History of the Southern Stars Symphonic Brass

The Southern Stars Symphonic Brass is a 30 musician strong ensemble based on the British brass band format.  The instruments utilized are Eb Soprano cornet, Bb Cornets, Flugelhorn, Eb Alto Horns, Baritones, Euphoniums, Tenor and Bass Trombones, Eb & Bb Tubas, and 3 percussionists playing tympani, snare & bass drums, xylophone, chimes, cymbals, marimba, vibraphone, concert bells, and miscellaneous other small percussion equipment.

The Southern Stars Symphonic Brass were organized in early 2008 by Dwight Wages who had recently retired to the Cumberland plateau after a 38 year career with Procter and Gamble.  Dwight had previously been active as a musician with two other brass bands……the Cincinnati Brass Band and the Intrada Brass Band (Toronto), and was very keen on continuing his activity with this unique ensemble.

Upon moving he found that there was no brass band within reasonable driving distance, so he decided to look at organizing one where he lived to avoid having to personally drive far to participate in the music that he loved.  He contacted Charles Decker (TTU trumpet professor, in Cookeville, Tn) and Charles supplied him with the names of possible musicians in Eastern and Middle TN whom he believed might be interested in Dwight’s vision.  The response to an email sent by Dwight to recruit musicians showed that there was a sufficient nucleus to begin rehearsals, and the first rehearsal began in February 2008.  Musicians in the group hail from Knoxville, Chattanooga, Murfreesboro, Nashville, Cookeville, Crossville areas and also a few from Williamsburg, KY………….and most drive 1-2.5 hours (each way) to come to rehearsals and concerts.

From the beginning, Dwight made the decision that the group would be organized as a professional ensemble where the musicians would be compensated for their rehearsals and concerts.  In acknowledgement of the musician’s busy schedules and travel distances, the Band only rehearses one Saturday/month for 3 hours…which means they need to come to the rehearsals with their parts completely prepared.  The Band typically prepares a full concert of new music with only 2 rehearsals and does this against their motto of providing “Premium Entertainment”.  Feedback from their audiences indicates that they are very impressed with the top quality of their performances and variety of music programmed.

The name Southern Stars Symphonic Brass was selected for the following reasons:  1) The Band is drawn from Eastern & Middle Tennessee from the area’s top brass and percussion musicians…therefore, they are “Southern Stars”;    2)  The Band plays music representative of a wide variety of styles and genres…often doing orchestral transcriptions.  They pride themselves in being able to play with sensitivity and dynamics that audiences expect from a symphony orchestra…therefore the use of “Symphonic” in the name;  and 3) Lastly, the ensemble is 30 musicians strong…27 brass and 3 percussionist musicians.  Since the group is predominately brass instrumentalists, the final part of the name… “Brass”.

Since their inaugural concert in April 2008, the band has given over 45 concerts in their 11 years of existence.    They perform a 3 concert series in Crossville (their geographic home and rehearsal location) as well as other concerts throughout the area.  In recognition of their growing reputation, the Southern Stars performed for an estimated audience of 3500 at the Great American Brass Band Festival on June 12, 2010 in Danville, Kentucky.    This was the 21st anniversary for the GABBF and is a very prestigious event which shows that the Band is on target for achieving their goal of being recognized as a top brass band in North America after being invited back to the Festival for a 3 concert performance in 2018.

The Band is now in their 11th full season of concerts.  They are kicking off their 2018/2019 season with a 4 concert series in Crossville with performance dates of September 23 and December 1, 2018, and February 10 and April 28, 2019. They will, also, be performing once again at the Cumberland County Playhouse on Saturday, May 25, 2019!