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Meet the Musician: John Sebastian Vera

 

John Sebastian Vera is the Principal Trombone of the Connie and Gary Brandenberger Chair.

How did you pick your instrument?

Accidentally. When I chose my instrument in 5th grade they had us write down 3 choices. I wrote saxophone first because that’s what the “cool” kids play (obviously), then trumpet, then I couldn’t think of a third one so I wrote down the first instrument name that came to my head: trombone. Thankfully I couldn’t make a sound on the saxophone and they had enough trumpet players already.

You have faculty teaching positions at Youngstown State University and Slippery Rock University. What is your favorite part of teaching?

Teaching has inspired me in ways I didn’t know was possible. My mother was a school teacher for 38 years so I don’t take the privilege lightly. Learning an instrument is learning life. Helping students grow mentally and spiritually in addition to getting better at their instrument is a profound and rewarding responsibility.  Having two private studios to practice and work in outside my house is pretty rad too.

You spent a summer in Haiti teaching and performing as a volunteer. What was your most memorable part of the experience?

That summer was one of the most moving experiences of my life. I learned what the power of learning an art can do for a society. It gave this culture an identity and vehicle to express themselves, it taught them how to learn and gave them confidence. For the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, I’ve never seen a more kind, loving, and community-oriented people. They don’t feel sorry for themselves and they probably did much more for me than I did for them. …Oh and being on a boat that almost sunk in the ocean and being stranded on an island for a night with nothing was pretty memorable too ;)

What do you like most about being a member of River City Brass?

This is one of the most unique ensembles in the country if not the world, and it’s in Pittsburgh. Rarely do musicians get an opportunity to play this music with this type of ensemble on such a frequent basis and high level. It’s an amazingly unique and beautiful sound. I’ve learned so much and it’s made me a better musician. The best part is being around this group of people who are always encouraging, quick to laugh, and don’t take themselves too seriously while playing at an extremely high level.

Non-musical hobbies?

If I could travel year round I probably would. I also really enjoy reading about psychology and social science. I’m an admitted addict of all Dallas sports teams. (I’m from there, don’t hate.) I’m really bad at cooking but great at picking restaurants if that counts!

Best spot in the 'Burgh?

Ahhh too hard. I’ll cheat: Food: Gaucho, Smoke, Tessaro’s and The Vandal. Cocktails: Tender, Butterjoint,and the Livermore. The Mattress Factory Museum is worth visiting many times a year as well as the National Aviary.

Early bird or night owl?

I love mornings. Clear mind, full of optimism.

First record ever bought?

I think this question is designed to be embarrassing. I believe it was the Offspring followed by that hot Hootie and the Blowfish album.

An interesting fact about you is…

I played a trashman in a movie once. I also have two uvulas. Don’t be scared.

What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?

Follow the passion. Never be afraid of failure, that’s how you learn. Focus on the “why” more than the “what”. How are you going to help make the world a better place?


 

John Sebastian Vera also teaches at Youngstown State University and Slippery Rock, plays with the Pittsburgh Opera, and runs the the Third Coast Trombone Retreat, an eight-day trombone intensive for high school, college, and amateur trombonists from all around the United States. 

Also, be sure to check out his Instagram: johnsebastianvera

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Meet the Board: Finance Professionals Part 2

In this edition of Meet the Board, we introduce our second set of board members who are professionals in the finance industry. Meet Phil Petraglia and Karen Bostick.

Phil Petraglia

Phil Petraglia

Philip Petraglia is Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse.

Tell us a little bit about your career in finance.

After graduation from Westminster College, I worked several years in public accounting doing audit and tax work with a focus on small and medium sized companies. From there, I worked for a specialty steel manufacturer, a zoo, and a software startup.  Presently I am CFO of the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse where we work with life science entrepreneurs to assist with commercializing their technology.

What made you want to join the River City Brass Board of Directors?

Simply put, I love the sound of brass bands.  I have zero musical ability or knowledge but have great appreciation for the music of brass bands.  My wife and I have been subscribers for almost 20 years and I wanted to get involved and help.  I was thrilled when they invited me to join the Board.

Best spot in the ‘Burgh?

View from Mt. Washington overlooking the city.  My father grew up on Mt. Washington, my grandfather had a small bar and restaurant overlooking the City, and I spent many years as a kid visiting there.  No matter how many times I go up there, the view is still spectacular each and every time!

Favorite RCB concert series to date?

Even as a child, I’ve always been a little partial to Big Band music.  However, James has introduced a wide variety of music and I’ve come to enjoy and appreciate every genre played by the band.  For example, I had never heard “Pines of Rome” until the Band played it a couple years ago and now I’ll play it often on Y.

Karen Bostick with her son, Noah.

Karen Bostick with her son, Noah.

Karen Bostick is an Investment Advisor Representative at Cetera Advisor Networks, LLC.

Tell us a little bit about your career in finance.

My very first job upon graduating college was with Federated Investors, Pittsburgh’s hometown money manager.

It was the best entry into the investment world for me – excellent training, a strong focus on ethical business practices, with a vibrant and exciting company!

After many successful years providing products and services to Financial Advisors across the country, I made the change to the ‘other side of the desk’ and became an Advisor in 2001. I spent 13 years providing wealth management and retirement solutions to individual clients and businesses through a small community Bank in the Pittsburgh area. In 2014, I established my own independent company to serve a broader range of clients, all the while staying true to the original tenets of good business practices learned at Federated. I look forward to each workday – the challenges and the opportunities to help people in our community achieve financial security.

What made you want to join the River City Brass Board of Directors?

When my only son went off to college in 2014, I began seeking productive and interesting ways to fill my newly found free time. As a longtime follower of the RCB, I was thrilled when a current BOD member – my good friend Lisa Valletto – invited me to consider the opportunity. I’m a music lover and supporter of ‘all things Pittsburgh’, and promoting the RCB feels like an excellent (and fun) way to share my time and talents.

What are some hobbies you enjoy?

Travel. Food. Wine. My top three without a doubt.

Oh, and watching sports. Lots of sports! Pirates. Steelers. Penguins. Pittsburgh can’t be beat for following professional sports.

I’m most excited about Pittsburgh’s thriving dining scene. We are fortunate to have an amazing range of cuisine to enjoy, and the caliber of chefs that have been attracted to our city!

Whether U.S. or abroad, I enjoy the education and adventure of discovering new destinations.

Dream vacation?

It was Ireland last year – unforgettable!

Right now I would say Italy is at the top of my list. (Travel. Food. Wine.)
But in the short-term, I’ll be settling for a Kentucky Bourbon Trail tour this fall : ) 

 

Behind the Scenes in Westminster, White Mills, and Pittsburgh

We've had a busy few weeks here at River City Brass! Let's start with James Gourlay conducting the massed bands and choirs of the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo in the United Kingdom national anthem. Video by Nabbss.

Photo by Koichiro Suzuki

Photo by Koichiro Suzuki

RCB at the Wildflower Music Festival in White Mills, PA. Photo by Lea Havas

RCB at the Wildflower Music Festival in White Mills, PA. Photo by Lea Havas

Helen Montelone, James Gourlay, Sam Buccigrossi, Ken Russo, Koichiro Suzuki, and Lea Havas stop for lunch in Hawley, PA.

Helen Montelone, James Gourlay, Sam Buccigrossi, Ken Russo, Koichiro Suzuki, and Lea Havas stop for lunch in Hawley, PA.

A lovely morning at Bach, Beethoven, and Brunch! Photo by Lea Havas.

A lovely morning at Bach, Beethoven, and Brunch! Photo by Lea Havas.

Dominic Rupprecht redeemed his prize from our annual gala – a chance to conduct RCB!

Dominic Rupprecht redeemed his prize from our annual gala – a chance to conduct RCB!

Meet the Board: Legal Professionals

In this week’s edition of Meet the Board, we are featuring the members who work as legal professionals. Meet Caleb Wallace and Brandon Lester.

Caleb Wallace

Caleb Wallace is Assistant Counsel and Sr. Health Policy Analyst at UPMC Health Plan.

Tell us a little bit about your experience as a legal professional.

I actually started my career in IT, but always had a strong interest in public health and medicine.  While I was at Pitt Law, I also studied Health Policy and Management and helped draft a reference book for Pennsylvania’s judges about the role that courts play in public health, both on a day-to-day basis and in emergencies.  Just as I was finishing law school, Congress was finishing its work on the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare).  A couple years prior I had been an intern with UPMC Health Plan’s legal department, so when they needed someone to blend a legal position with policy analysis on the implementation of this massive new law, it was really a perfect fit for both of us.  I’ve now been at UPMC Health Plan for seven years and it has been an amazing opportunity to be a part of the organization’s rapid growth and expansion.  As the implementation phase of the ACA has started to slow down a little, I’ve actually found that my work as an attorney has started shifting back to technology and data, which is the area of healthcare that is probably the most rapidly evolving right now.

What made you want to become a member of the River City Brass Board of Directors?

James didn’t give me a choice!  Actually, I’ve always loved music – I played alto sax through high school and I was the President of my school’s concert band.  I was introduced to River City Brass by a long-time friend of the band, Scott Lammie, who happens to be the CFO here at UPMC Health Plan.  I also come from a family of teachers, so when I heard about the Saturday Music Program, I knew I wanted to be a part of all the great work RCB is doing.

An interesting fact about you is…

I own two Renault LeCars and in 2014 I was on the Ellen Show with my wife, Jessica.

What are some hobbies you enjoy?

Because my job involves so much research, writing, and analysis, I like almost anything that involves working with your hands.  A few years ago we bought a “fixer-upper” so most of my free time since then has been spent laying tile, replacing floors, or rewiring electrical outlets.  I like seeing the finished product of our work on the house, but I’m really a car guy at heart.  I try to spend a couple hours every Saturday morning in the garage working on one of my cars or motorcycles.  I also enjoy playing tennis and racquetball.


 

Brandon Lester

Brandon Lester is a Labor and Employment Associate Attorney at Jones Day.

Tell us a little bit about your career as a legal professional.

I went to law school at The Ohio State University, then started out working for a small firm in Columbus, Ohio.  After a year, I moved to a position as a law clerk (i.e., a staff attorney) for the Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court, where I wrote opinions and advised on some of the most pressing legal issues facing the state.  I then took a fellowship in the Appeals Section of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, where I wrote appellate briefs and did oral arguments in state and federal appeals courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court and the Ohio Supreme Court, on issues as varied as habeas corpus petitions for individuals facing the death penalty to insurance liquidation.  Currently, I practice labor and employment law at Jones Day, where I represent employers in all facets of those areas.  I also maintain a busy pro bono practice with Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, where I help low income artists in the area with legal issues.

What made you want to join the River City Brass Board of Directors?

As a brass musician myself (trombone), I appreciate just how impressively talented the Band is, and it is a thrill and an honor to help guide the Band to reach new audiences and grow in the community.

Best spot in the ‘Burgh?

Kayaking on the rivers around downtown — the views are tremendous!

Favorite place you’ve ever been?

It’s a tie between (1) Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colorado, which is a beautiful place to see a concert, thousands of feet above the sea level, surrounded by the beauty of the Rocky Mountains and (2) on the field at a WVU home football game, marching with the Mountaineer Marching Band in front of 60,000+ cheering fans!

Behind the Musician: Josh Boudreau

If you're as nebby as we are, you're going to enjoy this new video series. We're taking the cameras to our musicians' homes and hangouts to help you get to know them even more. First up is solo cornet Josh Boudreau. He was kind enough to introduce us to his daughter, Gabby, and his father, Robert, at the home where he grew up. Check it out!

Meet the Board: Dolores Nypaver

In this edition of Meet the Board, we are featuring Dolores Nypaver, Chair of the River City Brass Board of Directors.

Dolores Nypaver

Dolores Nypaver is the Associate Director in the Office for Stewardship and Development at the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh.

Tell us a little about your experience as a community leader.

I love to meet people who want to make the world a better place.  There are many terrific organizations in our area doing wonderful things to help people in need.  Likewise, there are many selfless volunteers who give their time and talents to help others along their way, whether it’s through music, dancing, mentoring, gardening. I have spent time on 15 boards over the years and met some of my best friends this way.  There are always interesting projects for the less fortunate who need assistance.  I find nonprofit service very compelling.

What made you want to join the River City Brass Board of Directors?

I’ve always loved brass music, and I sang with the River City Brass Band many years ago when I was part of the Bach Choir of Pittsburgh.  My chance to be part of the board came when I met James Gourlay in the Rotary Club.  The more I learned about the Band, the more I was interested, and the more I got to know the board members and musicians, the more I felt like I was part of something great.  River City Brass is one of the best arts organizations in a city loaded with wonderful cultural offerings.

Favorite place you’ve ever been?

That’s hard to say—I love hiking in the Nevada desert, biking in South Carolina, skiing in Vermont, and touring the medieval castles of Europe.  I think my favorite place in the world is Assisi, Italy.  I feel like I’m stepping back into the middle ages when I walk the narrow streets there.

One of my all-time highlights was traveling to Italy with the River City Brass Band in May of 2013.  We saw many remarkable historic places in one of the richest countries in the world for renaissance art and culture.  And we watched the Italians enjoy our very own brass band from Pittsburgh!  It was a wonderful experience.

A genie has granted you three wishes. What do you wish for?

Peace on earth.

To tour the world.

To read a different book every week.

Behind the Scenes #4: Community Concerts and ITEC Performance

Welcome to another edition of RCB Behind the Scenes! We have a couple exciting gigs to share with you.

As part of our Community Concert Series sponsored by the Eden Hall Foundation, we performed at a rooftop party benefiting the Center that CARES at the beautiful Jaron Xavier Grayson Community Center. With a great audience and a great view, it was a blast.

This past week, Maestro James Gourlay and River City Brass travelled to Knoxville, Tennessee, to take part in the International Tuba and Euphonium Conference. James spent the week conducting, playing, and teaching, and the band joined him on Saturday for a fabulous concert. The RCB trombone section (John Sebastian Vera, Gabriel Colby, and Hakeem Bilal) and tubist Brian Kiser also performed as a quartet. We have some seriously talented people in this group!

Photos via James Gourlay, Linda Reznik, Gabriel Colby, Hakeem Bilal, Brian Kiser, Brandon Thibault, Sam Buccigrossi, Matt von Emmerik, and Hidehiro Fujita.

Saturday Music Program Highlights

Check out this video that highlights the 2016 Saturday Music Program Community Concert and acknowledges the funders of our Saturday Music Program (The Buhl Foundation, The Grable Foundation, and the Jack Buncher Foundation). The concert took place May 7, 2016 in the auditorium of the Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA) 6-12 school.

Saturday Music is a free music education program provided by River City Brass and Pittsburgh Public Schools. Students in grades 4-12 at Pittsburgh Public Schools come to Pittsburgh CAPA 6-12 on Saturday mornings to rehearse in small ensembles and full groups.

The video includes clips of the Vocal/Musical Theater group, the 4th-12th grade String Ensemble, the 4th-12th grade Brass, Wind and String Orchestra and the River City Youth Brass Band.

Hakeem Bilal on Slurs

This week, we welcome back bass trombonist Hakeem Bilal to discuss a fundamental trombone technique: slurs. Enjoy, and be sure to share #SchoolofBrass with any trombone students you know.

Welcome to our video blog series, RCB’s School of Brass. Each video in the series features a River City Brass musician giving a lesson on a brass instrument technique. We hope the series will be helpful to all brass musicians, from middle school beginners to college students to players returning to their horns after a long time away.

Behind the Scenes #3

Greetings, River City Brass family! We're back with another round-up of photos from the last few weeks of life at RCB.

Staff, band members, and board members, spent a lovely evening at the Pirates vs. Cubs game last week. The band made their presence known to the entire stadium with vuvuzela versions of popular tunes. We even made an appearance on Root Sports and ESPN!

 

The Saturday Music Program students performed a concert on Saturday, May 7th. Here are a few snapshots from before and after the program. We are very proud of all the progress the students made this semester!

Operations Director Cindy Geib caught our Sound Engineer, Brandon Cecil, working the audio recording tech from a tablet in the audience of our May series.

Meet the Musicians: Youth Band Seniors

The River City Youth Brass Band (RCYBB) performed their final concert of the school year on Sunday, May 8, 2016 at Pittsburgh CAPA 6-12. For more information about the RCYBB, click here.

Congratulations to all the RCYBB seniors! We are very proud of your accomplishments with the RCYBB. Your future students are very lucky.

Adam Bleil, trumpet, will be attending West Virginia Wesleyan College to study Music Performance and Mathematics.

Luke Barnes, trumpet, will attend Slippery Rock University for Music Education.

Leonardo Capone, trumpet, will attend Baldwin-Wallace University to study Music Education and Performance.

Dominic Gentile, trombone, will study Music Education at Youngstown State University.