About 15 years ago, Joe Miller realized he was hearing a common complaint from fellow professional musicians around the Capital District: They missed playing complex, involved pieces like they had when they were studying in college.
So Miller launched the Capital Region Wind Ensemble. He wasn’t a stranger to community music groups; his dad, Chris Miller, was heavily involved with the Mechanicville City Band, and Miller essentially found his love of music among the members there.
From the beginning, though, the wind ensemble differentiated itself from other groups in the area.
The 45 members are largely current and retired music educators, and their focus extends beyond typical town band fare such as patriotic marches and medleys to classical and contemporary band literature.
Residents can hear the difference for themselves at the wind ensemble’s third concert of the season on Sunday, June 8, at Schenectady County Community College. Slated for 3 p.m. in the college’s Carl B. Taylor Community Auditorium, the show will feature numbers such as Brehmer’s Early Light and Tichelli’s `Sun Dance.`
Brett Wery, who conducts the wind ensemble at SCCC, joined the Capital Region Wind Ensemble in 1996, two years after its founding. He played the E flat clarinet — a terrible instrument, he joked, that is `high and squeaking.`
Like other members, though, Wery is serious about his music, and he found the wind ensemble was a great place to immerse himself in the kind of elaborate compositions he didn’t get a chance to regularly play.
`It started with a lot of like-minded people,` Wery said. `I think it’s the love of literature that makes it work.`
The fondness for the music isn’t all the members have in common. Wery said the group is one of the closest he’s ever played in, with members thinking of one another like family.
So when Miller, who retired from teaching music in the Shenendehowa school district, announced a few years ago that he was moving to Florida, members were determined to keep the wind ensemble going despite his absence.
`Everyone in the group was having a great time,` Wery said. `We’re all great friends.`
Miller tapped Wery to take over as music director and conductor. The two keep in regular touch via e-mail, and Wery never hesitates to bounce ideas and brainstorms off Miller.
`He’s still connected to the group in a meaningful way,` Wery said.
Because of Wery’s affiliation with SCCC, the group was able to start practicing there, and it’s now SCCC’s wind ensemble in residence. It puts on three shows a year; the first features a smaller group of only about a dozen musicians, the second incorporates high school students, and the third, which is what Sunday’s show will be, tends to be a little `lighter,` according to Wery. That means that in addition to the deeper literature pieces, there are some tunes that the audience should recognize.
`We’re always going to have music that’s familiar,` Wery said.
The ensemble stages only three practices per concert, which Wery said is possible because of the passion they have for their craft.
`They’re doing this out of the love for the music,` he said. `I can trust them to come really prepared.`
As for the audience, Wery just asks that people come to the concerts with an open mind.
`I’ve had a lot of people tell me, ‘I didn’t think I was going to like that kind of music,’` he said. But the ensemble surprises them by putting on an `informative, highly entertaining show,` he said.
`It’s just a thrilling sound,` he said. `It’s so athletic to hear it go down. You can really see individuals making it happen.`
Tickets for Sunday’s show are $8 for adults and $6 for students.“