There are a few reasons you might know of Battle Creek if you’re not from the area. You could know it as Cereal City, source of all tasty breakfast snacks, or from the brief Vince Gilligan television series, Battle Creek. However, there’s another reason that Battle Creek should be on your radar. This reason exists for those that care about the fine arts, want to provide an excellent learning experience and environment for kids, or for those that just enjoy some extremely well-played music. That reason is the Brass Band of Battle Creek whose Holiday Concert on December 3, 2016, is quickly approaching.
As the band’s Executive Director Jennifer Rupp explains, this is not your everyday group of musicians. The band is made up of some of the greatest and most accomplished musicians in the world. “It’s true that the band is not a community band made up of Kellogg retirees that do this for fun because that’s what I get a lot,” she jokes. As you might guess from the quality of the musicians, there’s a lot more that goes into a concert than what you see on the stage. Rupp has a hand in marketing, fundraising, and arranging the logistics of the Brass Band of Battle Creek’s concerts, just to name a few duties. “We usually start planning each concert twelve to eighteen months in advance. We plan the theme that then carries over into our marketing plan, that carries over into the music we program, the soloists we pick, all of that,” Rupp recounts.
An especially rewarding part of Rupp’s job is her ability to bring far more music to area kids than what is normally provided. When Rupp first took her job in 2010, she thought about the opportunities afforded by having a collection of world-class musicians in one place. “It started off as free master classes before every concert. We’d invite high school kids to come in, and they’d spend an hour with the Brass Band musicians,” Rupp says. “The year that reached 250 students the hour before the concert, I went, ‘Okay, this needs to become its own thing.'” That thing became Youth Brass Band Day in 2013 when kids got to spend time with the musicians throughout the entire day of the concert, including getting to perform with the Brass Band of Battle Creek. This has since transformed into the Youth Brass Band, who made their first public performance this past August and have a concert coming up on November 20, 2016 at 4 PM at St. Philip Catholic Church in Battle Creek.
The main band also performs for local elementary school children every year. “I started getting calls from elementary school teachers, ‘I’d like to bring my class in to see the band,’ or, ‘We’d like to have the band come to us,'” Rupp remembers. “I said, ‘Let’s just see.’ We’ll invite elementary schools, and if people want to come that’s great, and if they don’t, then we’ll just perform for whoever shows up. Within two weeks of my first email, I had already filled 1,866 seats, and we were at capacity.”
For Rupp, this is perhaps the most rewarding part of her job: not only providing access to music which most kids won’t receive, but also giving them skills and drive that will translate into anything that they might want to do in life. “If we can light the fire in those bellies, and they carry that fire for the rest of their lives, then you know what, we’ve accomplished our goal,” she says proudly.
For anyone looking to learn more about the band beyond this post, there are myriad opportunities available to you. Rupp started the Behind The Brass program this past year in an effort to enlighten the community about the band. “Flat out, people are not going to come to our concert if they don’t know who we are, and if we can’t get them to come to a concert, then they’re never going to feel inclined to help us outside of a concert,” she explains. The events, which take place twice a month and are totally free, are used to allow Rupp to educate those in attendance on the history and work that goes into the Brass Band of Battle Creek.
If all of this puts you in the mood for some brass music, you’re in luck! Tickets are still available for the December 2, 2016, show at the Van Singel Fine Arts Center in Byron Center, the December 3, 2016, concert at W.K. Kellogg Auditorium, and the upcoming Youth Brass Band concert. It’s always so important to appreciate and protect the arts in our communities, and Rupp along with the Brass Band of Battle Creek embody that ideal. Plus, is it ever too early for holiday music?
DISCLAIMER: The author’s mother is an employee of the Brass Band of Battle Creek.