Monumental Brass Quintet

Photos by Emory Hensley

The Monumental Brass Quintet (MBQ) is a prize-winning ensemble that annually brings its own brand of spirited virtuosity to concert halls across North America. In 2009 the Monumental Brass Quintet released their third album Sacred Circle as their debut appearance as artists on the Summit Records label. Critics have hailed MBQ as, “An amazingly diverse ensemble that performs with exceptional emotional intensity.” In the Washington DC area, the MBQ has appeared at the Kennedy Center, Wolf Trap Theater in the Woods, Smithsonian Museums, Meyherhoff Symphony Hall, DAR Constitution Hall, Strathmore Mansion, Warner Theater, THEARC, Sitar Center, the Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center and Lisner Auditorium. MBQ conducts several school-based workshops, camps, master classes, and concerts each year.  

Listen to Tin Roof Blues and La Primavera recorded by the Monumental Brass Quintet in the Music Player.

History of the Monumental Brass Quintet

As a junior in high school I discovered the joy of the glorious sound of brass chamber music.  While performing my first ever brass ensemble concert, I remember the moment I fell head over heals in love with this kind of music making.   Born in that special moment was my passion for the genre, and that passion inspired me to found the Monumental Brass Quintet (MBQ) in 1978.  It’s been rewarding and quite a thrill to play trumpet and lead the group over the years,  as the MBQ has amassed an impressive  track record.

When I founded the Monumental Brass back in the 1970’s I knew nothing about the business of music.  I had to learn the business side of music, in particular chamber music, from scratch ... promotion, booking gigs, networking, grant writing, programing, creating a vision, negotiating contracts, and just plain stick-to-it-tive-ness ( my word ).  It’s been exciting to have been involved in the group's day to day artistic and business operations from 1978- 2005.   During the mid 1980’s to early 2000s the quintet performed 80 - 100+ engagements annually.  

As a prize winning ensemble of the Rafael Mendez International Brass Quintet Competition and the Baltimore Chamber Music Awards Competition held at the Peabody Conservatory , the MBQ then began an affiliation with Columbia Artists Management in New York City.  The group has performed numerous coast-to-coast, border-to-border tours of the United States and has also appeared in Canada.  The ensemble has recorded three albums, the latest on the Summit Records label, has appeared on both television and radio, and has commissioned and premiered new compositions and arrangements for brass quintet.      

Among the group’s many local accomplishments:

  • The MBQ has performed concerts at most of Washington DC’s major venues including the Smithsonian’s Hall of Musical Instruments, National Portrait Gallery, Baird Auditorium, Corcoran Gallery of Art, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Lisner Auditorium, Embassy of Austria, National Building Museum, Library of Congress, and Strathmore Hall.  
  • The MBQ has given 14 concert hall performances at  The Kennedy Center’s Annual Salute to the Presidential Scholars in the Arts.  
  • The group has also given multiple concerts on the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage and Terrace Theatre.  
  • The ensemble has performed for the annual traditional Red Mass at Washington’s St. Matthew’s Cathedral with all members of the US Supreme Court, members of Congress, and the President and First Lady of the United States (then President George H.W. Bush and wife Barbara)  in attendance.  
  • When the  Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum’s  hosted the official  gala celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the first moon landing with all of NASA’s  Apollo 11 astronauts in attendance, the Monumental Brass Quintet provided the music.  
  •  It was the MBQ that performed for the National Zoo’s 100th Anniversary ceremony with First Lady Barbara Bush as Mistress of Ceremony.
  • Baltimore Symphony’s Top Brass Program called on the Monumental Brass Quintet to perform at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall for Maryland’s governor and top regional business leaders.  
  • At the Austrian ambassador’s personal request, the MBQ performed for the opening of the new Embassy of Austria building in Washington DC which resulted with yet another request from the Ambassador … that the MBQ perform a personal birthday concert for him each of the years he remained in Washington … a request that the MBQ proudly honored.     
  • As part of Yehudi Menuhin’s “Live Music Now!” program, the MBQ brought live music to special populations not ordinarily exposed to the vibrant  energy of live performances … such as Mitch Snyder’s D Street Homeless Shelter, St. John’s Child Development Center, DC Village,  Children’s Hospital, and half way houses and homeless shelters throughout the DC region. 
  • The MBQ also made a solid commitment to education.  From 1989 - 2005, the MBQ were Artists - in - Residence at the Levine School of Music in Washington DC,  where the ensemble started and grew the school’s brass program.  At Levine the MBQ was able to expand from one private brass student to 50 and from no brass ensembles to 5 - 8, depending on the semester, including presenting and  hosting an annual student  brass ensemble concert series at the  National Building Museum.  For many years the MBQ hosted an Annual Brass Weekend at the Levine School which included guest artists such as The Canadian Brass,  Toby Hanks, C. Douglas Wright, John Manning, Marty Hackleman, Chris Gekker, David Fedderly and others.  
  • The MBQ maintained long associations on the artist rosters of Maryland State Arts Council’s Artist in Education, with three Young Audiences Chapters  ( DC … Maryland .. and Virginia), Class Acts Arts,  The Washington Performing Arts Society , and Living Arts of Pennsylvania.  The MBQ has performed educational concerts, programs, and masterclasses for tens of thousands of school students throughout the mid-Atlantic region.  Additionally the MBQ has done outreach performances for the Kennedy Center’s Educational Department.  
  • The MBQ has served as  educational artists - in - residence for the state of  Nevada, the Lake Tahoe School District and in several school districts in Delaware.    
  • For nine years the Monumental Brass Quintet were artists - in - residence at the FM Kirby Center for the Arts in Wilkes - Barre, PA.  The MBQ in collaboration with FM Kirby Center management founded the center’s annual Brass Fest.  Brass Fest was a well attended two day educational workshop for middle and high school band students from northwestern Pennsylvania and southern New York state.    
  • In 2003, the Monumental Brass began hosting  its own annual summer camp, The Summer Brass Institute ( SBI ).  Tailored for middle and high school students, SBI provides a unique comprehensive brass chamber music experience for young brass musicians throughout central Maryland.  Due to Covid 19 , the MBQ presented its first ever virtual SBI in summer 2020 .
  •  The MBQ has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, The Maryland State Arts Council, the Prince George’s Arts Council, The Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Chamber Music America, and the Levine School of Music.   

Currently, although enjoying a much less active schedule, the MBQ primarily focuses on  presenting its annual Summer Brass Institute and performs some concerts and special events.