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Avant-Garde Marching Band to Perform at Juniata College

(Posted October 14, 2013)

The Asphalt Orchestra will bring the outdoor energy of a parade band to Juniata College at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 26, in Rosenberger Auditorium in the Halbritter Center for the Performing Arts.

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Anyone who has attended a high school football game in central Pennsylvania can appreciate a well-drilled marching band, but at Juniata College the Asphalt Orchestra will bring the outdoor energy of a parade band indoors while playing avant-garde music that is light years beyond "Hail to the Victors" at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 26, in Rosenberger Auditorium in the Halbritter Center for the Performing Arts.

For tickets and information about the Juniata College Presents series, please call (814) 641-JTIX (5849). General admission tickets for single performances are $20, except where otherwise noted. Single-show tickets for seniors over age 65 and children age 18 and under are $12. Juniata College students are admitted free with a student ID.

Instead of rousing versions of "Hang on Sloopy," "Green Onions" or "Beat It," the 12-piece Asphalt Orchestra adapts music from such composers as David Byrne (Talking Heads), jazz great Charles Mingus and Frank Zappa. The instrumentation is familiar: trumpets, trombones, saxes, a giant tuba or sousaphone, a quad drum set, as are the precision formation moves, although they won't be doing their choreography on a football-field scale.

Be forewarned. The group may find time to do a few flash concerts around the community.

"It looked like gleeful insanity but was obviously as rigorously planned as a martial drill," wrote Jayson Greene, a critic for music website Pitchfork. "(The music was) clockmaker-intricate, but the performance felt like standing in the middle of a nine-person pillow fight."

"It looked like gleeful insanity but was obviously as rigorously planned as a martial drill. (The music was) clockmaker-intricate, but the performance felt like standing in the middle of a nine-person pillow fight."
Jayson Greene, Pitchfork.

Based in New York, the group has been known to stage a marching band concert in the middle of a Manhattan street, playing music that ranges from Bjork to Yoko Ono. At Juniata, the group will probably stay in one place playing the show "Unpack the Elephant," but the audience should be ready for controlled enthusiasm and out-of-control musical choices.

Although the ensemble's instrumentation changes, the band sports a full complement of saxophones (soprano, alto, tenor), trumpets, a trombone, a piccolo, many drums and various other instruments.

The band also wears uniforms, but in keeping with the spontaneous nature of many of their performances, the uniforms are sort of inspired by a guerilla-war-meets-marching-band-thrift-shop look.
The group is directed by saxophonist Ken Thomson and Jessica Schmitz, who plays piccolo in the group. The other members of the orchestra are: Alex Hamlin, sax; Peter Hess, tenor sax; Shane Endley, trumpet; Stephanie Richards, trumpet, Alan Ferber trombone; Jen Baker, trombone; Ken Bentley, sousaphone; Sunny Jain, snare drum; Nick Jenkins, bass drum; and Yuri Yamashita, quad drums.
Asphalt Orchestra is a member of the Bang On a Can musical collective. Asphalt Orchestra released its self-titled album in 2010 on Cantaloupe Records.

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.