Arts & Entertainment

Brass quintet celebrates 30 years with free show

For the Mid-Columbia Brass Quintet, playing music always has been a serious mission. But at the same time, they want it to be as fun as the fire bell polka.

Here are five guys, three of them charter members, playing with brass -- on just about anything an audience might want to hear from a tuba, trumpets, a trombone and a French horn.

You can sample the quintet's savvy sound at a concert celebrating its 30 years at 4 p.m. Jan. 31.

Don Paul, John Owen and Randy Hubbs are the diehard 30-year veterans of the group. The other original members were trombonist George Konopek and tuba player Warren Hopkins, who eventually moved from the Tri-Cities. Several others have filled in over the years.

Bob Swoboda settled in back in 1985, and Phillip Simpson joined in 2007.

Hubbs, who was the baby of the group in 1980 as its 23-year-old trumpet player, remembers those early years.

“I had just started my first teaching job at Pasco High School when the quintet formed 30 years ago,” he said. “I didn't want to pass up the chance to play with Don and John because they were experienced band directors I could learn something from, and I know for a fact playing with them all these years has made me a better teacher.”

Hubbs moved from Pasco High's music department to become a music director at Columbia Basin College, where both Paul and Owen already were instructors.

Besides finding time to play a quintet gig at least once a week, Hubbs and Owen collaborated on organizing the annual Cavalcade of Bands, now in its 29th year.

Paul, a professor emeritus from CBC, also was key in organizing CBC's annual Jazz Unlimited music competition, now in its 39th year.

Owen, who plays French horn, is an instrumental music teacher in the Pasco School District. He's been involved with several music groups since moving to the Tri-Cities in 1975 and was conductor of the now defunct Mid-Columbia Youth Symphony and founder/conductor of the wind chamber group Harmonie Columbia.

Swoboda, on trombone, has a master's in trombone performance and is an instructor in the Kennewick School District. Simpson, the band director at Southridge High School in Kennewick, is a composer as well as performer who has directed several instrumental and vocal groups.

All five also are members of or have been members of the Mid-Columbia Symphony.

“I have always enjoyed participating in groups of musicians, whether it's a Dixieland band or a symphony orchestra,” Paul said. “Small groups have had a special appeal because of the musical interactions, the personal relationships and the fact they can perform in a lot more venues.”

The variety of music the quintet can play also makes performing a lot more fun, he added.

“We have a large library, some of which I have been fortunate to have written or arranged,” Paul said.

For Owen, being a part of the quintet is much more than just a chance to play with four other fabulous musicians.

“We've been together so long we're even more than friends, we're brothers,” Owen said. “And one of our missions has been music education, and it feels good that we've been able to help hundreds of kids during the last 30 years become more acquainted with music.”

The guys also plan to spice up Sunday's concert with a few female vocalists.

Soprano Jan Paul, Don's wife, will belt out a medley of Broadway show tunes while Simpson's wife, soprano Carissa Simpson, will tackle a rendition of the hilarious Mom's Song, sung to the music of William Tell Overture. And organist Kim Barney will assist the quintet with a classical piece by Handel.

“There are many great brass quintets in the world today that have set examples for us to try and live up to,” Paul said.

w Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; doneal@tricityherald.com

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