Four TCNJ alumni and current members of the Princeton Brass Band, along with Facutly and Music Department Chair Gary Fienberg won the national title at the North American Brass Band Association’s 31st national championship held last weekend in Cincinnatti, Ohio. Alums Jason Schafer (2003), Alex Costantino (2005) Ryan Hewitt (2007), and Brian Plagge (2010) competed with 21 bands from around the country, taking the top honors as winners of the competition’s championship section.
The Princeton Brass band was founded in 2004 with Professor Fienberg as one of its founding members as Principle Solo Cornetist. Fienberg inducted into the band’s cornet section three graduates from his Trumpet Studio: Schafer, Hewitt and Plagge; Costantino is a tubist who was also a member of the Brass Ensemble at TCNJ when it was directed by Fienberg.
The Princeton Brass band is modeled after the British Brass Band tradition in which 28 brass instruments comprise a standard instrumentation. The early brass bands were formed in England at the beginning of the 20th century by coal mining companies with an elaborate and highly competitive “contesting” tradition. Since that time, “brass-banding” has become an international phenomenon with an estimated 10,000 bands worldwide! In England, the top bands and their featured soloists hold celebrity status.
The Princeton Brass Band entered its first competition in 2006 with a ten-year plan to reach the “championship section” of the competition with the top bands and where the most challenging repertoire is performed. This year was Princeton’s first appearance in the top section, causing a major upset by besting eight bands, five of whom have held the title at various times.