By Don Thrasher
December 1, 2024
It will be a case of worlds colliding for Ashley Hall-Tighe when Canadian Brass joins the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra for a holiday pops concert at the Schuster Center in Dayton on Saturday, Dec. 2. The trumpet player, who joined the ensemble this summer, grew up in southwest Virginia but spent much of her adult life in the Cincinnati area.
Hall-Tighe, who was a member of the Dayton Philharmonic and Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, first came to Ohio in 1999 to attend Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. She is now an adjunct faculty member at the school, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in trumpet performance.
After about a decade away, Hall-Tighe and her family returned to the area last year. She was thrilled but completely surprised when she was asked to join Canadian Brass, which formed in Toronto in 1970 by Charles Daellenbach (tuba) and Gene Watts (trombone). The original lineup also featured Graeme Page (French horn), Stuart Laughton (trumpet) and Bill Phillips (trumpet).
Daellenbach is the only remaining original member of Canadian Brass but the internationally renowned ensemble features others with long associations. Jeff Nelson (French horn) was in the group from 2001 to 2004, 2007 to 2010 and 2018 to present. Joe Burgstaller (trumpet), a member from 2001 to 2004 and 2007 to 2009, returned to the quintet in June. The longest tenured member after Daellenbach, Achilles Liarmakopoulos (trombone), joined in 2011.
Hall-Tighe, who is the second female member of Canadian Brass, recently discussed her new musical venture.
Q: How long have you been back in the area?
A: We moved back to the Cincinnati area last summer. I was third trumpet with the Dayton Philharmonic from 2003 to 2011. Then in 2012 we started moving all around the country for my husband’s medical training. I resigned from the orchestra in 2011 but we always thought our roots would bring us back to this area. We love this whole part of Ohio. When my husband was looking for a job, number one on that list was Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, which is where he works now.
Q: How has it been returning to the area?
A: It feels like coming home. I’ve always felt that way. In 2008, I won the principal trumpet job with the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra. Although I couldn’t continue my work with the Dayton Philharmonic when we moved all around, I kept my connection with the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra. I’d fly in and out or drive in and out. I really maintained so many of the relationships I had here in Cincinnati as I came to visit and play with the Chamber Orchestra. It felt very easy to be back. We love it. We’re glad we decided to move back.
Q: What was your first encounter with Canadian Brass?
A: I met them in 2001. I was a student at a big summer festival called the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, California. We had a two-week residency with Canadian Brass. It’s interesting because most of the members of the current group were members back in 2001. Through the residency, we had an opportunity to be coached by Canadian Brass and take lessons with them, but we also got a chance to perform with them. That’s really what started my relationship with so many of those members.
Q: How did you come to join Canadian Brass two decades later?
A: I tell students all the time the relationships you make when you’re young matter more than you think. Back in 2001, I had an incredible experience playing with Canadian Brass on stage. There was this thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be incredible if one day I actually got to play with them as a member?’ That’s one of those things like, ‘Yeah, you’re going to be in the NBA, ha, ha, ha.’ (laughs) Social media keeps you all connected so we stayed in touch. Then, in April of this year, I got a text message out of the blue from Jeff Nelson, the horn player. He said, ‘What would you think about joining Canadian Brass one day?’ I screenshotted the text and immediately shot it off to my husband with probably a few expletives. He wrote back and said, ‘Whoa, what are you going do?’ I said, ‘Well, I’m going to explore what this looks like, of course.’ So, I got on a Zoom call with the Canadian Brass to talk, get to know each other and hear more before I agreed to it.
Q: Once you joined, you had to learn the repertoire for the fall tour and then the holiday program. How was that?
A: That’s really the hardest job. It’s like anything you do new. The first year is always the hardest. Whether it’s a new academic job or a new orchestra job, it’s all new. The tricky thing about Canadian Brass is we’re talking 150 albums worth of music and 53 years of music and touring. They can call any piece and they’ve played it 1,000 times, but you’re exactly right, I’m memorizing new music and learning all of it. We have a different show for the Dayton orchestra show than we do for all the other holiday shows so it’s a lot of work between now and then.
Q: What does it mean to return to the Schuster Center and perform with the DPO?
A: I’m so excited. I have so many friends in the orchestra. I know the whole brass section extremely well. When I moved back to the area, I wanted to sub with the Dayton Philharmonic. I’ve already been back at the Schuster Center. I got a last-minute call last year to do the Fleetwood Mac tribute concert with the DPO. It was fun to be back on the Schuster Center stage. I (also) subbed for the Memorial Day concert. It’s been fun to be back in the section again, but it’s going to be really special to return in this way. I’m really looking forward to it.