Arkansas Brass quintet concert to mix music, humor

Local Q Writer
Posted: Dec. 7, 2017 9:20 am

QUINCY - James Woolly's childhood was a little unusual. He grew up in a residential school where his father was the superintendent. His father had to put extra hooks and locks on the doors to keep his son from sneaking off to class, particularly music class.

Woolly's love for music has only grown. He's been playing the horn for 64 years, and he's been in Arkansas Brass -- a quintet he was instrumental in forming -- for 31 years.

This weekend, Arkansas Brass will perform in Quincy. The performance, presented by the Quincy Civic Music Association, will be held at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at John Wood Community College's Mary Ellen Orr Auditorium.

Advance tickets cost $15 and can be purchased at the Quincy Hy-Vee locations on Broadway and Harrison, Kirlin's in the Quincy Mall, Brown Drug, Quincy Steamboat, Second String Music and the Quincy School Music Center as well as Java Jive in Hannibal, Mo.

Advance tickets can also be purchased online at quincycivicmusic.org or by mail. Individual tickets will cost $17 at the door. Students in high school and younger will be admitted for free. Many college students are admitted for free, as well.

Woolly knows its special that Arkansas Brass has been together for so long.

"We're in our 31st year. If you know anything about music groups, that's unusual. Even the Beatles couldn't last that long. Most likely you can't find people you can get along with. You get into artistic arguments and you fold up," he said. "Fortunately, we hit it with a bunch of people who do get along and an atmosphere where anybody can say anything about something that's going on and no offense is taken."

Three of the members of the quintet have doctorates in music and two have masters in music. All of them teach music. One reason the quintet works so well together may be because of their shared love of not just performing but also teaching.

Woolly says they all teach their students "You don't choose to be a musician. It chooses you."

Arkansas Brass also collectively loves to work with young kids.

"All of us feel really strongly about giving to kids, so one of the things we do through the art organizations in Arkansas is tour and play in schools," Woolly said.

The quintet often goes out on little trips to about six to eight schools in two days and plays concerts. Woolly said the group likes to have kids come up and look at the instruments and even play them after the shows.

"We talk to them about how important it is to be in music and how much fun it is, and we tell them to look at all these gray-headed guys up here because we started in a school music program just like they have the chance to be in and we're still at it," he said.

As for this weekend's show, Woolly says Arkansas Brass will be performing a diverse program. They will be playing music from the Renaissance to modern day. Their musical selections also range from jazz to slow ballads and a couple of pieces written specifically for brass quintets.

He says the concert will not consist of the group simply getting up on the stage and playing music. There will be introductions and also a little humor.

"We try to make it a very entertaining program," he said. "We try to connect with the audience by greeting them and talking to them."

For more information about the concert or the QCMA, visit the quincycivicmusic.org or call 217-224-5499.