South Charlotte

Brass band brings variety to Charlotte music scene

Charlotte is home to a diverse music scene, offering styles from classical to alternative and everything in between.

One musical style that Charlotteans may not be familiar with is brass music. The Queen City Brass Band is hoping to change that.

The Queen City Brass Band, founded in 1992, is a member of the North American Brass Band Association and models a traditional British brass band.

Unlike its American-style counterparts, the British style does not use woodwinds, French horns or trumpets.

Some of the instruments that are part of the band include several types of cornets and horns, trombones, tuba and percussion. The sound is bright and rich but somewhat mellower than the American style.

The 25 current members, all volunteers, range in age from the mid-20s to 80 and represent a wide range of life experiences, having been brought together by their shared love of music. The day jobs of band members are varied, including a lawyer, computer experts, music teachers, pilots, engineers, Salvation Army members and several people who work in the health field.

Richard Spangler, 56, a cornet player and band public relations director, has been part of the band since it first started. An electrical engineer, he loves to share the "gorgeous musical sound" of the "unique musical art form" produced by the band.

"The joy comes from seeing the audience reaction," said Spangler.

Tim Hartman, 57, a percussionist and band webmaster, is a U.S. Airways pilot, who learned about the band from a fellow pilot who was a member. Hartman rekindled his musical interest after many years of inactivity, when a friend gave him a drum set as a birthday present 13 years ago. Even with his busy schedule of traveling to Europe several times a month, he has only missed one concert because of flying.

Ron Follmer, 75, currently plays the flugelhorn for the band but also plays a variety of musical instruments. Follmer, who retired in 2009 from a 40-year career as a neurologist, made time for the band even when he had a demanding schedule as a doctor, although medical emergencies did occasionally result in a missed musical session. In fact, Follmer said he found the Queen City Brass Band a refuge in a way.

The Queen City Brass Band plays at public and private events in the Charlotte area, many times at no charge. Some past concerts and venues they have played include: the Southern Christmas Show, prelude to Charlotte Symphony Summer Pops at SouthPark mall, the Mint Hill Summer Concert Series and the Myers Park 100th anniversary.

The band has given and continues to give of their time and talent, playing at charity events over the years, such as for the Epilepsy Foundation and a benefit for cystic fibrosis.

As a nonprofit organization, any revenue generated by Queen City Brass Band goes directly back into the band, for expenses such as instrument upkeep and purchasing new music.

They practice most Monday nights at the Salvation Army facility on Marsh Road in south Charlotte, where they also perform several free concerts a year. They are always looking for new members and welcome new players to join a rehearsal (anytime except a dress rehearsal), to see if they enjoy the music and would make a good fit as a member of the band.

Concerts are generally between 1 1/2 hours long and encompass a broad repertoire of music, which can include marches, classical, jazz, movie scores, hymns, show tunes and original pieces.

The Queen City Brass Band offers an enjoyable, unusual experience that is not available everywhere.