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Pros give brass students pointers on playing their instruments

Rancho High School senior Jeremy Valdez walked out of band class Jan. 25 with something new.

“Confidence,” he said. “They’ve shown us you can really do it. You just have to work at it.”

Valdez, who plays euphonium, was referring to Presidio Brass, a San Diego-based quintet that stopped by Rancho, 1900 E. Searles Ave., to perform and give music lessons.

Presidio Brass members include Steve O’Connor, T.J. Tesh, Mike McCoy, Sean Reusch and Scott Sutherland. Between songs, members introduced themselves and explained to the class how they started playing music.

They played the themes from movies such as “Star Wars,” “Mission: Impossible,” “The Magnificent Seven” and even Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

After 45 minutes, they split into two groups and gave 30 minutes of instruction to the brass section of the band. The group preached practice above all else and gave tips on various techniques to improve their playing.

By the end of it, band director Michael West could already notice a big improvement.

“You always tell the kids the same thing over and over,” he said. “Having it told from somebody new … makes it stick a little bit better for some of the kids.”

West said the school has had several visits from professional musicians through the years, but Presidio Brass is the best he has seen.

“I love their energy, their enthusiasm and their willingness to help the students,” he said. “Their musicianship is off the scale. They love to interact with the kids and not just promote themselves. They’re coming out to promote education and good musicianship. That’s what makes them stand out.”

Valdez said his favorite part was listening to Presidio Brass perform, but he also came away with a desire to improve.

“Even though we’re only high schoolers, to get this kind of treatment and instruction was wonderful.”

Presidio Brass formed in 2006 to promote music education and appreciation in youths, said McCoy, who also plays French horn in the Las Vegas Philharmonic. Along the way, the band also started touring professionally. In any city it plays, Presidio Brass always visits schools to give free workshops. The band has played in 35 states and Canada and plans a trip to China in September.

“We’re at schools a lot,” McCoy said. “The group was designed to do education outreach. The (performance) aspect picked up (later).

“Budgets were being cut left and right in the arts in California. We wanted to do something proactive because we can all remember that spark we had growing up that made us say, ‘Yeah, this is what I want to do.’ ”

While in Las Vegas, Presidio also gave educational concerts at the Historic Fifth Street School, 401 S. Fourth St.

For more information, visit presidiobrass.com.

Contact View education reporter Jeff Mosier at jmosier@viewnews.com or 702-224-5524.

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