Brass quintet plans armed forces tribute


News staff writer

November 8, 2006

It was the first time the Gorge Brass Quintet had viewed the Armed Forces Salute that they would be playing publicly in less than one month — but they weren’t worried.

After all, it was mid-October and they had one more practice session prior to a performance before a large crowd on Veterans Day in Hood River. (See Mom tells ‘Angel’ story at Veterans ceremony in related story.)

However, the players were already members of the Columbia Gorge Sinfonietta and/or Gorge Winds Band so they had the basics down.

Their ease with an instrument became apparent moments later. The medley for the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard ranged from the peppy to the poignant. And the musical shifts made by the group were almost flawless from the first reading of notes.

The Nov. 11 mission of the Gorge Brass Quintet is to pay tribute to veterans and military personnel now on active duty around the world. The instrumentalists behind the patriotic melodies will be: Jerry Keith, tuba; Kate Brownback, trumpet, Eric Ohlson, trombone, Sam Grotte, trumpet; and, Carol Goter, French horn.

“Being in a quintet is really fun because you get to play a lot,” said Ohlson, director of Hood River’s own Old Glory Marching Band.

In addition to the songs that represent each branch of the armed forces, the quintet will play the National Anthem. The brass specialists are already familiar with that song since they aired it at the local Sept. 11 service to honor fallen emergency responders.

The musicians also accompanied the Mid-Columbia Community Choir at the August memorial service for Navy SEAL Marc Lee, a hometown hero who died in Iraq.

Late last spring, Keith asked Grotte, director of Gorge Winds, and the other musicians if they were interested in forming an informal group. Their immediate reply was a resounding “yes” for the added opportunity to further their talents.

“Jerry e-mailed me and I immediately said that I would be honored,” said Brownback, who is becoming well-known for her haunting rendition of Taps, which will end Saturday’s ceremony.

The quintet has learned that the first order of business in any practice session — held every two months or so — is to appease Keith.

Since his tuba frequently has a lesser role in musical selections, he thoroughly enjoys taking the lead in the fast-paced Killer Tango.

“Tubas don’t usually get that many notes. So, I guess this has sort of become our theme song by default,” said Keith.

In just a few months, the quintet has already earned enough notoriety to play at the two local memorial services and a Catholic ordination. They are now performing in the Beauty and the Beast orchestra and will join Christmas services at several area churches.

For more information on the Gorge Brass Quintet call Keith at (541) 399-2729 or e-mail

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