Oakwood

Outreach Project performed for students at the Jackson STEM Dual Language Magnet Academy. (Darren Dvoracek, Oakwood Brass Outreach Project/Submitted)

Statistics indicate that youth are less attracted to classical music and that the population attending live music performances is aging. A study published by the National Endowment of the Arts, shows the majority of classical music listeners are over the age of 40 and that the rate of engagement with live performances is highly correlated with greater income brackets.

Oakwood Brass - Outreach Project aims to change this by making chamber music, specifically brass instrumentation, more accessible to those in the Pasadena community who haven’t yet been exposed to the genre. 

“There’s not enough brass music in this world and we’re doing a little bit to change that. We provide free concerts for the public and educational concerts for students in Pasadena schools,” said Darren Dvoracek, the founder and Artistic and Administrative Director of Oakwood Brass.

In pursuit of providing accessible music to all, Oakwood Brass’ school services, tutoring and public concerts are provided free of charge, funded by community donations and public support. 

The group started in 2009 when Dvoracek, a tuba player, formed a chamber group of brass players for fun. In 2015, they decided to become a nonprofit organization so they could focus more heavily on community outreach and educational programming. 

In 2021-2022, Oakwood Brass volunteered 443 hours of free coaching to 91 PUSD students and organized 20 concerts at seven elementary schools, reaching more than 1,000 students. In the coming years, the group aims to expand their school program further into middle schools and high schools.

“They always wanted to get into schools and bring the music that was important to them,” explained Teresa Anderson-Dvoracek, the executive director of Oakwood Brass. “We’re trying to bring that (exposure) specifically to kids at PUSD who might not have ever heard a live chamber concert… Every year we look at how we can bring in these programs and make them relevant to the kids we are performing for.”

Oakwood Brass’ concerts have been well received by students, who often write thank you letters to show their appreciation. In their letters, several students said they wanted the group to perform again, and Dvoracek said he frequently has students come up to him after the group’s performance and say they plan to sign up to learn an instrument. 

“Thank you for playing at our school,” wrote one student. “You were wonderful. I was going to cry when you played the Renaissance song. When you first started playing it took my heart away. I love music because it brings everyone together. My favorite instrument is the French horn because I love the sounds and how it was used for communication. Keep on with your music and stay great.” 

Dvoracek explained that he creates a curriculum for students to use the concerts as an opportunity to learn about simple musical concepts, using the songs and instruments as demonstrations. One of those demonstrations includes the French horn, showcasing its expressive range of sounds.

Oakwood Brass focuses heavily on educational programming, but they also provide free brass concerts to the Pasadena community. They perform in a wide range of genres, including jazz and contemporary, and will have a final school outreach program at McKinley Middle School on Tuesday, Nov. 8.