Postcard from America

Nick Mott writes of his banding experiences in America.

By Nick Mott, 18 May 2010

I've just returned from America where I spent two months on the east coast, based in Old Orchard Beach, Maine. In those two months I managed to visit Philadelphia, New York, Boston and North Carolina. I've been asked to share some things of possible relevance / interest to the band.

For the bulk of my time there I stayed with Craig and Debbie Evans. Craig is a euphonium player, pianist, and ex-long-term member of the New York Staff Band of the Salvation Army. He is also brother in law to Ron Waiksnoris, the bandmaster of the Staff Band. So it wasn't too long before Craig made arrangements to take me down to New York to sit in with the band. Not only were they a friendly, welcoming group of people, the standard of music making was fantastic, especially in the afternoon rehearsal, working with guest trombone soloist, Joe Alessi, from the New York Philharmonic. In conversation with members of the band and the Bandmaster, I was thrilled to hear people asking about our young and talented principle cornet at GUS, James Fountain. It was fantastic to see that James is already building a world wide reputation for himself, as a rising cornet star.

I also stayed with Al Stickland and his wife Christine for a few weeks. Al is currently the Bandmaster of the Old Orchard Beach Citadel Band, having enjoyed a fine career as a trombone player with both the Canadian and the New York Staff Bands, as well as the Manhattan Brass Choir under the leadership of Mark Freeh. The Manhattan Brass Choir was a good talking point for Al and me, because of the connection between Mark Freeh and GUS. It was great to hear Al talk about how great the CD 'Freehway' was, which he remembered GUS recorded some years ago. I also played Al our latest CD, 'A Mingled Chime', and I was thrilled to hear how impressed he was with the band sound.

In my first week there, Al introduced me to the New England Brass Band, who were preparing to compete in the annual NABBA contest, with Stephen Bulla at the helm. Upon meeting the band and Stephen Bulla, I was surprised to hear so much interest about GUS Band, particularly from Stephen himself and it was brilliant to see that the GUS name is still widely recognised across the world. I enjoyed the privilege of actually playing at the NABBA contest with The New England Brass Band. We played Partita (Sparke) as our choice piece, and Triumphant Rhapsody (Vinter) as the set piece. It was great to have Phillip Sparke in the adjudicators box, who would have been joined by Frank Renton, had it not been for volcanic ash, cancelling his flight! It was a great experience of USA banding and again it was great for me to hear people's positive reaction when I mentioned the name: 'GUS'.