December 16, 2019

Kentucky Brass Quintet Begins SEC Performance Circuit

Dr. Hightower (L), Woodbury, Dr. Tung, Dovel, and Kerns following their recital at the University of Alabama.
Dr. Hightower (L), Woodbury, Dr. Tung, Dovel, and Kerns following their recital at the University of Alabama.

By: SEC Staff
SECU (Twitter: @TheSECU)

Higher education research is often synonymous with the STEM disciplines, and it conjures up images of goggles, test tubes, lectures, and long equations. For the University of Kentucky Faculty Brass Quintet, those equations are replaced by sheet music – and conference lectures are replaced by recitals.

As SEC Faculty Travel Program participants, the UK Brass Quintet is sharing its sound with other SEC universities in a series of recitals and classroom teaching experiences. This semester, it will perform at the University of Alabama, the University of Arkansas, the University of Georgia, and LSU.

“For music faculty, our research is our music,” said Jason Dovel, Associate Professor of Trumpet. “Sharing our music is sharing our research. For us, sharing music that may be unfamiliar to some is no different than a science faculty member sharing their paper at a conference.”

The quintet, currently composed of Dovel, Dr. Matthew Hightower, Bradley Kerns, Dr. Margaret Tung, and Allie Woodbury, has existed at Kentucky since the 1960s. It is highly regarded, having performed both nationally and internationally.

Closer to home, the 2019 iteration finished its first SEC recital and teaching day at Alabama recently, and members – who have only been performing together for two months – showcased a range of music. A staple, however, is Time Stamp (2019), an original piece by UK alumni and Boston Crusaders Composer and Arranger, Ryan George. The work was commissioned and supported by donations from former Kentucky president Dr. Lee Todd, and the quintet is appreciative of such high-level campus encouragement.

“It’s been really awesome to get to know each other in this way,” said Dr. Hightower, Assistant Professor of Tuba/Euphonium. “We’re learning about each other on a more personal level, and that helps us to perform better and have more trust in each other. We’re also meeting new colleagues, and that’s a relationship I can build on to collaborate in the future.”

Ultimately, the goal of the quintet is increased awareness of the ensemble and other music programs throughout the SEC – with a little bit of fun. For example, they ended the evening at Alabama with a brass arrangement of the current pop hit “Truth Hurts” by Lizzo, much to the delight of the students in attendance.

“I thought it was really cool to see a fellow SEC school show off their brass faculty. As a brass player, it was great to see what other schools are doing,” said Ben Bruflat, Alabama D.M.A candidate in Trumpet Performance. “It’s a networking opportunity in a way. I’ve met some of Kentucky’s Brass Quintet before, so it was good to see them again. Plus it was a tight performance with a good variety of music. I’m really thankful they were able to include Alabama in their trip.”

The quintet’s visits are supported by the SEC Faculty Travel Program, which aims to enhance collaboration that stimulates scholarly initiatives between universities. It offers faculty members from each SEC university the opportunity to travel to other SEC universities to exchange ideas, deliver performances, and conduct research.

“It’s a tremendous experience for our students to be able to bring faculty from other institutions in the Southeastern Conference to collaborate, hold concerts, and lead master classes,” said Dr. Jon Whitaker, Associate Professor of Trombone at Alabama. “This a really great program. I’ve been awarded grants, and it’s great to be on the receiving end of having other faculty come to our institution.”