Encore performance: Local professionals relish musical outlet

TRAVERSE CITY – Andrea Galloup remembers exactly how she felt sitting in the audience with her mother at an Encore Wind Symphony concert five years ago.

"It just pulled at something in me," Galloup said. "It almost overwhelmed me." A local Realtor/broker for Real Estate One, Galloup said she didn't realize how much she missed playing music until that day. Part of a musical family, she first picked up the clarinet as a young student at Old Mission Elementary and was musically active all through school, but then life got in the way.

So when she learned there was a spot opening up in Encore's clarinet section, she "dusted off" her trusty instrument, performed for the section leader a piece that she had first played as a solo some 25 years before, and wound up with a spot in the symphony.

"I was amazed at how easily it came back," she said of her playing, with the exception of getting her embouchure (those facial muscles and lip shapes needed to play wind instruments) up to snuff. "The fingering, timing, reading music…it's like riding a bicycle."

Galloup is just one of several area professionals who get a kick out of being able to pick up a piece of their childhood and perform as members of the all-volunteer, approximately 50 musician-strong Encore Wind Symphony, which will play its annual spring concert next month and launch its 20th season in October.

There are a lot of "true musicians" in the group, said Galloup, people who were music majors and have spent their professional life in music. "It's really humbling for me. I can get by, but…it's inspirational to sit next to someone so talented."

Like fellow member Harry Goldson, a well-known jazz clarinetist who lives in Suttons Bay.

Tom Riccobono is Encore's new Artistic Director and will officially take over in October. An instructor of trombone, euphonium and tuba at Interlochen Center for the Arts, he is also principal trombonist with the Traverse Symphony Orchestra and has performed as a soloist and a guest conductor for Encore over the years.

Wind bands are a great tradition, he explained. "In this country's history every town had a band made up of local people and these bands were phenomenal.

"I love that that hasn't gone away," he said. "I have a great respect for the group and the musicians who play in it." He described the typical wind band music as "a little more readily accessible" than an orchestra.

Among the things he'd love to do with Encore is commission a piece to be composed specifically for the group, something it "can call its own."

Trumpet player Len Simkins is the President of Encore's Board of Directors. He joined the group when he was still a high school student in Kalkaska, on the urging of the school's then musical director.

"I stuck with it and have really enjoyed it," says Simkins, who works as an account manager for NuFloor, a commercial and residential flooring company in Traverse City. "I started playing trumpet in sixth grade and haven't put it down since."

Encore does a lot of outreach efforts, Simkins said, including inviting local high school bands to perform with the symphony.

That outreach is something clarinet player John Timm really enjoys.

"I like the message it instills in kids, that 'Hey look, here are some old folks still playing music.'"

Timm is a real estate appraiser and owner of Aerie Appraisal in Traverse City. He started playing clarinet in fifth grade and has been a part of Encore since the beginning.

"It takes me somewhere creative," he said. "I like performing and playing in a group, where you have to listen and be sure not to overpower each other."

Local accountant Wendy Ulrich said it's important for young people to learn that groups like Encore exist.

"It's good for kids to see that they don't have to major in music…there are still ways to be involved," she said.

Ulrich, a CPA at Plante & Moran in Traverse City, joined the group in 2005 after moving to town for her new job. She plays alto saxophone, an instrument she first picked up in sixth grade after switching from the violin.

"There's nothing more amazing than when the music all comes together," Ulrich said, "and to feel a part of it."

And in case you thought these professionals completely leave their days jobs behind when they pick up their instruments…well, not exactly.

"Somehow it always seems to creep in," says Ulrich, noting that fellow musicians will ask tax-related questions from time to time. She also is the group's treasurer and said she's happy to mix business with pleasure to help the financial side of the organization.

Adds Galloup, "It helps me stay balanced. I had my best year ever last year (as a real estate agent), but I work very hard. It's nice to take that time and focus on something completely different…and my mom still comes to all my concerts."

Encore will present its spring concert, "Noteworthy Traditions: Borrowed & Blue" featuring the Harry Goldson Young Artist Competition Winner, on May 16 at Milliken Auditorium. Tickets: www.encorewinds.org.