ASHTABULA COUNTY – The Ashtabula Brass Band, a traditional British bass ensemble performing public concerts countywide, has a new director who plans to expand programming in an effort to increase the group’s profile and provide both entertainment and music education to local residents.
Robert “Bo” Violette took over the director’s seat with the Ashtabula Brass Band late last year and he said he has ambitious plans to increase the number of shows and the programs performed throughout Ashtabula County and beyond.
“I started with the Christmas program last year, which is fairly standard,” Violette said. “I’ve also brought back a program from when the band started which teaches what an English brass band is – I’ve titled it, ‘The British Are Coming.’ It brings all the works of English composers and British music in general. That way, we’re getting to explore English music and composers as well as teach people about the English brass bands – why you don’t see French horns and instead we have tenor horns, the subtle differences in why we have coronets instead of trumpets, the different styles of tubas – things like that.”
Violette, only 24 years old, hails from Niles and commutes to practice Tuesday evenings at Geneva Middle School, where he works with the 33 members of the Ashtabula Brass Band on their chops.
“I tell the band I bring my youthfulness – that sometimes gets me in trouble because I like to go a little quicker and be a little more adventurous with things than some of the old warhorse band directors of the day,” Violette said.
The new director is also a music student working on completing his bachelor’s degree, as well as volunteer work with youth and adult music groups in the area.
“I’m a trombone player to start off and I coach a lot of brass and I just like the brass instruments in general – it’s the power,” Violette said. “I’m finishing up my bachelor’s degree in trombone performance at the Dana School of Music at Youngstown [State University]. I do a lot of work with youth symphony and bands down south in the Youngstown are and Trumbull County.”
Violette brings a background in brass ensemble performances under several well-known directors to bear when programming performances with the Ashtabula Brass Band.
“I take a lot of orchestral programming and I try to bring it here,” Violette said. “I come from a standpoint where all of my teachers have either played in River City Brass Band in Pittsburgh or in larger ensembles in the greater Northeast Ohio or Allegany Regions. I try to bring that knowledge here and try to make it fun.”
Looking ahead, Violette is planning a summer concert series with a different theme and expanding programming.
“My goal is to get us to play more,” Violette said. “When I came on board they used to do four concerts a year, two for each program. They did two at Christmas and two during the spring. We did our two Christmas concerts, this is our first set of three concerts and I’m going to be reprogramming for an Americana set which will also run for three or four concerts or more because it’s the summer.”
For more information on the Ashtabula Brass Band and for a schedule of concerts, please go to facebook.com/AshtabulaBrassBand.
Pictured is the Ashtabula Brass Band, a traditional British bass ensemble, before one of its Christmas concerts last year under the direction of new director Robert “Bo” Violette (front row, at right).