Concert all about that brass


Charles Conrad recalls being wide-eyed the first time he watched and heard trumpeter Doc Severinsen perform musical magic.

A 12-year-old in the mid-1960s, Conrad, like so many others during television’s three-channel era, had turned the dial to watch “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” on NBC.

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Tony Kniffen will perform as a tuba soloist at the Indiana Wind Symphony. (Photo courtesy of Indiana Wind Symphony)

Something about Severinsen’s performance clicked with Conrad, who all these years later is confident the Indiana Wind Symphony’s upcoming concert, “Low Brass to the Fore,” has the potential to inspire current and even potential tuba players in the same manner.

The Indiana Wind Symphony concert is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. May 21 at the Palladium at the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel.

“The biggest thing is that we’re doing a premier of a new work,” said Conrad, musical director of the Indiana Wind Symphony. “It is a tuba concerto, and the soloist is Tony Kniffen of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. The conductor is James Beckel, and he’s also a former member of the Indianapolis Symphony.”

The new piece is “Look Through a Window.” Beckel, now retired, had been with the ISO since 1969.

Kniffen has been the principal tuba player with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra since 1997. The Indiana University graduate has previously performed with the Chicago, Cincinnati, Detroit, Minnesota, New Mexico and St. Louis symphony orchestras.

“It is a spectacular new work that every young tuba player should hear. They will be inspired by it,” Conrad said. “This could be that motivating factor that gets them to practice for an hour rather than get on YouTube or something like that. We have a great soloist almost every concert. We try to bring in major soloists and new works. We also try to do some sort of historical reference.”

The evening will conclude with the presentation of the James B. Calvert Outstanding Music Educator Award.

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