I was a very specific kid in high school. I was the president and drum major of the band. I was the president of the chorus. And I was the president of the drama club. I played drums in a rock band.  I loved music, theater, performing, and creating. So needless to say, when YouTube came onto the scene, I spent a lot of time looking up videos of my favorite musical groups. 
There was one video that I can accurately say altered the trajectory of my life. And that is Mnozil Brass’s rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody. This group, seemingly, was catered to my exact passions – singing, brass playing, theater, arranging, classic rock. I wish I could remember my first reactions exactly. But I remember being so excited about it that I made my brother watch it the second he got home from a 2 week trip to Germany. He walked in the door and I said “sit down and watch this.” It was his lukewarm reaction that made me realize that I had to stop talking like a crazy person to other people about this group. That was 2007.

In 2012, I had the opportunity to travel to Linz, Austria for the International Tuba Euphonium Conference. It was the summer after my sophomore year at Penn State. I was studying with Velvet Brown and our tuba/euphonium ensemble was selected to perform at the conference. One of the featured concerts at that conference was Mnozil Brass. And they absolutely blew my mind that night.

I was lucky to see them a number of times since then. A few Penn State studio-mates and myself were able to score front row tickets at a concert in Pennsylvania. We drove 2 hours one-way just to see the show. And when Mnozil visited Austin in 2017, my friends and I were able to meet them for drinks after their show – a fact that would have made 2007 Drew faint. 

Mnozil has been a huge influence on me as a musician as well as the evolution of FivE, the euphonium quartet I play with. The following video is one of the biggest catalysts to that group writing our own music, staging our own shows, and finding a unique way to express our artistic expressions. 

This video is titled “Magic Moments” which,  I only found out recently,  is NOT the name of the tune. It starts off as a languorous, melancholy arrangement of Erik Satie’s Gnossienne No. 1. It then transitions into a raucous tune called Navigatore by French composer Renaud Garcia-Fons. These two pieces don’t seemingly have anything to do with each other, but in this performance they fit together so perfectly. The arrangement of the Satie is stark. The texture is thin, the soloists are just floating over a pedal. And then the Garcia-Fons piece begins with an epic rhythmic ostinato followed by a flurry of notes from the trumpets. A vast contrast from the sorrow of the Satie. We are on a journey. 
Just at about the half-way point everything stops and the brass players become a percussion section. This is one of the things that inspired FivE – using instruments in non-traditional ways. If you listen closely, with headphones, you can hear the trumpet players changing their fingerings to add to the chord progression set up by the trombone. And then the solo begins.
Leonhard Paul plays this solo on a bass trumpet – very similar to the instrument I played for marching band in high school. Seeing someone play in this style on that instrument was so impactful to how I approached what I wanted to accomplish as a musician. As a euphonium player, I often feel like I have to play certain pieces or a certain way. But that doesn’t excite me. This does.
The slow build of this solo and accompaniment builds is breathtaking. You don’t even realize that the percussion parts stop and the rest of the ensemble is playing by the end of it. And the solo itself is crafted in such a musical, melodic way. There is a specific 8-second snippet, starting at 6:52 in the video, that has shaped my musical thinking since the moment I heard it. 
Overall the arrangement and performance/presentation of these 2 pieces can be described in one word: Satisfying. The architecture of the overall arrangement, the relationship between the pieces, the way the solo section builds, and not to mention some seriously incredible brass playing. I am just amazed and inspired every time I watch this video.
I wonder if other people have really specific recordings or even memories like this? What inspired you to begin with? I love asking that question because it acts as a sort of north star. Something that reminds you “Yes, this is why I love to do this”. I hope you can continually feed that energy when you’re out there practicing and performing and doing the thing. Go get inspired!

What I’m listening to: Everyone few months I binge a bunch of Voices of Liberty videos. Jaw dropping performances every time. 

What I’m eating/drinking: Nerds Gummy Clusters. Reader, run don’t walk to the nearest candy retailer. I’m telling you they’re amazing.

What I’m watching: Season 3 of the Mandalorian just premiered on Disney+ this week and it was enjoyable. But some of my favorite writers/podcasters disagree.