothers Experience on Oct. 26, Springboro Wind Symphony on March 12 and the Chi-Town Transit Authority on May 20.

Contact this contributing writer at 937-287-6139 or donthrasher100@gmail.com.


Who: Miami Valley Community Concert Association presents Spectrum Brass

Where: Centerville Performing Arts Center, 500 E. Franklin St., Centerville

When: Thursday, Sept. 7 at 7:30 p.m. Doors open at 7 p.m.

Cost: $40; season tickets are $120 for the five-show bonus package or $110 for a four-show package with the Fries Band

More info: www.mvcconcert.org

Artist info: spectrumbrass.org

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