Space for All—A New Ensemble Takes Shape

By Alyssa Pry

If you spend any time around people in the Metropolitan Music Community these days, the buzz is swirling around the Kings County Concert Band, MMC’s newest ensemble, which will have their very first rehearsal Wednesday, September 21st at Grand Street High School. KCCB will be joining the MMC roster with Brooklyn Wind Symphony and Grand Street Community Band, as the MMC continues to expand at a rapid and exciting pace!

  Jasmine Britt, Kings County Concert Band's artistic director and conductor. 

Jasmine Britt, Kings County Concert Band's artistic director and conductor. 

At the helm of this brand new group is Jasmine Britt, who has played with both BKWS and GSCB, and was a founding member when the organization started in 2008. Now, eight years later, Britt finds it hard to believe how far it’s come.

“I had no idea it was going to grow this large,” Britt said with a laugh. “What I notice is there are a lot of motivated people in the group, and our musicians are the biggest asset, both musically and otherwise.  We get momentum going for one project and that helps with the next project.”

That momentum has been a driving force in the MMC since the beginning, and creating a new band was a response to the overwhelming and growing demand for musical opportunities for non-professional musicians.

“The original artistic plan [of the MMC] is we want to be in a position where we don’t ever have to turn anyone away,” Britt said. “So we had plenty of people interested in playing, we just didn’t have anywhere for them to go. So the third ensemble was imminent, just to stay true to the mission of never turning anyone away.”

Over the past several years, BKWS and GSCB have continued to grow both in size and in skill level—another hurdle the MMC hopes to straddle by creating a new ensemble that caters to musicians who bring their passion and love for music but may feel intimidated or nervous to join a group.

“There are many people that put the horn away for many years—can we create a space for those people, who maybe didn’t continue through high school or didn’t get the chance to play in high school?” Britt said.

Britt also sees KCCB as an opportunity for players in the MMC’s existing ensembles to play new instruments and stretch their artistic talents.

“Basically we have the opportunity to kill 2 birds with one stone—we have a place where experienced musicians can explore secondary instruments, and at the same time we can create a safe music space for people to rediscover the skills they had.”  

Starting this project from the ground level may be intimidating, but for Britt, who is also a band director at Grand Street High School, KCCB is an extension of what she is already dedicating her life to do.

“It’s really nice to really have everything you want—to create art in a really viable and vibrant space, and at the same time be creating a community."

“This is the one thing I do for a living. I spend a lot of my musical time doing sectionals and working with this particular level of musician,” Britt said.

She’s been spending time listening to musical programs to curate a selection of works that will highlight the identity of the new ensemble—as a space for musicians to learn and express their musical personalities at varying skill levels.

“What I’m thinking for Kings County Concert Band is exploring things you would get from first year players to something a solid high school player can perform. [But] I don’t want something for kids. I want to keep the dignity of the musician and everything age appropriate, but also keep it skill appropriate,” she said.  

Putting together this puzzle has been a challenge, but it also carries the thrill of what the MMC is capable of providing to eager musicians. And what grounds KCCB and Britt’s goals for her new ensemble are the same values that have created such a vibrant and welcoming community over the last eight years.

“You’re creating a community. We’re a city of 8 million people, yet it can get lonely if you don’t have a group you can connect with,” Britt said. “It’s really nice to really have everything you want—to create art in a really viable and vibrant space, and at the same time be creating a community. So it’s a win-win all around.” 

Posted on September 15, 2016 .