The Penticton Concert Band is embarking upon its next chapter after recruiting Dave Brunelle as the new band director.
“I’m really re-acquainting myself with upper level concert band music and I’m really enjoying working with these strong musicians from the community,” he said. “My passion is jazz music, but I grew up playing concert band, that’s my foundation.”
Brunelle is nearing the end of his tenure as principal of Skaha Lake Middle School, where he teaches jazz and concert band students in Grades 6, 7 and 8. He joined the Penticton Concert Band to replace the former director, Gerald Nadeau, who grew the band fivefold over the past eight years, from seven members to around 40. The 2014-2015 season was Nadeau’s final year with the band, and before his replacement was found, he said the new conductor will have a big job to fill.
“The person taking it over can look at it two ways: he or she’s got a thing that is running wild right now – which is good, but on the other hand, it’s a lot to keep running,” Nadeau said. “I hope the person that fills the role can keep it going.”
Though Brunelle wasn’t a member of the concert band before taking over as conductor, he had been following the group’s progression for many years.
“It started off as a band that could really only play beginner-style music. They have grown, not only in size, but the quality of their sound,” Brunelle said. “This is all about Gerald – Gerald has moved this band incredibly over the years.”
Nadeau’s acceleration of the Penticton Concert Band gave local musicians who have taken a break from their instrument a new platform to practice.
“There hasn’t been a vehicle to do that until Gerald created this band, so I’m very happy to continue that tradition.”
As Brunelle closes in on his retirement with the school system, the concert band’s opening for a conductor felt like the right next step.
“I was looking for more opportunities to play music in a band setting,” he said. “I was planning on joining the band and then was told the music director was retiring, so I went through audition process and was the successful candidate to take over that position.”
As a conductor, Brunelle has to be familiar with every instrument in the band. He considers himself to be a woodwind specialist, and is most comfortable playing saxophone or clarinet.
“It’s a perfect size band; with 40 members all the parts are covered, and there are very strong musicians in the band,” he said, citing diverse experience among its members. “Some are past professionals, others excelled with their instrument in high school and put the instruments down for a while, and then had the opportunity to join the band again.”
The concert band’s percussion section especially punches above its weight, he said.
“We have one that you wouldn’t normally see in a community band. There are five members in our percussion so all the parts are covered, and that really makes a big difference in the sound of the band.”
In addition to the percussionists, Brunelle’s impressed with every section of the band.
“There’s really a good blend and balance between the upper pitched instruments and the low woodwinds and low brass,” he said. “All the parts are covered which is rare in a community band – there are no limits to this band.”
To be an effective conductor, “You need to know the various aspects of all the instruments because they all have unique areas that need to be addressed.”
Brunelle said the Penticton Concert Band has been in contact with others from around the province, and they’re looking to arrange joint performances. But his first appearance with the band will be on Dec. 8 for the Winter Concert at the Penticton United Church. The show begins at 7 p.m. and tickets cost $15.
“We have two sets to play and its going to be wonderful,” he said. “We’ve selected music from various time periods and different countries so it will be quite a varied show with a couple of Christmas pieces intertwined.”
The band rehearses every Tuesday night at Skaha Lake Middle School, and any musician interested in joining the group is invited to audition.
“There’s a certain level of musicianship that’s required as well; it’s not a beginner band by any means, but they’re welcome to come out and see if they’ll have an interest in it.”
Those who are thinking about being part of the concert band can contact Brunelle at firstname.lastname@example.org, and are asked to mention their instrument of choice.