Montana State’s Bridger Brass Quintet gets ready for nationals

The Brider Brass Quintet from the Montana State School of Music will be spending spring break in Orlando, as they compete at the MTNA National Chamber Competition, March 17-21st. Headed into the final days of preparation, the group is excited to show off new repertoire and give an even more polished performance.

In November, the quintet consisting of Briana Gillet, Hayden Woods, Jimmy Kelsey, Philip Shuler and Marques Ceasar Lopez traveled with Sarah Stoneback, Ph.D. to the first round of the competition in Billings. Tasked with representing MSU, the quintet was hoping to give a performance that would win them the competition and allow them to advance to the next round. At the end of the evening, not only had they won the state competition, they were also chosen to represent the entire northwest.

“The competition is for anything from solo artists to young artists and then what we competed in, which was the chamber ensemble category,” said Cesar Lopez, the tuba player in Bridger Brass. Playing pieces by Bach and John Stevens, the quintet won both the state and regional competition.  “When we played, we were all in the zone,” said horn player Philip Schuler. The other members of the group agree that the performance was some of their best work. Stoneback, professor of trumpet at MSU said that the quintet “Transcended what was on the score. They peaked at the right time.”

Last year, the group traveled to the same competition. “We found out about it a couple weeks before the deadline for the application,” trumpeter Kelsey said, “so we were just kind of going for it.” Jumping in head first, the group won the state competition and got to compete in the regional competition held in Chaney, Washington. The group agrees that going to the competition last year helped them get an idea of what they were up against, and helped them win this year. Competing against both undergrad and graduate students, the quintet was excited and nervous to be up against such talented colleagues. While the Bridger Brass did not win the regional competition last year, the experience was significant in their recent victory.

Looking ahead to March, the quintet is planning on strengthening their musicianship as a whole by playing for other people and taking the extra time to perfect every note. “They are going to be competing against musicians from the entire nation, both undergrad and graduate students, so it’s going to be intense,” said Stoneback. The group also plans to spend some time in Disneyworld as well as enjoying the other performances during the competition.  

For more information on the Bridger Brass Quintet, you can like them on Facebook and head to for a schedule of upcoming performances featuring the group.