Brass From The Past (Don Ward)

By: Don Ward
By: Don Ward

This is a cool piece of video..from 1983!


I hadn't seen this in many years but it recently was posted to youtube.  Watching it really takes me back.

The piece of video is a piece of the past..not just for me but for about 155 of us who were teenagers at the time.

The time was 1983.  The video is from the National Championships for High School Marching Bands in Whitewater, Wisconsin.  This band though, is from Doherty High School right here in Colorado Springs.  Click on the link and take a look, the actual performance starts at about 2:25

I'm in there somewhere playing a trombone.  It's not about me though, it's about dozens and dozens of young musicians being part of something bigger than any of us, something so well executed that it was one of the best marching band performances in the least for that summer nearly 3 decades ago.  We won the Colorado State Championship in the fall of 1982, then revived the show to take it to the national competition the following summer.

I love the power of the opening, Stravinsky's "Firebird".  I love the surge of sound near the end of the final piece, that big musical push forward as we march backward. (It's "Still" by Lionel Richie)  I love the precision of the instruments and the percussion from start to finish.  That drum line was amazing!  Listening to it now I can still remember just about every note of the trombone parts I played...not how to play it all, but at least how it went.  There's some wonderful musicianship in what's called the concert number, (3rd piece in) no marching, just playing for "Sophisticated Lady/Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing"...and it has got that swing!  Listen to the unbelievable trumpet solo at about 8:51..that still makes me say "Wow!" 

I'm still in touch with a handful of the people in this band.  Whenever we think of this musical moment in our lives we look back with a little bit of awe at what an incredible experience this was.

I'm also still in touch with the man who made it happen.  Richard Kusk was the band director at Doherty all those years ago.  He retired (sort of) a few years he only teaches about half time, as the Orchestra Director at Coronado High School.  He also directs part of the Colorado Springs Youth Symphony. I keep reminding him that he works a lot for a guy who retired years ago.

I did an interview with him last year when he took part of the Youth Symphony to New York to perform at Carnegie Hall.

The video is a nice reminder for a lot of us who are in it, about something we accomplished together a long time ago.  More than that it's a tribute to the teacher who put it all together and made us so good, good enough to place 5th at that national competition!

I see Mr. Kusk at the gym several times a week. Once in a while we talk about that band and that particular show and that trip to Wisconsin.  He says the kids get a lot of credit, and he's right.  I say he gets most of the credit.  Most good-sized schools have a plenty of talent. They have lots of decent musicians and some extraordinary ones.  That's what he had ( I was in the "decent" category on the trombone, and only just!)

The difference is a teacher who leads and inspires those kids to take their collective talent and do something great with it.  A teacher who assembles a staff of assistants and volunteers to bring it all together, and leads them too. 

So a tip of the hat to Mr. Kusk (even if it's one of those cheesy band hats) and a thanks to him also, for giving 155 of us something amazing to remember from way back then.

We'll talk again soon.

Don Ward

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