The Gateways Brass Collective (GBC) is an all-African-American quintet that “continues to break new ground inspiring artists from all backgrounds” through their dynamic performances and outstanding educational outreach. Formed in 2018, the group includes Isrea Butler (Trombone), Larry Williams (French Horn), Herbert Smith, and Courtney Jones (Trumpets) and Jerome Stover (Tuba). Each musician within GBC teaches at the collegiate level and hosts educational clinics and masterclasses outside of their performance schedules.
The quintet is underwritten and sponsored by NAMM member Conn-Selmer and collaborates with the company’s educational division to “pioneer innovative performances and workshops on a variety of topics. To have the widest reach, GBC frequently partners with multiple organizations, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities National Band and Orchestra Directors Consortium; the Midwest Clinic International Band, Orchestra, and Music Conference; Eastman School of Music, Florida Atlantic University Brass Day, and Buffalo State University.
We spoke with Butler, who shared his excitement for The NAMM Show. “We have been anticipating this event and continuing our partnership with NAMM and Conn-Selmer live on stage and in person for more than two years.” He also shared the sentiment that music education is more than just teaching students how to play an instrument, but it provides a safe space for young people to receive nurturing, mentorship, and a place of belonging, all facilitated by music educators. Butler encourages students aspiring to become professional musicians to “Work harder than you think you need to and never give up on your dreams. The business of music may be challenging, but it can be so rewarding when you achieve your goals.”
GBC, which plays exclusively on Bach and Conn brass instruments, is an excellent representation of Conn’s mission to support music education. The NAMM member believes that music education is a “fundamental part of student development” in schools and that every child should have the opportunity to participate in music. Mike Kamphuis, Vice President for Conn-Selmer’s Division of Education, said, “Having players of their stature support our brands is an honor, and we are grateful for our partnership. GBC has a strong mission of outreach and dedication to underserved communities where students may not have typically had an opportunity to see this level of musicianship. This creates an opportunity to inspire more music makers.”
On returning to The NAMM Show, Kamphuis says, “I couldn’t be more excited. 2022 is my 20th NAMM Show, and I look forward to seeing the dealers, educators, artists, and suppliers in-person for the first time in a few years. I am excited to attend The Grand Rally for Music Education as it is a catalyst in setting the tone for the year regarding music advocacy. Partnering with The NAMM Foundation and having Gateways Brass Collective participate is an honor, and we are looking forward to a great time.”