Seraph Brass Brings Music with a Mission to Oberlin’s Finney Chapel Stage

The award winning all-female quintet will perform core classics, original transcriptions, and newly commissioned works in the next installment of the Artist Recital Series on October 13

October 3, 2023

Shelly Rasmussen

five women in black dresses with brass instruments standing on lawn

Mary Elizabeth Bowden, trumpet soloist and founder of Seraph Brass, realized at an early age that she wanted to pursue music as a career.

It was this interest that prompted her to enter college at 14, ultimately earning her bachelor’s degree at the Curtis Institute of Music and her master’s degree at the Yale School of Music. Bowden won a position with the Richmond Symphony shortly thereafter. But, she longed to play as a soloist and chamber musician. Her dream of forming small ensembles first came to fruition with the formation of the Chrysalis Chamber Players, a collective that is based in south Florida.

In 2014, building on the momentum from the experience with her first ensemble, she decided to move forward with a long-standing goal of forming an all-female brass quintet, and Seraph Brass was born. Bowden reached out to a fellow musician she met at Yale, and together they built the first roster of core performers. 

The ensemble’s mission is to showcase the excellence of female brass players and highlight musicians from marginalized groups both in personnel and in programming. They realize this in part by their roster of core and guest artists, and have gathered a number of up-and-coming artists who perform with the ensemble at various times. The ensemble also consistently programs and commissions works by under-represented composers.

The current core members of the ensemble, in addition to Bowden, are trombonist Elisabeth Shafer, trumpet soloists Raquel Samayoa and Jean Laurenz, french horn soloist Rachel Velvikis, and tubist Robyn Black. 

Their October 13 concert in Oberlin will begin with a new work, Showcase, by Oberlin Conservatory professor Jeff Scott. The program continues with a number of selections from contemporary female composers and composers of color. Interspersed in the program are classical works from more well-known composers, Edvard Grieg and Franz Liszt. The energetic, propulsive Go! by Anthony DiLorenzo closes the program. The ensemble will engage with the audience throughout the concert and offer commentary from the stage—a model fitting for an ensemble that considers education through performance an integral part of their mission. 

Bowden and the members of the ensemble have set the bar high for performing ensembles of any makeup. Seraph Brass was awarded the 2019 American Prize in Chamber Music and has been invited twice to Finland’s prestigious Lieksa Brass Week—a goal of Bowden’s when she first envisioned markers of success for the ensemble.

“There have been a small number of very influential women brass players in the orchestral world for some time” remarks Oberlin flute professor Alexa Still. “This concert is largely repertoire that they are recording this season, so we are being treated to a spectacular group playing really interesting repertoire, and it is wonderful and inspiring to see a brass quintet composed entirely of women enjoying such great success!” 

Oberlin Student Engagement
The ensemble will hold four master classes for individual brass instruments and small ensembles between October 11 and 12. These classes will feature performances by students in the Conservatory's Brass Department and they are free and open to the public. 

Seraph Brass is a not-for-profit organization, with each of the core members providing specific administrative support in addition to performing. This forms the context for the group sharing their expertise and their experiences in entrepreneurship for Oberlin College and Conservatory students during a lunch and learn session from 12:00-1 p.m. on Friday, October 13. This session is sponsored by the Artist Recital Series and the Oberlin Conservatory Professional Development Office. 

Reserved seating tickets for the Seraph Brass performance are $35 for the general public. Discounted tickets are $30 for senior citizens, military, and Oberlin College staff, faculty, and alumni. Student admission is just $10. Oberlin students with a valid ID have access to free tickets through our Claim Your Seat program.

Tickets are available online and by phone at 800-371-0178. Patrons may also purchase them in person between noon and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, at Oberlin College's Central Ticket Service, located at 67 N. Main Street, in the lobby of the Eric Baker Nord Performing Arts Complex.

Learn more about the Arts at Oberlin.

This program is proudly supported by Ideastream Public Media, official media partner of the Artist Recital Series.

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