Western Reserve band returns for 9th year

Keith M. Wilkinson, musical director of the Brass Band of the Western Reserve, conducts the band during its Amphitheater performance last season. Daily file photo.

The vibrant brass band sound that has become a staple of the Chautauqua season returns to the Amphitheater at 2:30 p.m. Sunday when the Brass Band of the Western Reserve graces the stage once again.

Now in its 14th year, the group of brass players and percussionists from Northeast Ohio has grown to become of the country’s elite brass bands, competing year after year in the Championship Section of the North American Brass Band Championships. They have performed at Chautauqua every year since 2004.

“When we play, we give our everything in terms of making music,” said the band’s director, Keith M. Wilkson, in a previous interview with The Chautauquan Daily. “We play high quality, and we play good repertoire, so we don’t hold anything back.”

Membership of the band is by audition and, in addition to music educators and music students, several other professions are represented including accountant, attorney, information technology specialist, pastor and truck driver. Since 2000, the band has been an ambassador for the University of Akron, bearing the title Ensemble-In-Residence.

The term “Western Reserve” refers to a patch of land in northeast Ohio previously owned by the state of Connecticut in the 18th century. Members of the Brass Band of the Western Reserve picked that name to highlight the group’s diverse geographical makeup.

Wilkinson said it’s the Amphitheater audience that keeps the group coming back to the Institution.

“We’ve always found that the Chautauqua audience likes what we do, the variety of music we perform and the quality of the band’s performance,” he said. “We just love the venue for all sorts of reasons. It’s a lovely place to play.”