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Exclusive: Watch Brass Music 'All Stars' Shred at Skywalker Sound

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National Brass Ensemble. (Photo: Kristen Locken)

In 2014, some of the country’s finest classical brass musicians got together in the Bay Area to recreate a seminal 1968 recording of sacred music by the great Italian Renaissance composer Giovanni Gabrieli — and also lay down a new work specially written for them by American film composer John Williams.

“Nothing else that we know of can quite deliver the same sense of heroism that the great brass choir seems to be able to do,” Williams said at the time.

The group, known as the National Brass Ensemble, is like classical brass music’s answer to the NBA All Stars. Its 26 members — people like Michael Sachs, who plays principal trumpet with the Cleveland Orchestra, and Tim Higgins, the San Francisco Symphony’s principal trombone — all have day jobs with all the top symphonies in the land, including the New York Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony, and the Philadelphia Orchestra, among others.

This previously unreleased, 25-minute documentary (produced by the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and Oberlin Conservatory of Music) shows the performers rehearsing at Sonoma State University’s Green Music Center in Rohnert Park and recording at Skywalker Sound in Marin. It provides a fascinating insight into what it’s like to be a classical brass musician working in the U.S. today at the topmost level, and includes some awesome music. 


“Passion rarely meets excellence at this level,” says David Stull, president of the San Francisco Conservatory and a professional tuba player himself. “I think for all of us it was a moment in time, and that really comes through in the documentary.”

You can find the National Brass Ensemble’s ‘Gabrieli’ CD here.

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