Shop Talk

Powerhouse Brass Plays President’s Park

Even though the evening of Dec. 18 in Washington, D.C., was a cold, 30-something degrees, the scene that greeted Pritchard Music Academy’s Powerhouse Brass members Arjun Guthal, Kristen Gottlieb, Alex Loane, Chris Hunter and Michael Baniak, their families and teachers warmed hearts. Sparkling gold and silvery white, the National Christmas Tree rose 40 feet, surrounded by the 56 smaller trees representing the 50 states, five territories and the District of Columbia in President’s Park.

This is where Powerhouse Brass would perform their 30-minute holiday program.

No stranger to the stage, veteran Powerhouse Brass trumpeter Michael Baniak said that he felt more nervous than usual. Performing as part of the National Christmas Tree Music Program was like playing the Governor’s Mansion in Annapolis, he said.

“It was amazing,” Baniak said. “Overall, it was a really incredible experience. … The audience heard us perfectly, and they said it was one of our best performances.”

What many people don’t know is that depending on stage acoustics, performers can’t always hear one another. Baniak said, “We could hear each other only slightly (on the National Christmas Tree stage). Fortunately, we practice a lot and are accustomed to staying together and hopefully in sync.”

Adding to the evening’s excitement, Powerhouse Brass had to wait 15 or 20 minutes for President Barack Obama to leave for his Christmas vacation on Hawaii. After President’s Park reopened, the group warmed up in a heated tent before going on stage, Baniak said.

“It was a great night,” said Becky Pritchard, Powerhouse Brass music director and Pritchard Music Academy co-owner.