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Dallas Wind Symphony Preserves America's Band Tradition

Many people associate Dallas, Texas, with big businesses and cattle ranches. Few outside the state are aware that the arts, architecture and music figure very prominently in the northern Texas city. The Dallas Wind Symphony is one of the few civilian wind bands in the United States.

Kim Campbell learned to play the trombone and several other instruments as a child. He also majored in music. But once he graduated, he felt he did not have enough opportunity to play. So in the summer of 1985, the trombonist suggested to the band director of a local college to gather a group of musicians to play for fun.

"And Saturday, one week after we talked about it," he said, "we got together fifty of the finest woodwind, brass and percussion players in the city to come together to sight read and that's how the Wind Symphony was born."

After seventeen years, the group is still together. The Dallas Wind Symphony has toured the United States and several foreign countries. It has twelve internationally released CD's and has played for the British Queen. It provides an annual concert subscription series at the prestigious Meyerson Symphony Center. Its repertoire ranges from contemporary music to classical music and jazz. Kim Campbell says John Philip Sousa's marches are the favorites of their home audience.

The Dallas Wind Symphony is an inspiration to countless former school-band members. Mr. Campbell said, "We get calls every week from people all over the United States, wanting to start a group like this and asking us how to do it and, of course, our stock answer is, 'don't do it, you are crazy.' And then, if they are crazy enough to go out and do it, they've probably got what it takes."

The Dallas Wind Symphony requires a lot of the musicians' time and effort, but it cannot offer what most of them would like - a full time paid job.

"Most of our musicians make their living teaching and/or performing instruments in the Dallas/Fort Worth area," Mr. Campbell continued. "They are either free lance musicians or music instructors. We have probably the largest per capita number of private music instructors anywhere in the United States because band is very big here in Texas. We have a few people who are high-school band directors. Some of the folks have given up, if you will, on the music business and they are computer programmers and what have you, but their first love is still music and they still are active as performers."

The Wind Symphony hopes to become a full-time music organization, but until that happens, percussionist Michael McNicholas plays for several classical ensembles, as well as for the wind symphony. He says he enjoys the variety.

"Technically," he said, "the demands are the same - the instruments are the instruments that they are - and the techniques used to play them are the same. The thing that I do find [different] with this group is that it is much more physically demanding playing because you play a lot more with this [wind] group than you do with a symphony orchestra. You tend to play a lot more longer durations and you tend sometimes to have to play at a higher intensity."

The Dallas Wind Symphony is America's premier civilian wind band. The symphony's trombonist and co-founder Kim Campbell says it owes its success to the strong band tradition in Texas.